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As stated earlier in the Demario Davis slide, the Lions need to get some depth at outside linebacker. Fortunately, it is one of those positions where good players are always passed over on draft day. Last year K.J. Wright, who was one of the best rookie linebackers last season, lasted until the end of the fourth round, and a similar wait is likely to be in store for Terrell Manning, a junior from N.C. State.
Manning got a lot of bad press for his diminutive playing size in college, which was listed as 225 lbs. However, when he turned up for the scouting combine he had bulked up to 237. Nevertheless, he still showed off the athleticism that made him a terror in the ACC. He ran a 4.71 40-yard dash, jumped 32.5" in the vertical leap, managed 22 repetitions on the bench press and completed the 3-cone drill in 7.18 seconds.
On top of his athleticism, his tape shows a linebacker who is elite in coverage. Manning has supple hips, and combines his speed and burst with good instincts. He can make plays in man and zone coverage, and while he does not reel in a lot of interceptions, he keeps quarterbacks from completing passes in his area.
Manning is also a very good blitzer. In fact, there has been talk of him converting into a pass-rusher if he is taken by a 3-4 team. He has a nice array of moves, excellent lateral agility and the burst to threaten the edge or make the most of free lanes to the quarterback. He should be one of the best blitzing linebackers in the NFL early in his career.
Finally and most importantly, Manning is a good run defender. In college he struggled to get off blockers and was never a very big hitter, but some of these issues may have been taken away now that he has added 15 lbs of muscle. Even at his light weight, Manning had great functional strength, and had the awareness against the run to always be one of the first players to the ball. He is also a very effective tackler who rarely misses tackles. Unfortunately, he rarely delivers a big hit either.
It is very hard to get a handle on exactly where Manning will be taken in the draft. Some people think he will go in the third round, and other think he will be a sixth-rounder. Personally, I think he will still be available when the Lions are picking in the fourth, and that late in the draft he is a steal. He has the refined game to start early in his career, and the athleticism to become a top-15 player. Even if he never becomes a force against the run, his coverage skills and pass-rushing would make him a great nickel linebacker who can bring heat or smother running backs and tight ends.