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Our scout dives into a full plate of linebackers

Today our Dolphins In Depth scout Chris Cordero looks at the linebackers at the Senior Bowl.

I think we all agree the Dolphins need to address their aging, regressing linebacker corps. Although Cameron Wake had the look of a good pass rusher, we still have no clue if he can become a three-down player while the futures of Joey Porter and Jason Taylor in Miami are uncertain.

Inside, Akin Ayodele didn't perform in 2009 up to the standards of 2008. He was exposed in coverage and wasn't a factor otherwise. Channing Crowder, meanwhile, was hurt a substantial part of the season. Again.

Here's the 3-4 OLBs and ILBs: 

 
 
INSIDE LINEBACKER
 
The Dolphins lack depth here, as well as great talent, and this area must be addressed. Top prospect Rolando McClain of Alabama is an underclassmen and not participating and top seniors Brandon Spikes of Florida and Sean Lee of Penn State are not participating. Many of the prospects in this game are undersized for the middle in a 3-4 as well.
 
1. Sean Weatherspoon - 6-1, 241lbs - Missouri
Career numbers: 388 tackles, 12 sacks, 3 fumbles forced, 4 interceptions, 2 touchdowns
 
Strengths:
-I would be remiss if I didn't start off with his attitude and personality; his teammates love him and he gets everyone fired up and does not stop yapping (I am a fan of that personally) Channing Crowder and him would drive opponents crazy. He is very enthusiastic - a leader.
-Very smooth and athletic - can get out and cover backs and tight ends; makes plays sideline-to-sideline.
-Hits with power - saw him level Mardy Gilyard in one of the practices.
-Strong and explosive - showed power in pass rushing drills.
-Very comfortable in coverage.
-Has a great football IQ and great instincts; flows to the ball and fills gaps due to great reactions.
 
Weaknesses:
-Tends to go for the big hit and not use proper technique when tackling.
-At times would appear heavy legged and take false steps - but this was few and far between.
 
Overall Anaylsis:
If you would have asked me at the beginning of the college football season - he would have been the best LB prospect in the draft. Period. However, he had a lackluster senior season, for his standards, and slipped some in the eyes of most. This week should change that - he is firmly a 1st rounder. I can see him going anywhere in the late Teens to the 20's and if by some miracle; he makes it to the 2nd Round the Fins should jump all over him. He might even be worth trading down for and picking up some extra picks. Is the type of athlete and personality that can define a team.
 
2. Jamar Chaney - 6-1, 241lbs - Mississippi State
Career numbers: 285 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 fumbles forced, 2 interceptions
 
Stengths:
-Smart, tough, disciplined - 4 year starter and leader for an SEC defense.
-Locates and flows to the ball in the run game.
-Has good movement skills; adequate speed.
-Gets good drops in coverage.
-Stays with his assignment and does not get caught out of position often.
 
Weaknesses:
-Lacks ball skills in coverage.
-Not very physical and could be a better tackler.
-Has had some injuries.
 
Overall Analysis:
It looked as if the coaching staff took a liking to him; as Coach Sparano spent some time with him on the field. Would be a great value late in the draft (should we pick up a 5th Rounder or if he fell further); but with the lack of depth and talent at the Inside Linebacker position in the draft - he will probably go earlier (probably 4th) as he should test well at the Combine.
 
3. Donald Butler - 6-1, 244lbs - Washington
Career numbers: 235 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 fumbles forced, 2 interceptions
 
Strengths:
-Very athletic and faster than I thought for a guy his size; smooth, explosive athlete.
-Breaks down and wraps up as a secure tackler.
-Has good recognition skills and is quick to diagnose run/pass/screen pass (blew up a screen pass to a RB pretty nicely in practice).
-Keeps his head up and locates the ball.
-Is very good when moving upfield.
 
Weaknesses:
-Despite his speed; showed slow feet in drills.
-Has trouble in coverage and will struggle outside of the box.
-Also had trouble taking on blocks at times.
 
Overall Anaylsis:
Was a late invite to the game; but showed enough where he should get drafted. Would be a good value if he is available in the later rounds (Rounds 6-7). Is a good athlete who has bulked up and managed to keep his athletecisim - but I worry that with his lack of coverage skills it would be redundant to what the Dolphins already have. Again, with the lack of Inside Linebackers at the combine - he could go earlier than he is rated.
 
HONORABLE MENTION: A lot of the undersized linebackers looked very good in the practices. Daryl Washington of TCU in particular stood out - he has excellent coverage skills, play recognition, and is a hard hitter. If he was a bigger he could be a very high draft pick; as it stands he will at least be a 3rd Rounder. Darryl Sharpton of the University of Miami (the U!) had a decent week as well - looking good as a pass rusher and laying some big hits. Dekoda Watson from Florida State had a rather non-descript week - but seems to be a good athlete. Phillip Dillard of Nebraksa and Roddrick Muckelroy of Texas also didn't stand out and lined up at various linebacker positions. A.J. Edds - who has good size for the 3-4 - looks very good in coverage and could be a good "nickel" backer.
 
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
 
The key to creating pressure on the Quarterback in the 3-4 defense; Many 3-4 Outside Linebackers are college defensive ends - so it is a very projectable position. Some of the better prospects not at the game are Sergio Kindle of Texas, Ricky Sapp of Clemson, Jerry Hughes of Texas Christian and some projectable underclassmen - Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida and Jason Worlids of Virginia Tech. Despite those players not being here; this might have been the strongest position at the game.
 
Here are my rankings for the Senior Bowl 3-4 Outside Linebackers
 
1. Brandon Graham - 6-1, 263lbs - Michigan
Career numbers: 138 tackles, 28 sacks
 
Strengths:
-A pass rushing terror - explodes off the line at the snap and has an array of moves including a sick spin move and a fantastic swim move; locks unblockable at times.
-Is a football player in every sense of the word - tenacious, a leader and is going to whoop you and tell you about it - great prescense on the field with a nonstop motor and great energy.
-Has great strength - heard him say that he was going to bench 225 lbs at the combine over 40 times and I don't think he was kidding!
-Comes off the ball low and hard and with great leverage and technique.
-Better than average speed as he was able to blow by Vladimir Ducasse on more than one occasion.
 
Weaknesses:
-How will he hold up in coverage?
-Can get locked up at times by better Offensive Lineman when they are able to extend and get their hands into him.
 
Overall Analysis:
Wow! Was the best prospect on either team at any position all week. If he wasn't a 1st rounder he definitely is now. The only concern with him is can he make the switch to 3-4 OLB and whether he can be decent in coverage versus backs and tight ends. Absolutely worth trading back for and picking up some extra draft picks. Reminds of Dwight Freeney and former teammate LaMarr Woodley. Could be a star.
 
2. Cameron Sheffield - 6-3, 256 lbs - Troy
Career numbers: 137 tackles, 13 sacks, 1 fumble forced, 1 interception
 
Stengths:
-Is very quick and athletic.
-Plays with leverage and strength.
-Has a nice swim move.
-Didn't embarass himself in coverage drills and came into this game already listed as a linebacker.
-His potential as a pass rusher is apparent. 
-Has good lateral mobility and short area burst.
-Great motor.
-Beat West Virginia OT Selvish Capers with a beautiful spin move on one play.
 
Weaknesses:
-Will need work in coverage despite looking OK in drills.
-Trouble holding up at the Point of Attack.
-Can be fooled by play-action and is late to react at times.
 
Overall Analysis:
Like his teammate Brandon Lang - you could find yourself comparing them to former University of Troy superstar DeMarcus Ware. He would seem to be a better fit in the 3-4 defense than Lang as he has experience playing linebacker already. I think he has great potential and seems to want to improve. Could be a good value in the late rounds.
 
3. Brandon Lang - 6-4, 260 lbs - Troy
Career numbers: 138 tackles, 21 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
 
Strengths:
-Strong upper body and has decent hand usage to keep blockers off of him.
-Is fast and agile off the edge, and comes around with good leverage and low pad level.
-Is powerful and explosive as a pass rusher.
-Fairly quick off the snap.
-Holds up well against the run.
 
Weaknesses:
-As is the concern with most of the prospects - how we he hold up in coverage (although he would seem to be better than most as has some experience).
-Needs to add more strength.
-Has trouble holding ground.
 
Overall Analysis:
It's easy to compare him to fellow University of Troy graduate DeMarcus Ware - but he is not the ridiculous athlete that Ware is. Despite the fact that these players are in great demand - he could fall to the Dolphins in the later rounds of the draft - 5-7 range - with the great depth at this position. Has the foundation to be a good pass rusher.
 
4. George Selvie - 6-4, 247lbs - South Florida
Career Numbers: 206 tackles, 27 sacks, 6 fumbles forced
 
Strengths:
-Very quick off the snap and has some nice pass rush moves; looks explosive at times.
-Knocked Tennessee Offensive Tackle Chris Scott on his rear with a bullrush; showing his strength.
-Able to split the double team and get to the QB.
-Did well against the run and held his own.
-Looked quick and fluid in linebacker drills run by Coach Mike Nolan.
-Plays with good effort.
 
Weaknesses:
-Has a very small lower body and has had some injury history - needs to add strength and bulk so as to prevent injury.
-Will need some work in order to make the transition to 3-4 OLB.
-Can get engulfed by the double team.
-Not an elite athlete and will not have the best timed speed.
 
Overall Analysis:
Has fallen off after his sensational sophomore season. Still, is a talented pass rusher and judging by how well he looked in the drills - could have an easier time making the move to OLB than most of the prospects here. Will more than likely be a 3rd Round Pick - but would present a good value for the Dolphins in the 4th.
 
5. Koa Misi - 6-3, 244lbs - Utah
Career numbers: 198 tackles, 10 sacks, 5 fumbles forced
 
Strengths:
-Already making the transition to Linebacker here; so he will have a leg up in that regard.
-Has good balance and plays with strong effort and a high motor - wants to learn and get better; with a good work ethic.
-Looked fairly natural in coverage in most drills and scrimmages.
-Has good speed sideline to sideline and very good athleticism.
-Good quickness and lateral mobility.
-Has a good push with decent strength and explosiveness.
 
Weaknesses:
-Is not the pass rusher that some of the other prospects here are and was often a step late getting to QB.
-Needs work on his tackling.
-Lacks ball skills.
-Over pursues on run plays.
 
Overall Analysis:
Had a strong week here and could be moving up the draft charts - could play in a 4-3 at this point as well. If he can come up with some pass-rush moves he could be pretty good. That being said - I don't see him as being better than a 5th Rounder - but could go before that.
 
HONORABLE MENTION: In all honesty; after Brandon Graham - most of these guys were interchangeable - there are just so many of them and they all have their pluses and minuses. Antonio Coleman of Auburn looked pretty good in most of the practices and is a good athlete that didn't look terrible in linebacker drills. Justin Cole of San Jose State is another great athlete who has experience playing outside linebacker, and really every position outside of the secondary on defense, already and could also warrant a late round look. Austin Lane of Murray State might be a little big to make the move - but he is worth a mention as he plays with a high motor. The one disappointment for me was Eric Norwood of South Carolina - I had very high hopes and he looked like nothing more than a one-trick pony. He struggled in space and lacked any feel for coverage - but did block 2 punts.
 
Tomorrow: A recap of the game as well as reports on some top Interior lineman.

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The short armed Brandon Graham has the best motor of any in the draft. He has the drive and the ability, but will we trade down to get him? Will he rise high enough not to? Impressive showing.

Hey Kenny - you're obviously here reading this blog so I guess that makes you someone who reads whats wrong more than whats right.

Good stuff again, Chris. Graham was very impressive as was Weatherspoon - either one would look great in Agua and Orange!

where nj ?

I suprise nj no here.

Graham looks solid. Depends on who he is playing against.

Weatherspoon reminds me of Zack Thomas with more speed and more height which makes him a very strong option.. I think he might drop to the early second round... Either way someone is getting the total package with him... Great attitude! That's what u need to develop someone further than they already are

graham would be a great addition to miami ! i think he could play olb in the 3-4. never really seen him drop into coverage but he can't be any worse than porter.

Good stuff. Gives me something to think about. I'm not sure which way way we will go. I'm not sure which is the greater need? a sure tackling IL or a speedy rush who can sack/presure the QB every play ALA the two teams playin in the SB. I would go for the latter, but knowing how Tuna produces, I am sure he will draft the former 1st and try to find a quality rush man in the rough.

Excellent work young Chris.

Armando, Chris can either of you address whether Graham can make the switch to standup 3-4. Is he fast enough? Can he cover?

Nuts!

Actually Kenny, we don't care what YOU have to say. Drop dead loser! Go back to your circle jerk.

Great stuff as usual boys!

Mando, you live blogging the Pro Bowl? I would attend.

Alex in Hialeah is nj phin fan .

I love Graham and Weatherspoon. It would be great if we end up picking up BOTH... we need help with pass rush, which Graham could provide... we need help with LB pass coverage vs TE (got torched by TEs this season), which Weatherspoon could provide. If I had to pick one, I would go for Weatherspoon based on stronger need. Wake should play more downs, which will help on pass rush.
Go Phins

Great stuff Cordero!

Mando,

Can we have Aloco as a guest blogger on a day when there is no football news to keep things interesting?

Carlito, heading to the Probowl today??? I'm going around 4:00 today

Na, not going out to the stadium today... Have fun though! I hope there are lots of fin fans there

Brandon Graham put on a show all week and has made himself a lot of money in the process. Good for him.

However if you asked me to choose only one player I could have that played yesterday it would be Sean Weatherspoon. The guy would be the perfect foil for the Dolphins linebacking corps - probably even a better compliment than Rolando McClain.

On certain plays yesterday, he kept scrambling QBs in the pocket or kept them to short gains on scrambles forcing them to punt, he covered the most electrifying player in the game - Dexter McCluster (a player who is 80 pounds lighter than him), and made an interception.

As mentioned, he was also a vocal leader who backed it up. Having Sean cover the tight ends and Channing tackling the RBs while having both of them tell you how much they enjoyed doing it all day long would make opponents dread playing us for a change.

real stop the madness at 11:11 am

look like finheavenblows would attend anything Mando does....hmmmmmm.....finheaven blows good

I know we are talking lbs but you guys gotta check Andrew Quarless out of PSU. Very good receiving TE. Great grab in the 3rd or 4th round. He would be a very big target in the redzone.

tim stim, Quarless looks like the type of complement the Dolphins need to Anthony Fasano at TE. The administration knows they need a fluid, quicker athletic TE to stretch the seam which is why they have scouted Jimmy Graham so intently.

Another player with similar skills is Ed Dickson of Oregon.

Quarless is also a pretty tough blocker also, granted some of the top DL men might give him problems.

Weatherspoon and Graham certainly caught everyones attention. Based on what the Phins need, I would take Weatherspoon if he was there at the right spot. I would pick him over McLain only because I think he would be a better fit for the Phins. Hopefully, Weatherspoon would be there in the 2nd rd when the Phins pick

tim stim, Fasano is a very capable blocker and will be back. I don't think the emphasis will be put on how the TE can do in the trenches, it's what he can do in te opponents secondary.

But you're right - the more things he can do - the better for him.

We all know about rolando Mcclain , whom i like the add i was the first one to talk about him back in Sept. He was be a future pro bowler. Spikes who is slower and not as quick as mcclain is notch below,. In fact , i'm disappointed that along with spikes , Sergio kindle and jerry highes didn't participate in the senior bowl. If your that competitive , you'd think one would want to go against some of the best and perform in front of the scouts. Worrying about injury or not performing for fear of dropping in draft status isn't away to indure to the miami coaches heart, Kindle needs alot of work in the run game , pass coverage and getting bigger and stronger.

TnFinFan,

I think the option that increased it's stock more than any other for the Dolphins would be to trade down in the draft.

Hopefully someone will get a man crush on CJ Spiller or Dez Bryant and trade up. If the Dolphins can get an additional 2nd rd pick and perhaps end up with Dan Williams, Sean Weatherspoon, and Brandon Graham in the first 2 rounds - that would be phenomenal.

Personally I would find it hard to believe it Graham fell to the 2nd round. Yes, he's on 6'1 but to a team running a 4-3, that's the same size as Dwight Freeney - and to a team running a 3-4 - that height is not an issue at all when you put him in space.

As we mentioned on my very successful live senior bowl chat ( thanks guys , you were great ) , graham and witherspoon played great and were all over the field. These two solidified themselves as sure fire 1st rounders. They'll be drafted in the 20-30 range. They're both on miami 's rader now !! Like i said yesterday , i think miami is better of trying to find a trade partner and move down and take a shot at dan williams , brandon graham , sean witherspoon and get a extra draft pick.

Mark in Toronto. I agree on moving down in the first and taking Dan Williams. At 6'3" 327#, he has good size and his production at UT-Knox was pretty good. In 09 he had G-13, Sacks 2.5, Tackles 70 (solo 36, Assisted 34), TFL 9. The question is where should he go in the 1st round. 12th I think is too high. Your thoughts.

Tnfinfan , i attented the tenn-ucla game this year in knoxville. Willaims will go in the 20 30 range of the 1st round.

By the way TNFinfan, My family and i own a home in dandrige right on douglas lake / dam . We also own a business in the area, Are you familier with dandridge ??

im looking at brandon graham out of michigan and it says hes had 20 TFL and 10 sacks on the year, 6-2 263lb

sry make that 163 total tackles in career

TnFinFan,

I think #12 is probably too high for all the players that would help the Dolphins the most. No doubt they will work on trading down and acquiring as many players as possible.

One guy that would be an option with a 3rd pick and wanted to see more of was Eric Norwood of NC State. He had a dissapointing week but a very nice career. Might get him on the cheap.

The 20 - 30 range is about where I think Williams will go, keeping in mind that 3-4 NT are so hard to come by. Weatherspoon and Graham improved their stock so the question is will either/both be available in the 2nd or will either/both climb into low 1st. After I've done some more research of underclassmen and team needs, I'll get a better feel for which rd all three of those players should go

He measured out at 6-1 and short arms at the senior bowl. That along with him never playing OLB which means he hasn't played in space or dropped back into coverage knocks him down in the 20-30 range. otherwise graham would be top 10.

UtFinFan, the most knowledgeable football guy I know is a big Michigan fan and told me months ago to really watch Graham. Actually he even bragged 2 years ago about the way Graham manhandled Tebow 2 years ago in the Capital One bowl.

For what it's worth he also advised me of Donovan Warren, CB, Michigan. Since this isn't an area of need or even want for the team, we won't probably ever discuss him.

Tnfinfan . Graham and witherspoon are LOCK # 1 draft picks. you can count on that,

I live close by on Cherokee Lake. I know Dandridge well. One of my favorite restaurants is there.
Mark - Spot on with Norwood. I plan to get together with UtFinFan and rewatch the senior bowl and see if we can pick up some more insight on players like Rolle, Gilyard etc.

yes ur right mark we have that position filled but i thought i would look into him a little bit i noticed him standing out over his time

NJ its going to come down to what other team needs are and there are always intangibles we never know about.

Tnfinfan , we are opening a new place in oakridge called oakridge pizzeria and grill on feb 14 or 15th, please stop by and we'll hook you up . . We are partners in the gondalier pizza and reausterant in jefferson city.

TnFinFan, I've argued with NJ about Mardy Gilyard going way back. No, he's not the big stud Brandon Marshall type but man he was a man on fire for Cincinatti all year.

If he could be acquired on the cheap (i.e. 4th round) I would be all for it. He's a true home run hitter with 4.4 speed and a demon on special teams. Would really help this team I think and allow them to finally stop waiting for Ginn to emerge and make him earn his roster spot.

Tnfinfan , after you watch the senior bowl game , you'll see that graham and witherspoon are in no way shape or form getting out of the 1st round. Gylyard was the best offensive player in the game by far. he had over 100 yds .

NJ , looks like you guys had a good time during the live chat yesterday. I missed it because I was at the Gasparilla activities in Tampa. I caught up on some of the pages, lots of good stuff. I am just recovering from too many festivities, if you no what I mean.

Ace, i'm glad you enjoyed it. It was fun. I had one girl named kris actually crying and thinking all the posters ( including mark , bootang , carlito , etc ) were all me talking to myself. Can you believe this BUFFOON !! How slow can you be ??? LMFAO !!!

Mark - true about Donovan Warren. Watched as many Mich games as I could. Graduated from there. Gilyard was my favorite WR in the senior bowl and I kept wondering if he would slide to the Phins in 3rd or 4th.
NJ - for the sake of my alma mater I hope Graham gets picked high, but for the sake of my beloved Phins I hope he's there in the 2nd. After yesterday's performance its hard to argue against him and Weatherspoon not getting out of the first.
Good luck with the new restaurant. I've eaten at the Jeff City Gandolier and the one in Knoxville. When I'm in Oak Ridge, I'll try your new one.

Yes NJ, gylyard is a player that stands out but his 6'1 180lb frame will hold him back in the NFL

TinFinFan,

If you mention NJ's name you might get a 15% discount that is given to posters on this blog.

Tnfinfan, glad to hear it. did you ever meet a guy named nick running things at the jefferson city gondalier ??

Nick the Greek????

LOL @ mark . yeah that's my brother, he's a big redskins fan, Poor kid. :)

does greek pizza come with feta and goat meat? ;)

Haven't met Nick but will ask for him next time I'm there

LOL @ carlito. There's about 50 different toppings, Greek salad pie is one of them. feta cheese and olives. All the pizza is pan pizza . it's f'n delicious. ask tnfinfan. no goat meat

Carlito, I think you are confusing goat and lamb.

Redskins fan??? Sheesh - talk about no future. Dan Snyder will be there messing things up for generations.

gilyard could gain a few lbs to catch up with the NFL cause we dont need another WR like ginn whose main objective is to get to the sideline

Gondoliers is pretty good. Sometimes we order for my office.

Tnfinfan , now that the new place in oakridge is opening he won't be at the gondilier in jefferson city. We'll/He'll be at new place in oakridge because we own that on our own. Go there , let me know on here before you go . i'll mention it to him. I might be there right after the grand opening.

agreed, Ut. Gilyard may put on a few pounds. Easy to forget these are just kids and their bodies will mature. His frame is not exactly small so there's lots of room to add pounds.

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