NFL Draft Preview: Inside Linebackers

There are no A.J. Hawks or Chad Greenways in this group, no players who are projected as perennial Pro Bowlers in the NFL. Unlike at the outside linebacker position, where as many as seven players could be selected in Round 1, only Maryland's D'Qwell Jackson and Iowa's Abdul Hodge are considered potential first-round picks. The 2006 NFL Draft could unfold similarly to last year's, when the first ILB to come off the board was Nebraska's Barrett Ruud, who was selected by Tampa Bay with the fourth pick of the second round (36th overall).

The consensus among scouts and player personnel directors is that Jackson, who's coming off a strong senior season, will be the first inside linebacker chosen. Meanwhile, Hodge, who led the Hawkeye defense (which also included Greenway at outside linebacker) in total tackles (158) and tackles for loss (11), is strongly considered the second best inside linebacker in the country. Two others who grade out as Day 1 picks include Georgia Tech's Gerris Wilkinson and Virginia's Kai Parham.

Following is a ranking of the Top 10 inside linebacker prospects for the 2006 NFL Draft, which will be held on April 2930 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City:

1. D'Qwell Jackson, Maryland (6'0", 232, 4.70)
Jackson is undersized for the position and lacks top-end speed but makes up for these shortcomings with a high motor, toughness, and great instincts. He's a playmaker who flows well to the ball and is smooth in pass coverage. Jackson has the potential to land at the end of Round 1, but will most likely be chosen early in Round 2.

2. Abdul Hodge, Iowa (6'0 3/8", 233, 4.66)
Like Jackson, Hodge lacks ideal size and speed for inside linebacker. He's at his best versus the run, where he uses good angles and an impressive closing burst to bring down ball carriers. Hodge should join Jackson in Round 2.

3. Gerris Wilkinson, Georgia Tech (6'3", 231, 4.62)
MVP of the Senior Bowl, Wilkinson's stock has been on the rise following impressive post-season workouts. At Georgia Tech, he played inside, outside, and at defensive end. But, ultimately, his position in the NFL will be on the outside in a 3-4 scheme.

4. Kai Parham, Virginia (6'2 7/8", 244, 4.91)
Scouts loved Parham's measurables until he ran pedestrian 40 times at the NFL Combine and Virginia's Pro Day. Needless to say, his stock has dropped; Parham went from a Day 1 pick to an early-to-mid Day 2 selection.

*5. Spencer Havner (6'3 3/8", 233, 4.62)
An outside linebacker at UCLA, Havner's future position in the NFL could be on the inside, where his lack of agility and pass-coverage limitations won't be readily exposed. Plus, he has the frame to add the necessary weight to withstand the pounding he'll take in the middle.

6. Leon Williams, Miami (6'3", 245, 4.54)
Williams, who's experienced at all three linebacker spots, has the athleticism to play on the outside but struggles in pass coverage. Therefore, he may find himself on the inside at the next level. Williams should come off the board in the fourth or fifth round.

7. Freddie Roach, Alabama (6'1 ¾", 258, 4.87)
Roach has outstanding size for the inside and will give the team that selects him a solid special-teams contributor. He's strong at the point of attack and is at his best working downhill against the run, but can be a liability in pass coverage due to stiff hips and a lack of top-end speed. Roach should be an early Day 2 selection.

8. Anthony Schlegel, Ohio State (6'0 3/8", 248, 4.76)
Schlegel will follow fellow Buckeye linebackers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter in the 2006 NFL Draft, literally. Whereas Hawk and Carpenter are projected as selected in Round 1, Schlegel, who is an instinctive player with good size to man the middle, lacks the speed and athleticism to be considered any higher than a fifth or sixth-round pick.

9. Tim McGarigle, Northwestern (6'0 3/8", 240, 4.73)
McGarigle, who plays with a nonstop motor and great instincts, was a highly productive middle linebacker for the Wildcats. Despite his lack of prototypical size and the athleticism to play in space, scouts love McGarigle's intangibles. One team will call his name at the end of Day 2.

10. Oliver Hoyte, N.C. State (6'2 ¼", 241, 5.01)
Hoyte has the ideal height, weight, and bulk to play in the middle at the next level. He's an extremely strong 'backer who's powerful at the point of attack and is at his best attacking the line of scrimmage against the run. However, Hoyte needs to improve his pass-coverage skills to be a regular contributor in the NFL.

  • OTHER NOTABLE PROSPECTS: Trent Bray, Oregon State (6'0 3/8", 227, 4.88)
  • Tim Dobbins, Iowa State (6'1 1/8", 246, 4.63)
  • Freddy Keiaho, San Diego State (5'11 ¼", 230, 4.68) *Sleeper Pick
This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content