Ranking the linebackers

April 25th, 2012 | Written by Kip Earlywine

Written by Kip Earlywine

Here are some factors that led me to this rankings:

#1:  My own rankings are based on the assumption that any of the three linebacker spots can be upgraded, and that KJ Wright has enough flexibility to play middle or even weak side.

#2:  I liked our linebacker group last year, so if Pete Carroll is so determined to overhaul it, it must be because something was clearly lacking, whether it was speed, coverage, or the ability to cover ground in run support.  I kept the team’s “speed” preference in mind when making these personal rankings.

With that in mind…

My top ten 4-3 linebackers in the 2012 draft:

#1:  Luke Kuechly (deserves to be drafted: top 15 pick)

I’ll say with 99% certainty that the Seahawks won’t be drafting Kuelchy at #12, but I honestly wouldn’t mind if they did.  Kuelchy is fast enough to become an above average coverage linebacker, and his instincts tracking the ball in run support are off the charts.

#2:  Dont’a Hightower (deserves to be drafted: round 1)

Hightower isn’t just a very good inside linebacker, he’s also got the size and power to be an excellent SAM, and enough quickness to be a solid WILL.  He can play both inside and outside in a 3-4 too.  He even lined up as a 4-3 defensive end on 3rd downs, and showed a lot of promise as an edge rusher.  Hightower can pretty much do it all, and he does it very well.  Oh, and did I mention he does all this at 265 pounds?  If Hightower lands on a team like Baltimore or Pittsburgh, its not hard for me to envision him as a perennial pro-bowler.

#3:  Lavonte David (deserves to be drafted: late round 1)

Undersized but stellar, David put up the best statistics of any linebacker in this draft class over the last two years.  From a 4-3 perspective, David is probably limited to playing the WILL spot unless he can add a ton of weight, but he has a chance to be perhaps the best WILL linebacker in the NFL on day one.  David is excellent in coverage, instinctive, smart against the run, and deadly as a pass rusher.  If Seattle passed on him at #43, it better be for someone amazing.

#4:  Ronnell Lewis (deserves to be drafted: early round 2)

Lewis was a defensive end in college, but his excellent special teams play, speed, good instincts and hard hitting ability all point to him as a potentially dominant SAM linebacker in a 4-3 (or a passable outside linebacker in a 3-4).  If Lewis is the best player available, he’s worth considering as he’d likely be an upgrade over Wright at SAM.

#5:  Shea McClellin (deserves to be drafted: early round 2)

McClellin is one of the draft’s most diverse players.  A high school linebacker who converted to defensive end, McClellin posted respectable pass rush statistics as a Bronco, but the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine revealed that his true talent may be at linebacker.  Carroll likes players with scheme diversity, and McClellin could play either outside linebacker position, he could play strong side end on pass rush downs and could even be a successor for Clemons at the LEO.  Despite playing defensive end, McClellin’s forty time was among the best for outside linebackers, and its said he looked terrific in coverage drills.  McClellin will also draw strong consideration from teams looking for 3-4 outside linebackers.

#6:  Mychal Kendricks (deserves to be drafted: round 3)

I know that Rob and I have touted Kendricks as a second round option, and we even mocked him to Seattle in the SBN writers mock at #43, but when I put on the games, I see a guy who looks like a 3rd or 4th round pick.  Kendricks’ amazing combine will boost his stock significantly and probably makes him a near lock for round two, but I personally wouldn’t feel great about drafting him until the third.  The Seahawks may feel very differently though as they appear to be placing a very high premium on speed.

#7:  Bobby Wagner (deserves to be drafted: round 3)

Wagner has boring tape and doesn’t make a lot of splash plays from middle linebacker, but he’s one of the best coverage inside linebackers in the draft and he has the speed to cover tight ends and slot receivers with ease.  Wagner is a bit of a jack of all trades linebacker and would be a very solid pick in round three, though like Kendricks, he will probably be selected before then.

#8:  Demario Davis (deserves to be drafted: round 3)

Davis posted a very strong combine and has electrifying tape.  In terms of maximum potential, he would be much higher on this list.  Uncertainty about his coverage ability, small school competition, and tackling issues drop him down this far, but Davis is a monster talent and I’d be stoked if Seattle picked him any time after the second round.

#9:  James Michael-Johnson (deserves to be drafted: round 4)

You would think a guy with the last name “Michael-Johnson” would be ridiculously fast, but James is hardly “the world’s fastest man.”  Michael-Johnson’s field speed is just barely above average, but he compensates for that speed with outstanding coverage instincts and reaction ability.  There isn’t a obvious Derrick Brooks candidate in this draft class, but Michael-Johnson’s ability to work a zone and read a quarterback reminds me of Tampa’s Hall of Fame linebacker.  No other linebacker I scouted this year was used in coverage more than Michael-Johnson was, not even Zach Brown or Lavonte David.  Michael-Johnson isn’t the greatest run stopper, but his closing speed and coverage ability makes him a very attractive option for what Seattle wants to do on defense.

I excluded Michael-Johnson from my draft spotlight series for one simple reason:  I want him to be a Seahawk.  My previews have always been remarkably inaccurate.  Two years ago I covered fifty or sixty players, and only one was drafted by the Seahawks.  One year ago, I covered several options on the offensive line, but James Carpenter and John Moffitt were not among them.  I fully expect to strike out once again in 2012.  So there you have it.  James Michael-Johnson:  destined Seahawks draft pick.  (Oh, and to the draft-gods that might be reading this, I should also point out that I didn’t cover Dont’a Hightower or Luke Kuechly either.  Just throwing that out there…)

#10:  Tank Carder (deserves to be drafted: round 4)

Lots of non-BCS talent at linebacker this year, eh?  Half of this list is made up of linebackers from non-BCS conference schools, which is saying something as I discount success significantly based on level of competition.

Carder is the closest thing in the 2012 draft to a Lofa Tatupu middle linebacker.  Like Tatupu, Carder is hard hitting with a well rounded skill set.  He plays his ass off and shows good potential in zone coverage too.  Like Tatupu, he’s a leader on the field and stood out despite playing on a very good defense.

Just missed:  Sean Spence (4th round), Zach Brown (4th round)

The front office’s top ten 4-3 linebackers (my guesses):

(estimated draft grade in parenthesis)

For the purposes of this ranking, I’m assuming that Seattle is looking for linebackers that can cover first and foremost.  I think when Pete talks about wanting “speed” at linebacker, that’s what he actually means.  I’ve come to this conclusion based on the insider info that the team rates Zach Brown very highly, and if you’ve seen Zach Brown play at all, you know that his coverage ability is the only part of his game that he could brag about.  I also think that while the Seahawks believe in KJ Wright’s versatility at all three linebacker spots, I suspect the team would like to keep Wright at SAM if possible.  That means they would probably prefer options at MIKE and WILL over SAM, although SAM linebackers could still be considered if the value is just too good to pass up.  Finally, I think the front office values versatility, so linebackers that have a chance to play two or three linebacker spots would be more strongly considered.

#1:  Zach Brown (1st round grade):

Zach Brown is not a good football player, but the Seahawks love him and I can think of several sane reasons why they would.  While he isn’t the very fastest linebacker in the draft, he’s close, and not many linebackers can run a 4.50 forty time at 244 pounds.  Purely in terms of size and speed, Brown is capable of playing all three linebacker spots in a 4-3, which holds huge appeal to the Seahawks as they will want to move players around and show as many looks as possible.

In an extreme scenario, and by extreme I mean something approaching Mad Max / Water World territory, Seattle might even consider Brown in the first round.  I don’t think a good enough offer will arise to nudge Seattle out of the 12th pick, but if one does and Seattle moves down in the 1st round, keep an eye on Brown as a possible fallback option.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Tony Pauline, Zach Brown didn’t make the top 33 list of draftable players (taken from a random sampling of NFL draft boards).  It’s sounding more and more that Brown will slide into the second round.  If that happens it should be very interesting to see how John Schneider handles the pressure of having such a highly rated player approach their 2nd round pick.  Will Seattle hold firm and hope Brown makes it?  Or will they cave and spend a valuable pick to move up?

#2:  Lavonte David (2nd round grade):

I wish I knew how Seattle rated David.  I’m assuming they’d like him a lot, as he’s field fast with good coverage skills and brings a lot to the pass rush as well.  On the downside, David isn’t very scheme versatile for a 4-3 and will likely be locked into a WILL linebacker role for Seattle’s defense.  Still, David is pretty much the definition of an “impact” player and could immediately take the Seahawks’ defense to the next level.  Pete Carroll has connections to Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini too (thank you Field Gulls).

#3:  Bobby Wagner (2nd round grade):

Wagner isn’t flashy, but he doesn’t have a lot of glaring flaws and is one of the best coverage linebackers in the draft.  He also ran a 4.46 forty.  I’m lukewarm on him, but his appeal is pretty obvious.

#4:  James Michael-Johnson (2nd round grade):

This might seem very high for Michael-Johnson, but the few times Rob and I have been blessed to see the Seahawks draft boards they always struck us for being unusual and having plenty of surprises in them.  I think Michael-Johnson could be one of those surprises.  Michael-Johnson’s overall profile is similar to Bobby Wagner except that Wagner excels in man coverage whereas Michael-Johnson was more of a zone coverage expert.

#5:  Mychal Kendricks (2nd round grade):

Kendricks is under-sized but a special athlete.  I really like Kendricks’ upside at the WILL because of his speed in coverage and his ability to accelerate when blitzing.  Kendricks can also play MIKE if needed.  Depending on how the draft board falls, Kendricks could be a strong consideration at #43 due to his incredible speed, athleticism, upside, and scheme diversity.  He’s also a Pac-12 player, which could cause Pete Carroll to favor Kendricks even more.

#6:  Demario Davis (2nd round grade):

Davis is a very similar athlete and player to Kendricks.  I like Davis’ tape more, but I have him a little lower on both lists because his performances came against weaker competition.

#7:  Sean Spence (3rd round grade):

Spence is a playmaking linebacker who utilizes great hand usage to help overcome his lack of height and size.  Solid in coverage and adept at making plays behind the line, I only have Spence this low because he possesses only average speed and makes too many mistakes.  Seattle shipped off Aaron Curry in part because he was mistake prone, so that makes me think that Spence’s mistake problems could be a significant turnoff for this front office.  That said, I wouldn’t rule out Spence as an option in rounds two, three, or four.

#8:  Shea McClellin (3rd round grade):

McCellin might rank much higher than this, but I think Seattle would put him this low mainly because his coverage ability is an unproven commodity.  I wouldn’t put it past McClellin to be a 1st round pick either, as many 3-4 teams will be seriously interested in his skill set.

#9:  Korey Toomer (mid-to-late round grade):

For these last two options, I’ll list a couple of long shot options that could make sense in the mid to late rounds, should Seattle opt to add a linebacker in that range.  Keep in mind that there are several small school linebackers with excellent forty times, guys that nobody is taking the time to talk about.  I’m only going to list two, but there are probably a dozen small school linebackers with speed that could be in play.

Korey Toomer’s scouting report reads a lot like Zach Brown’s.  He’s a guy that does a lot of things well and has fluidity on par with defensive backs, but lacks the aggressiveness and timing that separates great linebackers from failed ones.  Toomer is 6’2″, 234 pounds, and ran a blistering 4.48 forty time.  The Seahawks were one of twelve teams to meet with Toomer and were just one of four teams to have him do a private workout.

#10:  Marcus Dowtin (mid-to-late round grade):

Dowtin is another linebacker who resembles a safety with his movement skills.  He’s 6’2″, 231 pounds, and ran a 4.56 forty time.  Like Toomer, Dowtin is a small school player.  John Schneider has not shied away from small school talents thus far.

No Kuelchy, Hightower or Lewis? I have these three off of Seattle’s list despite how highly I think of them as their coverage ability is considered less than a sure thing.  Additionally, Kuelchy and Hightower have no real chance to reach the #43 pick, and I don’t think Seattle would spend big to trade back up into the first round for either one.  Obviously, I would love to be wrong on all three counts, as you can see from where they sit in my own rankings.  I’d be pretty surprised if any of them end up Seahawks though.

38 Responses to “Ranking the linebackers”

  1. D says:

    What is this draft that you speak of?

    Round 2-3 is full of great LBs. Pretty great if you are the Hawks.

    I never saw much sense in drafting Kuelchy or Hightower at #12 but I can see it happening now that the FO have their “Pick for sale”-sign out.

    However JS has said that if one of two players remain at #12 then that sign is taken down. From everything we have heard it is pass rush that is the main target here. The two player likely are between these guys (I don’t see Hightower as a great passrusher):

    Richardson
    Ingram
    Couples
    Upshaw

    Maybe Mercelius, Gilbert (sp? well the CB anyway) and Cox?

    Is it Thursday yet?!
    Trade with the Bengals or Pats would be pretty great.

  2. pqlqi says:

    D,

    Ingram and Cox seem like sure keepers for the team, Richardson would be a great trade down opportunity, Upshaw (to me) seems like the best option that might be left if those 3 are off the board. I doubt Coples is a high first round grade for this team that seems to like high motor/work ethic/character guys in the first round, and Coples just hasn’t proven to be such a player.

  3. pqlqi says:

    Nice list Kip.

    I really like Bobby Wagner, and think he’s just a half round behind David.

    Zac Brown just doesn’t make much sense to me because he is the classic Aaron Curry guy – spend a lot of draft capital and you just have no way of knowing if he’ll ever figure it out; he can’t tackle well at all.

    Maybe McClellin is ranked higher because of his potential to be the most potent pass rusher of this group?

  4. bluengreen says:

    Kip, it seems like you soured on Mychal Kendricks, dropping him from second to 3 or 4 yet you praise him highly in your comments about him. I am curious, what made you drop him like that?

  5. James says:

    Could we just offer up our #1 pick in sacrifice to the football gods so that they will send us some good injury luck? More than adding a new player, could we just keep what we have healthy? Okung has yet to play a season, so we would be adding a darn good left tackle if he could stay healthy, and Carpenter was becoming a beast on the field, but is not doing us much good in the training room. Our O Line has been wiped out the past two seasons, so we need to be pro-active.

  6. TJ says:

    I don’t like Zach Brown. He reminds me of someone like Daryl Blackstock who was highly regarded coming out of UVA for many of the same qualities – speed & athleticism. I think the first comment in his evaluation says enough. “Zach Brown is not a good football player.” He seems like an Al Davis type pick.

  7. Phil says:

    Kip – Maybe I’m the only one who is confused about this, but at the risk of exposing my ignorance or boring the rest of you, why aren’t Upshaw and Ingram on your list? (Maybe your list is players who primarily played LB in college, not those who were DEs in college, but might be asked to play LB in the NFL. For example, I just “googled” Courtney Upshaw and some sites describe him as a LB and others as a DE. Ingram is described by most sites as a DE.)

  8. Thomas says:

    Thanks for the LB breakdown, Kip. I’ve been reading the site for years, though this is my first time posting a comment.

    My gut tells me PC/JS are specifically targeting Dont’a Hightower at #12. I think the 1/10th of a second he lacks in speed he easily compensates for in other areas. I believe Hightower is also a very capable pass-rusher – perhaps as much as many of the tweeners projected to be drafted in the 1st round. (None of which I’m even remotely sold on, mind you [sorry, Rob.]) Hightower stuffs the run, tosses around O-linemen, blows up plays, is big, strong, very quick, smart, powerful and long. Hightower would significantly upgrade the defense as well as our pass-rush. Not to mention the fact that he’d help solidify this defense’s identity.

    I think he’s a perfect fit… in spite of not being the fastest LB in the crop.

  9. Hawksince77 says:

    Nicely done, thanks.

    I have been thinking more about Upshaw (for what its worth) and have been hung-up thinking of him as an OLB or DE. Then I thought, why not line him up in the middle as the MLB in base defense?

    Your outside guys are KJ and David/Hill/Ruud/Spence/whoever. Your outside guys have the speed and major coverage responsibility.

    On all running downs, if it’s a running play, good luck if you are the other team with Upshaw in the middle, and Bryant/Mebane/Branch/Clemons to get through.

    If it’s play action or straight drop-back, Upshaw rushes the passer, almost an auto blitz. That puts more coverage pressure on your other LBs/SS/FSCBs but you also get consistent pressure on the QB.

    On passing downs (nickel/dime), Upshaw lines up as a rush DE opposite Clemons on a 3-man line.

    Short yardage, all Upshaw.

    Would that work?

  10. Hawksince77 says:

    More on Upshaw:

    He roams behind the d-line, making plays all over the field.

    If Seattle faces a passing team, and lines up with a lot of 3-5 receiver sets, they counter with one of the nichol/dime/bandit packages, and Upshaw plays mostly DE.

    For a predominately running team (San Fran, for instance) you stop the running game cold and force Alex Smith to beat you.

  11. Ryan says:

    Hawksince77- totally agree. two MVPS in bowl games including the national title shut out. what else needs to be said?

  12. SHawn says:

    I rather like that idea Hawksince77. Upshaw isnt a man to man guy, but when asked he has shown the instinct and vision to play outside zone very effectively. Why not in the middle? Definitely sounds like something Carroll could play with. They move a lot of guys around from their original positions.

    I would like to see what Upshaw could do to a interior lineman with about 4 yards of steam built up. He isnt a speed guy (we all know that by now), but that lineman isnt coming any further up the field when Upshaw hits him. Likely he falls back on top of the runner behind him. That would make a great highlight.

  13. Hawksince77 says:

    SHawn,

    Thinking more about it, I can see Upshaw’s assignment as attacking whoever has the ball. He plays behind the line of scrimmage tackling the RB for a loss, or her pursues the QB for a sack. Every play, he simply attacks whoever has the ball and chases/covers nobody. Ingram could probably play the same role.

    I am not sure how an offence would deal with that. If they are in a run-formation (say 2WR, TE, RB, FB) if the QB doesn’t hand the ball off, he knows he has Upshaw coming from somewhere (never the same place, necessarily) and if he does hand the ball off, they are facing a formidable run defense.

    Upshaw just strikes me as the guy you want to keep close to the line of scrimmage and give him some flexibility to react to whatever the offense does. The rest of the defense would be a little more assignment-oriented (outside the FS, perhaps) covering the edge, the flats, and the WRs/TE.

  14. MJ says:

    Hawksince77-That’s exactly what I think they’d do with Ingram or Upshaw. I think they would be the ‘defensive weapon.’ Both guys are highly instinctive and well balanced. If you let them attack, they won’t get burned because of poor run stopping ability. I think Hightower could be attractive in this role as well.

  15. Madmark says:

    Thanks for the writeup Kip. I have to say i been spitting out Hightower cause I really like the guy but I’m probably wrong since PC said there are 12 linebackers in the draft. There was an article the other day saying the Patriots, who was in the superbowl last year may think its time to trade up and get Mark Barron. They really need secondary help. A trade for there 1,2, and 3 might be to enticing to pass up. The draft can’t get here fast enough to alleviate this headache I’ve gotten since the season ended.

  16. Jared says:

    Thanks for mentioning Korey Toomer. Toomer was very versatile to the Vandals in 2011. He had 10.5 TFL and 4 sacks, he also had 1 Interception and 4 pass breakups. He’s very athletic and has good size to play any of the OLB positions. He was the Vandals best pass rushing threat last year at LBer. He also played power back in short yardage situations last year.

    Finally he was so good in coverage Idaho used him to cover slot players and TE’s. IMO he’d be well worth a 5th- 6th round pick.

  17. AlaskaHawk says:

    Sounds like a good idea to put him in the middle. He could plug holes in the line to stop the running back. In coverage he would be all over a crossing tight end, or tackle the running back on an outlet pass. Upshaw is an animal when it comes to tackling.

  18. williambryan says:

    Love the note to the draft gods with the Michael-Johnson ranking! I too will purposely mock someone that I really don’t want the team to pick because that’s the only way to ensure that the team won’t pick them lol

  19. akki says:

    On Dowtin it’s also notable that he started out at Georgia and looked good in a reserve role. So the good news is that he’s got some higher level experience and also has been highly regarded all along. The bad news is that he transferred away to North Alabama after getting into a bar fight that might’ve led to a suspension at Georgia. I like what I see of him on the field, but don’t know if JS would go for that.

  20. SeattleAztec says:

    Our linebacker unit was average, if not slightly below average last year. As a whole, I didn’t like them much. Glad to see Hawthorne is gone and Hill will likely be veteran depth this year. With the huge D-line in front of them and the great secondary behind them, we should’ve been top 10 in ever defensive category if we had above average LBs. Hawthorne and Hill simply aren’t athletic enough to thrive in our scheme. We were killed on passes to RBs and TEs, outside runs, and QB scrambles. Those are the types of things that kept our defense on the field longer than it needed to be and why I was upset with that unit.

  21. Nano says:

    Big compliments here, Kip. I was excited about LB prospects before reading this, now, I’m hoping someone loads me up w/Thorazine until tomorrow evening.

  22. FWBrodie says:

    Kip, you’ve just made it clear that I need to watch some Lavonte David video as soon as I get a chance today.

  23. SalukiHawk12 says:

    Assuming we stay at our current slots and pick pass rusher in 1st and are targeting RB/LB in rounds 2,3. What do you guys think is the best order to attack that??

    I personally like the RB talent better at 2 and feel whoever is left from Martin,Wilson, Miller and maybe Polk and then aim for Lewis, Spence, Kaddu or Davis in rounds 3 or 4 is preferable than David, Wagner, Brown at 2 and James, Pierce, Turbin or Gray at 3 or 4.

    I think my favorite 2,3 combo is:
    David Wilson at 2
    Nigel Bradham at 3

  24. Lenny253 says:

    Something tells me that Upshaw will NOT be the pick at 12 or 18 or 25.

    Pete Carroll said this.

    “One of the things is speed is really important. Speed is an important issue. We like speed. It begins with speed and from there how slippery is the guy, how uniquely talented is he to avoid and use his body to find the spaces and to adapt. That opens up the spectrum to us. There’s guys we may see as linebackers that we like as rushers and there might be guys that are rushing that we might see as linebackers.”

  25. Jake says:

    Saluki – Within the confines of the game – 1-Hightower, 2-Miller, 3-Kendricks/Brown/Bradham. If Miller is gone, I’d flip it to: 1-Hightower, 2-Kendricks, 3-Polk/Turbin.

  26. Leonard says:

    I’d take Hightower over Kuechly and wouldn’t think twice. They are similar in leadership and football IQ. Hightower is as good at rushing the passer as Kuechly is in coverage and I see pass rush as being a much bigger value. Hightower is much better taking on blocks and will make more tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. As far as speed goes, give me game speed over track speed any day. I have a feeling every current coach and GM would agree with me on that. RIP Al Davis. Guys like Hightower and Upshaw play football much faster than the more “athletic” types who don’t have the combination of aggression AND football IQ the Alabama kids do.

  27. SalukiHawk12 says:

    Just noticed I said David Wilson instead of Lamar Miller who I like much more…

    I’m totally with you, Jake… Your first option is dead on with what I am praying for, hopefully with a trade down to get Hightower and picking up an extra 3 and/or 4…

  28. James says:

    Since this thread is about linebackers, let’s try this… John & Pete said on Monday that they have targeted two guys, at least one of whom should be there at #12. There has been a lot of speculation about the Big Two. I would like to suggest that the Big Two are middle linebackers. Both are valued between 10-20, both play a position of extreme need and would start from day one, and both have off-the-charts leadership. Both were consensus first-team All-Americans. The Big Two are Kuechly and Hightower.

    …at least one of these guys is virtually certain to be there (Hightower) and the other is 50/50 to be there at 12 (Kuechly) because the teams ahead of the Seahawks are primarily 3/4 (see Chiefs) and Kuechly projects better as a 4/3 Mike. Hightower can play ILB for either the 4/3 or 3/4.

    Hightower also happens to fit the same role where Rob and Kip have been projecting Upshaw – the elephant. On passing downs, Hightower could play the elephant (essentially the Sam LB as a 5th lineman) with KJ Wright playing the Mike. Hightower is an outstanding pass rusher, with more speed than Upshaw but less bull rush. He is a two-time captain and commanded the top D in the nation this year. Dont’a had an ACL in 2009 from a chop block, and it took him a while to recover. Rob Rang noted today that the scouts have seen that Hightower seemed to finally recover his speed in the second half this past season. By this fall, you will see the amazing quickness for a man his size that he showed his frosh year, when he played the Will LB at 260 lbs. Here’s what Nick Saban said about Dont’a earlier this week:

    Hightower: “He could play inside or outside ‘backer. He can play Mike or Will inside, strong side or weak side — he’s played ‘em both here. He can play outside. He’s been a designated pass rusher on third down for us. He’s also been a stand-up fourth rusher drop, X package when they put all the linebackers in there — he can play any one of those positions. He’s a very smart guy. He’s a signal caller that has really good leadership qualities and understands football extremely well and has a lot of diversity in terms of how you can use him. So…when you got guys that size, that speed and that athletic that do so many things, those guys don’t come around very often.”

    …per a post above, Pete said on Monday that they project certain linebackers as pass rushers (Leo). In round two, the pass rusher could come from Brown, Irvin or Lewis, unless they go with Branch or Perry. The Big Two, I’m telling you, are Kuechly and Hightower, one of whom will be the starting middle linebacker for our Seattle Seahawks this year.

  29. BluenGreen,

    I haven’t soured on Kendricks. I said in the conclusion of my Kendricks scouting report that he graded out as a 3rd round player on tape.

    Phil,

    I didn’t include players like Upshaw, Ingram, (or Irvin) because I don’t think they’ll ever become every down linebackers in a 4-3.

    ’77,

    I Seattle will give Upshaw looks a lot of places in the preseason to see what he could do. I wouldn’t rule out a few looks at MIKE as an experiment, although I think when the real games come he’ll be a SAM LB or DE on almost all his snaps.

    SeattleAztec,

    Good observations.

  30. Thomas says:

    @ James:

    Ditto & very well stated.

  31. JoeV says:

    I will gouge my eyes out with a fork if the Seahawks select Zack brown. Watching film of him reminds me of playing tackle football with my dad when i was a kid….. Lets just say i had a lot of missed tackles.

  32. John says:

    @JoeV

    As will I. I don’t care how great his athleticism is. His instincts and technique are weak, and they aren’t something someone can teach.

  33. Steve says:

    I just watched a bunch of the film again, and I think Ingram will be an every down backer because he plays all over the field, has great hands, can run down backs, understands staying home in a zone (is a smart football player), sheds blockers, drops very deep – and effectively in coverage, has a variety of pass rush moves, disrupts the pocket, seals the edge, and plays fast at 270. Basically he seems to do everything.

  34. CSN says:

    Kip, great article. I was just wondering what your thoughts are on Nigel Bradham. As an armchair GM/scout, I thought his film was impressive and think that he’d be a great value pick for Seattle.

  35. […] been saying for a while that Wagner seemed like too good a fit for Pete Carroll to ignore.  In my linebacker writeup from just the other day, I ranked Wagner as the 3rd most likely linebacker target for Seattle in […]

  36. Ben H says:

    Korey Toomer – Nice work.

  37. […] I mentioned here on the blog in the last couple days.  I even included Korey Toomer at #9 on my top 10 linebackers (from the front office’s perspective) list. I was watching the draft with some family […]