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Top Weakside linebacker prospects


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The weakside backers fit into 2 types: the 1st are the borderline undersized ones who got better speed and cover skills but generally aren't as strong at the point of attack. The other type is what 3-4 teams would look for in their outside middle backer, which is a LB who excels in the physical aspect of playing the run but has the tools to track RBs in the flats and TE down the seam.

I was hoping to watch Steve Nicholas again from S Fla. match up against Brent Celek last night but Celek got knocked out of the game early. I'd like to see Nicholas play against a faster TE than he did when he shut down Clark Harris of Rutgers early in the season. If Nicholas can keep up with speed, I'd put him up there with Rufus Alexander as the 2 top WSLB. If he enters early, Ali Highsmith would be in that mix also as would Prescott Burgess who can really stretch well into deeper coverage.

But Earl Everett is overall a better prospect than any of them because he's the most reactive and a hitting machine. I would suspect teams will evaluate Everett as a Ernie Sims type though and ultimately he'll get nabbed as a middle backer be it 4-3 or 3-4.

There's 3 others who I like alot who could be fits as 4-3 WSLB but probably are truer middle backers:

1. Desmond Bishop. He looks like he gets shot out of a cannon and his long TD pick last week shows the speed he's got. He could get late 1st round consideration.

2. Quinton Culberson. He's playing the middle but he's got safety skills. Very quick player but raw and probably is an early Day 2 prospect.

3. Matt Muncy. The MAC's version of a AJ Hawk. Extreme quickness and toughness but were he lands will probably have more to do with what he shows after the season.

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Given the weakside crop this year, there'll probably be another early entry who could vie for the 1st one taken -- Keith Rivers USC. He's got 2 years under his belt now unhurt and will probably come out if his draft evaluation projects him to go anywhere near round 1, which it probably will.

There's another early entry who might get looked at as a WSLB but probably stays at middle in the NFL -- Vince Hall of Va Tech. He's got great lateral speed and detonates when he shoots gaps. Between his early entry evalaution and the downward spiral of the Hokies, Hall probably jumps as will most likely Fla St SSLB Lawrence Timmons for the same reasons and he is probably the most ferocious of the bunch. Timmons will project as a MLB and should be right there in the mix for late Round 1.

Really, the difference between the Top LB and the 10th best doesn't appear to be overwhelmingly great. Depending on how many early entries there are, the Bengals could most likely get a decent backer at weak or middle in the 4th if they want one out of the draft.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Ernie Sims type -- arguably a LB who can swing the middle or weakside -- is exactly who the Bengals ought to pursue if a somehwat lesser or more unproven version.

One such type might be Ameer Ismail of Western Michigan. I've only been able to check him out once vs. Ohio this year but he does have decent range in coverage from the weakside when he's not being used to terrorize QBs with his extreme pass rushing skills. How well he shows scouts he can transition in space and track and trail crossing receivers at the Senior Bowl and combine should dictate a lot about where he ends up going, but this might be more of an ideal fit than other weakside backers for the Bengals because he might be able to also improve the pass rush and keep QBs guessing with reads.

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I've been liking rivers,

Caught the 1st half of USC-Oregon and thought Rivers looked real active. Not too impressed by the arm tackle he had slide off the RB for about a 15 yard pop or how much space he gave Rosario on a chunk of yards on a 1st down throw but he moves real well. Given his injury history I wouldn't be surprised if he enters early but I do believe he'd improve his draft stock if he rolls the dice and plays another year.

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