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Patriots.com Draft Board: Linebackers

Outside Linebackers

1. A.J Hawk, Ohio State – Can do it all and do it well, whether it be blitzing the quarterback or dropping back in coverage. Hawk is the best overall linebacker in this draft and he should be able to come in and help a team right away.

2. Ernie Sims, Florida State – Fast, athletic linebacker who makes plays all over the field. At, 6-0, 228 pounds, he's probably better suited to play in a 4-3 defense. Is productive at both blitzing the quarterback and covering backs and tight ends down the field.

3. Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State – The best blitzing linebacker in this class. Very quick off the ball and has great closing speed. Should excel as a 3-4 edge rusher in the pros. Can play both inside and outside, so that should enhance his draft stock.

4. DeMeco Ryans, Alabama – Made plays all over the field in college and could end up being the best linebacker to come out of this class. A playmaker and very good tackler. Is one of the fastest linebackers in this draft.

5. Thomas Howard, UTEP – A former safety who is great in coverage but needs to add some size to take on bigger blockers at the pro level. Is a better fit for teams like the Bucs and Colts than he is the Patriots.

6. Chad Greenway, Iowa – Very productive college player but lacks athleticism and isn't very physical. Good in coverage but gets overpowered a lot by blockers. Scouts either love him or hate him. We agree with the latter.

7. Roger McIntosh, Miami - Speedy sideline-to-sideline kind of linebacker but needs to do a better job of getting off blocks. Plays a little stiff at times and can get pushed around but has upside.

8. Clint Ingram, Oklahoma – An underrated prospect who has good instincts and finishes off his tackles well. Made a lot of big plays for the Sooners. Is a very fluid linebacker who is productive in coverage.

9. Jon Alston, Stanford – A small, athletic player who is always around the ball. May not have the size to play linebacker in the NFL but has the speed to move to strong safety. Similar to Thomas Davis last year.

10. Terna Nande, Miami (OH) – Was one of the most athletic linebackers at the Combine. Explosive player who is very strong at the point of attack and is a big hitter. Can drop back into coverage but is at his best when he's attacking the line of scrimmage.

Overrated

Greenway – You can't discount what he did at Iowa but watching him on tape, Greenway looks like he's going to be a much better player at the college level than he will be in the NFL. He will need to go to a system that protects him because he isn't very strong and doesn't get off blocks well. Greenway does some things okay but nothing exceptional. At best, I think he'll be a decent pro player but he's not worthy of being selected in the first round.

Spencer Havner, UCLA – Havner lacks the speed and quickness to be an every-down player at the NFL level. He gets beat in coverage a lot and while he's a big hitter, he doesn't wrap up and misses a lot of tackles. Probably nothing more than a backup linebacker and special teams player in the NFL.

Brandon Johnson, Louisville – Johnson is an impressive athlete but he's a player without a position. He's tall and lanky but he needs to add about 30 pounds if he expects to play linebacker in the pros. His speed and quickness could make him a situational outside pass rusher in a 3-4 defense.

Underrated

Ingram – I think Ingram is the most underrated outside linebacker in the draft. He has good size at 245 pounds and can play both inside and outside. He doesn't have great 40 times but he plays fast when he's on the football field. Ingram is the type of player that may not wow you with his measurables but put a helmet on him and he makes plays all over the field.

Leon Williams, Miami – Williams could end up being one of those middle round gems. He only started six games at Miami but he has a lot of upside. A great athlete, Williams has the size (6-1, 248) to take on blocks as well as the speed to chase down ball carriers. Has the versatility to play both inside and outside linebacker in the NFL. Williams is a little raw but his best days are ahead of him and with the right coaching, he could turn into a productive player.

Possible Patriots

Carpenter – An exceptional edge rusher who can come in and help replace the loss of Willie McGinest as a rookie. Has the versatility to play middle linebacker as well, which would allow the Patriots to move Mike Vrabel back outside if they decide they want to go that route.

Ryans – A little small for the Patriots system but Ryans is reminiscent of the Jets Jonathan Vilma – a player Bill Belichick loved when he came out of Miami a couple of years ago. Ryans' style of play and athleticism is very similar to Vilma.

Greenway – We don't particularly like Greenway but that doesn't mean Belichick and Scott Pioli share the same opinion. However, if Greenway does succeed in the NFL, I think it will be in a 4-3 defense, not a 3-4 where he has to fight through a lot of blockers.

Ingram – While not highly regarded, Ingram's ability to drop back in coverage and stuff the run could make him a good fit for the Patriots defense. A smart player, Ingram has a knack for always being around the football.

Inside Linebackers

1. Oliver Hoyte, North Carolina State – No one else has Hoyte rated this high but we absolutely love him. He's a physical linebacker who plays with a mean streak. When Hoyte hits someone, they go backwards. A very underrated prospect who made a ton of plays during his college career.

2. Gerris Wilkinson, Georgia Tech – Probably the most athletic middle linebacker in this draft. A playmaker who is always around the football, Wilkinson has the speed and quickness to be a very good player at the next level.

3. Abdul Hodge, Iowa – A steady college player who is very physical. Doesn't have great speed but makes a lot of tackles. Excels against the run but struggles at times in coverage.

4. D'Qwell Jackson, Maryland – Very athletic player but likes to avoid contact instead of tacking on blocks. Needs to be in the right system where the defensive linemen tie up blockers and let him roam free.

5. Dale Robinson, Arizona State – Vicious hitter who punishes ball carriers when he tackles them. Needs a little seasoning but has the attitude and intangibles to be a productive NFL middle linebacker.

6. Kai Parham, Virginia – Was productive at Virginia but lacks speed and shows a tendency to get caught up in traffic. Isn't nearly as physical as he should be for his size.

7. Freddie Roach, Alabama – Would be rated higher if it weren't for injury concerns. Roach is a classic middle linebacker who racks up a lot of tackles when he's healthy.

8. Tim Dobbins, Iowa State – A big, athletic linebacker who gets off blocks quickly and makes a lot of tackles. Sometimes uses poor technique but he's a smart player who has the size to play in a 3-4 defense.

9. Anthony Schlegel, Ohio State – A pure run-stuffer in the Ted Johnson mold. Plays much faster than his 40-time and could be a steal if he's selected on the second day of the draft.

10. Kevin Simon, Tennessee – One of those middle/outside linebacker tweeners. It depends on what team he goes to and where they want him to play. An excellent athlete with good speed, Simon would project much higher if it weren't for knee and ankle injuries that plagued him at Tennessee.

Overrated

Jackson– A good player who could excel in the right scheme but the Patriots 3-4 defense isn't that scheme. He runs around too many blocks and doesn't have the size the Patriots look for in their middle linebackers. Will probably end up being a good pro player but I think there are better middle linebacker prospects in this draft.

Parham – I was really looking forward to evaluating Parham because I think he could wind up in New England but he really disappointed me. For as big as he is, he doesn't get off blocks well. On tape, he sometimes disappears because he's so far out of plays. I don't really care about an inside linebacker's 40 time, so his poor performance at the Combine doesn't concern me that much. I'm more concerned with Parham not being as physical as I expected him to be.

Tim McGarigle, Northwestern - Was very productive at Northwestern but his lack of physical skills limits what he can do in the NFL. McGarigle is smart and always plays hard but I think he's already as good as he's going to get. In other words, he has very little upside. Will be a solid backup and special teams player but lacks the physical ability to be a quality starter in the NFL.

Underrated

Hoyte – Like I said, the best middle linebacker prospect in this draft according to PFW. Hoyte is the most physical player at his position and was extremely productive in college. This guy is so good, I keep thinking I'm missing something on him but so far, I can't figure out what that may be.

Schlegel – The former Buckeye was overshadowed by his more publicized teammates in college but he's a very good player in his own right. He won't chase runners down from 50 yards away but he has a good burst in the 10-20 yard range. That's really the most important thing for linebackers playing in the 3-4 system. Schlegel gets overlooked but he was very productive for a great Ohio State defense.

Possible Patriots

Hoyte – Played all over the place for North Carolina State because of his versatility but his physical style of play, instincts and toughness project him inside at the pro level. He has all the traits and intangibles the Patriots like and defensive coordinator Dean Pees is already impressed with his knowledge of the game. Could be another middle-round steal for Belichick and Pioli.

Hodge – I think Hodge is a little overrated but he's a much better pro prospect than Greenway in my opinion. I don't think he's worthy of a first round selection but if the big hitting Hodge is still on the board when the Patriots pick in Round 2, they'll most likely give him some consideration.

Robinson – Anyone who plays with the mean streak and toughness that Robinson plays with is always a possibility to end up in New England. His size may be a concern but his attitude and love for contact certainly aren't.

Parham – At his pre-draft press conference, Belichick said Virginia is the college team whose defense most resembles the Patriots because ofAl Groh. Parham played middle linebacker for the Cavaliers so if he's a player Belichick likes, there's a good chance he'll become a Patriot on draft day.

Schlegel – He won't wow you with his speed or athleticism but is a highly intelligent and productive player. Schlegel looks like a Ted Johnson clone when you watch him on tape and he could flourish as a run-stuffing middle linebacker in the Patriots system.

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