2012 NFL Outside Linebacker Prospects

Posted by Brad On July – 15 – 2011
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"2012 NFL Outside Linebacker Prospects"With a ton of teams transitioning to the 3-4 defense, the outside linebacker position has drastically changed over the last several years.  The influx of smallish 4-3 ends turned into rush linebackers has made it difficult to rank the 2012 NFL outside linebacker prospects.

I broke down the OLB’s by guys I thought were certain to make the transition from college DE to NFL OLB (Brandon Lindsey and Bruce Irvin, for example) and left borderline guys on my DE rankings (Brandon Jenkins and Vinny Curry).

Here’s my best guess on the 2012 NFL outside linebacker prospects:

1.  Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma

Height: 6’2  Weight: 233

Travis Lewis did himself well by staying in school for his senior season after a noteably poor junior season for the Sooners.  H e is a 4-3 WILL linebacker that has notched 41 games played in three seasons.  He excels because of his outstanding athleticism and instincts.  He is phenomenal dropping into coverage as evidenced by his 8 INT’s and 10 pass breakups in his career.  Lewis will have to prove that his poor 2010 season was an anomaly and come into 2011 hungry again to maintain the top spot in the 2012 outside linebacker prospects list.

2012 NFL Draft projection:  1

2.  Keenan Robinson, OLB, Texas

Height: 6’3  Weight: 240

Robinson has all the physical tools to be a first round OLB prospect but will have to learn to trust his instincts in order to make it to the first round next April.  Robinson has solid size matched with great athletic abilities and should put up another solid season for the Longhorns.  Too many of his tackles come down the field rather than meeting the ball carrier in the hole.

2012 NFL Draft projection:  1-2

3.  Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina

Height: 6’2  Weight: 225

Brown is an athletic freak that will dazzle at the Combine with all his physical gifts.  Just based on that he could land in the second round.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t apply those gifts to the field on a consistent basis.  During his senior season he will have to show he can consistently get to the ball and wrap up in order to hold this ranking amongst the 2012 NFL outside linebacker prospects.  This is probably the point where people will pick apart these rankings with Brown behind Robinson but exercise caution and watch UNC games and not highlights.  Brown’s highlights will blow you away but he doesn’t always show that on an every down basis.

2012 NFL Draft projection:  2

4.  Sean Spence, OLB, Miami

Height: 5’11  Weight: 225

Spence is undersized but you wouldn’t know it watching him on tape.  If teams can look past his size he could be the best of the 2012 NFL outside linebacker prospects.  Spence is fun to watch as he flies to the football and blows up whatever is in his way.  He brings an unmatched intensity to the field that teams will love.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see Spence atop many teams draft boards for OLB prospects due to his relentlessness.

2012 NFL Draft projection:  2 (for now)

5.  Bruce Irvin, OLB, West Virginia

Height: 6’2  Weight: 240

Irvin has played with his hand down at WVU 90% of the time.  In the NFL, he will have to stand up as a rush linebacker.  He is my favorite prospect to make that tough transition.  Irvin brings a relentless speed that is tough to handle off the edge.

2012 NFL Draft projection:  2

6.  Shayne Skov, OLB, Stanford

Height: 6’3  Weight: 245

I have no idea where to list Skov but I like him.  She Sean Spence but add to size to that breakdown.  Skov is a relentless, form tackler that always seems to be making a big play when needed.  Skov could play OLB, ILB, DE, special teams, punter, kicker…you get the drift.  This is one of those guys that is just a football player.  His best fit may be at rush linebacker in the 3-4 but who knows.  You draft him and then decide where he is going to play.  He was number two on my top under the radar prospects list.

2012 NFL Draft projection:  2

7.  Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh

Height: 6’2  Weight: 250

Lindsey is definitely a rush linebacker in the 3-4 for NFL teams.  He is not solid enough to play DE in the NFL.  If he can show an ability to stand up in the 3-4 he could move up the 2012 NFL outside linebacker prospects list.  He has phenomenal pass rush skills that could translate into a Tamba Hali-type player.  I don’t see him as a quick fix but a nice project with a ton of upside in the 3-4.

2012 NFL Draft projection:  2

8.  Tank Carder, OLB, TCU

Height: 6’2  Weight: 237

Carder is a prospect that teams could line up inside or outside depending on need and he would be fine at either position.  His versatility and skill set match up with that of a SAM linebacker in the 4-3 best and he could be a day one starter in that system.  Carder reminds me of former TCU standout Daryl Washington.

2012 NFL Draft projection:  2-3

9.  Nigel Bradham, OLB, Florida State

Height: 6’3  Weight: 240

Bradham could play inside in the NFL but for now I’ll keep him on the outside.  He has all the physical tools to be a star but lacks superior instincts.  He tends to over-pursue and make the wrong reads.  If he can show in 2011 better instincts he will be drafted in the early second, if not he could make his way into the 3rd.

2012 NFL Draft projection:  2-3

10.  Emmanuel Acho, OLB, Texas

Height: 6’2  Weight: 240

Emmanuel is the brother of Sam Acho and is the better prospect of the two.  He has great speed to size ratio and solid instincts.  Acho will have to improve in pass coverage and work on his tackling technique if he wants to find his way into the second round.

2012 NFL Draft projection:  2-3

Best of the rest:

Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska

Adrian Robinson, OLB, Temple

Terrell Manning, OLB, N.C. State

Danny Trevathan, OLB, Kentucky

Bobby Wagner, OLB, Utah State

Jonathan Massaquoi, OLB, Troy

Tyler Nielson, OLB, Iowa

Andrew Sweat, OLB, Ohio State

Demario Davis, OLB, Arkansas State

Nathan Stupar, OLB, Penn State


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Brad is the founder of NFLs Future and sole writer for the site. In addition to NFLs Future, he is the Director a mental health residential treatment facility on a full time basis. He is passionate about forming a community of NFL followers for NFLs Future and prides himself on developing relationships with viewers. He is a former walk on at Ohio University but had bigger dreams than talent. Those dreams and knowledge of the game are what are poured into the content of NFLs Future.



    Brad Clark is the founder and President of NFL’s Future. The site was established on January 4, 2011 and has since been through two face lifts. NFL's Future is a member of the Big Lead Sports network and is dedicated to bringing fans the NFL Draft from a different perspective.

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