The 2nd round was a gold mine for linebackers in this draft, as Te'o, Minter, Brown, Bostic and Alonso all got picked in the 2nd round. With Alec Olgetree taken late in the 1st round, where does that leave us to fill our last remaining hole on the team? Well, surprisingly, with several decent options, in either the draft, or free agency. Let's explore both.
1. Kevin Reddick, NC
Here's a guy that can play both inside and outside, but he has a 4th round grade in my cumulative ranks, with an average ranking of 120 overall. There's a decent chance he'll be there for us in the 4th, but as the next best option, some other team may snag him first. NFL.com has this to say about him:
Reddick is yet another North Carolina defender with a somewhat turbulent career but possesses the size and athleticism NFL scouts covet in a prospect likely to be picked on the second day of the draft. The four-year starter presents some position versatility in the NFL. He could start in the middle in the NFL as a thumper for a 3-4 team, or, if he proves he has the athleticism, could possibly be a candidate at strongside linebacker for some teams. This position versatility, his production over four seasons starting, and excellent size make Reddick a likely late second to early third day candidate.
2. Nico Johnson, Alabama
This guy has a 5th round grade, with an average overall ranking of 152 in my cumulative ranks. He's more of a run-stopper, but could fill a similar role as Jasper Brinkley. Here's what NFL.com had to say:
A tough-nosed, assignment-sure linebacker, Johnson is a strong run defender who has been overshadowed as a part-time starter on a star-studded Alabama defense. However, his unselfish play has been noticed, and he will likely be a mid-round selection for a 34 team in need of a middle linebacker.
3. Keith Pough, Howard
Here's a small school prospect with potential. He grades out as a 5th round option, with an average ranking of 163 overall in my cumulative ranks. Like Reddick, he has some positional versatility, and here's what NFL.com has to say about him:
Pough is a tackles-for-loss machine, using his length and speed to chase ballcarriers from behind, as well as attitude to attack them in the hole. His tall, lean build and movement skills could make him a mid-round pick for teams looking for a coverage ‘backer or potential blitzing threat on the weak or strong sides of the formation.
4. Michael Mauti, Penn State
Here is yet another 5th round prospect, with a similar overall ranking as Johnson and Pough, averaging out at 169 in my cumulative ranks. He also has some positional flexibility, and NFL.com says this about him:
The third Mauti to play at Penn State, Michael is an extremely intuitive and instinctual player. He's far from a remarkable athlete, but he is coordinated in changing direction, and is fundamentally sound in taking on blocks and making tackles. Versatile enough to play multiple linebacker spots. Tough and physical, but his injury history is a major worry. His medical exams are going to be crucial to his draft stock.
After that we're looking at late round prospects like AJ Klein, Steve Beauharnais, Vince Williams and Bruce Taylor. I would be surprised if we didn't draft one of the four prospects above at some point tomorrow. But if we don't then we have the following free agent veterans we could also take a look at.
1. Carlos Dansy
Dansby is an elite talent who had one of the most productive seasons of his career last year for Miami with 134 tackles. The 31-year-old would provide a solid veteran presence alongside Greenway and Henderson. He's a 3-down linebacker who might be the best available option in free agency at this point. He's more of a 3-4 inside LB, but that doesn't mean he couldn't transition to a 4-3. He's also already garnered interest from the Bills and Bengals. He's probably looking at a 1-year, incentive-laden deal.
We've already had talks with Urlacher, and the 35-year-old may be looking for more money than we can afford. The fact is, Urlacher is old, and has looked like an old linebacker for a couple years now. But that doesn't mean he couldn't be a decent rotational player on a 1-year deal. If we draft one of the players above, and convince Urlacher to sign a small, 1-year deal, that could be a win-win for the team as his leadership and insights can only help the younger guys on the roster.
3. Bart Scott
Scott has lost a step, and is no longer a 3-down LB at age 33. But as a 2-down, rotational option, we could do a lot worse.
4. Larry Grant
At the worst, Grant provides some much needed depth as he looked great spelling Patrick Willis a year ago. He hasn't seen the field much, but he has been productive in limited action in the past. At age 28, and with little wear and tear on the body, he could be an intriguing free agent signing.
There are lots of options still available in the draft. I would have preferred that we drafted one of the "Top 4" LB in the draft (Ogletree, Te'o, Minter or Brown), but I can't say I'm disappointed with the results of yesterday's draft. Getting Floyd, Rhodes AND Patterson is beyond my wildest draft dreams. I still can't believe all of those guys fell in our laps. While we're sacrificing our need at MLB a little bit, I don't think we're without options. As you can see above, there are still plenty of directions our team can go to fill that last big hole. And who knows, maybe some kind of player for player trade involving Gerhart and/or Robison can still happen if we go for a starter on some other team. I wouldn't rule anything out with Rick Spielman....draft genius.