Outside Linebackers can be huge difference makers for NFL teams—especially in the 3-4 where they blitz a lot.
4-3 outside linebackers are more valued for their coverage skills on tight ends, and running backs also supporting the run.
A good outside linebacker has great strength and acceleration to the football; good instincts and awareness; and they should be able to shed blocks and play with a solid base.
They also play sideline to sideline—being relentless, attacking the ball, and making big plays.
Pittsburgh's James Harrison and Green Bay's Clay Matthews are big reasons why their teams made the Super Bowl.
Here are my Top 10 Outside Linebackers for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Beal will play either 4-3 defensive end, or 3-4 outside linebacker.
He is very explosive off the ball; has pretty good speed and quickness with good movement; and is able to cover well.
He was a three time First-Team All-Big 12 performer. He hits hard and was very reliable for the Sooners.
However, he does need to get better at rushing the passer from a standing up position.
Beal isn't that great against the run and doesn't keep containment well. He also doesn't always give full effort on plays.
Wilson was a very productive player for the Huskies. He totaled 449 tackles in his four years at Connecticut, leading the Big East in 2009 and 2010.
He has a great motor and plays with high intensity; he can cover running backs and tight ends really well, but he is a bit undersized and could add more weight to his frame.
At times he plays a little too aggressively, and gets burnt on misdirection plays. He also doesn't shed off blocks well.
Wright improved every season he was at Mississippi State.
He made a lot of tackles, and has good size and decent speed. He gets off of blocks well, and is a big hitter who plays with a love for the game that is apparent.
He isn't very good in coverage and open space. Wright doesn't have good agility or change of direction, and often plays a little too out of control—taking bad angles.
Moch is a workout warrior. He has run in the 4.4 range forty, which is incredible for his size. Also, reports are that he has run in the 4.2 range.
He is a very good tackler and could be an excellent 3-4 outside linebacker. He's got a ton of potential, and should be able to cover well—even though he mostly blitzed in college.
Moch doesn't have good instincts and relies too much on his athletic ability. He needs to get a better football IQ and to develop more pass-rushing skills.
Acho is transitioning from playing a 4-3 defensive end at college, to a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.
He was one of the only bright spots for the 2010 Texas Longhorns getting First-Team All-Big 12.
Acho is a student of the game, and will work hard be great at whatever position he plays. he has long arms and good strength. He's a high effort player who also is a pretty good athlete. He plays with good leverage, and has good movement.
Acho is very raw and will have to improve in coverage. He isn't very quick to the football, and is really more of a project player.
Foster was absolutely ridiculous in 2010, with 162 total tackles and 6.5 sacks. He has a great work ethic and instincts to the ball.
He's got good size and bulk, and could create some real havoc in the NFL. Foster has great burst, and shows a great passion for the game.
However, he doesn't have good agility and plays too high when getting blocked. He would get burnt if he had to cover running backs and tight ends often.
Ayers can play outside backer in a 3-4 or 4-3.
He's a good tackler that plays with good technique for the position; he does well in coverage, and intercepted six passes in the last two years with the Bruins, in addition to having 14 sacks.
Ayers does not play aggressively. He is relatively slow to the football, and takes too long to figure out where a play is going. He doesn't have great pass rushing skills, and would probably fit better as a strong side 4-3 linebacker.
Houston will be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. He's a very hard worker and has excellent size for the position. He stays low coming around the edge to get to the quarterback, and is solid against the run.
Houston has great explosiveness and is a workout warrior.
Houston does have a tendency to give up on plays where he doesn't think he can make a difference all the way across the field. He also still needs to improve in pass coverage and learning the position.
Carter was a bright spot for the 2010 Tar Heels, and has been a consistent performer while there.
He flies to the ball with his speed, and blocked six kicks at North Carolina. He doesn't easily make mistakes and is a good tackler. Carter is a high character guy with a lot of potential.
Carter tore his ACL towards the end of the year, and before that was likely a Top 15 pick; however, he probably will fall to the second or third round.
He needs to trust his instincts more, and he'll be even faster to the ball—making more big plays.
Miller was the best player on the field at the Senior Bowl.
He plays with a high intensity and motor, totaling 27 sacks during his last two years at Texas A&M. He'll be a disruptive force in the NFL at a 3-4 outside linebacker position. He also has the ability to play outside in a 4-3. He's got a lot of potential.
The downside to Miller is that he overruns plays too much—taking him out of plays—and doesn't have elite upper body strength.