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Early Run on LB

Discussion in 'Green Bay Packers Fan Forum' started by Pack93z, Apr 13, 2007.

  1. Pack93z

    Pack93z You retired too? .... Not me. I'm in my prime

    Likes Received:
    Aug 1, 2005
    Central Wisconsin
    If this senerio comes true, that means there would be more options for us to pick from at 16. Or it might possible elevate the value of our pick in a trade down, if someone like a Levi Brown starts slipping.


    Need for linebackers could create an early run

    By Nolan Nawrocki
    April 12, 2007

    This year’s LB crop does not feature a lot of depth, and with few quality linebackers at the top, the trend that appears to be emerging, the way we hear it, is that there could be a run on linebackers early in the draft.

    What may set the run in motion is the early selection of Mississippi LB Patrick Willis. After clocking as fast as 4.35 on watches at his pro-day workout and showing rare speed, he positioned himself to be drafted in the top 10, where some evaluators had graded him even prior to his workout.

    “You know exactly what you are getting with him,” one scouting director said. “I’ve heard people criticize him for his intelligence. I think naïveté is more the issue than intelligence. He can learn it. When he puts his mind towards doing anything, he finds a way to get it done.”

    The first team that realistically could begin thinking about Willis is the Minnesota Vikings, who lost Napoleon Harris in free agency and have Chad Greenway coming off a season-ending knee injury. Willis would be a perfect fit for the Tampa-2 defense that new defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier inherits from Mike Tomlin. Having drafted a linebacker in the first round last year, however, makes it more unlikely the Vikings would look to fill the position again.

    The Falcons are not exactly stacked at linebacker after parting ways with oft-injured Edgerton Hartwell, but they have more pressing needs elsewhere.

    Where Willis could realistically be drafted is at No. 9, where Dolphins GM Randy Mueller, who is infatuated with speed, has gained more control in the decision-making process.

    Houston could also factor into the mix. The basement for Willis, however, could be San Francisco. Niners LB coach Mike Singeltary grew more enamored with Willis each day at the Senior Bowl, and Willis could pair with Manny Lawson to give the Niners one of the fastest pairs of linebackers in the NFL.

    What could trigger a run on linebackers, more than anything else, is the serious needs of teams that are drafting in the next several spots. Buffalo lost MLB London Fletcher to the Redskins in free agency and traded WLB Takeo Spikes to the Eagles. The way we hear it, Paul Posluszny is gaining a lot of momentum in the Bills’ Orchard Park headquarters, with GM Marv Levy having drafted former Bills and Nittany Lions standout Shane Conlan, whose jersey number Posluszny elected to wear at Penn State, eighth overall in 1987.

    It would be a surprise if Posluszny were drafted as high as 12th, but given how early the Bills selected Donte Whitner a year ago, it would not be out of character for them to target the player they want and never look back.

    St. Louis has more pressing needs up front and at cornerback than at linebacker, but Carolina, at No. 14, and Pittsburgh, at No. 15, both have strong needs at linebacker and could be pressed to pull the trigger on a linebacker, knowing their chances of finding another good one would diminish in the second round.

    Panthers head coach John Fox values versatility in his linebackers, and Jon Beason played every spot at Miami (Fla.). He did not run as fast as some scouts had expected at the Combine, but when he ran again for scouts last week, he was clocked between 4.62 and 4.69, considerably better than the mid-4.7 times he clocked in Indianapolis. Regardless of how fast Beason times, he plays fast, which matters most to good evaluators. Panthers WLB Thomas Davis is expected to take strides in his second full year at linebacker, but MLB Dan Morgan has been injury-prone, and the defense has not been the same since it lost Will Witherspoon in free agency to the Rams, leaving stopgap defender Na’il Diggs on the strong side. Beason is the most NFL-ready of all the linebackers in this draft and could step in and contribute immediately and be prepared to take over for Morgan, another Hurricane, in the future. The way we hear it, Beason will warrant legit consideration by the Panthers.

    Our sources also tell us that the Steelers, at No. 15, do not expect Beason to be available and would strongly consider him if he were there. Although cornerback is a more pressing need, Beason or Florida State LB Lawrence Timmons might be strong considerations.

    With jobs on the line and a high premium being placed on winning now, teams have increasingly drafted for need more than value. If needs dictate decisions, it will not be a surprise on Draft Day if four linebackers are drafted in the top 15. However, teams that better understand value and are willing to risk the possibility that their guy won't be available later will look to trade back rather than overdraft a player higher than they should. That could be the case with the Bills, Panthers and Steelers. If they are forced to stay put, the higher premium on the CB position also could affect their decisions, with the Bills and Steelers both having pressing needs at cornerback.

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