The 2013 inside linebacker class was a mixed bag filled with plenty of Manti Te’o drama. Te’o stole the headlines with his girlfriend hoax but we’ll see if he can steal the show on the field in San Diego. The 2013 class proved to be fairly top heavy with five prospects gone in the top 50.
The 2014 inside linebacker class could develop into an intriguing group with some solid senior prospects mixed in with some talented underclassmen.
After the break check out our 2014 NFL Draft inside linebacker rankings.
1. James Morris, Iowa
Morris flies well under the national radar in Iowa but is a very solid player. The 6-foot-1, 240 pound senior has started since stepping foot on campus and put up some huge numbers. He has the instincts, toughness, and leadership to be a special player at the next level. With another season of fine football, Morris will fly up media draft boards.
2. Avery Williamson, Kentucky
Williamson won’t jump off the tape as an athlete but his instincts and take-on strength will make him an intriguing 3-4 ILB at the next level. He attacks the line of scrimmage with violence and filled the leadership void left with Danny Trevathon moving onto the NFL last season. Williamson will again be amongst the top tacklers in college football and should rise up draft boards as the season progresses.
3. Shayne Skov, Stanford
Skov didn’t perform up to his usual standards in 2012 following an ACL injury. That said, the ‘real’ Shayne Skov showed up late in the season and it’s easy to see why teams may value him very highly. Skov is a versatile linebacker that could play inside or outside in a 3-4. He excels as an interior blitzer and should be back to 100% this season.
4. Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky
Jackson contemplated coming out for the 2013 NFL Draft but wisely opted to return for his senior season. At 6-foot-1 and 262 pounds, Jackson is the definition of a downhill thumper but he’s surprisingly agile for a man his size. While he’s not going to blow anyone away with his straight-line speed, it’s conceivable that Jackson could find his way into the early stages of day two if he can prove to be adequate in pass coverage this season.
5. Max Bullough, Michigan State
Bullough’s mediocre (at best) ability to drop in coverage is the only thing stopping him from being our top–rated ILB. He’s an instinctual linebacker that can rack up double digit tackles with ease. His ability to fight through the trash and sure tackling are tops on this list. That said, he’s a liability in pass coverage and it’s a necessity in today’s game. Bullough needs to prove this season that he can hold up in pass coverage if he wants a spot on day two of the draft.
6. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
Much like his Big 10 brethern. Borland really struggles in pass coverage. His speed is negligible but there aren’t many that can find the football the way Borland does. He’s made a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage in his Wisconsin career which speaks to his instincts. His best fit at the next level will come on the inside in the 3-4.
7. Lamin Barrow, LSU
I need to see more of Barrow because I feel like I’m missing the boat on this kid. 2012 was his first season as a starter and he played well in year one. He will need to add some bulk to his 232 pound frame to play on the inside but showed a knack for finding the football and was solid in pass coverage.
8. Greg Blair, Cincinnati
9. Preston Brown, Louisville
10. DeDe Lattimore, South Florida
11. Caleb Levy, Oklahoma State
12. Mike Marry, Ole Miss
13. Jack Tyler, Virginia Tech
14. Glenn Carson, Penn State
15. Nate Dreiling, Pittsburg State
1. A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
Johnson is a rare specimen with speed, athleticism, and physicality wrapped up in one package. He’s a vicious tackler with true sideline to sideline speed. He’s a first round talent that has been an immediate impact player at Tennessee and brings similar abilities to the next level.
2. Eric Kendricks, UCLA
If not for his lack of size, Kendricks would be challenging Johnson as the top underclassmen ILB. He may move to the outside in the NFL but there’s no doubt that his skill set translates to the next level. At 6-foot-0 and 230 pounds, Kendricks is a ballhawk and true three-down linebacker with the ability to rack up huge tackle numbers with his combination of speed and instincts. He’s the younger brother of Mychal Kendricks and their games are eerily similar.
3. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut
Smallwood was a standout sophomore linebacker in the Big East as he averaged double digit tackles. He’s an instinctual linebacker that will get a chance to shine with Sio Moore and Trevardo Williams moving on to the NFL. I fully expect Smallwood to have another great season and push the top of this list.
4. Trey DePriest, Alabama
We haven’t seen the best of Trey DePriest. 2013 should be his year to shine playing next to C.J. Mosley. DePriest showed he was a more than capable starter on a loaded defense but needs to take the next step towards being a leader of the defense. He possesses a nice blend of size and athleticism that will intrigue teams early in the draft.
5. AJ Tarpley, Stanford
6. Bryce Hager, Baylor
7. Steve Edmond, Texas
8. Hayes Pullard, USC
1. Jabari Hunt-Days, Georgia Tech
Hunt-Days was a standout in 2012 as a redshirt freshman and brings all the physical tools to be a really good ILB at the next level. At 6-foot-3 and 253 pounds, Days brings ideal size to go with excellent athleticism, speed, and strength. It’s rare that a third-year sophomore ILB would declare for the draft but Days is a rare specimen at the position. Another season of progression could push Days into rarified air.