Analyzing the Rush Linebacker ClassPosted: February 22, 2012
The rush LB class this year is very top heavy and lacks any sort of depth. Once you get outside of the top 6 to 8 prospects, you really don’t have many NFL prospects there. After the jump take a look at the breakdown of the Rush LB’s.
- Despite the lack of depth in this class, there are two prospects who I would consider elite. The first is Courtney Upshaw from Alabama. He has experience as a 3-4 OLB (which is very rare for a player coming out of college), has a great first step, and has great strength. He also has a good set of stunt moves to get to the QB. The second elite prospect is Melvin Ingram from South Carolina. Ingram combines great strength with a lightning fast first step and uses his hands with great violence. He reminds me of Lamaar Woodley. Both were considered too small to play 4-3 DE and slightly oversized to be a 3-4 OLB thus hurting their draft stock. However, I think GM’s will learn from the mistake they made with Woodley and wisely select Ingram in the top 20 picks.
The Next Tier
- The next tier of Rush LB’s is really the last tier. Outside of the top two, there are guys like Whitney Mercilus, Nick Perry, Vinny Curry, Ronnell Lewis, Bruce Irvin, and Cam Johnson. All of these guys have their own strengths and weaknesses and all should go within the first three rounds.
Great first step
- Two players in this class have what you would call elite first steps. Those are Vinny Curry of Marshall and Bruce Irvin of West Virginia. Irvin has claimed that he was never really taught how to pass rush yet still put up great numbers while playing out of position in West Virginia’s 3-3-5 stack defense. Irvin has an immense amount of potential and I think his floor is what Aaron Maybin contributed this year (about 7 sacks). If he is developed properly, he could become one of the elite pass rushers in the league. As for Vinny Curry, he has consistently dominated the lesser competition he has faced and is a legitimate top 50 prospect.
- There are quite a few tweeners in this class who could play either 4-3 DE or 3-4 Rush LB. Those guys are Mercilus, Perry, and Cam Johnson. All three are pretty good pass rushers and have good size. None of them are elite at anything (well Mercilus is an elite pass rusher) and all three have their flaws. Perry and Mercilus are first round prospects while Johnson is a third round prospect.
Need a good combine
- If Ingram wants to stay in the first round he needs to cement himself in a position at the combine. If he weighs in around 265, he should be considered a 3-4 OLB. If he weighs in at 280, he should be considered a 4-3 DE. Another guy who could use a good combine is Jonathan Massaquoi of Troy. He is currently a third to fifth round prospect but if he shows good athleticism he could move into the second round.
- There are not many sleepers in this class because there are not many good prospects. However, one sleeper is Donte Paige-Moss who came into the season as a first round prospect but a disappointing season has dropped him to the fifth to seventh round. However, he still has first round talent and if he puts it all together, he could be a major steal.