One of the most important days for a lot of Giants fans will be this Sunday as the linebackers take the field and will be on display. We've talked at length about a lot of the players that we'll see during the drills because, let's face it, linebacker is (and has been) a huge need for the team. Workouts will begin at 9 A.M, EST and will be televised on NFL Network. You can also access it on mobile and computer platforms as well. See our complete Combine schedule for more details.
Now, at the combine, there isn't really a difference between "edge-rushing" linebackers and "off the ball" linebackers. Similarly, there's no real difference noted between linebackers that project as inside 'backers as opposed to outside 'backers.
With that said, let's take a look at Mike Mayock's top edge rushers and top LBs. All except for Shane Ray will be participating as linebackers, not defensive line.
Mike Mayock's Top 5 Edge Rushers
1) Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
2) Randy Gregory, Nebraska [Prospect Profile]
3) Shane Ray, Missouri [Working with DL, not LB]
4) Vic Beasley, Clemson
Mayock's Top 5 Linebackers
1) Paul Dawson, Texas Christian [Prospect Profile]
2) Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
3) Denzel Perryman, Miami
4) Eric Kendricks, UCLA [Prospect Profile]
5) Stephone Anthony, Clemson
Mayock talked about a lot of these guys during his pre-combine conference call, which we detailed and summarized. In his words:
"Benardrick McKinney from Mississippi State is a big downhill player ... a poor man's Lavonte David is Paul Dawson from TCU. Probably more fitted to the weak side, but I think he could play in the middle. Denzel Perryman from Miami and Eric Kendricks from UCLA are phenomenal, active, quick, fast inside linebackers."
A linebacker who showed up in one of Monday's mock draft scenarios is Kwon Alexander of LSU. Mayock said Alexander "fits" what the NFL is today."
"Kwon Alexander is a linebacker that can run. Heavy production this year. I think he fits what today's NFL is, which is they're getting smaller and faster at the linebacker position.
"I think he's probably a third or fourth round linebacker. I think he can fit any scheme. He can run. He's not quite as much a downhill thumper, but that's the old school NFL. He fits what the NFL is today."
Interesting to see two Clemson players in Stephone Anthony and Vic Beasley but both could be impact playmakers - Anthony as an inside linebacker and Beasley as a stand up edge rusher. Denzel Perryman reminds Mike Mayock of Jon Beason, which is an apt comparison.
Like I said, you see a lot of familiar faces. In addition, other players that we've talked about will be on display. Hayes Pullard [Prospect Profile] is coming off a very strong Senior Bowl week. Among questions about his athleticism, he's got more to prove than most during this time. He's got everything else you look for.
An interesting prospect that did not make Mayock's top linebackers is Shaq Thompson [Prospect Profile], because he has him rated as a safety. In my overview of him, I disagreed slightly with Mayock:
Yes, and I think he's a WILL linebacker. I don't really want to see him at safety because I think his athleticism is dominant for the linebacker position, while merely "good" for the safety position. I think with the right teachers, he could develop into a cornerstone piece.
Telvin Smith and Lavonte David were roughly the same size as Thompson, so it absolutely could work. We'll all be intrigued by how well he tests out on Sunday.
Speaking of intrigue, another player who blew up the Senior Bowl is Hau'oli Kikaha [Prospect Profile] who is a blur off the edge, but has the scary prospect of already having two major knee injuries. The medicals will be the biggest hurdle for him during the experience.
All in all, there will be 39 linebackers on display on Sunday. Keep it here on Big Blue View for the latest in Combine coverage.