Friday, May 2, 2014

3-4 ILB Rankings

Here's my rankings of 3-4 inside linebackers and where I'd be comfortable drafting them.

Before I start, I wanted to go over what I think Chip Kelly looks for in his ILBs. Chip isn't looking for a 260 pound downhill thumper. He is looking for long, rangy players with impressive movement and coverage skills (i.e. Kiko Alonso). So the short, stocky run-stuffers aren't on my draft board.

1. C.J. Mosley (6-2, 234) - 1st Round

Mosley pairs elite football knowledge with an impressive all-around skill-set. He's a good tackler, can cover downfield, and can take on blocks. There is mileage concern with Mosely, Alabama runs a very demanding program and he has had some nagging injuries.

2. Ryan Shazier (6-1, 237) - 1st Round

Shazier is explosive. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah compared him to Arizona ILB Daryl Washington, and I can see it. He has a 42 inch vertical and ran a 4.38 40 at his Pro Day. Shazier was extremely productive in college as well, making a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. There are concerns about taking on big offensive linemen and navigating through traffic at 237 pounds.

3. Kyle Van Noy (6-3, 244) - 2nd Round
When I first scouted Van Noy, I viewed him as a Connor Barwin style 3-4 OLB. But after watching more of his film, his coverage abilities are good enough to play ILB. He's instinctive and plays athletic. Van Noy isn't going to drop the hammer on anybody, but he's a consistent wrap-up tackler. He's extremely versatile as well, but may struggle as a run defender in the NFL.

4. Christian Jones (6-3, 240) - 3rd Round

He's a very athletic, versatile player. Jones pairs good height and weight with long arms. He's a physical player with impressive coverage ability. His instincts are suspect and he will struggle to shed blocks. Jones played a full year at DE for Florida State which provides versatility, but he lacks much technique in that area.

5. Jordan Tripp (6-3, 234) - 4th Round

Tripp is a tough, high character player who has legitimate athleticism. He changes directions smoothly and is fluid in space. Unlike a lot of athletic backers, Tripp has good instincts. He isn't a physical player though, and will miss some tackles. Tripp also played against lower-level competition at Montana.

6. Telvin Smith (6-3, 218) - 4th Round

Smith isn't big enough to play ILB in a 3-4 at his current weight. But he is a very physical player who will stick his nose into contact. He's also a fiery player who Eagles fans would love. Smith has good instincts but he will be overaggressive at times. He's not quite as good in coverage as one would imagine.

7. Christian Kirksey (6-2, 233) - 5th Round

Kirksey is a good athlete with long arms who covers a lot of ground. Chip Kelly should be salivating, right? Well, Kirksey does struggle with instincts and will play wild at times. Despite missing some tackles, he is a physical player and a two-time team captain.

8. Lamin Barrow (6-1, 237) - 5th Round

Barrow is an athlete who moves fluidly in space. He's a tough player with terrific intangibles. At LSU, he played against top competition but will struggle with missed tackles and inconsistent instincts.

9. Khairi Fortt (6-2, 248) - 6th Round

Fortt has very loose movement in coverage and has sideline-to-sideline range. He has some upside as a pass-rusher which provides versatility. Fortt is also a very good athlete with 33 5/8" arms. As is a common theme here, he will struggle with missed tackles and average instincts.

10. Jordan Zumwalt (6-4, 235) - 7th Round

I'm not as high on Zumwalt as others, and that's based on his average athleticism. He makes up for that with smart football. He finds himself around the football and possesses good size. His coverage ability will always be limited however.

As a bonus, here's two priority UDFA's the Eagles should target:

Boseko Lokombo (6-2, 225)
Chip knows him well. At Oregon, Lokombo displayed extraordinary athleticism with great movement sideline-to-sideline. He has an extremely impressive coverage skillset but can't be on the field too much at 225 pounds. He could be a very good nickel cover linebacker in the NFL, in my opinion.

Jamal Merrell (6-5, 230)

Despite rare height for the position, Merrell is a good athlete. He has surprising range and 34 1/2" arms. He recorded 2 INTs in 2013, but does struggle to change direction quickly. He will need to add weight, but could be worth a look on practice squad with an eye on 2015.

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