This is shaping up to be an odd class of 3-4 OLBs. Let’s talk about some of them.
* Jadeveon Clowney – Obviously he would be the top of most lists. Clowney has his faults, but all 32 teams would love to have his talent. Can play in any system due to his ability, but probably is best suited for the 4-3.
* Khalil Mack – Probably the #2 guy on most 3-4 OLB lists. It is possible some teams could like him more than Clowney due to character issues. Also possible some could rate him #3 after Mr. Barr. Mack could go as high as #2 overall.
* Anthony Barr – Here is where things start to get interesting. Barr is 6-5, 255. He is a terrific athlete and was a productive pass rusher for UCLA the past 2 years. But not everyone loves him. Some feels he’s not physical enough and don’t like him until the late 1st round or even the 2nd. Some teams love him and see him as a Top 10 talent. I’m with them. The guy can fly off the edge and get to the QB. Those guys aren’t easy to find. While it is possible he could slide, I don’t think it is realistic to expect him outside the Top 15.
After the Big 3, things are wide open.
* Dee Ford – He’ll be next on many lists. I’ve started to wonder if Ford will be a 1st rounder. Yes, he is a good pass rusher. But put on the tape and you see him speed rush from LDE over and over and over. Can he beat good LTs in the NFL? He doesn’t have great size or athletic ability. Ford’s showing at the Senior Bowl was impressive, but I’m not as high on him as I was.
* Jeremiah Attaochu – I like him better than Ford. Attaochu is a hair bigger. He has a better vertical jump, which shows explosion. He has longer arms. Attaochu is also more versatile. He played LB and DE. He lined up all over and can do multiple things. I also think he plays with more of a mean streak, which will help him in the NFL.
* Kony Ealy – Ealy did not test well at the Combine, but was much better at his Pro Day. I have watched several games and I just don’t see him as a 3-4 OLB. Ealy is a good DE prospect, but I don’t see the agility for playing OLB. I don’t think he’s worthy of a 1st round pick at either spot.
* Kareem Martin – During the season I saw Martin as a pure DE. He then shocked me with a terrific workout at the Combine. I went back to re-watch tape and see what I missed. I still think he is a 4-3 DE. I just don’t see a player that is meant to be in space. That said, if Quinton Coples can play LB in the NFL, never say never.
* Demarcus Lawrence – I don’t get the love for Lawrence. Check out this note from Daniel Jeremiah.
RT @troyalt38: when do you think demarcus lawrence from Boise will go? > In the 30's
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 14, 2014
The 30’s? I just don’t get that. He is 6-3, 251. That’s okay size, but nothing special. He isn’t a special athlete. He does have long arms and huge hands (11 inches), but I put on the tape and see a lot of hustle plays. Those are good, but not for someone that is highly rated. You want top prospects making plays more off talent than effort. I just don’t see anything special about Lawrence, but I seem to be in the minority here.
* Scott Crichton – Good size at 6-3, 273. Good athlete for that size. Natural pass rusher. Can play either size. Flies off the ball, turns the corner well and knows how to finish plays. 4-3 teams will love him, but I think he can definitely play in the 3-4.
* Marcus Smith – Played LB and DE in college. Comfortable standing up and rushing off the edge. Complete OLB. Able to set the edge vs the run. Surprisingly good in coverage. Can run with a TE down the seam. Good pass rusher. Mostly a speed rusher. Will need to work on being more physical with OTs, but that can be developed. Has a good chance to sneak into the 2nd round.
* James Gayle – Somewhat of an overlooked player. If you combined size, workout results and on-field production, Gayle might rank as the #4 overall guy in this group. Excellent build at 6-4, 259. Mostly played LDE for Va Tech, but they occasionally had him drop back into coverage. That’s not his strength, but he can play in space. Has good speed and quickness. Also strong and physical. Put on the Duke game from 2012 and you’ll see him run over OL. I think he can play in the 4-3 or the 3-4. Might be a 3rd round target.
* Trent Murphy – Love his motor, but I am not a fan of his as an NFL prospect. Just isn’t explosive. Had a good workout at the Combine, but I don’t think you see that consistently on tape. I prefer him as a 4-3 DE.
There are still other names to consider.
* Jackson Jeffcoat
* Will Clarke
* Adrian Hubbard
* Chris Smith
* Trevor Reilly
* Howard Jones