Monday, February 20, 2012

Five to Watch: Outside Linebackers

This is the first part of a five part series leading up to the 2012 combine. Keep an eye out this week for each article examining prospects the Detroit Lions may be interested in drafting come April.

Mock drafts abound in our post-Super Bowl slump as we eagerly await the 2012 draft. The combine is this coming weekend and promises to shake up everyone's boards.

Based on my analysis of the free agent market for Middle Linebackers I am going to assume that the Lions will be able to re-sign Stephen Tulloch.

There are two scenarios that I believe are going to lead the Lions to drafting a linebacker high in the 2012 draft: 1. They will be unable to re-sign Tulloch which will force Levy or Durant inside leaving a hole at OLB, and/or 2. They will look to upgrade on Levy who struggled mightily in 2011.

It is surprising to me how all over the place these five guys are on everyone's draft boards. Make sure you watch these prospects this weekend to see where they finally land:

Zach Brown, North Carolina (6'2", 230)

DeAndre Levy is a restricted free agent this year and hasn't played consistently well in his three years in Detroit. Justin Durant is in the final year of his contract. I don't think Brown is a plug-and-play kind of pick, but has the potential to be a stud in Detroit's front seven for years to come given some time to develop. With a strong combine Brown will likely be off the board by the Lions pick in the first round, though if he is still available the Lions would be wise to take him.

Lavonte David, Nebraska (6'1", 225)

David looks to be a player that could start from day one, but has less upside than Brown. If he's still on the board in the second round it would be a no-brainer for the Lions to take him.

Travis Lewis, Oklahoma (6'2", 227)

Lewis is another potential day one starter with limited upside. He would have the added bonus of possibly being able to play both outside and middle linebacker positions.

Sean Spence, Miami (6'0", 224)

Spence right now looks like an athlete with borderline starter talent. The concerns around his play are mainly his lack of speed, so watch his 40 time closely.

Bobby Wagner, Utah State (6'1", 232)

Wagner played inside in college, but could easily kick outside in the NFL which provides the versatility that the Lions love. He'd be a great pick in the second round.

Coverage of Linebacker workouts begins at 9:00am on Monday, February 27 on the NFL Network and NFL.com.

Are there any other Linebackers in the draft that we should be keeping an eye on? Leave a comment and let everyone know who you're looking forward to seeing this weekend.

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