NFL Draft: Breaking Down the Top Inside Linebacker Prospects

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Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Ryan Shazier (10) tackles Illinois Fighting Illini running back Donovonn Young (5). Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

 

TIER ONE

1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama: 6-2, 234 (4.63)

Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley (32). Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot to like about Mosley’s game. He’s instinctive, tough, has great game speed, and is an excellent tackler. He’s one of those rare players that can both dominate between the tackles and run sideline-to-sideline to chase down ball carriers.

Mosley is also solid in coverage and can be an effective blitzer up the middle. Mosley seems like the complete linebacker and is by far head and shoulders above any other “true” linebacker in this draft.

There are only a few problems I see with Mosley heading into the draft.

First, it seems unlikely he’ll be available to the Packers with the 21st overall pick. The Giants at pick 11, the Steelers at 14, and the Ravens at 16 are all possible landings spots for the Alabama prospect.

The other concerns with Mosley seem to be a shaky medical history and his lack of bulk to play on the inside in a 3-4 defense. Concerns about Mosley’s elbow and knee may drop him on draft day. However, these same medical red flags were also raised with Eddie Lacy last year, and we all saw how that turned out.

Mosley did play a shade under 230 pounds in college, which caused him to struggle a bit shedding blocks between the tackles. Mosley has bulked up some since exiting college, but his lack of size has led some to believe he could struggle on the inside in a 3-4 and is better suited as a a weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense.

Regardless, Mosley is a special linebacking talent that would be hard for the Packers to pass up if available to them in the first round.

(Draft Projection: Round 1)

 

Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Ryan Shazier (2). Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Ryan Shazier (2). Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

2. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State: 6-1, 237 (4.38)

Shazier’s workout numbers are eye-popping. It’s rare to find a linebacker that runs a blazing 4.38 forty with a 42-inch vert and nearly 11-foot broad jump.

These numbers tell us Shazier is a very explosive athlete, if anything at all.

Turn on the tape and you’ll see a linebacker with an incredibly quick first step and a relentless pursuit to get after the quarterback. Shazier recorded seven sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss last year as a junior.

Shazier also has the speed and ability to move fluidly in space to cover well and chase down ball carriers in the open field.

The concerns with Shazier seem to be similar to Mosley. Shazier played around 225 pounds in college and at times struggled to shed blocks and plug up the middle of the line against the run.

Shazier may be a better fit on the outside in a 4-3 defense, but the added bulk (now 237 pounds) could help him hold up on the inside against the run in a 3-4 defense.

Shazier’s raw talent and athletic ability could be a nice addition to the Packers linebacking corps, but he may take some time to develop as a “true” inside linebacker in the Packers system.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 1-2)

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