While middle linebacker has lost draft value, good 2010 prospects remain

Michael Dwyer / Associated Press
Boston College's Mike McLaughlin is a very intelligent player and a team leader for the Eagles.

Top college senior rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | G/C | OT | DE | DT | MLB | OLB | S | CB

Editor's note: This is part of a weekly series detailing the top senior prospects, by position, for the 2010 NFL Draft.

Over the past 10 years (2000-09), only four inside or middle linebackers have been drafted in the first round of the draft -- the only position with less first-round picks over that time is fullbacks with none (not including punters/kickers).

The reason for this is because unless a prospect can play all three downs as an inside linebacker or can rush the passer and create big plays, teams are waiting to the later rounds to fill a need at the position.

Over the past two years, only 15 inside linebackers have been selected over the entire draft. In 2002, just two were taken in the first four rounds while only four were chosen in the first four rounds in 2006. In the 2009 draft, two very good players James Laurinaitis (Ohio State) and Rey Maualuga (USC) did not get picked until the second round by the Rams (35th overall) and Bengals (38th), respectively.

I wonder what former great Hall of Fame linebackers like Dick Butkus, Sam Huff, Jack Lambert, Willie Lanier, Ray Nitschke, and Joe Schmidt think of this present trend.

1. Brandon Spikes

College: Florida
Height/Weight: 6-2¾, 251

Spikes played as a true freshman in 2006 and for some reason seemed to play better in '07 than he did in '08, though, he did have four interceptions against top-25 ranked teams, returning two for touchdowns. He was the leading tackler on the team as a sophomore and junior as well being the team captain in 2008. He played defensive end in high school before moving to linebacker. He is a good tackler who is strong and does not get driven back when making tackles. Spikes is a playmaker, if his projected speed (4.75) holds up, he will be drafted in the lower half of Round 1.
2. Michah Johnson

College: Kentucky
Height/Weight: 6-2, 255

Johnson played and started two games as a true freshman. He was a highly recruited high school running back. He is fast and has strength, but needs better recognition when he tackles a ball carrier. Johnson can play every down and was first-team All-SEC in 2008, when he had 93 tackles, including 13 for loss.

3. Pat Angerer

College: Iowa
Height/Weight: 5-11½, 233

Angerer is a fifth-year player. Iowa does a great job keeping in-state players and working with them to improve their strength and skills. He went from being a second-team player in 2007 to being named second-team All-Big Ten in 2008. He was the Hawkeyes' leading tackler last season. Angerer has very good speed and athletic ability. I just wish he was taller.
4. Jamaar Chaney

College: Mississippi State
Height/Weight: 6-foot ½, 240

Chaney played as a true freshman in 2005, starting three games as an outside linebacker on the weakside. He moved to middle backer in 2007, started 12 games and was the team's leading tackler and second overall in the SEC. He missed the entire 2008 season after being injured in the first game against Louisiana Tech. Chaney has the speed and strength to go along with his competitiveness. The only question about him is whether he is recovered from a broken ankle. He signed with Georgia out of high school, but was released from his scholarship and signed with Mississippi State.

5. Reed Williams

College: West Virginia
Height/Weight: 6-0 5/8, 235

Williams played as a true freshman in 2005. Williams was the Mountaineers' top tackler in 2007, but missed 2008 after having offseason surgery on both shoulders. He's a smart, tough, physical player with good speed. He is a very good special teams player with great dedication for the game.
6. Mike McLaughlin

College: Boston College
Height/Weight: 6-1, 247

McLaughlin is a fifth-year player, who started 14 games in 2008. He was the second-leading tackler with 89 stops and he also had 3.5 sacks. His teammates voted him defensive team captain and he is a very good athlete, who is strong at the point of attack. McLaughlin is a smart player and good leader for the Eagles.

7. Joe Pawelek

College: Baylor
Height/Weight: 6-2, 240

Pawelek is a fifth-year player who has started 34 games in the past three years. He was first-team All-Big 12 in 2008, when he had 128 tackles and six interceptions. Pawelek has eight career interceptions, of which four came in the end zone. Though he has some athletic ability, he does not look real fast. Still, he moves well, makes lots of plays and has smarts.
8. Jared Norton

College: Texas
Height/Weight: 6-2½, 232

Norton played as a true freshman in 2006 and started seven games at middle linebacker in 2008. He was the fourth-leading tackler on the team last year, finishing ahead of Sergio Kindle. Norton has good size and speed for the position and is a very good special teams player. He also has good athletic ability and was a cornerback in high school before moving to linebacker.

9. Ryan Reynolds

College: Oklahoma
Height/Weight: 6-1¾, 230

Reynolds played as a true freshman, missing 2006 and the last half of 2008 with a torn ACL. This is a very dedicated player with some athletic ability and good speed. I'm not sure how he will play after his second ACL operation. If he is ok, then he can be a good player. He had 44 tackles in 5½ games in 2008. He was the high school state wrestling champion (in Nevada) and the national judo champion.
10. Jacob Cutrera

College: LSU
Height/Weight: 6-3, 240

Cutrera played as a true freshman, but has been a backup player for three years. LSU had good middle linebackers during that span. He is a smart player with good instincts and passion for the game. How he plays in 2009 is very important.

11. Brashton Satele

College: Hawaii
Height/Weight: 6-0½, 260

Satele was a fifth-year player, who started eight games in 2008 and had 53 tackles. His best game was against Fresno State, where he had nine tackles and an interception. Satele is good vs. the run, but I question if he can play all three downs. His father played linebacker at Hawaii.



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