Ranking the Top 20 College Linebackers Entering NFL Draft

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Top 20 Linebackers Entering the NFL Draft

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2013 NFL Combine looming this week, teams are looking to scout and gather information on the top talent of today. Teams are planning to build their futures around the players that will partake in the activities of the combine.

Many teams have defensive needs and that could start with the guys in the middle of the field: linebackers.

The 2013 draft class is chocked full of mid-round talent and a few top round guys that can adequately play the linebacker position.

There are very few linebackers projected as first-round draft picks and many projected as third and fourth round guys. Guys like Manti Te'o have seen their draft stock plummet since the end of the season due to the entire girlfriend hoax that left people questioning his honesty. If he can lie to an entire nation like he did, why would a team want to take a chance on that.

However, just because the former Notre Dame linebacker was tricked by an online hoaxer, he is still uber-talented and, at one time, was projected as a top-10 draft pick.

Many guys are looking to make a statement at the combine and he will be one of them.

Here's a look at the top 20 linebackers that will either be at the combine or the NFL Draft and looking to land a job with an NFL team.

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20. Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State

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Gerald Hodges, a former high school quarterback and safety, made the move to quarterback in his freshman season at Penn State after the Nittany Lions fell thin at the position. The move proved to be just what the New Jersey-native needed and he has proved too be one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten. He's a speedy linebacker and can track down ballcarriers with the best of them, but his body size could be an issue as he has trouble putting on weight.

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19. Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina

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After a slow start to the 2012 season, Kevin Reddick came on late and surged toward the finish line. He was used as a blitzing linebacker for North Carolina and had success with that, recording 6.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss in 2012. Reddick has great defensive IQ, but many believe that he showed a lack of effort on the field this season.

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18. Keith Pough, OLB, Howard

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Keith Pough has had a great career at Howard, but flew under the radar until recently. The Howard linebacker finished his career as the all-time leader in tackles for loss in FCS history. He is most known for his energy and motor on the field, but his lack of speed can be an issue at the next level.

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17. Zaviar Gooden, OLB, Missouri

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Zaviar Gooden was a solid two-year starter for the Missouri Tigers and has a lot of upside with his athletic talent. He is considered by many as an athlete, but people have questioned his football skills. Not many people will be questioning his 4.4-speed come draft time.

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16. Jon Bostic, ILB, Florida

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Jon Bostic put up modest numbers in 2012 with 65 tackles and three sacks. He was one of Florida's most consistent players all season and is one of the more aggressive, physical linebackers in this year's class. While he is physical, he has a difficult time of shedding blockers and tracking down ballcarriers in the process.

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15. Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford

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Chase Thomas isn't a name that you would associate with fluidity, but the former Stanford linebacker has a motor and uncanny ability to play at full-speed throughout games that can't go unnoticed. He was one of the most important players for the Cardinal last season and a great leader at that.

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14. Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama

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Nico Johnson is a rare specimen at linebacker in college football. The Alabama middle-man is an aggressive tackler with the ability to take on blockers head-on. He has never missed a game due to injury in his collegiate career. He lacks the speed to stick with men in coverage and is not much of a pass-defender.

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13. Kiko Alonso, ILB, Oregon

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Kiko Alonso is a solid inside linebacker that may be way too athletic for his position. Many people believe that the former Oregon linebacker will make the move to outside linebacker in the NFL. He is, however, injury prone as he is still recovering from a wrist injury that he suffered during the season. He also suffered a torn ACL in 2010 which forced him to miss the whole season.

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12. Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Mississippi

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Jamie Collins is easily one of the best athletes at linebacker in this entire draft class. He led Southern Mississippi with 98 tackles last season to go along with 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He is the kind of athletic defensive player that you want on your team, but his intensity and drive seem to waver at times.

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11. Trevardo Williams, OLB, Connecticut

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Trevardo Williams may be one of the most underrated linebackers in the class. The Connecticut defender is a sack machine and he has proved that over his four years at the school, finishing as the all-time sack leader with 30.5. He may be a great pass-rusher, but his run-stopping ability may be lacking.

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10. DeVonte Holloman, OLB, South Carolina

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South Carolina's DeVonte Holloman is one of the better play-recognizers in the draft class, but lacks the solid first-step needed to fill a hole. He has an athletic body for a linebacker, but the speed could be better. He sometimes has trouble recovering from his missteps.

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9. Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State

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Brandon Jenkins was forced to sit out for nearly the entire 2012 season due to injury, but his draft stock has been seemingly unaffected. He led Florida State is sacks and tackles for loss as a junior in 2011 and many scouts are itching to see him back in action. He sometimes relies on his speed to blow past blockers, but that won't work at the next level.

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8. Sio Moore, OLB, Connecticut

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Sio Moore is the second Connecticut linebacker on this list and could be a second round pick. Moore is extremely competitive and is one of the more aggressive hitters in the class. He may be aggressive when tackling, but he needs to improve on shedding blockers.

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7. Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

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Sean Porter is an athletic specimen and a solid linebacker that could be a mid-second round pick. The Texas A&M Aggie shows promise as he is above average at avoiding blockers and getting to the ball. All too often, however, Porter has shown a lack of aggression in the tackling game because of his overuse of the dreaded arm tackle.

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6. Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers

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Khaseem Greene possesses and straight-line speed to elude blockers and meet running backs at the line. He is rarely misreading plays and the Rutgers linebacker shows an impressive set of athletic skills. He isn't the biggest guy on the field and the size limitations may become evident when facing NFL backs.

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5. Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State

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Arthur Brown is one of the top outside linebackers in the 2013 class and could be the kind of linebacker an NFL team would want to build their future around. He lacks ideal size at the position, but his physicality more than makes up for it.

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4. Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU

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Kevin Minter isn't the most physical linebacker in the class and is not quite the best at shedding blockers or taking them head on. He is elusive, however and shows great burst, often knowing exactly where the play is going.

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3. Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame

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Manti Te'o was once considered a top-10 pick and before the whole girlfriend hoax incident, he was experiencing a never-ending draft stock rise. He is one of the bigger linebackers in the class and his build would be perfect for an NFL linebacker. His speed could be his biggest problem, however.

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2. Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia

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Alec Ogletree is one of two Georgia linebackers leaving college early and entering the draft after a productive junior season. Being a former safety, he shows terrific range and athleticism for a linebacker. He is considered a first-round pick and that would make him one of two linebackers projected on the first day.

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1. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

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Jarvis Jones comes in at No. 1 on the list of linebackers, and as Ogletree's teammate, Georgia had one of the best linebacking crews in the nation. He is a playmaker and a projected top-10 pick in this year's draft. He has a good frame, but the idea of adding more size may not be possible for him. He will be a star in the league for years to come.