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Not the year for bluechip LBs


Inside linebackers


North Carolina St. (6-2, 233; 4.55)

Strengths: Accelerates into the tackle and punishes the ball carrier whenever possible — anyone coming around the end with hesitancy and not knowing what lane to choose will be ambushed by Fisher, who hits with voracity and finishes with thunder. Very productive and has a knack for knowing when to attack the ball carrier. Isn't super-strong, but has enough upper-body strength to get separation. Though he's speedy, he plays mostly under control. Takes command at key times.

Weaknesses: Too small and needs to be more cognizant of a receiver's patterns, knowing who's coming into his area in pass drop. Isn't the most surefooted player at times. Reaction time a half-step slow when the play is right at him.

Bottom Line: Super-active player who, if he was a tad bigger, would be a lock first-rounder. As it is, the team acquiring his services will get them at a bargain.


LSU (6-3, 230; 4.56)

Strengths: Can change direction and move with silky-smooth effectiveness. Athleticism and fluidity are top-notch. Tough going over the top — really makes the most out of going airborne in short-yardage. Rarely caught flat-footed and has special mobility for a guy that doesn't yield any strength. Has moves of a DB in a LB's body. Supreme balance and rarely gets knocked off his feet. Has special ability in pursuit.

Weaknesses: Fills, but doesn't fill with ferocity you'd like to see and is more of a finesse player. Don't ask him to hold the point in the middle because he'll get blown out of there by any kind of physical running team.

Bottom Line: Potential is sky-high. If he returned for his senior season and gained the necessary weight/strength, he likely would have been one of the elite players of the 2003 draft and a certain first-rounder.


Florida St. (6-3, 247; 4.65)

Strengths: Great athleticism and physical. Won't shy away from trying to blow up the ball carrier. Big and plays loose. Looks smooth and flows well in pass drop, and won't be baited by the QB's eyes. Has good hands and can tip the pass on the seam route.

Weaknesses: Doesn't always take the best angles and often overpursues, then can't withdraw when he fills the wrong lane. His feet are not that special, and he has trouble getting to the point in short spaces. When a blocker gets a pad on him, it's all over because he has trouble shedding.

Bottom Line: Safe pick here. Has played in a lot of big games and won't embarrass anyone.


UCLA (6-2, 222; 4.61)

Strengths: Played a lot more physical as a senior and can explode into a ball carrier in short spaces like few others. Doesn't need a lot of space to build momentum, sheds finesse blockers easily and is very quick on the blitz. Has the kind of speed you'd expect from a light middle LB. Gets to the ball very quickly, efficiently and takes good routes to the sideline.

Weaknesses: Size is a major concern as he doesn't have the girth to be a regular NFL LB at this point. Plays flat-footed at times, which causes him to get juked on occasion. Hands are lousy and can't overpower blockers at the point and fill rushing lanes.

Bottom Line: Stepped up in 2001, but still is a bit over-hyped, ranking as a solid prospect, but nothing more.


North Carolina (6-3, 242; 4.66)

Strengths: Good vision, finds the ball quickly and gets into the play before it can really be engaged. Really steps up and fills against the run — never afraid to take on the play between the tackles. Hangs in there, keeps battling through blocks until he finds the ball carrier. Against a finesse team, does everything you want a middle LB to do. Super-active player who doesn't just make a lot of tackles, but the ones he makes are near the line. Very effective blitzer.

Weaknesses: Is a little on the stiff side and could use a little more spring and zip to his play. Lacks a step in pass coverage and may lag getting outside the tackles to make the stop.

Bottom Line: Powerful guy who can really shine, especially if inserted into the middle of an already-talented defense.

Outside linebackers


South Carolina (6-6, 260; 4.57)

Strengths: Tremendous size, speed, acceleration and athleticism — moves as fluidly as any 6-6, 260-pounder you'll see. Has great leg strength and can hold the point and take on the ball carrier while also taking on the blocker. When he can just pin his ears back and go, his combination of quickness and pure strength are hard to stop. Turns his game up a notch when it's crunch time.

Weaknesses: Plays a little out of control for his body at times and gets sucked in on plays around end occasionally. Often stands straight up off the snap and is not as effective moving laterally as he is going forward and backward against the run. Isn't a particularly ferocious player and would be better with more of a mean streak.

Bottom Line: Possesses special, Pro Bowl-caliber skills, but might need to be pushed a bit.


Northwestern (6-3, 250; 4.67)

Strengths: Can get separation because he keeps his feet and arms moving and is never a stationary target. Has good success on the bull rush for a guy who isn't built like a monster. Will pursue from the backside when he gets good separation. Motor is good even when he's not having the best day.

Weaknesses: Easier to handle when he's in space. Needs to be more aggressive with his pass rush moves. Can be taken advantage of when he tries to work inside to make plays in the pass rush.

Bottom Line: Versatility and athleticism make Harris a very solid, early-round talent.


Washington St. (6-2, 248; 4.57)

Strengths: Good upper-body strength. Shoots in off the edge as a blitzer and has good explosiveness. As comfortable with his hand on the ground as he is in space. Covers the field well and doesn't stop his pursuit when the ball is on the other side of the field. Has super vision and takes great routes to the ball. Around the ball on virtually every play.

Weaknesses: More of a line of scrimmage player than a LB who makes a lot of plays in space. Is a little awkward in his backpedal and doesn't turn his body well when the ball is in the air when asked to cover the pass in the flat. Isn't an intimidating player who's a lights-out hitter, and is more of a finesse player who makes plays on movement.

Bottom Line: If he were only a bit taller, he'd be in line for first-round consideration. Still, he's a player.


Oregon St. (6-3, 230; 4.58)

Strengths: One of the best open-field tacklers in the nation and really flies around the field, appearing even faster than his listed 40 times. Probably as good as any LB in pass coverage in this class. Really gets into his drops, then takes good angles to the ball and can stick to a TE like adhesive. Never gives up on a play.

Weaknesses: Below-average pure tackler, even on the weak side. Needs to try to tackle with his body instead of his arms. Has a little trouble keeping the blocker off his legs and he must gain weight.

Bottom Line: Tremendous speed and athleticism, could become a great coverage LB.


North Carolina (6-2, 228; 4.45)

Strengths: Great speed and makes plays in space. Very good tackler in the open field; rarely slides off the ball carrier and doesn't get juked easily. Very active in pursuit. Doesn't give up when the chips are down.

Weaknesses: Not very physical and could be a little more aggressive at the point. Has a hard time getting out of the trash between the tackles when the run is up the middle.

Bottom Line: Came out of nowhere this season. While small, his speed alone makes him an intriguing prospect to bring into the fold.