2011 NFL Draft Preview: Top 10 Linebackers

Last Updated: April 26th, 2011 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist)
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Bankroll Sports is getting you all revved up with our 2011 Mock NFL Draft, going position by position, targeting the best players on the board at each position. Our NFL Draft Preview continues today with our look at the top linebackers available to come off of the board starting on Thursday.

1. Von Miller OLB (Texas A&M) – The outside linebacker position isn’t overly stocked with talent in this draft, but Von Miller is an elite prospect and will be a top five pick. Miller is a 6’3 246 lb speedster that stunned scouts by running a 4.42 40 at the Combine, a time very rarely seen from linebackers. Over the last two seasons, very few players have been as productive as Miller. In 2009, Miller led the nation in sacks with 17, and registered 21.5 tackles for loss to go with four forced fumbles. This past college football betting season, Miller picked up 10.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. His blazing speed should translate into success in the pro ranks.

2. Akeem Ayers OLB (UCLA) – Ayers isn’t near the prospect that Miller is, but is a solid prospect and played in every game he suited up for at UCLA. Last season, Ayers was a Butkus Award finalist and picked up 1st Team All-Pac 10 honors along with being named a 2nd Team All-American despite lacking the sexy numbers that other pass-rushing linebackers posted. At the combine, Ayers put up a very disappointing 40 time though, running a 4.81, and moved down draft boards as some teams questioned whether or not he could rush the edge at the next level. Despite the poor time, Ayers is seen as a mid-first round selection.

3. Justin Houston OLB (Georgia) – The Bulldogs switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 didn’t bode well for their NCAA football betting results this season, but was a big reason why Houston is considered one of top linebacker prospects in this draft. As an OLB in the 3-4, Houston was a force to be reckoned with, picking up 10 quarterback sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss in 2010. He has the build and measurables to make it at the next level, running a 4.62 40 and benching 225 lbs 30 times at the combine. Houston is projected to be a second round selection.

4. Martez Wilson ILB (Illinois) – The first inside linebacker on our list, Wilson put up great numbers at the combine and is a natural fit as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Wilson checked in at 6’4 250 lbs and ran a blisteringly fast 4.42 40 yard dash at the combine. After missing virtually all of 2009 due to a neck injury, Wilson stormed back with an impressive 2010 campaign. Wilson recorded 112 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and three forced fumbles. Teams do have concerns about his neck and that has led to Wilson dropping out of the first round, but he is still seen as a second round pick.

5. Brooks Reed OLB (Arizona) – Reed was seen as a mid-round selection until impressing scouts in positional drills at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Draft combine. Although he projects to be an outside linebacker in the NFL, Reed worked out with defensive linemen at the combine and showcased an amazing first step. At Arizona, he was mainly used as a stand-up outside rusher and was only rarely used in contain situations. He will need to learn containment assignments at the next level but is seen as a second round pick.

6. Sam Acho OLB (Texas) – Last year’s winner of the Academic Heisman, Acho certainly has the mental aptitude to handle the step up in competition. Acho played defensive line at Texas, but is projected to play outside linebacker at the next level. In 2010, Acho racked up 59 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, nine sacks, and five forced fumbles while taking on habitual double teams en route to 1st Team All-Big 10 accolades. He is projected as a second to third round pick in the NFL.

7. Bruce Carter OLB (North Carolina) – Heading into the 2010 college football betting season, Carter was seen as a lock to go in the first round and one of the most physically gifted athletes in the draft. However, suspensions to fellow Tar Heels helped lead to an underwhelming senior season which was topped off by tearing his ACL in the second to last game of the regular season. Carter is seen as an athlete in the mold of Julius Peppers with amazing size, speed, jumping ability, and strength. Most NFL experts believe him to be a second to third round pick in the upcoming draft.

8. Quan Sturdivant ILB (North Carolina) – Sturdivant was another talent on a Tar Heels defense that was supposed to be one of the best in the modern history of college football before injuries and suspensions destroyed the unit. He lacks the pizzazz of some of his squad mates but showed the talent needed to succeed at the next level. Sturdivant missed five games due to a pulled hamstring and failed to put up the numbers he posted in previous years, but is seen as a mid-round selection.

9. Greg Jones ILB (Michigan State) – A unanimous first-team All America selection, Jones was also a three time 1st Team All-Big 10 choice and the team MVP during his senior season in East Lansing. Jones registered 106 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles while stuffing the middle. Unlike most other names on this list, Jones is a pure inside linebacker and didn’t exclusively rush the passer in college. He is projected to be a mid-round draft pick.

10. Dontay Moch OLB (Nevada) – Playing in the WAC, Moch didn’t face the talent that other names on this list did. At just 6’2 230 lbs, Moch was asked to play rush end at Nevada and constantly sped around the end and pressured the quarterback. Moch was named WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and racked up 41.5 tackles per loss and 14.5 sacks over the past two seasons. Moch is seen as a mid-round draft pick but must learn how to do more than rush the end at the next level.

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Posted in NFL Football - Last Updated on Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 @ 10:28 am (EST)
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