2011 NFL Combine: Linebackers That Have A Lot To Gain And Lose

TUCSON AZ - SEPTEMBER 18: Mad man Brooks Reed (42) crushes Iowa Quarterback Ricky Stanzi (12) during the third quarter of the college football game at Arizona Stadium on September 18 2010 in Tucson Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 34-27. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Some folks here at Niners Nation have implied or stated that outside linebacker is one of our major priorities. While agree fully, I don't think it would hurt to bring one on in the later rounds. Possibly mid-rounds depending on the player. But it seems as though the general consensus around would be that we are set at inside linebacker with Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, and Navorro Bowman who may be Spikes' replacement when he decides to hang 'em up.

There are going to be some pretty good pass rushers in this draft, and some very solid options at inside linebacker. The talent is stacked front heavy in the draft though. After about the third round or so, the talent sort of fizzles out. So this leaves the question, is it going to be important to grab a an outside linebacker relatively high, or are the Niners set. The other question is, will the Niners look in to free agency?

The spots for this position are pretty secure. But the combine will still have some impact depending on 40-times, agility tests, and of course the strength tests. The top prospects have enough game film to keep them set where they are ranked. However, the interview process could make teams pass a guy up if he is saying the wrong things.

Since it doesn't look like too many of the higher rated guys have too much to lose, I would like to look at the mid to later round guys that have a bunch to gain.

LINEBACKERS

Most to gain:

Casey Matthews (Oregon), 6'1", 235 LBS: Matthews, younger brother to Clay, for most of the season did not get the media attention he deserved until the National Championship game. To bet against that bloodline, would be like betting against Muhammad Ali in his hey-day. There's no question about his character, and there's no question about his talent. But still, he is rated in the mid rounds. He will have this last opportunity at the combine to impress scouts and coaches with his skill-set, and personality.

Mark Herzlich (Boston College), 6'4", 250 LBS: Overcoming a rare form of cancer, Herzlich proved that he is not going to let anything get in his way of success. His level of play wasn't the same as the year before he was diagnosed, but it was still relatively high. People took notice of the drop off, but he can boost his stock with his positive attitude and will to persevere and succeed. Herzlich has much to prove, but a good combine performance could nudge him up a bit and earn him some extra money.

Brooks Reed (Arizona), 6'2", 255 LBS: In watching Reed a few games this season, and the Senior Bowl, it almost seems that Clay Matthews was cloned and stuck back in there at the college level. Reed could easily lock up a second round status should he continue to do what he did all year up to this point. Mike Stoops is big on defense down in Arizona, and it is quite evident that he took his time teaching this gifted athlete the tricks of the trade. In the week preceding the draft, we may see Reed pretty high up there on the mock drafts.

Kenny Rowe (Oregon), 6'2", 235 LBS: Rowe could be the most underrated prospect at his position. His production dropped some from 2009 to 2010, but his 11 sacks in '09 was among the top at his position. Rowe was a defensive end at Oregon, but there is no way he will be playing that position on Sunday's. He's just way too small. I imagine that he will be paired in the linebackers group even though he is not listed as such on the list below.

Tom Keiser (Stanford), 6'4", 245 LBS: Keiser was one of Harbaugh's guys on defense that did really well. He is a well-rounded backer that has the ability to drop in coverage and get after the quarterback. For the last three years, he has done well at both. He can open up some eyes at the combine this year if he does well. Even if he has a stellar combine, Keiser may just wind up being one of those later round steals that flies under the radar.

Cliff Matthews, (South Carolina), 6'4", 265 LBS: Cliff, in the last two years, has accumulated 13 sacks. His coverage skills on the outside will need work, but he can put pressure on the quarterback. In the right situation, Matthews can be a solid starter at the next level. Though he may never be elite, he may be able to shimmy his way up a few slots should he do well on February 23rd - March 1st.

 

Here are the rest of the invitees at linebacker:

AYERS, AKEEM

 

UCLA

9

LB1

OB

HUNTER, JEREMIHA

 

IOWA

9

LB10

OB

IRVING, NATHANIEL

NATE

NORTH CAROLINA ST

9

LB11

OB

JONES, GREG

 

MICHIGAN ST

9

LB12

IB

JOSEPH, ELIJAH

 

TEMPLE

9

LB13

IB

LEMON, ORIE

 

OKLAHOMA ST

9

LB14

IB

LLOYD, GREGORY

GREG

CONNECTICUT

9

LB15

IB

LUTRUS, SCOTT

 

CONNECTICUT

9

LB16

OB

MATTHEWS, CASEY

 

OREGON

9

LB17

IB

MCCARTHY, COLIN

 

MIAMI-FL

9

LB18

IB

MILLER, VONNIE

VON

TEXAS A&M

9

LB19

OB

BELLORE, NICHOLAS

NICK

CENTRAL MICHIGAN

9

LB2

IB

MOHAMED, MICHAEL

MIKE

CALIFORNIA

9

LB20

IB

MOTEN, ADRIAN

 

MARYLAND

9

LB21

OB

MOUTON, JONAS

 

MICHIGAN

9

LB22

OB

ROLLE, BRIAN

 

OHIO ST

9

LB23

OB

SHEPPARD, KELVIN

 

LOUISIANA ST

9

LB24

IB

SMITH, DARRYL

D J

APPALACHIAN ST

9

LB25

OB

SMITH, DERRELL

 

SYRACUSE

9

LB26

IB

STURDIVANT, QUAN

 

NORTH CAROLINA

9

LB27

IB

THOMAS, JAMES

J T

WEST VIRGINIA

9

LB28

OB

WHITE, CHRIS

 

MISSISSIPPI ST

9

LB29

IB

CARTER, BRUCE

 

NORTH CAROLINA

9

LB3

OB

WILSON, LAWRENCE

 

CONNECTICUT

9

LB30

OB

WILSON, MARTEZ

 

ILLINOIS

9

LB31

OB

WRIGHT, KENNETH

K J

MISSISSIPPI ST

9

LB32

OB

DENT, AKEEM

 

GEORGIA

9

LB4

IB

FOSTER, MASON

 

WASHINGTON

9

LB5

OB

HERZLICH, SANDON

MARK

BOSTON COL

9

LB6

OB

HOGUE, DOUGLAS

DOUG

SYRACUSE

9

LB7

OB

HOMAN, ROSS

 

OHIO ST

9

LB8

IB

HOUSTON, JUSTIN

 

GEORGIA

9

LB9

OB

 

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