(Doc’s note: I’d like for ya’ll to join me in thanking Lawrence Marino for stepping up to give us a hand in the realm of IDP. You might have noticed we haven’t done much with IDP here at Razzball and I can tell you it is for a lack of trying. Lawrence really knows his stuff and runs the New Jersey Fantasy Football League, a highly competitive dynasty league which you can follow by clicking on the link back a spell.)
Congratulations to Al Davis and the Raiders front office for finally getting this one right. McClain is hands down the strongest defender in this draft. Not the greatest pass defender but his run stopping skills are fantastic. He’s already working with the starters at OTA’s and will do everything he can to keep it that way. The defense as a team could still use a bit more veteran support and leadership but for now the Raiders should and will embrace their new LB and develop him into the All-Pro LB I think he could be. And yes, The Raiders still went after speed but at least they waited until the 2nd Round this year. I’m going to enjoy watching him play as the top Rookie LB every week as should you.
With the vacancy left behind by Karlos Dansby I strongly feel that this is Washington’s job to lose. As one of the fastest LB’s in the draft I think the Cardinals have really found themselves a gem in the 2nd Round. TCU isn’t exactly known as a Pro factory but the program has made great strides the last 3-5 years. The leader in tackles on the top defense in 2009, Washington will leave his mark in Rookie OTA’s and eventually when camp breaks. Newly acquired Cardinal and All-Pro LB Joey Porter will be sure to spend some time with Washington molding and harnessing the intensity that he himself displays on the turf. HC Ken Whisenhunt speaks very highly of the TCU program and product and leaves little to doubt in the way of Washingtons ability to learn the playbook and develop into a leader on the team.
Recent injuries to DE Peria Jerry and DB William Moore have given off the impression that with the exception of LB Curtis Lofton, the Falcons draft has been somewhat of a disappointment. Well you can put that all to rest now. Even without the addition of Weatherspoon this Atlanta defense was projected to do great things in 2010. Now that they have the depth and flexibility they needed, players like Lofton and stingy veteran Mike Peterson will get plenty of time on and off the field. Remember, healthy football players are happy football players. Expect Weatherspoon to make an immediate impact on special teams and eventually challenge for and win the starting ILB job ahead of Steven Nicholas and possibly Coy Wire.
With the lack of depth at ILB that the Chargers have, picking up Donald Butler was certainly the right move. He’ll get some great looks in camp and will be playing behind one very talented LB in Stephen Cooper. Butler only stands at 6’ 1” – 245 lbs. Certainly not the biggest LB in the draft but what he lacks in height he makes up in grit and determination. Butler is as elusive and powerful as any LB in the draft and should be able to spell Cooper easily during camp and preseason.
Big Lee in Big D. I get it. Jerry Jones gets it. Wade Phillips will eventually get it…right? Sean Lee is a great fit in Dallas. He can come in and challenge for a starting position from the get-go without a ton of hungry challengers. With the exception of Demarcus Ware, The Dallas LB core isn’t exactly putting the fear into any OC’s of late but with the addition of Lee they have made some strides to improving and building another formidable defense around some very young and potentially talented defenders. A three year starter at good ol’ Linebacker U, Lee can only make a difference if he turns heads in Rookie OTA’s and again in Cowboys training camp.
6. Phillip Dillard, New York Giants, Selected in the 4th Round (115th Overall)
While the “other” New York pro football team (no not the Bills) was busy trying to beat the Colts in the AFC Championship last season the G-Men were trying to find a new MLB to supplant Antonio Pierce as the leader of their defense. Well, the Giants may have just found their man. If you haven’t heard of Phillip Dillard yet I don’t blame you. I say this because camp hasn’t opened and the Giants took a chance picking this two year starter out of Nebraska who did not get much national exposure. Dillard finished second behind some guy named Ndamukong Suh in many defensive categories for the Cornhuskers. He is driven and has all the tenacity a Giants LB should. Since there is a need to find a bonafide starter at the LB position, the Giants will need to give Dillard a chance to show he’s got the minerals to play big league ball in the Big Apple. Along with second year LB Clint Sintim and 1st Round pick Jason Pierre-Paul I feel the Giants may be getting their D-Line and blitz personel back on track.
The Patriots addressed a need at LB by drafting Spikes. Along with the emergence of Jerod Mayo and the veteran leadership of Tully Banta-Cain, the Pats however are still pretty thin at that position. Tedy Bruschi was the last memorable player to fill the LB slot for the Patriots and now that they have Spikes in the mix they can feel confident knowing their LB core is improving. This 3-year starter for the Gators is big, strong and knows how to find the ball. One of the only collegiate players to record four INT for TD’s in a season, Spikes has all the tools to be a great LB in the NFL. He plays like Demarcus Ware off the edge and can wrap up ball-carriers like Patrick Willis in the open field. As long as he doesn’t get lost on the depth chart he should find his way on the field for at least one down each defensive series as a rookie.
8. Sergio Kindle, Baltimore Ravens, Selected in the 2nd Round (43rd Overall)
When using the word “beast” in a sentence, some things that come to mind are the childrens’ story, Beauty and the Beast, and the college dorm staple “Old Milwaukee” beer. Well now you can add Sergio Kindle to the list of references for the word “Beast”. A complete steal for the Ravens at the 43rd overall pick, Kindle has all the tools to become an amazing LB in the NFL. Kindle knows how to go hard and finish strong. He can lead or be a great follower in this Baltimore system as well. With mentors like Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs to help him along there is no reason why, with his skill set, that he does not see significant time on the Ravens defensive squad. Don’t let the run-ins with the police or multiple knee injuries deter you from viewing Kindle as anything but a possible future Pro-Bowl LB in Baltimore.
9. A.J. Edds, Miami Dolphins, Selected in the 4th Round (119th Overall)
The first thing I noticed about Edds was that he always seemed to be all over the ball. Screens were being sniffed out and he was tackling runners with aggression and anticipation. That’s something every DC wants to see in a Rookie LB. Iowa also knows how to breed Linebackers so it came as no surprise that Edds was a converted TE and would be in my top 10 Rookie LB’s. I do love a LB that demands an opposing Offensive Coordinators attention but unfortunately Edds will be fighting for a starting spot and will most likely spend some time on special teams before seeing any major playing time in Mike Nolan 3-4 defense. I like his passion, the ability to cover the field and his willingness to devote time in the film room. It will only add to his already growing repertoire of ways to beat pulling guards and leading fullbacks.
This highly decorated Ute played mainly as a DE. He made 36 of 38 collegiate starts, 12 at LDE, 12 at RDE and 10 at NT. Great football instincts, has powerful hands and arms that help shed defenders and force fumbles. Sitting behind Charlie Anderson (Sam) and Cameron Wake (Will) on the depth chart, a strong outing in camp could easily push him up into either OLB position beside newly acquired ILB Karlos Dansby. Born Nawa’akoa Lisiate Foti Analeseanoa Misi, the Dolphins hope he lives up to his name. Will see some time on kickoff and punt coverage while making the full transition to OLB in 2010. Competing for a roster spot with Edds may also bring out the best in both players. Also, try to put out of mind the level of success Bill Sheridan has had with LB’s and you will be fine.