http://www.footballsfuture.com/2011/prospects/lb.html 2011 NFL Draft: Linebackers By: Robert Davis It’s rare to find a true linebacker selected in the top five picks of the draft. In the past ten years, only Aaron Curry and AJ Hawk have heard their names called within the first five picks. Von Miller is poised to buck the trend and join that group. Miller’s combination of natural athleticism and speed is special for a 240lber. He moves with ease on the field, is very fluid changing directions, and closes extremely well. He has been utilized as a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker and excelled in that role in college. He led the NCAA in sacks as a junior with 17, while notching another 11 this season. He definitely brings value to 3-4 teams, but his natural athleticism and speed will project to a traditional 4-3 strong side role as well. Miller’s rise in the last half of the season has been phenomenal. He started the season off slowly, with just two sacks through his first seven games. While it was mainly due to an injury, it still impacted his status and he was potentially sliding out of the first round. As he got healthy, he exploded in the second half. In Texas A&M’s final six games, Miller had 9 sacks, leading the Aggies to a 6-1 record. In the process, he re-established himself as a likely top ten selection. His combine performance pushed him up even further, and now is in the equation as the best overall player in the draft. While he will not likely be the first player taken, he should hear his name called within the first five picks on draft day. OLB RANKINGS Von Miller, Texas AM Akeem Ayers, UCLA Justin Houston, Georgia Chris Carter, Fresno St. Bruce Carter, North Carolina Dontay Moch, Nevada Mason Foster, Washington KJ Wright, Mississippi St. Mark Herzlich, Boston College Lawrence Wilson, UConn Akeem Ayers is another standout athlete at the linebacker position that provides a lot of versatility. Ayers’ size and skills could project well in a 3-4 alignment, but he may be best suited as a strong side linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Ayers is a rare player that can make plays as a pass rusher, run stopper, and in coverage. He has 24.5 tackles for loss, ten sacks, and six interceptions his final two seasons for UCLA. He is the ideal strong side linebacker, showing the athleticism, speed, and size to match up with tight ends in coverage but also being able to take on blocks and make plays in the running game. He has even lined up with his hand on the ground, giving him the ability to rush the passer on third downs, or make the switch to a 3-4 defense. Ayers did not have the standout performance at the combine that many expected, so his stock took a bit of a hit. He should still hear his name called at some point in the last third of the first round, but he could have cemented himself as a top 15 pick with a better performance.