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CA Draft Position Overviews: Inside Linebacker

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of pieces previewing the NFL Draft. We'll have some more detailed scouting pieces as the draft nears as well, but these pieces will serve as a brief introduction to key players at different positions of need for Indianapolis.- KJR

This is the second installment of a series that is meant to bring awareness to some players the Colts should be looking at in the 2014 NFL Draft. These pieces are not done in any specific order. I just hope to go over all the holes the Colts do have. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s piece on wide receivers. This week, the position of focus is inside linebacker.

Some might question if this position is actually thin for the Colts, but I’d argue it is. Jerrell Freeman has been quite the catch, but outside of him the position is filled with question marks. Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner are both at the top of the linebacker core, but Angerer is an unrestricted free agent and Conner is a restricted free agent. Besides, the Colts need to find a solid long-term player to be next to Freeman. Angerer can’t seem to stay healthy, and the other linebackers are serviceable players, but they haven’t proven to be starting material.

Inside linebacker isn’t the deepest of all positions in the draft. The overall consensus is that there are only about six inside linebackers that are expected to go one of the first five rounds. These are the four players that stand out to me and could possibly become a Colt.

Disclaimer: I did not create, nor do I own the highlight videos. I simply tried to find the best video to showcase the skills of these young players. If the selected music is not to your taste, I suggest muting the video and playing some of your own music. Also, finding highlight videos of linebackers isn’t as easy compared to finding them for wide receivers. Some of these will be highlights from just one game, but hopefully you can get the feel for the player from the game.

 

 

Yawin Smallwood

Smallwood has become one of the more coveted linebackers in this draft, and it would probably cost the Colts their second-round pick to get him. Smallwood is the only non-senior linebacker (fourth-year junior) in CBS Sports’ top-25 inside linebackers, but has NFL-ready size at 6’3’’, 236 lbs – and has a frame that suggests he could get even bigger. Besides his size, more of the positive notes on Smallwood are his play against the run, ability to tackle and his zone coverage.

The biggest concern on Smallwood would probably be his play speed. At times, Smallwood seems to be waiting for the play to come to him rather than him just going out and making the play. Whichever team that drafts him will definitely push him to play more aggressive. Smallwood comes in as the second ranked inside linebacker and 76th-overall ranked player in the draft. He is projected to go in the second or third round. Here are his highlights from a game this year: 

 

Chris Borland

Borland is a linebacker’s linebacker. Borland is a very aggressive, passionate player that creates the action and makes plays. He can attack the line to stop the run and also shows good timing in coverage. Borland’s biggest areas of concern are his size and athleticism – he isn’t the best sideline-to-sideline linebacker. Standing at six-feet even, 245 lbs, Borland comes in as the third ranked inside linebacker and  92nd overall player in the draft according to CBS Sports. He is projected to be drafted in the third round. Here are his highlights: 

 

Shayne Skov

Skov is 6’2’’, 245 lbs and is the fourth-ranked inside linebacker and 115th overall ranked player in the draft according to CBS Sports. Skov is a great downhill run-stopping linebacker that would fit perfectly in the Colts’ 3-4 defense. Skov shines in shedding tackles and attacking the offensive line to stop running lanes. Consequently, Skov’s strength plays to his weakness. At times, Skov can find himself being too aggressive and single-minded in a certain situation which leads to him taking himself out of the play. CBS Sports has Skov getting drafted in the third or fourth round. Here are his highlights: 

 

Christian Jones

Coming off a BCS National Championship, CBS Sports has Jones going in the fourth round as the 5th ranked inside linebacker and 124th-overall ranked player in the draft. Jones is listed as the tallest inside linebacker in the top-25 at 6’4’’, 234 lbs. With his combination of size and athleticism, Jones is a wonderful covering linebacker, and also has the speed to pursue plays when they appear. Jones’ concerns come from his lacking ability to shed blocks at times, and also his bad tendency of letting tackles go. Both of those areas can be easily cleaned up, though. Here are his highlights: 

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