Top Linebackers for the 2006 NFL Draft subject logo: PROSPORTS
Posted by: badanov

Linebackers are the heart of every football defense, and we would say the team itself.

They are the workhorses. Depending on the assignment, a linebacker can be expected to play like a defensive end in a pass rush, a cornerback under some zone defense scheme, and a defensive tackle on most running plays; you name the work a linebacker has to do and but for the size and speed those folks do it.

The NFL is in a passing phase, not a pun. Everything is the forward pass, the more the merrier,and that tends to make linebackers' work much harder.

There is a physical reason, as in physics, why linebackers are at the heart of a defense. The great lions share of offensive plays take place within 15 yards of the spot of the ball. While the big front three or four people are expected to take the brunt of the power of an opposing team's offense, it is the linebacker's duty to make plays happen for the ( so called ) non skilled side of the ball, defense.

We have not studied the NFL in years and years, not since the days of the great Lawrence Taylor, and we know that in the NFL, bigger is better. Time was that a good and big offensive lineman was 280 pounds; Now that is considered puny by today's standards, and we have no idea if changes in the size parameters are still apt for linebackers.

The scouting combines are already over, and better connected sports writers know who the best are based on the evaluations gleaned from the combines. We have only the last year in the player's career, and the player's size, as taken from NCAA statistics.

Back in the 80's there was a linebacker for Oklahoma State, a dynamite player, one of the best OSU ever had playing for them. Every Cowboy fan knew that this linebacker ( the name escapes us at the moment ) would be in the NFL draft.

Except for his size. At 6'2” 220 pounds, this terrific defensive player was in a no mans land for the NFL: too big and likely too slow for a defensive back, too short and too light for a linebacker, and no experience as a ball handler. Were such a player to play in the NFL it would be as a walk-on only and then maybe on special teams. The guy would be lucky to get per diem during training camp.

A good college prospect has to be at least 6'3” 230 pounds and up. Much larger than 250 pounds and you are in down lineman territory.

So the top five linebacker prospects for the 2005 NFL draft are:

Mario Williams, North Carolina State: Williams is one element of a pair of NC State linebackers which kept NC State in the top five in team defense throughout the 2005 season. Williams, a junior opting for the NFL, had a great year leading the ACC in sacks and second in tackles for loss. His projected position would be outside linebacker

John Chick, Utah State: Chick finished first in the Western Athletic Conference in both sacks and in tackles for losses. As a small defensive lineman he is projected to be a fast outside linebacker. Chick, may well wind up being a pass rush specialist, but his size makes him good enough to play the run as well.

Brandon Guillory, Louisiana-Monroe: Another outside linebacker, Guillory led the Sun Belt conference in sacks and tackles for losses. Guillory isn't from a major conference but he maintains a major conference size and performance.

Mario Lawson, NC State: The second half of the NC State linebacker pair, Lawson, a senior is projected to be another outside linebacker.

Tamba Halil, Penn State: As with the other four, this is a conference leader in sacks and tackles for losses, but unlike all the others, this players was listed as a defensive tackle, and he's got the size for it at 267 lbs. And unlike the other four, this is a genuine work horse, a linebacker who was in the Big Ten top 50 tacklers. We can easily project this player as a middle or inside linebacker with his size, but we wonder if he can perform as well in a linebacker role. Hali is not listed, as far as we can tell, as a top prospect for linebacker.

Yes, there are better linebackers than these five, AJ Hawk is one, and we are certain a number of others including those from USC, Texas and Alabama.

But, nationally, there are the best senior linebackers and the most likely to get taken in the top three rounds.

If you have something to add, Fire Away!

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