2012 Draft Analysis: Outside Linebackers

The Green Bay Packers changed to a 3-4 defense in 2009, and since then general manager Ted Thompson has not made drafting the outside linebacker position a top priority. Three-time pro bowler Clay Matthews is the lone early-round selection by Thompson at the crucial position in the defense, but after the anemic production in 2011, there is urgency for an OLB to taken high in this year’s draft.

Matthews was the 26th pick in 2009 after the Packers traded two third-round picks to move up from the second round to nab him and this year would be the perfect time for Thompson to use that aggressiveness once again.

The two top prospects this year likely won’t be around at pick No. 28 and if Thompson wants one of them he’ll have to move up. Those two players are South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram and Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw.

Ingram played defensive line for the Gamecocks, but has the athletic ability to move around as a linebacker and would be a very versatile player for defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Upshaw is a player who looks perfect for the 3-4. He doesn’t fit as a DE or OLB in a 4-3, but in the 3-4 he’s physical vs. the run and can be a nice compliment as an edge rusher.

There are a few other hybrid passrushers who have first round grades and could draw Thompson’s interest. Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus, USC’s Nick Perry and Clemson’s Andre Branch were all defensive ends in college and could make transition to linebackers at the next level.

There a number of players who can also be options in round 2 at pick No. 60: Marshall’s Vinny Curry, West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin, Virginia’s Cam Johnson, Troy’s Jonathan Massaquoi, Oklahoma’s Ronnell Lewis and Boise State’s Shea McClellin.

With needs at other positions (Center, Safety, Defensive End) in all likelihood Thompson doesn’t mortgage a high pick to move up for Ingram or Upshaw, but this draft is vital for improving the talent level at the OLB position. Profootballfocus.com had Erik Walden as the worst starting OLB for 3-4 teams and the guys behind him, Brad Jones, Frank Zombo and Vic So’oto are all marginal players as well.

Thompson has to address the position early, which should be either round 1 or 2.


Outside Linebacker School Height Weight Round
Melvin Ingram South Carolina 6-1 264 1
Courtney Upshaw Alabama 6-2 272 1
Whitney Mercilus Illinois 6-3 261 1-2
Nick Perry USC 6-2 271 1-2
Andre Branch Clemson 6-4 259 1-2
Cam Johnson Virginia 6-3 268 2-3
Shea McClellin Boise State 6-3 260 2-3
Jonathan Massaquoi Troy 6-2 264 2-3
Vinny Curry Marshall 6-3 266 2-3
Bruce Irvin West Virginia 6-3 245 2-3
Ronnell Lewis Oklahoma 6-1 253 2
2012 Draft Analysis: Outside Linebackers
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7 thoughts on “2012 Draft Analysis: Outside Linebackers

  • March 20, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    What we really need at OLB is someone who can step in next season and start. Aside from Ingram and Upshaw, do any of these guys strike you as being physically and mentally prepared to have an impact in 2012, or are we looking at a bunch of guys who would need development before they’re ready to take the field?

  • March 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Ingram is un-obtainable
    Upshaw and Perry need a 4-3
    Mercilus has a bust feel
    Irvin is a project and added the extra lbs for the combine ?his game weight
    Lewis showed more as a SPT than a OLB starter
    Massaqoui and Johnson need work
    McClellin seems topped out,diverse,but potential maxed
    Branch and Curry are the best shots of IMPACT day one but I’d go with Curry but won’t cry if it’s Branch

    • Mike Davidsen
      March 29, 2012 at 12:07 am

      I’m convinced Upshaw can succeed in a 3-4 – raw ability makes him a candidate for both systems. What makes you feel the way you do about Mercilus?

  • March 26, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    OLB must be in the 1st two rounds…If not OLB in round one…then DL…we also need a center (Saturday is a one year gap-filler), DB and a safety, as I believe Nick Collins will retire.

    • March 27, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      You’re right John. We really need to address the DL this season. If we could get another stellar OLB pass rusher, that might draw enough attention away from the DL to make a difference, but something has to give there.

      I also agree Nick will probably retire. Even if he were to come back, I’m not sure he’d be the same Nick Collins.

    • Mike Davidsen
      March 29, 2012 at 12:05 am

      Never can count on Ted reaching for a need in the early rounds, as frustrating as it may be on draft day. Ultimately, that mentally is what landed Rodgers in 2005, so I’m okay with seeing him do it year to year. But, at some point, OLB must be shored up.

  • March 27, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    With the additional compensatory picks in this years’ draft, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Thompson trade up.


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