This is not a good group. It's Alabama's C.J. Mosley and everyone else. Because of that, don't expect the middle linebacker position to be a popular one on draft weekend, especially on the first two days.
Mosley, though, is a great talent. He's a smart player with excellent instincts. His athleticism is good and he rarely has to come off the field.
1. C.J. Mosley | 6'2, 234 pounds | Middle linebacker | Alabama
Where Mosley falls in the draft will likely depend on positional value. Teams don't value middle linebackers too highly. Still, he grades out as one of the 10 best players in this class. Few players are better at their position than Mosley is at inside linebacker. Furthermore, no inside linebacker in this class is even close to Mosley. He should make an impact as a rookie in the NFL.
2. Shayne Skov | 6'2, 245 pounds | Middle linebacker | Stanford
Skov is going to get drafted lower than some of the middle linebackers we have below him. His straight line speed is a big knock. He also has a big injury history highlighted by a torn ACL in 2011 that really hampered him in the 2012 season. When Skov is right, though, he’s a good between the tackles linebacker. He takes on blocks well and is an excellent tackler. He’s a smart player who locates the ball in a hurry and seems to have a good understanding where a play is going to develop. Can do just enough in short zone coverage. Won’t be much help in man situations unless he’s going against lumbering tight ends.
3. Chris Borland | 5'11 1/2, 248 pounds | Middle linebacker | Wisconsin
Borland’s game is built around instincts. He always has a good feel for where a play is going to develop and that puts him in a good position to make a play. Some teams will find it hard to overlook Borland’s athletic limitations. He’s not going to be a sideline-to-sideline linebacker. More likely, he’s a tackle-to-tackle player. If Borland gets too aggressive and shoots past a play, he doesn’t have the agility to redirect quickly. His height can’t be ignored in pass coverage. If Borland is asked to go up against a tight end, he’ll often be at a disadvantage. Can be a very good blitzer off the edge on third downs.
4. Yawin Smallwood | 6'2 1/4, 246 pounds | Middle linebacker | Connecticut
A starter all three of his seasons at Connecticut, Smallwood was a productive linebacker thanks to his range and toughness. Smallwood isn’t afraid to mix it up with linemen and has good enough handwork to beat stronger players. He’s a technically sound tackler for the position and likes to try and punch the ball out. Smallwood would benefit from taking better angles to the ball at times, though, and he will get beat with play action. Has good on field speed to run with receivers in coverage. Not much of a blitzer. Should fit in any system.
5. Avery Williamson | 6'1, 246 pounds | Middle linebacker | Kentucky
Playing for a Kentucky defense that struggled for most of the year, it was easy for Avery Williamson to get overlooked. However, he consistently flashed playmaking ability for the Wildcats and could be a day-two pick in the NFL Draft if things break his way. Williamson has great instincts for the position, often beating the ball carrier to the spot and taking smart angles to the ball. He needs to improve in coverage, but as a run defender, Williamson uses his length and anticipation to make life tough on blockers.
6. Jordan Zumwalt | 6'4, 235 pounds | Middle linebacker | UCLA
A vocal and physical player, Zumwalt is the type of linebacker who will rally his teammates. Zumwalt can deliver crushing hits over the middle. He even did it in non-contact drills at the Senior Bowl. Coaches admonished him, but his teammates loved it. Zumwalt has good straight line speed against the run and a good initial burst. Comes out of UCLA’s 3-4 where he played on the inside. Some teams may view him as an outside linebacker. Doesn’t change direction fluidly.
7. Max Bullough | 6'3 1/2, 249 pounds | Middle linebacker | Michigan State
8. Lamin Barrow | 6'1 3/8, 237 pounds | Middle linebacker | LSU
9. Greg Blair | 6'2, 252 pounds | Middle linebacker | Cincinnati
10. James Morris | 6'0 7/8, 241 pounds | Middle linebacker | Iowa
11. Andrew Jackson | 6'1, 254 pounds | Middle linebacker | Western Kentucky
12. Preston Brown | 6'1 1/4, 251 pounds | Middle linebacker | Louisville
13. DeDe Lattimore | 6'1, 237 pounds | Middle linebacker | South Florida
14. Glenn Carson | 6'3, 235 pounds | Middle linebacker | Penn State
15. Marquis Spruill | 6'0, 224 pounds | Middle linebacker | Syracuse