Green Bay Packers 2015 NFL Draft: Breaking down the inside linebacker prospects

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Mississippi State Bulldogs linebacker Benardrick McKinney (50). Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Tier One

1. Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State (6-4, 246)
2. Stephone Anthony, Clemson (6-3, 243)
3. Eric Kendricks, UCLA (6-0, 232)
4. Shaq Thompson, Washington (6-0, 228)
5. Paul Dawson, TCU (6-0, 235)
6. Denzel Perryman, Miami (5-11, 236)

The Skinny: Although this year’s draft may not have an elite talent at inside linebacker, the top group is deep and very intriguing.

McKinney is a monster between the tackles, and out of all of the linebackers in this class, he is the best at taking on and shedding blocks. His rare size certainly helps him in this department.

However, many see him as just a smash-mouth run stopper, which is not a completely accurate depiction of his game.

Sep 19, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack wide receiver Bra

He does have the speed and instincts to make plays outside of the tackles as well. He’s also a very intelligent player who demonstrates a good understanding of offenses and is rarely out of position on the field.

And although this is not an area of strength in his game, he is better in coverage than what most people give him credit for.

At times, he can be a little stiff in space, but overall, he offers a lot of upside and has the potential to become a true three-down linebacker in the NFL.

Anthony is a very explosive playmaker who can burst through the line and make plays in the backfield. He has excellent closing speed and is a guy who is not afraid to lay people out.

He’s also a great athlete who moves fluidly in space and can be a better coverage player than the other bruising linebackers, like McKinney or Perryman.

His game reminds me a lot of Desmond Bishop.

Kendricks is the most productive linebacker coming out of college, and perhaps, the most polished. He was a tackling machine at UCLA, and he plays with excellent instincts and understanding of the game.

UCLA Bruins linebacker Eric Kendricks (6). Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

However, I also feel Kendricks’ ceiling is limited going into the NFL. On film, I just don’t see him as an impact player at the next level and I wonder if his game has any room to grow.

He’s solid in coverage and can make plays in space. He’d be a nice pick for the Packers because he has all of the makings of being a reliable starter in the league for many years.

However, I would be concerned with his fit in the Packers 3-4 front and how well he can hold up in the middle taking on blocks against the run, considering his size.

He does have a tendency to get hung up in traffic and will need to keep off of blocks in order to make plays. This is why I feel he’d be a better fit as a weakside linebacker in a 4-3 front.

Thompson and Dawson are both also very highly talented but may be better suited as 4-3 linebackers.

Thompson is a freak athlete, but his position in the NFL remains up in the air. He would be  tough sell on the inside as a 3-4 linebacker, despite his talent and playmaking ability.

Dawson may possess the best instincts of the group, allowing him to play faster than he times. Dawson is a better player in space, whether that is dropping in coverage or making plays outside of the tackles.

However, I’m not sure how well he’d fit on the inside in a 3-4 front.

Perryman is a classic thumper who excels between the tackles. He does lack the speed necessary to be effective in coverage or make plays in pursuit. He seems like a classic two-down run defender, who should drop into coverage sparingly.

He also struggles at times to disengage from blocks so he might not be the ideal fit in a 3-4 scheme. I see him as a classic 4-3 Mike.

Next: Tier Two