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Risers & Fallers of the 2010 NFL Draft - Linebackers
Michael Courter
February 8, 2010
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Risers

Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri

The highly productive senior entered his final campaign with the Tigers with a bottom 2nd round grade from the scouts and his performance in each step of the pre-Draft process so far has helped him become a 1st round consideration.  Starting with yet another outstanding statistical season (111 tackles, 14.5 TFLs, and 4.5 sacks) which helped him earn a Senior Bowl invitation, “Spoon” took full advantage of the all-star opportunity earning raves from the North squad coaching staff, which was manned by the Detroit Lions this year. Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham gushed about Weatherspoon seizing the leadership role and creating a commanding presence in the middle of the defense and Lions head coach Jim Schwartz like his versatility to play all three linebacker spots.

Koa Misi, OLB, Utah

Misi (6-2, 245) received a top of the 6th round grade from scouts last spring as a defensive end, but has dramatically increased his Draft stock by showing he is fully capable of manning the rush outside linebacker spot for 3-4 defensive schemes. In the week of practice leading up to the Senior Bowl, Misi displayed both the strength to take on fullback blocks, while also possessing the speed to stay with running backs and tight ends down the field in pass coverage.  Misi’s impressive Senior Bowl showcase and an expected good showing at the Indianapolis Combine now have him surging toward the 2nd to 3rd round neighborhood.

Daryl Washington, ILB, TCU

Washington earned a bottom 4th round from scouts at TCU’s Junior Day last year when he measured a little over six feet (6014) and weighed 215 pounds.  Taking over for the departed Jason Phillips, Washington immediately started to boost his Draft cause during his senior season by leading the team in tackles with 109, including 11 tackles for loss and two sacks. He weighed in at 226 pounds for the Senior Bowl and looked just as fluid in his movement, but with more explosiveness in his tackling, showing the versatility to play inside or outside in the SAM linebacker role.  Though still considered light for inside linebacker at 226, Washington’s great Senior Bowl week will give him a head of steam heading into the Combine, where he is expected to perform well and make him a very strong 2nd round consideration.

Donald Butler, ILB, Washington

Butler (6-1, 235) started his senior season with a priority free agent grade from NFL scouts and then kicked off his pre-Draft process with a highly productive final campaign for the Huskies, leading the team in tackles with 94, including 15.5 tackles for loss. Following his successful collegiate season, Butler made proper use of his Senior Bowl experience, impressing NFL decision-makers with his speed and explosion at the point of attack, natural pass rush moves that consistently helped him defeat running backs blocks and a smooth change of direction ability.  Butler’s Draft stock has now crept up to the 4th round with still the Combine and his Pro Day still on deck.

Damaso Munoz, OLB, Rutgers

Considered somewhat undersized (6-0, 220) for the linebacker position in the NFL, Munoz possesses outstanding athletic ability and speed and despite not being in any post-season all-star games, teams are aware of this consistent playmaker for the Scarlet Knights.  Several scouts have commented that although Munoz’s size may push him into the late rounds of the Draft, his game film shows the type of player that can make an NFL 53-man roster and “stick in the league for years”. His run/pass recognition is outstanding, recognizing pass routes without staring them down, a rarity in a college level player.  His interior and perimeter pass rush are effective and his run defense is excellent, especially when “covered up”(having a defensive lineman in front of him), making the 5th year senior an ideal outside linebacker in a 4-3 defensive scheme.  Most teams will assume he’s a Will (weakside) linebacker but in Rutgers bowl game win over Central Florida, UCF would consistently flip their TEs and Rutgers’ adjustment put Munoz in the SAM (strong side) role in an Over front off the ball, resulting in the Miami, Florida native being the most dominant defensive player of the game, on either side of the ball, totaling six tackles, a TFL, an interception, and a defensive touchdown (returning an onside kick for a score to clinch the win).

FALLERS

Justin Cole, OLB, San Jose State

The 6-3, 241 pound defensive end was given a bottom 3rd round grade last Spring after a promising junior season.  Cole’s draft stock began a downward spiral with a disappointing senior season that produced just 57 tackles, nine for loss and only three sacks against no noticeable top-flight competition, also included the senior being benched for one game as well. But Cole was the unexpected beneficiary of a pre-Draft gift when he was brought in as a last minute replacement to the Senior Bowl when Wisconsin OLB O’Brien Schofield tore his ACL early in the practice week.  However, he failed to seize upon the opportunity, looking more like a defensive end posing as an outside linebacker, reacting too aggressively to the play-fake and not being able to stay with running backs releasing out to the flat in pass coverage.  With Cole failing to convince NFL teams that he can make the switch to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, his Draft projection is now sinking to late round territory as the dreaded tweener label now creeps up in discussions about him.

O’Brien Schofield, OLB, Wisconsin

Started his final season at Wisconsin with a priority free agent grade from the NFL, primarily due to a lack of film from his junior season and Schofield blew up, wowing scouts with eye-catching production to the tune of 62 tackles highlighted by 24.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. The 6-2, 248 pound defensive end was nearly impossible to slow down as an edge pass rusher and many teams began to forecast him as an outside linebacker in 3-4 defenses.  After a promising start to his Senior Bowl week, Schofield unfortunately got his knee caught in the turf in a one-on-one pass rush drill against UMass OT Vlad Ducasse and the former Badger suffered a torn ACL in his knee, which will also make him a spectator at the Indianapolis Combine later this month, doing untold damage to his draft prospects. Based on talent and potential, Schofield is still likely to get drafted, probably between rounds 4 and 6.

Micah Johnson, ILB, Kentucky

Johnson, who elected to return for another season at the University of Kentucky, after receiving a middle rounds projection from the NFL advisory committee last December, put his best foot forward in his final season as a Kentucky Wildcat leading the team with 105 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and a sack. But fate was not kind to the fifth-year senior, who incurred a serious knee injury to his MCL in the waning moments of Kentucky’s 21-13 los to Clemson in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, knocking him out of the Senior Bowl and casting a large shadow of doubt over his participation in the Indianapolis Combine.  The collateral damage to his Draft stock drops him into the late rounds as teams will bank on him being there late due to the looming health concerns.   

Underclassmen declaring for the 2010 Draft

Rolando McLain, Alabama (6-3, 255)…expected to go in the early-to-middle 1st round

Navarro Bowman, Penn State (6-1, 235)…late 1st round to early 2nd projection 

Rennie Curran, Georgia (5-10, 225)…130 tackles, 5 TFLs

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