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Who Fits in Denver: Linebackers

Posted Apr 24, 2014

Independent Analyst Andrew Mason lists linebackers that could fit in Denver in the 2014 NFL Draft.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- If the Broncos stay at No. 31, there is a decent chance that the linebackers with first-round value are off the board. That doesn't mean they can't find help at the position, particularly on the second day or the first half of the third day.

Here's a few middle and weak-side linebackers in that range who might fit the bill:

Chris Borland, Wisconsin: On tape, Borland plays fast, makes few mistakes, is instinctive and almost always takes the right angle to the ball-carrier. But measurables affect his status; at 5-foot-11, he was the shortest linebacker at the Combine, and his 29 1/4-inch arms were also the shortest of any linebacker. Those factors, plus a 4.83-second time in the 40, have spurred questions over whether he can play as one of the two linebackers in a nickel package. If you believe that Borland can play every down, he's worthy of an early-to-mid Day 2 pick -- and it only takes one team to cast that vote.

Christian Jones, Florida State: At 240 pounds, Jones should be an immediate fit as one of two linebackers in a nickel package. The Seminoles used him often in coverage and in space, and he can make his share of plays there. His best attribute is his versatility: he started at all three linebacker spots the past three years, including middle linebacker last year.

Kelvin Pierre-Louis, Boston Colelge: The 232-pounder's eye-popping 40 time (4.51 seconds, best among Combine linebackers) will create notice, and he moves quickly to the football, especially in space. He was a playmaker against the run (10.5 tackles for losses last year), but there are questions over whether his game translates to the next level, given that he's been dubbed a "tweener" by some.

Shayne Skov, Stanford: By the numbers and the film, Skov has the goods: he can rush the passer and holds up well against the run. The biggest concern for Skov is his straight-line speed; his 40 was timed at over five seconds in previous years, and was clocked at 5.11 seconds at his workout this week -- although that was coming off a hamstring injury that prevented him from taking part in Stanford's Pro Day session. That could limit him to work as a 3-4 inside linebacker or base-package use as a middle linebacker in the 4-3. But he's intelligent, an exceptional fundamental tackler and can clean up what gets past defensive tackles.

Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut: He isn't perceived as a thumper, but worked often in coverage against wide receivers and held his own. He had solid all-around production against the run (9.5 tackles for loss) and in pass rush (four sacks), and averaged 110 tackles per year the last three years. He makes few mental errors and reacts quickly -- a nice combination. A hamstring injury during his Combine 40-yard-dash prevented him from posting workout numbers there, but he has a previous 40 time of 4.85 seconds.

Telvin Smith, Florida State: With the Combine's second-best 40 time (4.51 seconds), his bona-fides as a speed linebacker are obvious. His range is excellent; there's not a spot on the field he can't reach. He plays -- and hits -- much bigger than than his 218-pound size. But it's that last number which could limit him in the NFL; he's a 4-3 weak-side linebacker only, and in some schemes, might be limited to sub packages. There's little question about his ability to make plays, but he has to be used in the correct spot, and a shift to safety would cut into his strengths in wreaking havoc near the line of scrimmage.

Jordan Tripp, Montana: The transition from Montana to the NFL will be steep for the 6-foot-3, 234-pounder, but he looked comfortable at the Senior Bowl in coverage and against the run. If he can maintain his speed and quickness while adding approximately 10 pounds, and can handle the traffic that he'll have to face inside the box, there is little reason why he cannot have a productive career.

Kyle Van Noy, Brigham Young: The Broncos probably are not the best fit for him, unless Danny Trevathan is moved to middle linebacker. Van Noy tends to operate best in space, and is more of a pass-rush threat. He will have to refine his coverage abilities, but in the right system, should start quickly.

Avery Williamson, Kentucky: Could the Broncos' recent history of UK linebackers continue? Williamson has some of the same attributes as Danny Trevathan: similar speed measurables, excellent tackling fundamentals and above-average instincts for the position. He ably replaced Trevathan, and might be a good value pick for the Broncos playing alongside him.

Others of note in the Day 2-early Day 3 range at linebacker: Lamin Barrow, LSU; Preston Brown, Louisville; Max Bullough, Michigan State; Adrian Hubbard, Alabama; Howard Jones, Shepherd; Christian Kirksey, Iowa; Chris Smith, Arkansas; Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA.