Joe Marino’s Senior Inside Linebacker Rankings for the 2014 NFL Draft

Greg Blair has had a productive two-year career at inside linebacker for Cincinnati. (Photo: Jim O’Connor — USA Today Sports)

6. Greg Blair, Cincinnati (6’2’’, 252 lbs)

Since transferring in from junior college, Blair has been a steady two-year starter for Cincinnati. He has accumulated 216 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 11 pass breakups and three forced fumbles over two seasons.

Blair plays sound assignment football with disciplined reads, and he flows well to the football. He is able to shift through traffic and get to the ball while avoiding blockers. His range has improved over the past two seasons, and he has shown the ability to get to the edge and make plays outside the box.

Blair has flashed the ability to match up with tight ends in coverage, and he competes well at the catch point. He can blitz aggressively but has not been used often in that capacity.

Not a great athlete, Blair projects best to playing inside in a 3-4 defense.

For a team looking to add quality depth at linebacker in the middle to late rounds of the draft, Blair could be a good selection with upside to start.

7. Preston Brown, Louisville (6’2’’, 260 lbs)

A three-year starter in the middle of the Louisville defense, Preston Brown has been a consistent contributor. He had one of the best games of his career on the biggest stage of his career when he had 13 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss in the Cardinals’ Sugar Bowl victory over the Florida Gators at the end of his junior season.

Brown is a physical, downhill player who operates well in small spaces. He plays best when the play is in front of him. He takes on blockers well and runs through windows making plays. He is a sure tackler who positions himself well to make plays and has good run-stopping instincts.

Brown does not have sideline-to-sideline range. While he is an aggressive player in pursuit, he does not take the best angles when tracking down players on the edge.

Brown projects as a two-down player in the NFL who could be a run stuffer in the middle of a defense. His limited athletic ability prevents him from being much of a factor in pass defense.

8. Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA (6’4’’, 235 lbs)

Zumwalt is an unheralded player on the UCLA defense who has developed into a steady starter over the past two seasons.

Zumwalt wins with strength and good play-recognition skills. He does a lot of dirty work for the Bruins defense by reading plays with his instincts and occupying blockers while others are free to roam and make plays. Zumwalt holds up well when facing blockers and has flashed the strength needed to shed and make plays near the line of scrimmage.

Zumwalt has limited athleticism and versatility. He is a developmental prospect defensively, but he has been a steady contributor for the Bruins on special teams as well, which is where he can earn a roster spot in the NFL and keep him fighting for a job while he continues to develop.

Andrew Jackson’s film is not as impressive as his statistical production. (Photo: Don McPeak — USA Today Sports)

9. Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky (6’1’’, 257 lbs)

Jackson has been one of the most productive linebackers in college football over the past three seasons. He has accumulated 327 tackles, 42 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.

While Jackson’s statistics indicate he is a playmaking linebacker, his film leaves much to be desired. When Jackson reads plays properly, he flows well to the football and can make plays. He does not, however, read plays well consistently.

Jackson has issues sifting through traffic to get to the ball and is not fluid in his motions. He is not a great tackler and tends to frequently slip off ball carriers.

Jackson is a productive player with late-round upside, but he needs to show some degree of consistency at the East-West Shrine Game and/or NFLPA Bowl, both of which he has received invitations to, to improve his draft stock.

10. Jack Tyler, Virginia Tech (6’1’’, 230 lbs)

Jack Tyler has been Virginia Tech’s leading tackler over the past two seasons. He is an aggressive player in pursuit and a maximum-effort type player. He has a classic, hard-nosed feel to his playing style and plays the game with a great physical demeanor. He is a sure tackler when he gets to the ball.

That said, Tyler is not going to overwhelm anyone with his physical ability or instincts. His course in the NFL will need to be special teams. If he can do play well on special teams and as a situational short-yardage linebacker, he has a chance to stick in the league.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Alabama, Andrew Jackson, C.J. Mosley, Chris Borland, Cincinnati, Greg Blair, Inside Linebackers, Iowa, Jack Tyler, James Morris, Jordan Zumwalt, Louisville, Max Bullough, Michigan State, Positional Rankings, Preston Brown, Prospect Rankings, Rankings, Senior Rankings, Seniors, Shayne Skov, Stanford, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky, Wisconsin

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