Sunday, April 19, 2009

NFL Draft Averages - LBs

Linebacker is, by far, my favorite football position. You basically just get to hit people yet you still have the chance to blitz the QB and drop into coverage for INTs. You get the best of both d-lineman and secondary personnel. For me I'm not sure where my infatuation with the position started. It's kind of like the "chicken or the egg" conundrum; which came first? Did my love of the position draw me to the Dolphins' Zach Thomas or did my idolization of Zach Thomas make me love the position? We may never know. Regardless, during my playing days, when I wasn't fetching water, holding blocking pads, or serving on the scout team, I played one mean third string (maybe lower...) LB.

Anyway, LBs are often leaders on defense. They usually are ones relaying the plays and barking out signals and shifts; pretty much just diagnosing the offensive play and tendencies. They are generally a cerebral bunch, much like centers.

So how important is the position in the NFL? Well, much like wide receivers, the positional depth must be, well, deep. In some situations teams may run out four or five LBs so having strong starters and solid backups is key to the overall defensive strength. Teams usually carry 8-10 LBs at a time. Multiply that by 32 and you get a lot of LBs, so obviously you see a ton drafted each year.

Draft trends for LBs (1999-2008).

Yep, 32 LBs drafted per year, just under the WRs average of 33. It is a primo position and one that offers a lot of depth in prospects. There are more than 250 collegiate football programs producing LBs every year. The least amount taken in the last 10 drafts was 28 in 2002. The maximum of 34 has occurred three teams in the last 10 years. Teams generally look for that impact starter in the first round but those aren't always available. Usually 3 LBs are drafted in round 1, usually the outside guys. You grab your inside run stuffers and depth personnel later. That's why the 3rd, 4th, and 5th rounds have such high averages.

OK so we can "guarantee" 28 LBs drafted, while another four "should be", leaving us with two borderline players. Outside of the top 34? Sorry, try the UDFA route. Bring on the arbitrary list!

Will Be Picked

Aaron Curry, Wake Forest

Rey Maualuga, USC

Brian Cushing, USC

Clint Sintim, Virginia

James Laurinaitis, Ohio State

Clay Matthews, USC

Marcus Freeman, Ohio State

Gerald McRath, Southern Mississippi

Tyrone McKenzie, South Florida

Cody Brown, Connecticut

Darry Beckwith, LSU

Jason Williams, Western Illinois

Jonathan Casillas, Wisconsin

Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh

Zach Follet, California

DeAndre Levy, Wisconsin

Jason Phillips, TCU

Kaluka Maiava, USC

Nic Harris, Oklahoma

Dannell Ellerbe, Georgia

Corey Smith, Cincinnati

Moise Fokou, Maryland

Worrell Williams, California

Joshua Mauga, Nevada

Lee Robinson, Alcorn State

Daniel Holtzclaw, Eastern Michigan

Antonio Appleby, Virginia

Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina

Should Be Picked

Ashlee Palmer, Mississippi

Mortty Ivy, West Virginia

Kevin Ellison, USC

Frantz Joseph, Florida Atlantic


Stephen Hodge, TCU

Robert Francis, Boston College


Victor Butler, Oregon State

Kevin Akins, Boston College

Russell Allen, San Diego State

Dave Philistin, Maryland

It's important to note that since Pro Football Reference doesn't differentiate between inside/outside, combining The Football Expert (OLB/ILB) and NFL Draft Scout (OLB/ILB) lists is dicey. This will be the most inaccurate position in this analysis. What I did was skew the list towards the OLBs since that position carries a higher demand. Of the 38 prospects listed here, 23 are OLBs and 15 are ILBs.

MY PREDICTION: It also doesn't help that some players drafted as OLBs are, currently, listed as DEs. So that throws us off to. But regardless of the shortcomings, I think we are looking at a down year at the position. We'll make the average but only in hindsight because players such as Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown, and Aaron Maybin will become OLBs if drafted to a 3-4 scheme. On this list I think we'll see about 24-26 drafted. The converted DEs will bump the number higher in the future.

UP NEXT: I'll finish up the draft averages on Wednesday with a look at the secondary (both CB and safeties) as well as kickers and punters.

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