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Top 5 Linebackers Ranked – Will the Arizona Cardinals Draft One of Them?

May 4th, 2014 at 5:28 AM
By Steve Smith

'Radio City Music Hall 2' photo (c) 2011, David Carroll - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
With the departure of Karlos Dansby to the Cleveland Browns via free agency in March, the Arizona Cardinals could very well be drafting a linebacker in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

The need is certainly there. You never know how the ebb and flow of a draft is going to go however. They will select 20th in the first round.

With that being said, let's take a look at the top five linebackers in this year's class, according to usatoday.com:

1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama: The reigning Butkus Award winner can play either 3-4 inside linebacker (like he was at Alabama) or a 4-3 outside linebacker. Mosley's instincts and comfort in coverage are readily apparent. As a full-time starter in 2013, Mosley attacked both blockers and ball carriers with zeal. The biggest concern with Mosley is his slight frame (6-2, 234).

2. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State: Shazier is 6-1 and 237 pounds. He ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash at Ohio State's pro day and jumped 42 inches at the NFL combine. More importantly, he posted a strong 6.91-second mark in the 3-cone drill. Shazier also arrives at the ball carrier with nasty intentions. Shazier's strength can also be a weakness; his speed can cause him to play out of control.

3. Chris Borland, Wisconsin: Borland may be No. 3 on this list, but he's the best pure football player. He's undersized (5-11, 248 with short arms) and an average athlete. His instincts cannot be questioned, though. Borland made over 420 career tackles — 50 for loss — and 15 forced fumbles. Borland also dropped into coverage with ease at the Reese's Senior Bowl.

4. Telvin Smith, Florida State: Smith is a converted safety playing middle linebacker, and NFL teams are fine with that. Smith weighs 218 pounds, but his ability to run sideline to sideline and fluidity in coverage make him a valuable. At worst, Smith contributes as a nickel linebacker.

5. Christian Kirksey, Iowa: Whereas the previous four prospects primarily played middle linebacker, Kirskey was the Hawkeyes' weakside linebacker. Kirksey flowed to the ball and was asked to cover in space. He does struggle at the point of attack when engaged by blockers.

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Tags: Arizona, Arizona Cardinals, C.J. Mosley, Chris Borland, Christian Kirksey, Football, Karlos Dansby, NFL, Ryan Shazier, Telvin Smith

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