NFL Draft Capsules -- Linebackers

By United Press International  |  April 24, 2003 at 6:11 PM
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NFL Draft Player Capsules -- Linebackers

E.J. Henderson, MLB, 6-0 1/2, 245, Maryland -- Expected to be the first inside linebacker selected and a probable top-15 pick. Would likely have entered the 2002 draft after his junior year, but had back surgery last April and returned for his senior year. Won both the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player and the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker. Led Maryland with 175 tackles, including 19 1/2 for losses, 8 1/2 sacks and two interceptions last season. Had 150 tackles, including 26 for losses, an interception and two blocked kicks as a junior when he won Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors. Has a short explosive burst to the ball and anticipates well, the primary keys for a middle linebacker. Lacks sideline to sideline speed.

Boss Bailey, OLB, 6-3, 233, Georgia -- The younger brother of Washington Redskins Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, Boss Bailey is considered the top linebacker in the draft. A phenomenal athlete, Boss is often compared to Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks. Skipped the combine, but made up for it with jaw-dropping campus drills for the scouts. Ran the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds and posted a 44 1/2 high jump. Had 114 tackles, 9 1/2 sacks and four interceptions along with three blocked kicks last season. But tends to overrun plays and misses too many tackles. Suffered a torn left ACL in his senior year in high school and his right ACL in the 2000 season opener at Georgia. Came back to start all but one game in 2001 at strongside linebacker and had 65 tackles and five interceptions.

Terry Pierce, ILB, 6-1, 251, Kansas State -- Applied for the draft as a fourth-year junior. A strong tackler at the point of attack. Probably a two-down player in the NFL because he lacks the speed and cover skills to stay on the field in passing situations. Had 104 tackles and five sacks last season.

Gerald Hayes, ILB, 6-1, 238, Pittsburgh -- High-motor player with good straight-line speed, Hayes had 133 tackles, including 19 for losses, two sacks, four passes broken up, two interceptions and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. However, Hayes does not shed blocks well and needs to improve his pass coverage. Has average athletic ability for an NFL weakside linebacker.

Nick Barnett, OLB, 6-2, 236, Oregon State -- Does not have great size or a big frame, but Barnett is a run-to-the-ball type of linebacker who must be in a system that allows him to roam. Can run with tight ends and running backs in coverage. Takes bad angles at times and is slow to shed blocks. Had a strong combine performance with 32 reps at 225 pounds. Recorded 121 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles and seven passes broken up last season.

Victor Hobson, ILB, 6-1, 252, Michigan -- The best player on Michigan's defense last season. Hobson is strong at the point of attack, but barely average in coverage. Excellent upper body strength, but lacks lower body explosion. Probably a late second round or early third round selection. All-Big Ten conference selection last season with 99 tackles, six sacks, four passes broken up and two interceptions.

Bradie James, OLB, 6-2, 242, Louisiana State -- Played strongside and middle linebacker in college. Led LSU in tackles for the second straight season in 2002 with 147 when he played mostly at middle linebacker. Also recorded three sacks and an interception. Lacks top speed and has limited lateral movement.

Clifton Smith, ILB, 6-2, 253, Syracuse -- A four-year starter in college, Smith earned second team All-Big East honors as a senior and was invited to the Senior Bowl. But pulled up with a strained hamstring at the scouting combine, hurting his stock. Is a heavy hitter, but does not have great speed. Had 136 tackles, including 15 for losses, two sacks, an interception and three passes broken up last season.

LaMarcus McDonald, OLB, 6-0, 227, Texas Christian -- Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, recording 113 tackles, including 28 for losses, and eight sacks last season. A playmaker who lacks great size. Excellent lateral movement and change of direction, McDonald should be an immediate contributor on special teams. Played at 209 pounds at the Senior Bowl, but added nearly 20 pounds since then.

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