2016 NFL Draft Rankings: Inside Linebacker

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

21.) Gionni Paul, Utah (5’11 | 232 | 4.76) – Undersized backer who doesn’t have the size NFL teams look for, but Paul deserves a shot at the next level due to his elite football instincts. Every time I’ve watched Paul he is around the ball and packs a surprising punch for a smallish LB. The numbers back it up; Paul played in just 20 games for the Utes after transferring from Miami and in that time had 170 tackles, 8 interceptions, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 4 fumble recoveries. Paul is a powder keg who can hit between the tackles, play effectively in zone coverage, and provide some much needed intimidation on the middle of the field. He’s a good value on day 3, but could surprise and become a useful 3-down ILB at the next level.

22.) Zeek Bigger, East Carolina (6’2 | 216 | 4.67) – Ironically Bigger’s biggest weakness is that he needs to needs to get bigger (sorry). Despite his lack of bulk, Bigger was extremely productive in college with 140 stops last season, 3.5 sacks and strong play in coverage (2 INTs, 4 pass break-ups). Bigger could contribute immediately in sub-packages and be an ace on special teams. I’m higher on Bigger than most and think he could become a 3-down ILB after a few seasons in an NFL weight room.

23.) Beniquez Brown, Mississippi St ( 6’1 | 238 | 4.78) – Scouts are mixed on Brown and I’ve seen him projected anywhere from round 2 to an undrafted free agent. Brown is a run-stopping thumper inside who plays with consistent effort, diagnoses plays well, flows to the ball, and drives ball carriers back when he makes contact. Brown’s biggest problem is shedding blocks though and too often gets caught up by blockers on the 2nd level and driven from the play.

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Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

24.) Luke Rhodes, William & Mary (6’2 | 239 | 4.68) – Dominated for two years at the FCS level. Rhodes reads plays well and aggressively attacks holes often taking on lead blockers to open things up for teammates, but still racked up around 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons. Rhodes slips blocks well and is fast enough to be a sideline-to-sideline run stopper and hold his own in coverage. Rhodes effort level, ability to avoid blocks, and football instincts could earn him some defensive snaps and should at least make him an asset on special teams.

25.) Travis Feeney, Washington (6’4 | 225 | 4.64) – Tall, rangy LB prospect who should be a demon on special teams whether he develops as a linebacker or not. Feeney is probably best suited as a weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, but could fit on the inside in Fangio’s hybrid 3-4 as a coverage LB in sub-packages and occasional blitzer.

Feeney has the height to cover TEs and the speed to cover RBs out of the backfield, but will struggle to shed blocks in traffic against the run. He’s shown good blitzing instincts and could be used off the edge at times as well. Feeney is a long-shot to develop into a starting LB, but could be an asset on special teams and in coverage which is good value from a day 3 round pick. The Bears need help on special teams and Feeney should excel right away on coverage units.

¹ The Packers are going to sign McClellin to a veteran minimum deal, move him to OLB and he’s going to have double-digit scaks this year. Book it. He’s probably going to hurt Jay Cutler at some point of the season as well. It’s inevitable.