Perhaps a position that people don’t value as much, we present the unsung heroes of the 2015 NFL Draft. The inside linebacker is still a very important position in the NFL. Especially now that so many teams are running with two inside backers defensively, it makes sense that this position get filled as a priority.
At least that’s what you think. But teams want pass rushers before leaders, which is perhaps one of the issues with the NFL. Inside linebackers are typically the leaders of the defense. They’re the nucleus, the heart of the defense, whatever. Without these studs, your cornerbacks and pass rushers couldn’t cash in those pay checks because teams would just run the ball down the middle all day long.
1. Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State)
A physical force in the middle, McKinney will likely add at least seven pounds of muscle and get his foot quickness up before becoming a dominant stud at the next level. Get this guy on the Cleveland Browns please.
2. Denzel Perryman (Miami Fl.)
The undersized Perryman has a lot of instinct and high football IQ, which make him a sleeper in the first round. But his physical ability is limited for his size. He’ll need to add weight and functional strength to be dominant, otherwise he can still be a productive starter.
3. Eric Kendricks (UCLA)
For the second Browns reference, Kendricks is a guy who is feared to be another “Ben Taylor”. Taylor, a former inside linebacker for the Browns, racked up a solid amount of tackles for two years in Cleveland and was thought of as a decent linebacker, often made most of his tackles five yards past the line of scrimmage. Kendricks is talented, but needs to be more aggressive instead of waiting for the offensive line get to the second level.
4. Paul Dawson (TCU)
A tough athlete that offers a lot from a physical standpoint. He’s not fast, but he’s got solid lateral ability moving sideline to sideline. Get him a defensive coordinator that will force him to watch tape and he’ll be a stud.
5. Stephone Anthony (Clemson)
He’ll bully position players and use his physical abilities to work sideline to sideline, but he just won’t take on offensive lineman with force. The kid is talented and has a perfect frame. Teach him a few things, coach, and he’ll be alright.
6. Hayes Pullard (USC)
Somewhat of a quiet leader and quiet assassin. He’ll wait for his hole to open up at times ready to attack the ball carrier. He’s got a solid frame and quickness but he plays too much patty cake with lineman and isn’t physical enough at times.
7. A.J. Johnson (Tennessee)
Johnson is my kind of linebacker. He’s a physical force with a good frame with room to grow. He’s got good natural instincts but plays with too much stiffness and has a negative amount of coverage ability. Groom him on coverage or he’s a 2 down inside linebacker for eight years.
8. Ramik Wilson (Georgia)
Despite starting for an SEC school for three years, you’ve never heard of this guy. Regardless, he’s in a position of need as there is a shortage of 34 inside linebackers in the NFL. This guy has experience, he plays sideline to sideline and has room to grow. Despite some people thinking he’s restricted to a 43, I think Wilson can add weight and work on his coverage ability to be a 34 WILL.
9. Taiwan Jones (Michigan State)
A.J. Johnson and Taiwan Jones are the same player almost. Except that Johnson is a little bit more athletic. Jones is a 34 two down backer that’s going to shut down the run.
10. Trey DePriest (Alabama)
Maybe it’s just a homer pick. I’ve loved DePriest ever since he came out of Springfield, OH. I wanted the Buckeyes to recruit him, but he opted for Alabama instead. Regardless, he was highly touted only to be average throughout his career. He started young by default and just never became anything above average. But I still think the guy has a lot of pure skill with a good frame that can produce at the next level. He just needs a quality linebackers coach.