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NFL Draft Preview: Linebackers

Redskins.com previews the NFL Draft position-by-position, with a focus on some of the top rookie prospects available in the April 29-30 NFL Draft. Friday: Linebackers.

The Redskins enter the 2006 NFL Draft with some uncertainty at the weak-side linebacker position. Warrick Holdman and Chris Clemons are first in line to compete for the starting job next season--although it's possible coaches could alternate the two just as they did early last season.

There are no such issues at the other two linebacker positions. Strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington and middle linebacker Lemar Marshall are two of the team's leaders.

As for the April 29-30 NFL Draft, vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said the depth at linebacker is top-heavy.

"There's not a lot of depth there," he said. "It drops off fast, too. There are probably eight or nine guys who will go in the top two rounds. Then after that, there'll probably be a drop-off to the second day."

It's safe to say the Redskins will be watching the linebacker position closely. It's possible that the team could select an outside linebacker with the No. 53 pick. It's also possible that coaches could move Lemar Marshall back to the weak-side spot and draft a middle linebacker at No. 53.

Redskins Draft History: Perhaps the greatest Redskins draft choice ever came at linebacker. In 1965, the Redskins selected Chris Hanburger in the 18th round of the NFL Draft. Hanburger went on to play 14 seasons in Washington and was a nine-time Pro Bowl representative, the most in franchise history.

Top Prospects

A three-year starter for the Buckeyes, Hawk is regarded as the most complete and NFL-ready outside linebacker in the draft. The 6-1, 243-pounder is thought to be a great sideline-to-sideline 'backer, but can still play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 alignment. Last season, he logged 121 tackles, 9.5 sacks and one interception. Hawk is expected to be a top 10 pick in the draft.

Greenway is an aggressive outside linebacker who, at 6-2 and 242 pounds, best fits on the weak-side. He suffered a serious knee injury in 2002, but has rebounded the past three years to become one of the elite linebackers in the draft. He recorded a career-high 156 tackles, two sacks and one interception last season.

Ryans is perhaps equally as noted for his academic honors as he is for his athletic prowess. At 6-1 and 239 pounds, he is versatile enough to play inside or outside linebacker. He logged 76 tackles, five sacks and an interception last year.

Sims, an outside linebacker, has vaulted up draft boards in recent weeks and could be drafted in the mid-first round. He is somewhat undersized at 6-0 and 220 pounds, but he is explosive tackler and has a nose for the ball. He had 72 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions last season.

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Second-Round Prospects

A 6-2, 234-pound outside linebacker, Howard did not play against elite competition at UTEP, but he has great speed and a lean frame that allows him to sift through traffic and get to the ball-carrier. He recorded 85 tackles, three sacks and an interception last year.

Regarded as the top middle linebacker in the draft, Jackson visited Redskins Park on April 7 as part of the team's local college workout. The 6-0, 228-pounder might fit best as a weak-side linebacker. He logged 137 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions last year.

Playing alongside Greenway, Hodge helped formed a dominant linebacker corps for Iowa. A 5-11, 233-pound middle linebacker, he was Iowa's leading tackler the last three years. (He logged 158 tackles last season.) Hodge is regarded as an instinctive player, but may need to bulk up in the pros.

Playing opposite Hawk on the Buckeyes' linebacker corps, Carpenter was solid. He is a classic strong-side linebacker, given his 6-2 and 254 pound frame, but scouts say he maintains good quickness in getting to the ball. He had 49 tackles and eight sacks last season.

A prototypical weak-side linebacker who is 6-2 and 235 pounds, McIntosh would be ranked higher except that he has battled injuries each of the last two years. He still had a standout senior season for the Hurricanes, logging 89 tackles and 5.5 sacks.

Nicholson is regarded as a fiery player--perhaps too fiery. He has had several off-field incidents that have raised red flags. A 6-0, 241-pounder, he is thought to be the complete package as an outside or inside linebacker. Last season, he had 100 tackles, one sack and two interceptions for the 'Noles.

A two-year starter, Alston has been a consistent playmaker for the Cardinal. He flies around the field with impressive quickness and as an outside linebacker will benefit a defense that is predicated on speed. He logged 52 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season.

Late-Round Possibilities

Parham was a standout for the Cavaliers the last three years. He steadily improved his game each year and last season recorded 103 tackles and nine sacks. The 6-3, 248-pounder does not have great speed and scouts say he may be best suited as a run-stuffing linebacker.

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Other LBs to Watch

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