Hey folks. Just trying to keep my end of the bargain. Enthused about this idea.
OLB has been unfairly described on draft boards across the interwebs as one position, when in fact it is two distinct positions that are just as different from one another as right tackle and left tackle. Guys who play well on the weakside may not fair well on the strong side and vice versa. Weakside linebackers ("Wills") are the fastest linebackers on your team. They are adept at zone coverage, but mostly they cover a ton of ground, and should be particularly adept at zipping to the QB. Strongside linebackers ("Sams") do not need to be as fast, but they definitely need to be the stronger of the two, as any path to the backfield must fight through the heavy side of the OL, including the TE, and they must be particularly adept at man coverage, as they are often responsible for TEs.
Our strongside linebacker situation isn't too bad, with our best defensive player, Derrick Johnson, as the incumbent there. Rocky Boiman has been a pleasant surprise as a young, undrafted nobody who, turns out, has a good nose for the ball. I believe Boiman has earned the opportunity to compete to be DJ's backup.
The weakside situation is dire. Donnie Edwards will likely retire this offseason, and that leaves us only with DeMorrio Williams. Williams is easily our fastest linebacker, but his play has underwhelmed this season. He is our current incumbent, but this team definitely needs more talent there. At the very most, we could use a stud to start with D-Will backing up. At the very least, we must have some depth there.
So my list will include my favorite 7 Wills, and favorite 3 Sams.
1. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri -- Call me a homer if you must. Lord knows I've bene susceptible to it before. But Weatherspoon is arguably the best Will this upcoming Draft, and it's very likely he'll be available for our second round pick. He has a great nose for the ball, and his speed is a great fit for the Cover 2.
2. Gerald McRath, Southern Miss -- McRath is a bit raw and will need some work, but his ability to get to the QB is what sells him as a solid 2nd round pick. This team needs a pass rush like oxygen this Draft, and McRath may be a future playmaker.
3. Anthony Heygood, Purdue -- Heygood is, in my mind, the fastest linebacker in the 2009 Draft. His athleticism is ridiculous and Purdue LBs have a good track record in the NFL, but he's very, very raw. He will need good coaching to realize his full potential.
4. Tyrone McKenzie, South Florida -- McKenzie is the opposite of Heygood in terms of attracting teams like the Chiefs: he doesn't have Heygood's ridiculous speed and he's a bit big for the weakside. But unlike Heygood, he has an impeccable track record, averaging over 120 tackles a year for two schools during his college career. Great 3rd round prospect.
5. Zach Follett, California -- Yet another Will who's displayed a good amount of speed and an ability to get to the QB in a hurry. Follett also has the advantage of playing in the Pac 10, which I always like because they face the toughest offenses.
6. Brian Toal, Boston College -- In terms of sheer talent, there are other Wills who are more talented than Toal, but few have his speed. Toal's stock has fallen recently because of a serious shoulder injury, but I love the smarts of Boston College players, and Toal's natural abilities could make an impact at the Combine.
7. Maurice Crum Jr., Notre Dame -- Crum plays well in coverage, and he's a fiery leader that this defense could always use in the linebacker corps. He's a well rounded player but he may be lacking the speed this defense needs on the weak side. Might be worth a shot in the 4th. Might.
1. Brian Cushing, USC -- Cushing is probably the best OLB talent coming out this Draft. Cushing has shifted from position to position in his time at USC, and has excelled everywhere. He is smart, versatile, incredibly athletic and like all USC defenders, suited to the Cover 2. He is a 1st round pick, but not where the Chiefs will be picking.
2. Aaron Curry, Wake Forest -- Curry is a good fit for the Chiefs, should he fall into their laps late in the 2nd (if they trade down) or even into the 3rd. His strength is man coverage, which is exactly what he'll be asked to do in the NFL.
3. Cody Brown, UConn -- Brown will need to improve in his coverage, but there's no denying that this guy makes constant noise in the backfield. This is a Draft more than ever where the Chiefs need to be thinking pass rush, and Brown may fit the bill in the 3rd or 4th.