The 2013 ILB class doesn’t have the top end quality that last season’s class did with Luke Kuechly and Donta Hightower, but this group defiantly isn’t lacking solid prospects from top to bottom.
Last Season, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o flirted with entering the draft early, and quite possibly would have been a 1st round pick. He returns for his senior season and is the unquestioned #1 ILB entering week 1.
These rankings are extremely fluid, especially this early in the season and will change constantly throughout the process. Juniors will be added as they begin to declare for the draft.
1. Manti Te’o, Notre Dame, 6’2 255: 1st Round (Scouting Report)
-Te’o has a great combination size and speed that should make him a day pick in April. His instincts aren’t on the level of last season’s 1st round pick Luke Kuechly, and he tends to rely more on his natural skill-set to make plays. He’s a unforgiving tackler who rarely misses a tackle. I love his range from sideline-to-sideline and he looks comfortable in space. He can get to aggressive and overrun plays at time and he has yet to show he can rush the passer. Aside from those two setbacks, Te’o has the total package and should be a starter day 1.
2. Shayne Skov, Stanford, 6’3 244: 2nd Round
-First the bad, Skov hasn’t played since September after tearing his ACL and was arrested this offseason for DUI. He was also banged up for several games in 2010. With all that being said, Skov should be one of the more productive LBs in 2012. He has a tenacity that isn’t matches on the football field to go with good speed and quickness. You will see Skov around the ball on a consistent basis and shows great instincts as the play develops. He knows how to work through the trash in the middle of the field and keeps himself in great position. Teams will want to see him improve in pass defense, but he has the skillset to be a top 40 pick if he can show he’s over his knee injury.
3. Kevin Reddick, North Carolina, 6’3 240: 2nd Round
-The first thing you’ll notice with Reddick is his sideline-to sideline speed. His range is as good if not better than any other LB in this draft. For as quick as he is, he also has the size and strength to be a true MLB on Sundays. He can shed blockers with ease and is a very sure tackler. Reddick also shows great instincts and sees and reacts to plays very well. However, for as quick as Reddick looks, he does seem to have trouble changing direction and can make him susceptible in pass coverage. His change of coverage ability doesn’t reflect on how fast he can be when running in a straight line.
4. Arthur Brown, Kansas State, 6’1 228: 2nd – 3rd Round
-After originally signing with Miami, Brown returned back to his home state of Kansas to play with the Wildcats last season, He won defensive newcomer of the year, and was one of the main ingredients to the Wildcats success. Brown is an attacking LB with great range and solid speed. He sees plays as they develop and always one of the first ones around the ball. Brown’s biggest weakness is pass defense. He can have trouble mirroring route runners and gets jump on play action and pump fakes. He doesn’t have much room to get bigger, so by NFL standards he will be a tad smaller than your ideal MLB.
5. Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech, 6’2 253: 4th Round
-Taylor is an imposing and menacing figure in the middle of the Hokie defense. Taylor was limited to only 8 games last season, but still added 53 tackles, 5 sacks and 16 QB hurries. He’s a downhill attacking LB who does a great job at timing blitzes. Very strong and instinctual, Taylor should be a day two selection if his foot checks out. He went through several procedures to repair a Lisfranc foot sprain that he suffered in October. It does still remain to be seen if he’s 100% for week of the 2012 season.
Recap: (Georgia Tech)
6. AJ Klein, Iowa State, 6’1 244: 4th Round
-Klein offers a little bit of everything that NFL teams look for. He has the smarts, instincts, ability, and motor to make him a starter for years to come. Klein is a dangerous blitzer and plays great in zone coverage. Last season, Klein recorded 116 tackles to lead the Cyclones, and added 5.5 tackles for loss, and broke up 6 passes. He’s a little undersized, so he might have to move to OLB at the next level, and his ceiling might already be maxed out. Some teams may pass on him because he lacks the true upside as other players, but what you see with Klein is what you get. As the season and draft process goes on, Klein should end up as a top 100 pick.
7. Michael Mauti, Penn State, 6’2 242: 5th Round
-Mauti is not on the same level as teammate Gerald Hodges, but nonetheless he’s a solid NFL prospect. Mauti is an above average athlete with good measurable who plays an all-around solid game. Much like other Penn St. LBs before him, he knows the game and he’s a sure tackler. The thing that will scare scouts away is, he has injured his ACL twice, in each knee. 2012 is a big year for Mauti to show NFL teams he can stay healthy.
8. Kenny Demens, Michigan, 6’1 248: 5th Round
-Demens was the Wolverines leading tackler, and aside from Mike Martin, their best defender. He finished the season with 94 tackles and 3 sacks. Demens is a true MLB for a 4-3, and could also play inside in a 3-4. When you watch his games from last season, he doesn’t have that one defining moment, but he’s a solid all-around player who is good against the run, and still improving as a pass defender.
9. Christian Robinson, Georgia, 6’2 235: 5th – 6th Round
10. Jon Bostic, Florida, 6’1 246: 6th Round
11. Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers, 6’2 235: 6th – 7th Round
12. Dwayne Beckford, Purdue, 6’1 228: 7th Round
13. Kiko Alonso, Oregon, 6’2 246: 7th Round
14. Jonathan Stewart, Texas A&M, 6’4 237: 7th Round
15. Steve Greer, Virginia, 6’2 225: PFA
16. Shaq Wilson, South Carolina, 5’11 224: PFA
17. Uona Kaveinga, BYU, 5’11 236: PFA
Recap: (Wash. St.)
18. Michael Gilliard, Georgia, 6’2 220: PFA
19. Andrae Jacobs, Coastal Carolina, 5’11 235: PFA
20. Jake Johnson, South Alabama, 6’1 232: PFA
Alec Ogletree, Georgia, 6’3 234
Kevin Minter, LSU, 6’1 245
Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA, 6’4 236
Max Bullough, Michigan State, 6’2 252
Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky, 6’1 255
Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports