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2014 NFL Draft Rankings: Inside Linebackers
By Matt Horkman

1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama
The heart and soul of Alabama’s defense, Mosley was the 2013 Butkus Award Winner. He does a good job filling holes against the run and times his blitzes well. He rarely lets his guard down. He does a nice job of diagnosing plays and reacting to them. He displays very good tackling fundamentals (wraps up well) and takes great angles in pursuit. His athleticism is somewhat overstated. He isn’t the next Luke Kuechly. He’ll struggle to turn and run with tight ends downfield. In conclusion, Mosley is an instinctive linebacker prospect with the toughness and fundamentals to emerge as a high-end starter. He’s a safe bet to hear his name called on day one.
Shayne Skov
2. Shayne Skov, Stanford
Skov is a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker. He fends off blockers and is tenacious in his pursuit. He has good instincts and makes big plays. He can blitz the quarterback and force key turnovers, as he did against Michigan State in the Rose Bowl. Nearly three years ago, Skov tore his ACL, MCL, and fractured his fibula. It was a devastating injury that setback his development. As 2013 wore on, he began flashing the on-field athleticism that made him such an intriguing prospect. Assuming he checks out medically, his NFL production could rival Mosley.

3. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
A well decorated inside linebacker prospect, Borland was the 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and the 2013 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He is undersized, but incredibly instinctive. He’s a tackling machine, recognizing plays well and taking great angles in pursuit. He isn’t great in space and struggles if isolated one-on-one in the flats. Borland lacks the athleticism and size to develop into the elite pro player that he was in college. However, the effort, fundamentals and toughness are all there for him to develop into an underappreciated starting middle linebacker.

4. Max Bullough, Michigan State
With good fundamentals and production, Bullough projects as a mid-round prospect capable of starting in the future. He’s a good tackler, who reads and reacts well. He lacks the athleticism to hold his own in space. Michigan State suspended him from playing in the Rose Bowl for reasons that remain unknown. He was better in 2012 than he was in 2013.

5. Preston Brown, Louisville
At 6-foot-1 and 251 pounds, Brown is a thumper. He’s an excellent run defender, but clunky in space. Given his size, he ran a respectable 40 (4.86) at the combine, but struggled in drills. He times his blitzes pretty well, though he struggles in coverage.

6. Lamin Barrow, LSU
Barrow is a athletic but undersized. He's capable of playing inside or outside linebacker. He needs to work on his physicality, as he struggles to shed blocks, but he displays enough straight-line speed to turn and run with tight ends. Because of his pass coverage skills, he’ll likely sub in on third downs. His athleticism will also allow him to emerge as a special teams ace.

7. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut
A bum hamstring limited Smallwood at his pro day. It also gave him problems at the combine, where he didn’t test particularly well. Still, his tape is relatively solid. He can blitz, defend the run, and has excellent size. His instincts and athleticism, however, could relegate him to a backup role.

8. Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA
Versatile enough to play inside or outside linebacker, Zumwalt’s biggest impact may come on special teams. He has good size and straight-line speed, but he struggles to shed blocks. His tackling could stand to improve. He could push for playing time if he bulks up and cleans up his fundamentals. 

9. Jeremiah George, Iowa State
Coming off a productive season, George was first-team All-Big 12 in 2013. He is short (5-foot-11), but he plays hard. His time speed is a bit disconcerting, but he seems to play faster on the field. As with most late-round linebackers, he’ll need to prove himself on special teams.

10. Glenn Carson, Penn State
Carson is an average athlete with terrific instincts. He was a three-year starter in the Big Ten, though he benefited from the lack of depth at Penn State. His durability and fundamentals make him appealing as a late-round prospect.

Best of the Rest
Brock Coyle, Montana
Steele Divitto, Boston College
Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky
James Morris, Iowa
Avery Williamson, Kentucky

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