2011 NFL Draft Player Rankings | Outside Linebackers
A great outside linebacker can make a huge difference for an NFL team. In a 3-4 defense, a true pass rushing linebacker like DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews Jr. can be huge against a quarterback. If you can force the quarterback to make a bad throw or a bad decision, then, your defense can make a play to get your offense back on the field.
In a 4-3, players like Lance Briggs can be huge. Having a linebacker that can excel in coverage and make wrap up tackles at the line of scrimmage is key in a top notch defense. If you can’t stop the run, then you will most likely have a rough day defensively. If you can’t jam the tight end off the line, and cover in the middle 1/3 or drop back effectively, a smart quarterback will pick you apart.
NFL Soup presents its 2011 NFL Draft Outside Linebacker Rankings.
1) Von Miller- Texas A&M- 6’2 5/8 246
Miller is quite the stud, and while he hasn’t been as amazing as he was in 2009, he’s still a surefire 1st round pick. He already played in a 3-4 defense at TAMU, and his pass rushing ability is fantastic. He’s very athletic, and can make plays all over the field. He’s also very underrated against the run, and I have no doubt that he could play 4-3 defensive end as well, but he’d be a better fit in the 3-4.
2) Justin Houston- Georgia*- 6’2 7/8 270
Houston has had a breakout Junior campaign and has been the heart and soul of the Georgia pass rush. Houston looks like he could be a pure pass rusher in a 3-4 defense, but there’s no doubt he can stick to defensive end at the next level. He gets a good push off the ball, often bull rushing his opponent. Houston should go in the first round, as he’s very talented, and his stock may not get much higher.
3) Akeem Ayers- UCLA*- 6’2 1/2 254
Ayers is one of my favorite prospects in all of college football. He’s so athletic for such a thick player, and he has great instincts at the outside linebacker position. He can rush the passer, keep contain on the outside when lined up at defensive end, and he can cover. He has the versatility to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. If he goes to a 3-4, look for him to be more of a utility linebacker, a la Mike Vrabel.
4) Bruce Carter- North Carolina- 6’2 241
Carter is one of the most instinctive linebackers in college football. His ability to read and react is incredible, as is his knowledge of the game. He’s very well rounded, and could play all three linebacker positions in a 4-3 scheme. He’s a very quick, sideline to sideline tackler, who does well in wrapping up. Carter could easily be the first linebacker off the board, but he’s restricted to a 4-3 defense most likely.
5) Dontay Moch- Nevada- 6’1 3/8 248
Moch is one of the most athletic defensive end/linebackers in the NCAA. He’s very fast, and gets up the field in a hurry as a pass rusher. His size is undesireable as a defensive end, and will most likely be a 3-4 outside linebacker as a pure/situational pass rusher. He could be taken in the mid rounds as a project 4-3 outside linebacker as well purely based on athleticism, but that’s a long shot.
6) Tom Keiser, OLB, Stanford*- 6’4 247
Keiser is a raw ‘tweener DE/OLB. He can rush the passer with ease at times, but isn’t very fluid in coverage, and may struggle as an every down pass rusher. He’s more one dimensional than some teams may desire, and isn’t extremely athletic, but has pure pass rushing ability.
7) Mark Herzlich- Boston College- 6’4 244
Herzlich has been a great story in college football. Before missing time battling (and surviving) caner, he was one of the most dominant outside linebackers in all of college football. Herzlich hasn’t had a bad last season for BC, but he hasn’t been as great as he once was, and it’s clear he’s taken a step back. His potential is still through the roof as he is one of the best wrap up tacklers in the NCAA. He’s a very smart player as well, and has very strong instincts. If he can prove that he’s athletically ready for the NFL at the NFL Combine, he could be a 3rd round pick.
8 ) Lawrence Wilson- UCONN- 6’0 7/8 229
Wilson is a tackling machine. He’s a bit undersized, but he’s has a good ability to read and react, and make tackles all over the field. He’s a decent pass rusher at times when asked to put his hand on the ground.
9) Doug Hogue, OLB, Syracuse- 6’2 1/2 235
Hogue is a coverage linebacker who has excellent instincts. His run/pass recognition skills are above average, and he excels using fundamentals. A bit on the small side, he will need to bulk up another 5-7 pounds in the NFL.
10) Chris Carter- Fresno State- 6’1 3/8 248
Carter has played more defensive end than anything, but I think he projects best as an OLB at the next level. Carter is a mediocre pass rusher, but he’s a good tackler and does a great job in contain. He’ll have to work on his coverage at the next level.
11) Adrian Moten- Maryland- 6’1 5/8 228
Moten is an athletic linebacker who excels in coverage situations. He’s quick, and plays like a safety at times. He’s a gifted tackler, and has a great football IQ. Look for Moten to rise up draft boards after his combine.
12) Michael Morgan- USC- 6’4 235
Morgan is one of the more underrated USC prospects. He’s started for his last two seasons, and, despite being a bit on the lighter side, he’s a solid wrap up tackler with big hitting ability. Morgan needs to bulk up and build strength. He’s solid in coverage, however.
13) Jeremy Beal- Oklahoma- 6’2 1/4 262
Jeremy Beal is one of the better pass rushers in the nation. He plays a mix of outside linebacker and defensive end at Oklahoma and is a pure speed rusher. He has first round talent, but needs to be stronger for a guy his size, as he’s often been shut down by even a tight end in straight up blocking situations. He is a solid edge rusher that I would like to see develop a better inside move, but he has the ability to play 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level as well as defensive end.
14) Brian Rolle- Ohio State- 5’9 5/8 229
Despite being quite undersized, Rolle has still made an impact on a very tough Ohio State defense. He may be the best coverage linebacker in the game. Rolle uses his speed to close in on defenders and make tackles. Rolle isn’ t much of a blitz backer, but is still a wrap up tackler who is quite strong for his size.
15) Jonas Mouton- Michigan- 6’1 5/8 239
Mouton is one of the better linebackers one on of the worst defenses in the nation. He’s a decent tackler, but plays well in coverage, and uses his athleticism well.
16) Scott Lutrus- UConn- 6’2 3/8 241
17) Eric McBride- Richmond- 6’2 232
18) Eric Gordon- Michigan State- 6’0 234
19) Winston Venable- Boise State- 5’11 225
20) Jermiha Hunter- Iowa- 6’0 1/2 239
21) Kenny Rowe- Oregon- 6’3 235
22) Rodney Gnat- Louisville- 6’3 251
23) Chris Walker- Tennessee- 6’3 244
24) Ben Martin- Tennessee- 6’3 246
25) Malcolm Smith- USC- 6’1 230
26) J.T. Thomas- West Virginia- 6’1 241
28) Craig Stevens- Auburn- 6’3 229
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