The Top 5 Inside Linebackers in the 2015 NFL Draft

I've written that the outside linebacker/edge player position in this draft is loaded. The same cannot be said for inside linebackers. At this time, I can only see one inside linebacker being drafted in the first round, but the rest of the top five could very well go in the second. One may slip to the third round. 1) Benardrick McKinney – Mississippi State In my opinion, McKinney is easily the best inside linebacker in this draft and the only one that I see going in the first round. At 6’4 – 246, McKinney has great size to go along with excellent speed (4.68). At the combine, the only thing that disappointed me was his bench press, where he only did 16 reps, which is poor for his position. On tape, he plays with strength and shows explosive hitting ability. That explosiveness was shown with his 40.5” vertical jump and 10’1” standing long jump. McKinney is a four year starter and highly productive versus both the run and pass. He has top instincts, is aggressive at the point, and shows he can be a blow up tackler. He is an instinctive linebacker who controls the middle of the field. He should start right away and be very productive as a rookie. He can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme which increases his value. 2) Stephone Anthony – Clemson I have always been a big Anthony fan. I wrote him up last year in the NFP, thinking he was going to enter the 2014 draft. I saw nothing on tape from this past season that changed my mind about him. From a physical viewpoint, he has all the tools. He measured 6’3 – 243 at the combine and ran a very fast 4.57 in the 40. All his drill work was equally impressive with a 37” vertical jump, 10’2” standing long jump, 23 reps of 225 and agility times of 4.03 and 7.07. These were all excellent numbers for a defensive back let alone a linebacker. On the field, Anthony is instinctive, productive, and tough. He plays tough at the point of attack, can use his hands and shed quickly and takes good angles in pursuit. He is very good in coverage and shows he can play man or zone. He is also very effective when used to blitz. Like McKinney, Anthony is scheme versatile and can play in any defense. He is also capable of playing Mike or Will in either scheme. While there is a chance he can get drafted at the end of the first round, I feel it is more likely he will go at the top of the second. SCOUTING BOOT CAMP IS COMING TO CHICAGO MAY 15th-17th - REGISTER FOR THE LIVE SEMINAR OR ATTEND VIA WEBINAR 3) Paul Dawson – TCU Going into the Combine, Dawson was looked at by most analysts as the second best ILB in this draft. When he got to Indy, all the wind came out of those sails when he ran a disappointing 4.93 in the 40. Regardless of how good a players tape is, no linebacker who runs a 4.9+ is going in the first round. Yesterday (March 27th) at the TCU pro day, Dawson was able to improve on his 40. Talking to some scouts who were there, most people had Dawson timed in the 4.80 range. He ran twice and one was in the high 4.7’s and the other on the low 4.8’s. When you look at how he performed the other drills, he just isn’t a top athlete. His vertical jump was only 28”, his long jump 9’1” and his short shuttle was 4.59. All those numbers are very average to poor for the position. On tape, Dawson looks much more athletic. He is not a real big guy at 6’0 – 235 but he plays with strength and power. He shows strength at the point, has quick hands to shed, and is very instinctive. He is a big hitter and makes a lot of plays in the tackle box. On the downside, he doesn’t have great range, has had some character issues and isn’t known to have the best work ethic. Having average athleticism and not being able to run well, I see Dawson locked into playing in only a 3-4 scheme. The 4-3 clubs look for a much faster player to play Mike. Regardless of how he tested, once the game starts, Dawson can play. Because of that he will get drafted higher than his numbers would indicate. While I have him listed third, it would surprise me if he was the fourth or even fifth inside linebacker to get drafted next month. 4) Eric Kendricks – UCLA It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like Kendricks on tape. He is a three year starter at UCLA and very productive. He is a top athlete with speed (4.61) and change of direction. He has excellent instincts and is always around the ball and makes plays. His biggest negative is size. He is not a naturally big guy. At Indy he was 6’0 – 232, but he played most of last year in the high 220’s. He doesn’t have the frame to carry much more than about 235 and that could hurt him some on draft day. There are times when he just gets over powered by offensive linemen. If he reminds you of anyone as a player, it’s his older brother Mychal who is a starting ILB for Philly. Like his brother, Eric is good at slipping blocks and getting to the play. He is very effective in coverage and as a blitzer. While Kendricks does have some scheme versatility, I see his best fit as a Will in a 4-3 scheme. From an athletic and instincts viewpoint, he fits that profile much better. 5) Denzel Perryman – Miami One thing you can’t take away form Denzell Perryman is that he is a very good football player. What he lacks is ideal measurbles. At 5’11 – 236 he is on the small side. As an athlete, he test out to be average. He runs in the high 4.’7s to low 4.8’s but does play a little faster. He has excellent instincts and anticipation, and that gets him to the ball quickly on a consistent basis. He is better at slipping blocks than taking on and shedding blocks. There are times on tape when you see him get over powered. While he has a number of tackles credited to him, he also misses some. He is more of a hitter than a wrapper. Perryman is not for everyone. There will be clubs that like him and others will have him off their boards. I see him as a Will in a 4-3 scheme. His instincts and quickness will allow him to perform well at that positon. I know there are some who feel Perryman is a lock to go in the second round. While I agree that could happen, I feel it’s a stretch and it’s more likely that he goes in the third. It would not surprise me if players such as Kwon Alexander and Shaq Thompson get drafted before Perryman, but for the purpose of this article, I have those two listed as outside linebackers. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Upcoming Games

Nov 29th, 1:00 PM

Carolina +3 -110

Minnesota -3 -110

@

Nov 29th, 1:00 PM

Tennessee +3 -110

Indianapolis -3 -110

@

Nov 29th, 1:00 PM

Arizona -2 -110

New England +2 -110

@

Nov 29th, 1:00 PM

Cleveland -7 -110

Jacksonville +7 -110

@

Nov 29th, 1:00 PM

Miami -7 -115

NY Jets +7 -115

@

Nov 29th, 1:00 PM

Las Vegas -3 +100

Atlanta +3 +100

@

Nov 29th, 1:00 PM

NY Giants -6 -110

Cincinnati +6 -110

@

Nov 29th, 1:00 PM

LA Chargers +4.5 -110

Buffalo -4.5 -110

@

Nov 29th, 4:05 PM

San Francisco +6.5 -110

LA Rams -6.5 -110

@

Nov 29th, 4:05 PM

New Orleans -14.5 -110

Denver +14.5 -110

@

Nov 29th, 4:25 PM

Kansas City -3.5 -110

Tampa Bay +3.5 -110

@

Nov 29th, 8:20 PM

Chicago +9.5 -105

Green Bay -9.5 -105

@

Nov 30th, 8:15 PM

Seattle -6 -110

Philadelphia +6 -110

@

Dec 1st, 8:00 PM

Baltimore +8 -110

Pittsburgh -8 -110

@

Dec 6th, 1:00 PM

Cleveland +4 -110

Tennessee -4 -110

@

Dec 6th, 1:00 PM

Indianapolis -3 -120

Houston +3 -120

@

Dec 6th, 1:00 PM

Detroit +5.5 -105

Chicago -5.5 -105

@

Dec 6th, 1:00 PM

Jacksonville +9.5 -115

Minnesota -9.5 -115

@

Dec 6th, 1:00 PM

Las Vegas -7.5 -110

NY Jets +7.5 -110

@

Dec 6th, 1:00 PM

New Orleans -3.5 -120

Atlanta +3.5 -120

@

Dec 6th, 1:00 PM

Washington +10.5 -110

Pittsburgh -10.5 -110

@

Dec 6th, 1:00 PM

Cincinnati +10.5 -110

Miami -10.5 -110

@

Dec 6th, 4:05 PM

NY Giants +7.5 -110

Seattle -7.5 -110

@

Dec 6th, 4:05 PM

LA Rams -1.5 -110

Arizona +1.5 -110

@

Dec 6th, 4:25 PM

New England +2.5 -110

LA Chargers -2.5 -110

@

Dec 6th, 4:25 PM

Philadelphia +7 -110

Green Bay -7 -110

@

Dec 6th, 8:20 PM

Denver +13 -110

Kansas City -13 -110

@