One of the most exciting positions on the football field, this year's class of inside linebackers includes a few names that will be known for years to come. When you ask people to name the first thing they think of when you mention the Chicago Bears, more often than not they will start spouting off the long lineage of inside linebackers: Bill George, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Brian Urlacher.
Who will be the successor to Urlacher when he hangs up the cleats? Is it someone that is already on our roster, or is it someone we will find in the college ranks? Let's take a look at the top ILB prospects in this year's draft:
Rey Maualuga, USC, 6'2", 255 lbs
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Maualuga is head and shoulders above the other ILB prospects in this year's draft, and one of the best ILB prospects in many years. Constantly compared to Ray Lewis, Maualuga is incredibly intimidating, and an absolute monster on the football field. Definitely a Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker.
Strengths: Big hitter, great blitzer, explosive, intelligent, instinctive
Weaknesses: Quiet, can be too emotional/aggressive
Draft Projection: Early 1st round
Video Highlights: Pops when you click it.
James Laurinaitis, Ohio State, 6'3", 240 lbs.
Laurinaitis is another immediate-impact ILB in this year's NFL draft class. He is incredibly tough, and is great in the box. Was the emotional leader for the Buckeyes, and like Maualuga, is incredibly intimidating.
Strengths: Big motor, great against the run, instinctive, fast, athletic
Weaknesses: Not explosive at times, can miss tackles due to pursuit angles
Draft Projection: Late 1st Round/ Early 2nd
Video Highlights: New window for this one too
Darry Beckwith, LSU, 6'0", 235 lbs.
Beckwith is an explosive ILB who saw his stock rise significantly at the Combine. With a 40 yard dash time of 4.55 seconds, one of his obvious strengths is his quickness. I have seen Beckwith play in person numerous times, and in person he reminded me a lot of Brian Urlacher, making plays from sideline to sideline.
Strengths: Speed, instincts, big hitter/tackler, versatile (played both Mike and Will at LSU), and speed (yes it is worth listing twice).
Weaknesses: Pass coverage, height
Draft Projection: Late 2nd/ Early 3rd
Video Interview: Guess what this does?
Jason Phillips, TCU, 6'1", 235 lbs
Jason Phillips is a hard-working LB from TCU. He has great speed, and has the mentality of a solid ILB. He will benefit from NFL coaching, as he has some things to work on before becoming an elite linebacker in the NFL.
Strengths: Speed, ability to diagnose plays, has a mean-streak, big heart, tough.
Weaknesses: Size, athleticism, strength.
Draft Projection: 3rd Round
Video Highlights: Here.
Other note-worthy names:
Dannell Ellerbe, Georgia
Gerald McRath, Southern Miss
Scott McKillop, Pitt
GeauxBears' Sleeper pick:
Stanley Arnoux, Wake Forest, 6'0", 232 lbs.
Arnoux is under-sized for an ILB, but saw his stock rise greatly during the combine. He is very quick, explosive, and a natural playmaker. Arnoux would be an excellent 5-6 round pick.