Outside linebackers in the 3-4 scheme are typically excellent pass rushers with some ability to drop into coverage. Because it’s such a hybrid position, it can be one of the most difficult positions to project. In most cases, the young men drafted to play OLB in a 3-4 are college defensive ends and used to playing out of a three-point stance. Since very few college programs run a legitimate 3-4 defense, scouts are often forced to examine the intangibles over production.
Most of the players listed below played as defensive end in the 4-3 BUT each of them could also fit nicely into a 3-4 scheme at the next level. This is why we see so many drafted in the first round. Most of them can play for any NFL team regardless of the defensive scheme they run.
Defensive Line | Tight End | Quarterback | Running Back
Top 10 3-4 Outside Linebackers:
#1: Jarvis Jones – Georgia Stock: Rising Projection: Top 5
#2: Bjoern Werner 6-4 256lbs - Florida State Stock: Rising Projection: Top 10
#3: Damontre Moore 6-4 250lbs – Texas A&M Stock: Rising Projection: Top 10
#4: Barkevious Mingo 6-4 240lbs – LSU Stock: Steady Projection: Top 10
#5: Dion Jordan 6-6 243lbs - Oregon Stock: Rising Projection: Top 20
#6: Sam Montgomery 6-5 260lbs - LSU Stock: Falling Projection: Top 20
#7: Alex Okafor 6-5 265lbs – Texas Stock: Falling Projection: 1st Round
#8: Ezekiel Ansah 6-5 270lbs – BYU Stock: Rising Projection: 1st Round
#9: Corey Lemonier 6-3 242lbs – Auburn Stock: Steady Projection: 2nd round
#10: John Simon 6-2 260lbs – Ohio State Stock: Steady Projection: 2-3 round
Aldon Smith is coming into his own and proving to be one of the most dominant pass rushers in the game. He’s also given NFL teams a prototype as far as intangibles to look for when selecting pass rushers in the first round. On the other side, Ahmad Brooks has been decent. Nothing special, but not terrible. There is no question the 49ers could use another pass rusher to balance out the defense and keep teams from game planning to stop Smith.
This draft is very deep in terms of guys that look the part. Unfortunately, most of the big names will be gone by the time the Niners pick late in round one. I don’t see any of the top 6-7 players listed above lasting very long. It’s still early, and as with quarterbacks, pass rushers often climb the draft boards as draft weekend approaches.
Ezekiel Ansah from BYU is a freakish athlete that lined up all over the field for the Cougars. He played along the line and often off the edge amassing 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. His versatility and speed (Ansah was originally recruited as a track athlete) make him a viable option late in round one.
Auburn’s Corey Lemonier is a prospect who’s stock, I think, will rise possibly pushing him into late round one or early round two. His junior season wasn’t as impressive as his sophomore season tallying only 5.5 sacks after posting 9.5 in 2011. Still, Lemonier has size and speed that make his first move nearly unstoppable. He needs to learn how to get off blocks if he’s stifled at first attack. Once he figures it out, his high motor will carry him the rest of the way.
Jackson Jeffcoat from Texas could be a big steal if he declares. Jeffcoat missed Texas’ final seven games with a pectoral injury. Prior to the injury, many thought Jeffcoat would be a top 20 pick in this years draft. Having yet to declare, it’s hard to say where Jeffcoat fits in this draft. If he does come out early and tests well, Jeffcoat could very well end up hearing his name called in round one.
Another player whose stock has taken a major hit due to injury is Florida State’s Brandon Jenkins. Jenkins, like Jeffcoat, was penciled into round one prior to the 2012 season. In the Seminoles’ first game, Jenkins suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot and missed the rest of the season. Jenkins fits the mold of a 3-4 pass rusher using his speed and incredibly long arms to beat his opponents. He’ll recover from his injury and produce for whichever team grabs him in the second or third round.
One player to keep an eye on is Quanterus Smith out of Western Kentucky. Smith suffered a torn ACL late in the season and missed the final two games of the season. He still led the nation with 12.5 sacks in only 10 games. His 24 career sacks equals the Sun Belt Conference record, which boasts pass rushers the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora. The injury will prevent him from being drafted where he probably should. Using one of their many late round picks on Smith could be well wroth it for the 49ers.
Projecting pass rushers is difficult. But one this is for sure this top 10 is fluid and likely to change many times as draft day approaches.
When should the Niners target a pass rusher in the 2013 NFL Draft?