Who Has The Better Pair Of Next-Tier Linebacker Prospects: UCLA Or Stanford?
By Ken Scudero
In the 2014 Draft, there is Anthony Barr, there's Trent Murphy, and then there are the rest of the linebacker prospects.
Outside linebacker Barr is by far the best linebacker in the draft, arguably the best defensive player available. Murphy, also an outside linebacker, won't be selected too long after Barr. UCLA and Stanford both have strong units in the middle of the field too, and it's tough to choose one over the other.
Let's take a look at four linebackers (not named Barr or Murphy) who will be highly regarded come May 2014.
Eric Kendricks: 6-foot, 228 pounds
2013 Season: 64 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT
Jordan Zumwalt: 6-4, 235
2013 Season: 54 TT, 4 TFL
Playing on the inside, Kendricks and Zumwalt have been solid tacklers throughout their collegiate careers. Kendricks led the entire nation with 91 solo tackles last year and Zumwalt has compiled 216 career total tackles as a Bruin.
This year, they've had a freshman sensation in Myles Jack playing on one side of them and the great Anthony Barr on the other side. This has aided their game and allowed them to focus mainly on stuffing the run straight up the middle, something they are very good at.
I like what I saw in the Oregon game from both of these guys, and I think they project to be very good middle linebackers in a 3-4 system. They have decent speed, good vision and need to improve on their coverage because in the NFL, they will need to shadow running backs as well as blanket tight ends. Kendricks is the better overall prospect and he has third round written all over him, whereas Zumwalt will probably slip to the 5th.
Shayne Skov: 6-3, 245
2013 Season: 63 TT, 7 TFL, 3.5 Sacks, 2 PBU
AJ Tarpley: 6-2, 238
2013 Season: 66 TT, 5 TFL, 1 Sack, 1 FF, 1 INT, 2 PBU
Skov is an experienced middle linebacker, playing in his fifth season of elibigility. He has a knack for getting in the backfield quickly and for stopping plays at the line of scrimmage. He's big and though he's not very fast, his instincts help him to gain ground on ballcarriers. He seems to always be a step ahead of the offensive players, knowing where they are going.
AJ Tarpley is playing in his third season. He's quicker than Skov but plays a similar game. They both meet runners in the backfield, they tackle with authority, and they get to the ball.
Skov is surprisingly good in coverage for a big guy and Tarpley covers decent as well.
Who has the better pair of LB prospects?
These Stanford guys are better overall linebackers than the UCLA prospects. They are more versatile and make more plays. Skov is a late 1st/early 2nd round pick, and Tarpley will probably be selected in the 4th round.