These players are usually found in the Defensive End class of the upcoming draft. The optimum size for a Defensive End today is 6’5” 280lbs. and a lot of these guys aren’t blessed with the size or the strength to be a Base End. This year’s Defensive End class is as strong as any position in the draft, due in large part, to a very strong junior class. These guys are players who played Defensive End in college but for various reasons are being projected as Rush Outside Linebackers in the NFL typically in a 3-4 scheme. Some have even called this an Elephant position. Several of these juniors saw the opportunity being presented to them and jumped at the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing football in the NFL.
Every year these are the guys that grab a lot of the headlines going into the draft that have phenomenal showing at the NFL Combines & Pro Day workouts. The most Desirable traits NFL teams seek in OLB prospects:
Instincts- The ability to find the ball, read play-action and mis-direction and quickly recognize whether to play the run or drop into coverage are critical at the OLB position.
Range- Outside linebackers operate in space and must be able to get depth in their drops and cover backs-sometimes even receivers-in the slot. They must have enough speed and range to flow to the ball and chase down backs from sideline to sideline.
Athletic Ability-The weak-side linebacker is expected to be the most productive player on the field by design and generally has the most opportunities to make plays. He must be fluid, flexible and athletic enough to do everything well and serve as a jack-of-all trades-rushing the passer, blitzing, slipping and taking on blocks, playing man and zone coverage.
Some of the best in the business are Julian Peterson, Keith Bullock and Ernie Sims. But the Big difference is a Rush Linebacker in a 3-4 must be a more accomplished pass rusher a player able to come off the ball low to the ground and bend. This position was made famous by the legendary Lawrence Taylor but today’s prototypes have to be Shawne Merriman & DeMarcus Ware. In this draft here are the best Outside Rush Linebackers who are rare physical specimen who have shown the ability to dominate :
1) Vernon Gholston-DE/OLB Ohio State 6’4” 265 lbs.
2) Chris Long- DE/OLB Virginia 6‘3” 274 lbs.
3) Derrick Harvey-DE/OLB Florida 6’4” 260 lbs.
4) Phillip Merling-DE/OLB Clemson 6’5” 270 lbs.
5) Lawrence Jackson-DE/OLB USC 6’4” 261 lbs.
6) Quentin Groves-DE/OLB Auburn 6’3” 249 lbs.
7) Brian Johnston-DE/OLB Gardner-Webb 6’5” 276 lbs
8). Jeremy Geathers-DE/OLB UNLV 6’2” 248 lbs.
9). Jeremy Thompson-DE/OLB Wake Forest 6’5” 264 lbs.
10) Jason Jones-DE/OLB Eastern Michigan 6’5” 272 lbs.