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OLB: How 2013 Draft Prospects Fit Schemes

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Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

When looking at a depth chart, the average fan will see one of two things when they look at the linebackers: does he play inside or does he play outside? In reality the position is far more complicated than that, especially when looking at the outside linebacker position. There is not just one singular position; it all depends on the system a team runs.

In a 4-3 defense, the common name for the outside linebackers are the "Will," or weak-side linebacker, and the "Sam," or strong-side linebacker, who lines up on the same side of the field as the tight end. According to Football.com's Bill Lund, who has coached linebackers at the college level since 1997, "The Will needs to be a tackling machine. He can be a smaller player. Derrick Brooks was one of the best at this spot. Teams like Indy, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, can bring in speedy, small LBs that can run because they are protected from blockers by the four-man front.

"The Sam can be a bigger player, may be a player that plays on the TE, would take on fullbacks vs. two-back formations. This player tends to be replaced in nickel packages, but in the NFL a 4-3 team will draft a Sam that could be a third-down rusher."

In the 3-4, Lund said, "the OLBs are more versatile. They are rushers and droppers, and must defend the run on the edge. Some are more adept at rushing the QB than coverage which is why you see some DEs fit the OLB mold that NFL teams are looking for. Barkevious Mingo of LSU comes to mind, played as a 4-3 end, but size and athletic ability help scouts project his effectiveness as a OLB. Most will use him as a rusher and limited dropper while he developed his coverage skills.''

How does the rest of this year's draft class fit into the categories of NFL outside linebackers? 

The top 4-3 outside linebackers are: 1) Jarvis Jones, Georgia; 2) Arthur Brown, Kansas State; 3) Sio Moore, Connecticut; 4) Khaseem Greene, Rutgers; 5) Jelani Jenkins, Florida.

Let's highlight UConn's Moore, who may be one of the biggest sleepers in this draft class. He displays an NFL-ready body at 6-1, 243 pounds, with 34-inch arms; he also ran an impressive 4.65-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Moore has added muscle, while also becoming more lean since his senior season. He also has the intangibles NFL coaches look for. "I'm a leader. No matter what, I'm a leader. And if you're a leader you have to set an example," he said. "And I can do everything on the field that they ask me to do." 

On film, Moore backs up his claim. He played inside linebacker, defensive end and outside linebacker in his UConn career. He showed a natural ability to make big plays in the backfield, registering 16 sacks and 44 tackles for loss in his final three seasons. Moore also has the instinct to find and get to the ball carrier, registering 110 tackles during his 2010 campaign when he was playing middle linebacker.

He also improved his pass coverage in his senior season, defending a career-high 11 passes. "I started out as a cover linebacker, playing Will back in the day," said Moore. "And the biggest thing for me was to cover and drop back in coverage."

The top 3-4 outside linebackers are projected as: 1) Dion Jordan, Oregon; 2) Ezekiel Ansah, BYU; 3) Barkevious Mingo, LSU; 4) Corey Lemonier, Auburn; 5) Jamie Collins, Southern Mississippi.

In spotlighting Jordan, who is expected to be drafted in the top 10 picks, we see a player who perfectly fits the mold of the "new-school" outside linebacker. At 6-6, 250, Jordan ran a great 4.60 40-yard dash at the Combine. During his career at Oregon, where Jordan played as a defensive end, he piled up 14.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss. Most of these plays in the backfield happened because of Jordan's elite speed off the edge. Jordan uses his rangy build extremely well, combining great hand tactics and speed rush moves to leave opposing offensive tackles grasping at air.  

Jordan, much like defensive end/outside linebacker hybrids such as Chandler Jones (New England) and Jason Pierre-Paul (New York Giants), is the ideal pass-rushing  specialist NFL GMs are seeking. As good as he is now, Jordan has the chance to improve even further as he adds muscle to his frame.