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Linebackers: Mayo, Connor top prizes

Let's take a look at the top linebackers available in this weekend's NFL Draft.

In the SBN Mock Draft I took Connor, but I wouldn't complain if the Giants landed Mayo, either.

Let's look at both of these guys, and some of the other top linebacker prospects who could be available to the Giants.

I ran NFL Draft Countdown bios on Mayo and Connor previously. So, for those two players I will use the ESPN NFL Draft Tracker.

Jerod Mayo, Tennessee

He could be gone when the Giants pick at 31, or he could last into the second round. Projects as a very good player.

ESPN Draft Tracker
(First round)
Mayo has experience playing inside and outside linebacker at Tennessee. While he showed NFL potential in both spots, he seems like a more natural fit on the weak-side where he will get more protection. Mayo is far from a finished product. He is blessed with an outstanding combination of size, speed and athletic ability, which was on display at the combine. But in order to become a good starting linebacker in the NFL, he needs to be more consistent as an open-field tackler and learn to take on blocks more effectively.

Dan Connor, Penn State

Can play inside or outside, but many experts think his long-term future is inside. The successor to Antonio Pierce?

ESPN Draft Tracker
(First round)
His best fit in the NFL will be at middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. Connor will need to add some bulk and improve his ability to take on blocks in the phone booth. He also has some room to improve when it comes to his technique in man-to-man coverage. Connor is a bit more physical and fluid than former Nittany Lion teammate Paul Posluszny (2nd round to Buffalo, 2007), which is why we expect Connor to come off the board earlier in this year's draft.

There are also several other quality linebacker prospects who will fall past the first round. Let's look at some of them.

Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma

NFL Draft Countdown
Round 2 or 3
Could play in either a 43 or a 34 defensive scheme ... Might not have all the physical tools you look for but is just a football player ... The type who won't be a 1st rounder but will play like one.

Erin Henderson, Maryland

Maybe it's because I am a Maryland grad, but I wouldn't mind seeing the Giants take this guy if they don't land Connor or Mayo.

NFL Draft Countdown
Round 2 or 3
Brother, E.J., was a two-time consensus All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year ( 2001-02 ) who won the Butkus and Bednarik awards while at Maryland and currently plays for the Minnesota Vikings ... Projects outside in a 4-3 defense or inside in a 3-4 ... Not quite the prospect his brother was coming out of college but he's a real good all-around 'backer who will be an above average NFL starter as long as he can stay healthy.

Philip Wheeler, Georgia Tech

NFL Draft Countdown
Round 2 or 3
Began his career as a defensive end ... Played the middle in college but many are projecting him to the weakside at the next level ... A talented playmaking linebacker with solid physical tools and a well-rounded game.

Other names to remember

-- Xavier Adibi, Virginia Tech
-- Tavares Gooden, Miami (FL.)
-- Geno Hayes, Florida State
-- Jordan Dizon, Colorado