Draft Watch: Inside linebackers

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    Draft Watch: Inside linebackers

    By Dan Pompei
    Sporting News

    An analytical look at the top inside linebackers in the 2006 draft:

    1. Abdul Hodge, Iowa, 6-0 3/8, 233. Is considered too short by some scouts but so were Mike Singletary and Sam Mills. A very instinctive player, he always is around the ball. Makes a ton of plays. Plays with great intensity, intelligence and toughness. Is a natural leader. Comes off blocks well. Hits with force. Better vs. run than pass. Doesn't have the speed to run with fast tight ends, or the change of direction to keep up with shifty backs. Worst-case scenario: He will excel as a two-down player.

    2. D'Qwell Jackson, Maryland, 6-0 1/2, 230. Was very productive in college. Always is around the ball. Is a tackling machine, solid although not very explosive. Has a nose for the ball. Takes good angles. Hustler never gives up on plays. Has a knack for getting through traffic. Doesn't get caught out of position. Has a good feel for how to blitz. Can drop back in coverage, but doesn't have elite speed. Is a better player than athlete. Works hard and leads on the field. Can also play the weak side. Lacks ideal height.

    3. Spencer Havner, UCLA, 6-3 3/8, 233. Is built well; has neither great athleticism nor speed but makes plays. Diagnoses plays well. Is a clutch performer. Helped himself with workouts. Has trouble breaking down and tackling in open field. Can cover efficiently when he drops in short zones. Also could play the strong side.

    4. Tim Dobbins, Iowa State, 6-1 1/4, 246. Tough run stuffer takes on blockers. Gets good leverage and is strong at the point of attack. Is a little stiff athletically and can be exploited in open field. Isn't ideally aware in coverage. Works best in the box.

    5. Dale Robinson, Arizona State, 6-0 3/8, 231. Shorter linebacker diagnoses well and gets to the ball carrier quickly. Was very productive in college. Can effectively drop into zones. Lacks ideal strength. Is somewhat of a 'tweener; lacking in strength to play inside and a little short on athleticism to play the weak side.

    6. Gerris Wilkinson, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 231. Reads plays and gets to holes before blockers can get to him. Doesn't take on much, but makes plenty of plays. Is a bit stiff and mechanical. Plays best when on the move. Has a good feel for blitzing. Has played strong side and been an edge pass rusher. Could play strong side as pro.

    7. Leon Williams, Miami (Fla.), 6-3, 245. Is a big athlete with speed and explosiveness. Finds the ball. Is a little limited in coverage. Works hard. Was highly ballyhooed coming out of high school but never played up to potential in college. Should excel as a special teams performer in the NFL.

    8. Kai Parham, Virginia, 6-3, 256. Is big with a thick build. Physical player works best in the box. Packs a punch. Early-entry junior is a dedicated athlete. Isn't neither very athletic nor fast. Can be exploited in coverage; probably won't contribute much on passing downs.

    9. Stephen Tulloch, NC State, 5-9 7/8, 234. Short, stocky early-entry junior made a ton of plays in college. Is instinctive and has quick feet. Is aware in his zone drops. Struggles at the point of attack. Also has a difficult time disengaging from blockers. Is most effective in open field.

    10. Anthony Schlegel, Ohio State, 6-0 1/2, 250. Isn't very fast but gets to ball carriers quickly by taking good angles. Has quick feet. Is aware. Plays solid vs. run and pass. Transfer from Air Force has good character and intelligence. Should quickly become a valuable special teams player.

    11. Tim McGarigle, Northwestern, 6-0 5/8, 242. Is an instinctive and productive defender. Shows toughness and relentlessness with blue-collar work ethic. Makes solid tackle and hits. Operates best with big tackles occupying blockers in front of him; needs to be in the right system. Offers top intangibles. Doesn't take on plays very aggressively. Is short and short-armed. Lacks ideal speed.

    12. Freddy Keiaho, San Diego State, 5-11 1/4, 230. Undersized defender was a big college producer. Has speed and athleticism. Is aware and plays with instincts. Has some pop in him. Sometimes gets engulfed. Also could be considered for the weak side. Former running back who didn't become a starter until his senior year.

    13. Brandon Hoyte, Notre Dame, 5-10, 230. Is a pure football player. Well spoken and intelligent, he is a good teammate and leader. Is instinctive and tough. Works hard. Makes big plays. Steps up in the clutch. Has only average speed, quickness and athleticism. Will need to overcome lack of height.

    14. Trent Bray, Oregon State, 6-0 3/8 227. Is an instinctive player with football smarts. Son of a coach plays like it. Comes downhill to deliver hits and solid tackles. Lacks good speed, and it shows when he drops back.

    15. Freddie Roach, Alabama, 6-1 3/4, 258. Aware player finds the ball and takes good angles. Excels at tackling. Is a big run stuffer, strong at the point of attack. Lacks good speed and sideline-to-sideline range. Strictly is a two-down player.

    Senior writer Dan Pompei covers the NFL for Sporting News. E-mail him at pompei@sportingnews.com.

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