LB Derrick Barnes, Purdue (6’0”, 238, 4.57)
Has been starting for the past three seasons; most impressive year was his junior campaign, in which he racked up 63-11.0-7.5. Listed size is on the smaller side but has a very thick, muscular build. Very highly regarded as a leader. Was moved around the defense at Purdue. Bulk/strength helps him to set the tone defensively with physical tackles/hits; reliable stopper when in position. Willing to take on blockers. Ran well at the pro day and shows adequate instincts on tape, along with an excellent motor. Doesn’t play quite as fast as he timed. Would like to see him do a better job of getting off of blocks. Had gaudy sack production as a junior but isn’t the most flexible or advanced pass-rusher. Has been a core special-teams player in the past, and looks like his contributions there and to the team culture may be his most important as a pro. May be best on the inside of an odd defensive front.
LB Cameron McGrone, Michigan* (6’1”, 234, N/A)
Started fifteen games over the past two years, his junior year ending early after sustaining a knee injury. Plays in the middle behind an even front, and that’s where he’d fit best in the pros as well. A very good athlete, with the speed, flexibility, and explosiveness teams covet at the position; capable of playing sideline-to-sideline. Flashes the ability to skinny through gaps and disrupt plays. Closes well and has some pop on contact. Probably needs to be covered by linemen up front; can struggle to hold his ground when flowing toward the run, but looks physical when playing downhill. Instincts are not all the way there yet; still takes too many false steps to step right into a defensive role. Gets too aggressive at times with his angles. Was frequently used as a blitzer and has the type of aggressiveness and skillset for that. Less comfortable in zone coverage; has the raw range but is still developing his feel. Knee injury will affect his stock. May have benefited from returning to school; probably a special-teamer early on, but with considerable upside.
LB Monty Rice, Georgia (6’0”, 233, 4.57)
Started five games as a sophomore and has been with the first team ever since. team captain. Plays in the middle behind a three-man defensive line. Has adequate bulk for the inside in the modern game, but is a little bit on the short side, in terms of both height and length. Very good motor. Most comfortable flowing sideline to sideline, demonstrating above-average range when pursuing laterally. Uses hands well to work through trash, with the quickness to prevent blockers from getting into his pads. Would like to see him keep his shoulders square more when flowing, as he can be pushed off of his spot. Mostly limited to zone coverages and carrying backs into the flats. Didn’t blow up too many plays in the backfield. Not the most flexible. A good enough athlete to play on special teams, with the ability to potentially work his way onto the field on defense down the line.
LB Pete Werner, Ohio St. (6’3”, 238, 4.59)
Father Greg was a pro tight end. Has been starting for each of the past three years; first team all-conference last year. Good size/build for a modern linebacker; could play inside in an odd front or the Sam/Mike in an even front. Plays with physicality and urgency, but stays under control. Patient with reads in run support; doesn’t blow up too many plays but is rarely far out of position. Keeps shoulders square in pursuit. Good extension to lock out blockers; uses hands effectively to shed. Can work through trash to get to the ball. Overall range and speed appear just adequate; more of a phone-booth tough guy. Some false steps in zone coverage; not the most fluid guy either. Shows the ability to get his hands on opposing tight ends and disrupt them. Reportedly has excellent football character and a great work ethic. Could develop into an adequate starter who executes assignments and can mix things up in the run game, but with athletic limitations in coverage.