2003 Inside Linebackers Prospects


The Steelers appear to be in pretty good shape at inside linebacker. Kendrell Bell leads this group and may be the best player on the team, although injuries slowed him this past season. James Farrior was brought in to replace former starter Earl Holmes, and did a solid job."/>

2003 Inside Linebackers Prospects

LB-EJ Henderson<br>Photo:Getty Images

<p align="center"><b>2003 Inside Linebackers Prospects</b> <p><br>The Steelers appear to be in pretty good shape at inside linebacker. Kendrell Bell leads this group and may be the best player on the team, although injuries slowed him this past season. James Farrior was brought in to replace former starter Earl Holmes, and did a solid job.

Farrior also battled injury problems this past season. Backups inside include John Fiala and Larry Foote. Foote had a decent season given all the rookie mistakes he made. Fiala was lost for the season, but should return as the primary backup at both inside positions, which should allow Foote to grow into the position more. It is unlikely the Steelers will use a draft pick here, unless they decide to move Foote to outside linebacker.


#1
E.J. Henderson
6' 2"
250 lbs
Maryland - Senior

By far the best inside linebacker coming out, Henderson possesses a nice combination of size and strength. Speed is a bit of a concern, but Henderson makes up for it with great instincts and knowledge of the game. Would have been a top 15 selection in 2002 if he had come out last year, but stayed due to a back injury suffered in the final game of the 2001 season. He's a much better run defender at this point than pass defender. Shows a lot of skills in getting after the quarterback.

Likely to be drafted: First Round


#2
Gerald Hayes
6' 1"
242 lbs
Pittsburgh - Senior

A very solid run defender, Hayes is strong at the point of attack, showing good leverage. Where Hayes gets in trouble is playing in pass coverage, where he lacks good change of direction skills. Despite this drawback, he's continued to improve his pass coverage skills, and his very solid run stuffing skills should gardener him early consideration.

Likely to be drafted: End of First Round



#3
Terry Pierce
6' 3"
250 lbs
Kansas State – Junior

Pierce has ideal speed and size for an interior linebacker. Plays well in space and can take on blockers. Doesn't have great hands, but is fluid in coverage. A very consistent player, Pierce may sneak into the first round with good pre-draft workouts.

Likely to be drafted: Second Round


#4
Clifton Smith
6' 3"
263 lbs
Syracuse - Senior

A big, physical linebacker, Smith excels playing between the tackles. A dominating run stuffer, Smith has problems playing in zone coverage and does not react well when in coverage. He's good at reading and reacting. Has been very durable over his career, which spans over 40 games since his freshman year. Can be a hot and cold player at times.

Likely to be drafted: Second Round


#5
Angelo Crowell
6' 0"
238 lbs
Virginia – Senior

A 3-4 linebacker for the Cavaliers, Crowell is a solid all-around prospect that doesn't shine in any one area. More quick than fast, Crowell can be beat by fast runners and receivers. Average in rushing the quarterback, strength at the point of attack will also be an issue. May end up being a better college player than pro player.

Likely to be drafted: Second Round


#6
Lawrence Flugence
6' 1"
237 lbs
Texas Tech - Senior

A sideline-to-sideline player, Flugence shows good speed for the position. Although very good against the run, Flugence is not good at turning his hips and chasing. Will need to bulk up some to stay inside in the NFL. He's very good at rushing the passer as well and has been one of the leading tacklers in the nation the last three years, after switching from defensive end following his freshman year.

Likely to be drafted: Third Round


#7
Lance Briggs
6' 1"
230 lbs
Arizona - Senior

Briggs started his career at Arizona as a running back, before changing over to inside linebacker his sophomore year. A good sideline-to-sideline player who shows good hands when shedding blocks, but all too often will try to run around blocks. Very good at rushing up field and reading and reacting to the play as it develops. He's a bit lean and will need more bulk to play inside.

Likely to be drafted: Third Round


#8
Mario Haggan
6' 2"
255 lbs
Mississippi State - Senior

Haggan played outside linebacker, inside linebacker, and end in college. He's best when rushing up the field, showing a good burst off the line. Speed will be the biggest concern, as Haggan lacks both straight-line speed and sideline-to-sideline ability. May have the best shot at fitting in if moved back to defensive end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment, so that his pass rush skills can be best utilized.

Likely to be drafted: Fourth Round


#9
Tony Gilbert
6' 1"
242 lbs
Georgia - Senior

Gilbert is a very strong individual, showing good upper and lower body strength. Demonstrating a good understanding of the game, Gilbert is always in position and shows a real nose for the ball, which helps make up for his lack of speed and sideline-to-sideline ability. He's a very solid tackler, but will be limited to being a two-down backer due to his lack of range and speed.

Likely to be drafted: Fifth Round


#10
Matt Wilhelm
6' 4"
245 lbs
Ohio State - Senior

A true overachiever, Wilhelm has a motor that goes non-stop from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. He's a physical player who takes on blockers and tackles with power. Lacks good hips and change of direction skills. A much better rush stuffer than pass defender at this point. Reads and reacts well, which allows him to be a sideline-to-sideline player. An ankle injury suffered as junior will have to be looked at.

Likely to be drafted: Fifth Round

#11
Merrill Robertson
6' 1"
252 lbs
Virginia - Senior

Roberson is still making the transition from defensive end to inside linebacker. Displays good power at the point of attack, takes on blocks well, and knows how to tackle. He's better rushing up the field, but does show good speed. Has problems changing direction and is still really trying to learn the position. Struggles in pass coverage.

Likely to be drafted: Fifth Round


#12
Mark Brown
6' 0"
228 lbs
Auburn - Senior

A bit late developing, Brown wasn't a full-time starter until he was a fifth-year senior. A neck injury in 2001 slowed his development, but he managed to stay healthy this past season. Has improved as his playing time has increased and led Auburn in tackles this past season. Much better against the run than the pass, Brown does not have a lot of speed or possess good change of direction skills.

Likely to be drafted: Fifth Round


#13

Keyon Whiteside
6' 1"
235 lbs
Tennessee - Senior

A former outside linebacker, Whiteside moved inside part way through this past season and looked much more comfortable there. Whiteside is a very good tackler, wrapping up when he makes the hit. Has more straight-line speed than overall speed, which hurts him in coverage. Good at rushing the passer. Will need to add some bulk in the pros, but might have some upside.

Likely to be drafted: Fifth Round

#14
Kawika Mitchell
6' 1"
248 lbs
South Florida - Senior

Mitchell has a non-stop motor, with good instincts. He is quicker than fast but is good at reading the play and reacting. Plays with good leverage but is a bit stiff in his hips. Does not match up well in coverage. Played both weak side and middle linebacker in college. Looks to be a two-down backer in the pros.

Likely to be drafted: Sixth Round


#15
Terrence Robinson
6' 0"
239 lbs
Oklahoma State - Senior

A decent coverage linebacker, Robinson has good sideline-to-sideline ability. Undersized for the inside, Robinson has problems dealing with blockers and at the point of attack. Does miss tackles on occasion, but is fundamentally sound. Played in a very unconventional system for Oklahoma State, the 4-2-5.

Likely to be drafted: Sixth Round


#16
Jerry Schumacher
6' 2"
233 lbs
Illinois - Senior

Schumacher is a very solid three-year starter for Illinois. A fundamentally sound player who makes the most of his ability. Rarely takes false steps. Does not have great speed or strength and doesn't make very many plays coming from behind.

Likely to be drafted: Sixth Round


#17
Byron Hardmon
6' 1"
234 lbs
Florida - Senior

Hardmon is a very strong linebacker for his size, but will need to bulk up in the pros. Has gotten better with experience, but is still developing. May need some time in the pros to develop. Has decent speed, but isn't fast enough on the blitz or chasing down faster backs. Needs to learn to take better angles.

Likely to be drafted: Seventh Round


#18
Eddie Strong
6' 2"
242 lbs
Mississippi - Senior

Past injuries will need to be looked at, as Strong missed the entire 2000 season because of a fractured foot. That missed playing time has hurt his development. Has played all three linebacker positions but doesn't have the speed to stay outside. He's a very strong player but plays high at times and loses his power advantage. Could develop into a solid inside linebacker, but will most likely start as a two-down player.

Likely to be drafted: Seventh Round


Undrafted Free Agents

Solomon Bates
6' 1"
265 lbs
Arizona State

Bates is a load. Over the last couple of year he has added a lot of bulk, which has killed his speed. He's best at home between the tackles, stuffing the run. Does not have enough speed to cover well or play sideline-to-sideline. Will need to shed some bulk and work on his speed.


Bradie James
6' 2"
248 lbs
Louisiana State - Senior

A tackling machine, James was named a first team All American after setting a team record of 154 tackles this past season. A solid presence inside but more of a run defender than anything. Does show some up the field ability, but is more quick than fast. He's not real comfortable in the passing game.

Darvin Lewis
6' 3"
235 lbs
Central Michigan

A knee injury suffered as a junior will need to be looked at. May not have totally recovered this past season, but does show some up the field burst.

Ben Mahdavi
6' 1"
232lbs
Washington

Mahadavi has improved each year he has played. A very durable player, he has decent speed and can play sideline to sideline. Does not have a lot of upside, but is a consistent player that gives 100%. He's undersized and has problems dealing with blockers. Will need to make a roster through special teams.

Jason McWilliams
6' 2"
230 lbs
Western Illinois

Showing a good combination of run stuffing, pass defense, and blitzing abilities, McWilliams might be the best middle linebacker coming out of the smaller schools. Level of competition will be a question as well as overall speed, but McWilliams could be a late-round gem.

Eddie Moore
6' 0"
220 lbs
Tennessee - Senior

Plays with a good motor and shows a good ability to get up the field. Makes plays in the middle of the field and has a decent feel for the passing game. Too small to be playing inside and may not be able to add bulk. Also doesn't have the speed to move to strong safety.

David Moretti
6' 1"
237 lbs
Oregon

Moretti has very good speed and strength for the inside. He's a sideline-to-sideline player, but does not show very good instincts. Appears to be a weight room warrior more than a football player. It'll take time to groom him into an NFL linebacker and he'll have to show he can be a special teams player in the meantime.

Ryan Myers
6' 1"
244 lbs
Akron

Myers' lack of competition will hurt his draft status. One of the better run defenders coming out from the smaller schools, Myers does not perform well when asked to cover as he doesn't have the speed needed for pass defense. Shows limited up the field ability.

Joe Odom
6' 2"
243 lbs
Purdue - Senior

Odom has good size for the inside, but doesn't have the speed to play sideline-to-sideline or while blitzing the quarterback. Understands the game, but may not have the athletic ability to excel at the next level.

Mark Thompson
6' 2"
220 lbs
Richmond

Thompson had a better junior campaign than senior, but improved upon his tackle total. Shows pretty good up the field speed, but is not real comfortable in pass coverage. A good between the tackles middle linebacker who might stick due to his tackling ability and special teams play.

Drew Wahlroos
6' 2"
235 lbs
Colorado

Wahlroos has a good burst and good pass rushing skills, but lacks true speed. Has problems playing sideline-to-sideline and can be a liability in pass coverage. Can play strong side linebacker, but will most likely only be a situational rusher in the pros.

More Player Links:

E.J. Henderson
Gerald Hayes
Terry Pierce
Clifton Smith
Angelo Crowell
Lawrence Flugence
Lance Briggs
Mario Haggan
Tony Gilbert
Matt Wilhelm
Merrill Robertson
Mark Brown
Keyon Whiteside
Kawika Mitchell
Terence Robinson
Jerry Schumacher
Byron Hardmon
Eddie Strong
Solomon Bates
Bradie James
Darvin Lewis
Ben Mahdavi
Jason McWilliam
Eddie Moore
David Moretti
Ryan Myers
Joe Odom
Mark Thompson
Drew Wahlroos

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