The most difficult thing to discern when compiling rankings for outside linebackers and defensive ends, is both picking which position each player is best suited for, as well as which position NFL teams think they're best suited for.
Picking a player to play a position he has little-to-no experience in can stunt his growth, and even lead to a ruined career.
However, on that same note, several of these players have the ability to both play on the line, and play on the outside of a line-backing unit. Read on for the top 10 outside linebacker prospects in the 2010 NFL Draft .
Top Five 3-4 OLB Prospects
1. Jerry Hughes (TCU)
While Brandon Graham is the hot, hyped player after this year's Senior Bowl, Hughes still has to be the best overall OLB, especially as a pass-rushing specialist.
Hughes is bigger, faster, and more athletic than Graham, and he posted an amazing 16.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in 2009. He hails from a smaller school with little experience against top-level competition, but he's still the best stud lining up on the outside.
2. Brandon Graham (Michigan)
Fueled by his solid 2009 season and excellent Senior Bowl performance, Graham is sky-rocketing up draft boards, and for good reason.
He's not as athletic or as fast as you'd like, but few prospects have his uncanny ability to get around the edge and get to the quarterback. He makes things happen even when he doesn't get the sack, and is just loaded with potential.
His skills were originally assumed to be best suited for the line, but he's too small and probably not strong enough to play on the line at the next level. He could rock NFL quarterback's worlds at the next level on the outside of a 3-4.
3. Sergio Kindle (Texas)
If you're looking for a burner around the edge that has a bunch of college sacks to hype his name, Kindle simply isn't your guy, as he only registered six sacks in 2009.
However, in terms of size, athleticism, and natural ability, he's arguably the top OLB prospect. He's the kind of guy that was solid in college, but could really take a leap with good coaching and the right system.
4. Ricky Sapp (Clemson)
Sapp has terrific size and solid versatility, although he probably needs to add some bulk and get stronger if he wants to be able to rush the passer off the line in the NFL.
He's definitely best suited for the outside in a 3-4, and has the athleticism to get it done at the next level. He has minor knee concerns after an ACL injury in 2008, but he posted fine numbers in 2009, so it shouldn't be a major issue.
5. Eric Norwood (South Carolina)
Norwood is narrowly a better prospect than Koa Misi, but he has better speed and overall athleticism, barely giving him the nod.
He's just a beast as a pass-rusher, and his numbers haven't always shown it. With the proper coaching and development, he could be a near unstoppable force on the outside of a 3-4.
Honorable Mention: Koa Misi, Jermaine Cunningham, Jason Worilds
Top Five 4-3 OLB Prospects
1. Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri)
Weatherspoon is an athletic freak with great speed and solid size for the position, while also possessing the versatility to play on the inside as the next level.
However, he's best suited on the outside of a 4-3, as he is a sure tackler with good pass-rushing skills and great natural instincts.
He was extremely productive throughout his college career, and there simply isn't much to like about him. He could be argued as the best overall OLB in the draft, but we're giving hi the top spot as a 4-3 OLB.
2. A.J. Edds (Iowa)
From a physical stand point, there are other linebackers that should (and could) be taken above Edds. However, he still has solid athleticism and speed (as well as excellent size), and is quite possibly the most cerebral strong side linebacker in the draft.
He is as sure of a tackler as they come, and his combine could go a long way in proving whether or not he belongs ranked at the second spot in the 4-3 linebacker rankings.
3. Navorro Bowman (Penn State)
Bowman is an absolute beast with decent size and good speed and athleticism. Physically, he ranks among the best in the class, while also bringing in solid college production (106 tackles in 2009).
His main knock is for his character, as he's had legal issues in the past. It remains to be seen just how much that will affect his draft stock.
4. Dekoda Watson (Florida State)
Hasn't had the most productive college career, and is a bit under-sized, but he still has good tools and solid overall athleticism.
His solid speed and instincts will keep him from falling too far, although a lack of necessity at the 4-3 OLB position could hurt his stock even more.
5. Roddrick Muckelroy (Texas)
Muckelroy has good size and speed for the position, and has displayed sound pass-rushing ability from the outside.
He's solid in pass coverage and great at getting to the ball carrier, but needs work on some fundamental issues.
Honorable Mention: Perry Riley, Rennie Curran, Rico McCoy, Stevenson Sylvestor.