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hawaiiansteel
03-13-2010, 02:21 PM
the Steelers need to find James Farrior's eventual successor at ILB and an OLB that can provide some depth behind Woodley and Harrison.



By Frank Cooney, USA TODAY


Thanks in part to the NFL's evolution into an offensive air circus, only four true middle linebackers have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft during this century.
So, while this year's draft offers the usual array of athletic, rush-or-cover outside linebackers, the biggest intrigue surrounds an inside linebacker, Alabama's Rolando McClain, who could be selected in the top half of the first round. At No. 12 overall, McClain is the highest-rated linebacker by NFLDraftScout.com, which lists four outside linebackers among first-round prospects.

The top outside linebackers expected to join McClain in the first round are two pass rushers who played defensive end in 2009 —Brandon Graham of Michigan and Sergio Kindle of Texas— and versatile Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri.

A closer look at this year's top linebacker prospects, listed with their school, height, weight and projected round of selection (*denotes underclassman):


OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

1. Brandon Graham

Michigan, 6-1, 268, 1: Before straining a hamstring at the scouting combine, Graham displayed the speed and agility to make the transition to outside linebacker. The No. 5-rated defensive end by NFLDraftScout.com because of his lack of prototype size for the position, Graham could be the first outside linebacker off the board if he performs well at his April 8 pro day workout — and just remember how well LaMarr Woodley, another former Wolverine, made the transition in the NFL. Graham finds a way to overcome larger opponents with a relentless attack. He uses just enough speed and surprising power that comes from his understanding of using leverage from his 6-1 frame. Despite only average footwork, he shows enough awareness to help in underneath zone coverage. After leading the nation with 26 tackles for loss and recording 10½ sacks in 2009, Graham was the most dominant player on the field during Senior Bowl week.

2. Sergio Kindle

Texas, 6-3, 250, 1: Instinctive, athletic playmaker at outside linebacker in the 3-4, but might be a terror as a 4-3 pass-rushing defensive end if he adds about 20 pounds. He is tightly wound and competitive yet has natural balance and athleticism to play under control. He started 24 games in his career, including 13 at defensive end in 2009. Kindle is a two-time All-Big 12 selection with career stats that include 168 tackles, 13½ sacks, 39 tackles for loss, 56 pressures, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He has a history of nagging injuries and off-field issues, including being treated for a concussion last year after crashing his car into an apartment building while text-messaging in July.

3. Sean Weatherspoon

OLB, Missouri, 6-1, 239, 1: The Spoon plays bigger than he measures, and his impact includes motivating teammates with his infectious enthusiasm. He impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl with his play and leadership, and his engaging personality didn't hurt him at the scouting combine, either. As a freshman, he led Missouri in special-teams tackles, then became a starter on the weak outside as a sophomore, where he collected 127 tackles (9½ for a loss). In 2008, Weatherspoon had 155 tackles, including 17 in his MVP performance in the Alamo Bowl. Last year, he had 104 tackles, including 14½ for a loss, and 4½ sacks. He has the athletic ability to run around and make things happen, but he will need to show he has the strength to be a consistent defender in the NFL.

4. Jerry Hughes

TCU, 6-2, 255, 1: Hughes is only the second two-time consensus All-American in Texas Christian's history, and last year he won the Lott Trophy and the Ted Hendricks Award after collecting 16½ tackles for loss, including 11½ sacks. In 2008, he led the nation with 15 sacks and six forced fumbles. A standout running back in high school, Hughes was moved to defensive end as a freshman at TCU. But because of a lack of size, he is expected to move to outside linebacker in the NFL. Hughes will need a more extensive array of moves to be considered a constant pass-rush threat at the next level, but he is a feisty player who attacks like a pit bull until the whistle.

5. Daryl Washington

TCU, 6-2, 230, 1-2: If his production catches up to his potential, he can be special. But he doesn't appear to be instinctive. Washington manages to get in on more than his share of plays with sheer aggression and sideline-to-sideline speed. After playing behind Jason Phillips for most of his career, Washington became a starter for the first time last season and made the most of it. He helped TCU repeat as the top-rated defense in terms of total yardage allowed, leading the team with 109 tackles, 11 for loss, two sacks and three interceptions. To maximize his positives in the NFL, a team might need to restrict his assignment to a simple attack mode.

6. Ricky Sapp

Clemson, 6-4, 252, 2: Moved from defensive end to standup linebacker last year, he responded with career highs in tackles (60), tackles for loss (15) and sacks (five) to go with a forced fumble. Those numbers became even more impressive when he revealed at the combine that he played the season on a right knee that was at 60% strength, stemming from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in November 2008. Sapp had surgery to repair the injury. Whether Sapp plays outside linebacker in a 3-4 or defensive end in a 4-3, his promise is as a pass rusher. A high school track sprinter and basketball star, Sapp has an overall athleticism that is more striking than his football ability. If he learns to harness all his talent, he can become an elite pass rusher in the NFL.

7. Koa Misi

Utah, 6-3, 251, 2: He is a pick-your-poison type of athlete who is powerful enough to take on and shed a blocker on the spot and fast enough to run around you and chase down his victim. Put that together with excellent instincts, a high-rev motor and team-leader type personality, and this prospect should fit well on somebody's roster. A standout in his one year at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College, Misi then moved on to terrorize opponents for three more years with the Utes. Misi impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl with his overall ability.

8. Eric Norwood

South Carolina, 6-1, 245, 2-3: The only player in Gamecocks history to earn first-team all-Southeastern Conference honors for three consecutive years, Norwood was a productive college player at defensive end, inside and outside linebacker. He is far better going forward, especially as a pass rusher, than he is going laterally or backward, so he is expected to be moved to defensive end or pass-rush outside linebacker in the NFL. His athletic ability is not obvious, but his production shows his well-honed instincts and a high-rev motor. He was a captain in 2009, and his work ethic is reflected in a criminal justice degree he earned in three-and-a-half years.

9. *Thaddeus Gibson

Ohio State, 6-2, 243, 2-3: As a college defensive end, he had 10 career sacks and 25 tackles for a loss, but he might be more productive as an outside rush linebacker in the pros. When the NFL advisory committee projected him as a second-round prospect in January, he said he opted to enter the draft in order to help pay family medical bills. His natural athletic ability is obvious, but scouts wonder how quickly he will be able to diagnose and react properly when confronted with complex NFL offenses. His strong point is as a fluid pass rusher in open space, but he needs to show the ability to disengage when a blocker gets on him.

10. *Navorro Bowman

Penn State, 6-1, 242, 3: On the field, Bowman might be short in stature, but he is long in production. He is especially impressive coming off the edge, where he is quick and agile, though he can take on a blocker with a decent bull rush. Off-field issues have been a concern; he was suspended two games and received one year of probation and 100 hours of community service after a fight in October 2007 and then received another year of probation for violating the terms of the original sentence by admitting he didn't complete the 100 hours of service and smoked marijuana. But last year, he changed his jersey number (to No. 11) and possibly his lifestyle. Last summer, he became a father, and in December he graduated with a degree in crime, law and justice.

11. Dekoda Watson

Florida State, 6-2, 240, 3: Watson is fast and athletic enough to find a role in the NFL. Although he is one of the most impressively built athletes in the draft, his sculpted body has not resulted in consistent production, and he had durability issues. He missed time last season with a groin injury and had problems with his left elbow and left hamstring. He also served a three-game suspension for his role in the infamous Florida State academic scandal. Despite the limitations, he played in all 13 games last season and had career highs in tackles (65), tackles for loss (13) and sacks (six). An outstanding week of Senior Bowl practices was noticed by scouts.

12. *Rennie Curran

Georgia, 5-11, 235, 3-4: Curran opted to enter the draft after his junior season because there was nothing another year in college could do to improve his most obvious shortcoming: He stands 5-11. But he is not short on athletic ability, instinct or intensity. Gets in on far more than his share of plays, as evidenced by his Southeastern Conference-leading 130 tackles last season and 115 in 2008. He will probably get in on more than his share of plays in the NFL if he manages to get a spot on somebody's defense. If not, some team will get a relentless special-teams player, especially on kickoff coverage.



INSIDE LINEBACKERS

1. *Rolando McClain

Alabama, 6-4, 254, 1: McClain was to national champion Alabama's No. 1 defense what Ray Lewis is to the Baltimore Ravens or what Patrick Willis is to the San Francisco 49ers— a leader who commands respect and leads by example. Some scouts wonder how much he benefited from playing in coach Nick Saban's hyper-aggressive 3-4 defense that kept him free to roam behind the likes of huge nose tackle Terrence Cody. But McClain won the Butkus Award as the top linebacker in the country. He collected 105 tackles, including 14½ for a loss and four sacks, and had two interceptions. McClain's quiet demeanor in combine interviews was curious to some, but teammates say he is more a man of action than words.

2. Brandon Spikes

Florida, 6-3, 249, 2: Spikes has the instincts, quickness and aggression to be consistent against the run and very good against the pass despite a lack of elite speed. That said, he is alert and opportunistic, as evidenced by the fact that since 1996, he is one of three linebackers in the nation to have four interceptions returned for touchdowns. He gained notoriety last season for attempting to gouge the eyes of Georgia running back Washaun Ealey, for which he was suspended for the first half of the Vanderbilt game. He excused himself from the entire game so as not to become a distraction. He is a cousin of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Takeo Spikes.

3. Sean Lee

Penn State, 6-2, 236, 2-3: Lee tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in the spring of 2008, forcing him to redshirt his fourth season at Penn State rather than taking over for Dan Connor at middle linebacker. After a year spent acting as a coach from the sideline and in practice, the team captain earned second-team all-conference honors in 2009 with 86 tackles, 11 for loss, and seven pass breakups. He doesn't have great speed but has that combination of anticipation, instinct and aggressiveness that is common among successful journeyman NFL linebackers.

4. Jamar Chaney

Mississippi State, 6-1, 242, 4: He started at inside and outside linebacker in college and was just beginning to show outstanding pro potential when his progress was interrupted in 2008 by a broken leg. He returned in 2009 to lead the team with 90 tackles, including 4½ for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. After making the Senior Bowl with a late invitation, Chaney impressed scouts in practice and was named defensive MVP in the game after collecting eight tackles and a fumble recovery.

5. Donald Butler

Washington, 6-1, 245, 4-5: Butler's stock has been rising quickly the past few months, especially after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl workouts. Based on that, he became a late addition to the invitation list for the combine, where he put up a position-best 35 bench-press repetitions at 225 pounds. Because of injuries to others, Butler moved between inside and outside linebacker in 2008 and did it well enough to be voted the Huskies' most improved defender. He was then selected team captain for 2009, going on to lead the team with 94 tackles, 15½ for a loss. He added two interceptions, a fumble recovery and three forced fumbles.

6. Phillip Dillard

Nebraska, 6-0, 245, 4-5: After missing the first two games of the season, Dillard made a conspicuous ascent into the consciousness of teammates, opponents and scouts with a series of take-charge performances. This really began before the 2009 season, when he worked off extra weight and got into the best shape of his life. A heady, intense team leader, Dillard finished last season with 83 tackles, second on the team only to All-America defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, including 11 for a loss. His nine starts were one more than he had total entering the season, partly because of injuries (anterior cruciate ligament in 2006, ankle in 2008).

7. Pat Angerer

Iowa, 6-0, 235, 5: With anger in his name, he must be a linebacker, right? Well, he was in college, and a pretty good one, considering that his 135 tackles ranked among the top five in the nation last year. But now pro scouts aren't sure how well he will fit into the NFL. In college he was able to rely on exceptional instincts and physicality to get the job done. But he didn't look fast enough in game tapes and ran in the mid-4.7-second area at the combine. That's not bad, but it certainly isn't good if you're only a hair taller than 6 feet and weigh less than 240 pounds. Everybody loves his attitude, but college overachievers tend to have a difficult time in the pros.

8. Darryl Sharpton

Miami, 5-11, 236, 5-6: Height aside, he seems to measure up as an excellent pro prospect whose athletic ability was used at several positions in college. However, scouts are not sure that his obvious athleticism translates to football well enough to consider him an elite candidate. He appears to be inconsistent diagnosing plays and is often suckered by fakes. But he managed to lead Miami with 106 tackles last season, and the Hurricanes have produced fine NFL linebackers through the years.

Cooney is the publisher of NFLDraftScout.com, the scouting service of USA TODAY

Lebsteel
03-13-2010, 02:34 PM
I love the idea of getting McClain or Spoon in Rd. 1, but we may be better off getting an elite DL like Odrick or an elite CB like Haden or Thomas (if they are still there) and then picking Sean Lee or Chaney in Rd. 3. I guess the same could be said of getting our ILB in Rd. 1 and then since the draft is so deep, getting our CB in Rd. 2 or even 3. I just hope we do not go OL in Rd. 1 when our Defense needs much more help.

birtikidis
03-13-2010, 02:49 PM
there is a lot of depth at positions we need this year.

hawaiiansteel
03-13-2010, 04:08 PM
this article didn't have Derrick Morgan listed, but 3-4 teams are projecting him as an OLB.


Dolphins | Interested in D. Morgan

Sat, 13 Mar 2010

Edgar Thompson, of The Palm Beach Post, reports the Miami Dolphins have become increasingly interested in Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan, according to a league scout. If the Dolphins were to select Morgan at No. 12 overall in the NFL Draft, they would move him from defensive end to a 3-4 outside rush linebacker.

fezziwig
03-13-2010, 05:55 PM
Just not to start another thread, I noticed on my parents kitchen table today when I swung over to say hello to them that, the Steelers are close to signing Foote to a multi year contract. Just got a glimps of the headlines, didn't read it or into it.

birtikidis
03-13-2010, 09:39 PM
Just not to start another thread, I noticed on my parents kitchen table today when I swung over to say hello to them that, the Steelers are close to signing Foote to a multi year contract. Just got a glimps of the headlines, didn't read it or into it.
according to Adam Schefter (per twitter) foote isn't scheduled to even visit until Monday. he goes on to say that he prefers Arizona.

hawaiiansteel
03-13-2010, 10:53 PM
Just not to start another thread, I noticed on my parents kitchen table today when I swung over to say hello to them that, the Steelers are close to signing Foote to a multi year contract. Just got a glimps of the headlines, didn't read it or into it.
according to Adam Schefter (per twitter) foote isn't scheduled to even visit until Monday. he goes on to say that he prefers Arizona.



Foote is asking for a lot of money, can't see how the Steelers would pay him that kind of money to be a back-up.

hawaiiansteel
03-14-2010, 05:25 PM
TCU LB Daryl Washington took the long and hard route to NFL

By Skip Wood, USA TODAY


As he awaits next month's NFL draft, Washington is coming off a season in which he gained All-America mentions and, along with fellow linebacker Jerry Hughes, helped spearhead the nation's top-ranked defense with a team-high 109 tackles.

This even though it was his first season as a starter.

Washington had played well previously when called upon, especially on special teams, having led the nation in punts blocked with three in 2007.

But he had to bide his time playing behind Jason Phillips, who was drafted in the fifth round last season by the Baltimore Ravens, and Robert Henson, a sixth-round pick by the Washington Redskins in 2009.

And now, based largely on one stellar season, Washington probably will be picked much higher than either of his former teammates.

"It's just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunity when you get that chance," Washington says. "I knew I was playing behind some good players. Even though you want your time to shine, you just have to go out and prepare yourself and hope everything will work out.

"Also, I really enjoyed playing with those guys, and, really, it was a great learning experience for me.

"Sure, I kind of wanted to be out there every play. But sometimes you have to wait your turn, and by doing that, for me, it probably made me a better player overall."

And it worked out nicely for Washington and the Horned Frogs, who were undefeated last season before losing to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.

That's similar to how it worked out during Washington's final season at Irving High School.

"Hey, it was the same thing; he didn't even start for me until his senior year," Irving coach Jim Bennett says with a rueful chuckle. "And now I'm asking my defensive coordinator why that was, because obviously he's pretty good."

Washington was named the team's MVP and played in a state all-star game.

At 6-2 and 230 pounds, he's not exactly an imposing physical specimen, but various scouting reports hail his speed as something that could make up for his size.

Bennett agrees.

"I don't think there's any question," he says. "The thing Daryl has that the really good (linebackers) have in the NFL is speed. He's a physical guy who can really run."

Washington's 4.57-second 40-yard dash time at the NFL scouting combine last month was best among linebackers.

Also at the combine was Hughes, Washington's heralded teammate who was the Mountain West Conference player of the year and a member of several All-America teams the past two seasons.

But there's a catch.

Hughes played defensive end for TCU, yet is seen widely by NFL teams as an outside linebacker.

His take?

"Well, my take is that teams want to see how I fit in with different schemes as a linebacker," Hughes says. "For whatever reasons, a lot of people see me there, and that's fine with me."

Like Washington, Hughes also is fast, and scouts again believe that counters a modest 6-1, 252-pound frame.

Regardless, Hughes simply relishes the opportunity he's expected to get to play in the NFL.

"I'm a pretty well-rounded athlete, well-rounded football player," he says. "If somebody wants to change my position to see how I fit in, I feel like I can make that adjustment just fine."

So does TCU linebackers coach Tony Tademy.

"He's just an excellent football player, man," Tademy says. "I think he could play whatever position they want him to play, and he's going to play it well. Linebacker, defensive end, it doesn't matter. He's just a great player."

And Washington?

"Same thing," he says. "And in Daryl's case, he's a great example of hard work. He's so much fun to be around because he's at it every day. Daryl just worked hard to get the opportunity he got."

Washington credits Tademy for molding his game and work ethic.

"We have an exceptionally great relationship and friendship, as well," Washington says. "He talks a lot about life. I remember the first time I came here, he told me, 'Don't wait to be great. You've got to be great now.'

"I never really understood that as a freshman, you know. I mean, I played some, but maybe not great.

"But as time went on, and I got older and more mature, I knew exactly what he had been talking about. It was about regardless of what might happen, just know that you're doing your very best every day you go out there. I took those words to heart, and I use them for motivation even today."

Washington has had to overcome running afoul of the law when he was 17. He and a group of now-former friends were involved in a fight, and they stole money from the lone victim. They were later arrested, and Washington — charged as an adult — ultimately received probation time for robbery that didn't end until last year.

"Stupid thing to do," he says. "You don't think about the consequences of your actions. I look at life from a different perspective now."

Says Bennett, his high school coach: "Isolated incident, and I mean that. Daryl was never, ever a bad kid. He just was at the wrong place at the wrong time with some kids he shouldn't have been with."

Adds Thompson: "They weren't even his regular set of friends."

Thompson, who speaks to Washington several times a week, met him when both played football in ninth grade. There was a time he liked to think he was just as good a player as his buddy.

That window, though, closed quickly.

"Definitely," Thompson says with a laugh. "As we got older, he just got better and better and better. And by senior year, he had like 28 tackles in one game. When he did that, you had to think, 'Yeah, he might be on his way to the next level.'

"Now that he is, I'm the happiest guy in the world for him. I can't wait to see him play."

Washington says he has no clue where that might be.

"But any team that picks me up," he says, "they'll be lucky to have me."

hawaiiansteel
03-16-2010, 03:35 PM
Source: Steelers coaching staff meeting with Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes today

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 by DePaoli


After a flurry of signings in the past week, the Pittsburgh Steelers focus is now turning towards the draft and the team is conducting a meeting today with one of the top inside linebackers in the draft.

Members of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff including linebackers coach Keith Butler are meeting with Florida Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes in Gainesville, Florida, according to a league source.

Spikes (6ft3, 258 lbs) is one of the top inside linebackers in the draft and despite the addition of Larry Foote, linebacker remains a priority for the Steelers.

Lebsteel
03-16-2010, 03:49 PM
Source: Steelers coaching staff meeting with Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes today

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 by DePaoli


After a flurry of signings in the past week, the Pittsburgh Steelers focus is now turning towards the draft and the team is conducting a meeting today with one of the top inside linebackers in the draft.

Members of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff including linebackers coach Keith Butler are meeting with Florida Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes in Gainesville, Florida, according to a league source.

Spikes (6ft3, 258 lbs) is one of the top inside linebackers in the draft and despite the addition of Larry Foote, linebacker remains a priority for the Steelers.
I hope they are thinking they can get Spikes in a trade down in Rd. 1 or a trade up in Rd. 2 and NOT as our pick at 18.

RuthlessBurgher
03-16-2010, 04:04 PM
Source: Steelers coaching staff meeting with Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes today

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 by DePaoli


After a flurry of signings in the past week, the Pittsburgh Steelers focus is now turning towards the draft and the team is conducting a meeting today with one of the top inside linebackers in the draft.

Members of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff including linebackers coach Keith Butler are meeting with Florida Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes in Gainesville, Florida, according to a league source.

Spikes (6ft3, 258 lbs) is one of the top inside linebackers in the draft and despite the addition of Larry Foote, linebacker remains a priority for the Steelers.
I hope they are thinking they can get Spikes in a trade down in Rd. 1 or a trade up in Rd. 2 and NOT as our pick at 18.

Spikes is a second round prospect. I've seen mocks where he is available at #52.

Chadman
03-16-2010, 06:16 PM
What is everyone's opinion of Navorro Bowman from Penn St?

With a glut of ILB's on the roster, but openings at OLB as far as depth goes, could he be a target? From what Chadman has seen, he looks a player.

Could he be like Timmons & offer flexibility as a 3-4 OLB & ILB?

hawaiiansteel
03-16-2010, 06:59 PM
What is everyone's opinion of Navorro Bowman from Penn St?

With a glut of ILB's on the roster, but openings at OLB as far as depth goes, could he be a target? From what Chadman has seen, he looks a player.

Could he be like Timmons & offer flexibility as a 3-4 OLB & ILB?



after the latest incident with Ben (you may have heard about it) i think the Steelers will put a premium on high-character guys with no off-the-field issues.

In October of 2007, Bowman got into an on-campus fight. Bowman was suspended for the last 2007 regular-season game versus Michigan State, the 2007 Alamo Bowl and 2008's spring practice for his involvement in the altercation at the HUB-Robeson Center, for which he pled guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges.

While on probation for that incident, Bowman then was caught smoking dope which led him to admit to Centre County probation officials that he had smoked marijuana at least twice since being put on probation. Plus, Bowman completed none of the 100 hours of community service that was ordered by the court.

his on-field production is terrific, his off-field behavior will most likely take him off the Steelers' draft board.

Lebsteel
03-16-2010, 07:29 PM
What is everyone's opinion of Navorro Bowman from Penn St?

With a glut of ILB's on the roster, but openings at OLB as far as depth goes, could he be a target? From what Chadman has seen, he looks a player.

Could he be like Timmons & offer flexibility as a 3-4 OLB & ILB?



after the latest incident with Ben (you may have heard about it) i think the Steelers will put a premium on high-character guys with no off-the-field issues.

In October of 2007, Bowman got into an on-campus fight. Bowman was suspended for the last 2007 regular-season game versus Michigan State, the 2007 Alamo Bowl and 2008's spring practice for his involvement in the altercation at the HUB-Robeson Center, for which he pled guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges.

While on probation for that incident, Bowman then was caught smoking dope which led him to admit to Centre County probation officials that he had smoked marijuana at least twice since being put on probation. Plus, Bowman completed none of the 100 hours of community service that was ordered by the court.

his on-field production is terrific, his off-field behavior will most likely take him off the Steelers' draft board.
Yea, reluctantly, I agree with you Hawaiian. He and Quarless were bad character guys and I would not want the Steelers to pick either one of those Nittany Lions. Jared Odrick and Sean Lee are my PSU picks.

hawaiiansteel
03-18-2010, 08:50 PM
Source: Steelers coaching staff meeting with Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes today

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 by DePaoli


After a flurry of signings in the past week, the Pittsburgh Steelers focus is now turning towards the draft and the team is conducting a meeting today with one of the top inside linebackers in the draft.

Members of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff including linebackers coach Keith Butler are meeting with Florida Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes in Gainesville, Florida, according to a league source.

Spikes (6ft3, 258 lbs) is one of the top inside linebackers in the draft and despite the addition of Larry Foote, linebacker remains a priority for the Steelers.
I hope they are thinking they can get Spikes in a trade down in Rd. 1 or a trade up in Rd. 2 and NOT as our pick at 18.

Spikes is a second round prospect. I've seen mocks where he is available at #52.



might be even lower than Round 2 now...would the Steelers still consider taking him now at #52 or try to wait until Round 3?




Spikes will be test case on importance of forty times

Posted by Gregg Rosenthal on March 18, 2010


We've debated the importance of the main event in the Underwear Olympics plenty around here.

The forty-yard dash has an influence on draft stock, we know. How much influence it has could be reflected in where Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes gets drafted.

Spikes was timed in the 5.0 range Wednesday at Florida's pro day. (Some scouts had him in mid 4.9's, others had him higher than 5.) That's extremely slow for an inside linebacker, even one that wasn't expected to run fast.

Spikes is known as an instinctive, tough player. He's a classic inside linebacker for 3-4 teams, and there aren't a lot out there.

Before the forty time came out, the general consensus was that Spikes was roughly an early second round pick. We've now heard he could slip as late as rounds 4-5. ESPN's Todd McShay said Thursday Spikes could still go in round two or three.

A league source says Spikes met with Mike Tomlin and the Steelers staff Tuesday, and Bill Belichick Thursday, so the 3-4 teams are interested.

How interested they are and where Spikes is taken will be a telling litmus test for how teams really view the forty.

Lebsteel
03-18-2010, 09:25 PM
Given Spikes' character issues, I'd have to go for Sean Lee if we go ILB in Rd. 2, but only if we grab Earl Thomas or Joe Haden in Rd. 1.

hawaiiansteel
03-22-2010, 02:53 AM
Draft preview: Linebackers

March 15, 2010
By Frank Cooney
NFLDraftScout.com

Thanks in part to the NFL's evolution into an offensive air circus, only four true middle linebackers have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft during this century. So, while this year's draft offers up the usual array of athletic, rush-or-cover outside linebackers, the biggest intrigue surrounds an inside linebacker, Alabama's Rolando McClain, who could be selected in the top half of the first round.

At No. 12 overall, McClain is the highest rated linebacker by NFLDraftScout.com, which lists four outside linebackers among first-round prospects and eight in the top two rounds, as opposed to only four insider 'backers in the first three rounds.

McClain is a team-leader, a thinker and a thumper, but where he is selected may be determined by the NFL's need for speed to defend against those wide open offenses.

Last year, USC's Rey Maualuga and Ohio State's James Laurinaitis waited until the second round, largely because of clocked times no better than 4.76 seconds in 40 yards. By contrast, Patrick Willis was taken No. 11 overall by San Francisco in 2007 after being timed at 4.51 seconds in the 40 and Jared Mayo was taken No. 10 by New England after running a 4.54.

McClain, a huge force at 6-feet-4, 254 pounds, did not run at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine, but was timed in the high 4.4-second range by scouts at his March 10 pro day.

The top outside linebackers expected to join McClain in the first round are two pass rushers who played defensive end in 2009 -- Brandon Graham of Michigan and Sergio Kindle of Texas -- and versatile Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri. Here is a closer look at this year's top linebacker prospects:

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Rank/Player/School/Height/Weight/Projected Round (*Underclassman)

1. Brandon Graham, Michigan, 6-2, 268, 1
Before straining a hamstring at the Scouting Combine, Graham displayed the speed and agility to make the transition to outside linebacker. The No. 5-rated defensive end by NFLDraftScout.com due to his lack of prototype size for the position, Graham could be the first outside linebacker off the board if he performs well at his April 8 workout. Graham finds a way to overcome larger opponents with a relentless attack. He uses just enough speed and surprising power that comes from his understanding of using leverage from his 6-1 frame. Despite only average footwork, he shows enough awareness to help in underneath zone coverage. After leading the nation with 26 tackles for loss and recording 10.5 sacks in 2009, Graham was the most dominating player on the field during Senior Bowl week.

2. Sergio Kindle, Texas, 6-3, 250, 1
Instinctive, athletic big-play maker at outside linebacker in the 3-4, but might be a terror as a 4-3 pass-rushing defensive end if he adds about 20 pounds. He is tightly wound and competitive, yet has natural balance and athleticism to play under control. He started 24 games in his career, including 13 at defensive end in 2009. Kindle is a two-time All-Big 12 selection with career stats that include 168 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 39 tackles for loss, 56 pressures, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He has a history of nagging injuries and some off-field issues, including being treated for a concussion last year after crashing his car into an apartment building while texting in July.


3. Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri, 6-1, 239, 1
The "Spoon" plays bigger than he measures and his impact includes motivating teammates with his infectious enthusiasm. He impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl with his play and leadership, and his engaging personality didn't hurt. As a freshman he led Missouri in special teams tackles, then became a starter on the weak outside as a sophomore, where he collected 127 tackles (9.5 for a loss). In 2008 Weatherspoon had 155 tackles, including 17 in his MVP performance in the Alamo Bowl. Last year he had 104 tackles, including 14.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks. He has the athletic ability to run around and make things happen, but he will need to show he has the strength to be a consistent defender in the NFL.

4. Daryl Washington, TCU, 6-2, 230, 1-2
If his production ever catches up to his potential he can be special. However, he just doesn't appear to be instinctive. Washington manages to get in on more than his share of plays with sheer aggression and sideline-to-sideline speed. After playing behind Jason Phillips for most of his career, Washington became a starter for the first time last year and made the most of it. He helped TCU repeat as the top-rated defense in terms of total yardage allowed, leading the team with 109 tackles, 11 for loss, two sacks and three interceptions. To maximize his positives in the NFL, a team may need to restrict his assignment to a simple attack mode.

5. Ricky Sapp, Clemson, 6-4, 252, 2
Moved from defensive end to standup linebacker last year and responded with career highs in tackles (60), tackles for loss (15) and sacks (5.0) to go along with a forced fumble. That became even more impressive when he revealed at the Combine that he played the entire season on a right knee that was "at 60 percent strength" stemming from a torn ACL in November of 2008. He did have surgery to repair the injury. Whether he plays outside linebacker in a 3-4 or defensive end in a 4-3, Sapp's promise is as a pass rusher. A high school track sprinter and basketball star, Sapp's overall athleticism is more striking than his football ability. If he learns to harness all his talent he can become an elite pass rusher in the NFL.

6. Koa Misi, Utah, 6-3, 251, 2
He is a pick-your-poison type athlete who is powerful enough to take on and shed a blocker on the spot and fast enough to run around you and chase down his victim. Put that together with excellent instincts, a high-rev motor and team-leader type personality, and this prospect should fit well into somebody's roster. A standout in his one year at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College, Misi then moved on to terrorize opponents for three more years with the Utes. Misi impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl with his overall ability.

7. Eric Norwood, South Carolina, 6-1, 245, 2-3
The only player in South Carolina history to earn first-team all-SEC honors three consecutive years, Norwood was a productive college player at defensive end, inside and outside linebacker. He is far better going forward, especially as a pass rusher, than he is going laterally or backward, so he is expected to be moved to defensive end or pass-rush outside linebacker in the NFL. His athletic ability is not obvious, but his production shows his well-honed instincts and a high-rev motor. Team captain in 2009, his hard-work ethic is reflected in a Criminal Justice degree he earned in 3 1/2 years.

8. *Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State, 6-2, 243, 2-3
As a college defensive end he had 10 career sacks and 25 tackles for a loss, but he may be more productive as an outside rush linebacker in the pros. When the NFL Advisory committee projected him as a second-round prospect in January he said he opted to enter the draft in order to help pay family medical bills. His natural athletic ability is obvious, but scouts wonder how quickly he will be able to diagnose and react properly when confronted with complex NFL offenses. His strong point is as a fluid, hard-to-hit athlete in open space as a pass rusher, but needs to show the ability to disengage when a blocker gets on him.

9. *Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech, 6-1, 254, 3
Although he may lack the bulk to be an every-down defensive end in the NFL, Worilds should be able to help some team immediately on special teams as a situational pass rusher. He will need to add at least 15 pounds to stay at defensive end or he might be able to parlay his tremendous athletic ability, quickness and agility into a job as an every-down outside linebacker. Worilds underwent shoulder surgery in January 2009 and sat out spring training before earning his second All-ACC selection last season with 49 tackles, including 11 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one pass breakup and a team-leading 32 quarterback hurries.

10. *Navorro Bowman, Penn State, 6-1, 242, 3
On the field, Bowman may be short in stature but he is long in production. He is especially impressive coming off the edge, where he is both quick and agile, although he can take on a blocker with a decent bull rush. Off-field issues have been a concern as he was suspended two games and received one year of probation and 100 hours of community service following a fight in October 2007, and then received another year of probation for violating the terms of the original sentence by admitting he didn't complete the 100 hours of service and smoked marijuana. But last year he changed his jersey number (to No. 11) and possibly his life style. Last summer he became a father and in December he graduated with a degree in Crime, Law and Justice.

11. Dekoda Watson, Florida State, 6-2, 240, 3-4
Watson is fast and athletic enough to find a role in the NFL. Although he is one of the most impressively built athletes in the draft, his sculpted body has not resulted in consistent production and he had durability issues. He missed time last season with a groin injury and had problems with his left elbow, left hamstring and a three-game suspension for his role in the infamous Florida State academic scandal. Despite the limitations last year, he played in all 13 games and had career highs in tackles (65), tackles for loss (13) and sacks (6). An outstanding week of Senior Bowl practices was noticed by scouts.

12. *Rennie Curran, Georgia, 5-11, 235, 4
Curran opted to enter the draft after his junior season because there was nothing another year in college could do to improve his most obvious shortcoming. He is short at 5-11. But he is not short on athletic ability, instinct or intensity. Gets in on far more than his share of plays, evidenced by his SEC-leading 130 tackles last year and 115 in 2008. He will probably do the same in the NFL if he manages to get a spot on somebody's defense. If not, some team will get a hellacious special teams player, especially on kickoff coverage.


MIDDLE LINEBACKERS


1. *Rolando McClain, Alabama, 6-4, 254, 1
McClain was to national champion Alabama's No. 1 defense what Ray Lewis is to the Ravens or what Patrick Willis is to the 49ers -- a leader who commands respect and leads by example. Some scouts wonder how much he benefited from playing in coach Nick Saban's hyper-aggressive, 3-4 defense that kept him free to roam behind the likes of huge nose tackle Terrance Cody. McClain won the Butkus Award as the top linebacker in the country. He collected 105 tackles, including 14.5 for a loss, four sacks and two interceptions. McClain's quiet demeanor in combine interviews was curious to some, but teammates say he is more a man of action than words. He was unable to finish his pro day March 10, and revealed after the workout that he has been battling Crohn's disease for the past seven years. NFL teams were aware of the condition, which is controlled through medication and diet, and multiple NFL sources told NFLDraftScout.com that it won't affect McClain's draft status.

2. Brandon Spikes, Florida, 6-3, 249, 2
Spikes has the instincts, quickness and aggression to be consistent against the run and very good against the pass despite a lack of elite speed. That said, he is alert and opportunistic, evidence by the fact that since 1996, he is one of only three linebackers in the nation to have four interceptions returned for touchdowns. Gained negative notoriety last season for attempting to gouge the eyes of Georgia running back Washaun Ealey, for which he was suspended for the first half of the Vanderbilt game. He excused himself from the entire game so as not to become a distraction. He is the cousin of San Francisco linebacker Takeo Spikes.

3. Sean Lee, Penn State, 6-2, 236, 2-3
Lee tore his right ACL in spring 2008, forcing him to redshirt his fourth season at Penn State rather than taking over for Dan Connor at middle linebacker. After a year spent acting as a coach from the sideline and in practice, the team captain earned second-team all-conference honors in 2009 with 86 tackles, 11 for loss, and seven pass breakups. Doesn't have great speed, but has that combination of anticipation, instinct and aggressiveness that is common among successful journeyman NFL linebackers.

4. Donald Butler, Washington, 6-1, 245, 3
Butler's stock has been rising quickly the past few months, especially after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl workouts. Based on that he became a late addition to the invitation list for the combine, where he put up a position-best 35 bench reps at 225 pounds. Because of injuries to others, Butler moved between inside and outside linebacker in 2008 and did it well enough to be voted most improved defender on the team. He was then selected team captain in 2009, going on to lead the Huskies with 94 total tackles, 15.5 for a loss. He added two interceptions, a fumble recovery and three forced fumbles.

5. Jamar Chaney, Mississippi State, 6-1, 242, 4-5
Chaney started at both inside and outside linebacker in college and was just beginning to show outstanding pro potential when his progress was interrupted in 2008 with a fractured leg. He returned in 2009 to lead the team with 90 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles. After making the Senior Bowl with a late invitation, Chaney impressed some scouts in practice and was named defensive MVP after collecting eight tackles and fumble recovery.

6. Phillip Dillard, Nebraska, 6-0, 245, 4-5
After missing the first two games of the season, Dillard made a conspicuous ascent into the consciousness of teammates, opponents and scouts with a series of take-charge performances. This really began before the 2009 season when he worked off extra weight and got into the best shape of his life. A heady, intense team leader, Dillard finished last season with 83 tackles, second on the team only to All-American defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, including 11 for a loss. His nine starts was one more than he had total entering the season due in part to injuries (ACL in 2006, ankle 2008).

7. Pat Angerer, Iowa, 6-0, 235, 5
With anger in his name, he must be a linebacker, right? Well, he was in college, and a pretty good one considering that his 135 tackles was among the top five in the nation last year. But now pro scouts aren't sure how well he will fit into the NFL. In college he was able to rely on exceptional instincts and physicality to get the job done. But he didn't look fast enough in game tapes and sure enough he ran in the mid-4.7-second area at the Combine. That's not bad, but it certainly isn't good if you're only a hair taller than 6-feet and weigh under 240 pounds. Everybody loves his attitude, but college overachievers have a difficult time in the pros.

8. Darryl Sharpton, Miami, 5-11, 236, 5-6
To be precise, Sharpton measured 5-feet, 11 3/8 at the Combine. Other than that, he seems to measure up as an excellent pro prospect whose exceptional athletic ability was used at several positions in college. However, scouts are not sure that his obvious athleticism translates to football well enough to consider him an elite candidate. He appears to be inconsistent diagnosing plays, is suckered by fakes and then there's the size issue. Regardless, he managed to lead Miami with 106 tackles last year.

Frank Cooney is the publisher of NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by the Sports Xchange.

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MaxAMillion
03-22-2010, 08:34 AM
Kindle only has 13 1/2 sacks for his career? That isn't that many sacks. I like to draft guys who have been a lot more productiive.

Butler is my sleeper pick. I watched Washington in a couple of late night saturday games, and they guy always performed well. I would rather draft him in the middle rounds rather than draft a MLB in round 1 (assuming McClain doesn't fall to 18).

Oviedo
03-22-2010, 10:32 AM
I would still wonder whether we could get Brandon Graham and move him to inside LB. If he can cover from the OLB position, why not the ILB position? He is big enough and strong enough IMO to be premier runstopper plus he adds the inside blitz capabilities.

hawaiiansteel
03-22-2010, 03:07 PM
I would still wonder whether we could get Brandon Graham and move him to inside LB. If he can cover from the OLB position, why not the ILB position? He is big enough and strong enough IMO to be premier runstopper plus he adds the inside blitz capabilities.



i really like Brandon Graham. if he were able to play both inside and outside and have the position versatility Tomlin so loves, he would make a great Round 1 choice.

wanna improve our pass defense? draft a great pass rusher like Graham!


1. Brandon Graham, Michigan, 6-2, 268, 1

Before straining a hamstring at the Scouting Combine, Graham displayed the speed and agility to make the transition to outside linebacker. The No. 5-rated defensive end by NFLDraftScout.com due to his lack of prototype size for the position, Graham could be the first outside linebacker off the board if he performs well at his April 8 workout. Graham finds a way to overcome larger opponents with a relentless attack. He uses just enough speed and surprising power that comes from his understanding of using leverage from his 6-1 frame. Despite only average footwork, he shows enough awareness to help in underneath zone coverage. After leading the nation with 26 tackles for loss and recording 10.5 sacks in 2009, Graham was the most dominating player on the field during Senior Bowl week.