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The octuple-P draft system: linebackers and safeties

March 9, 2009

In this final edition of the storied PPPPPPPP, we’re going to look at the linebackers and safeties in the 2009 NFL draft. As usual, each group will get its overall grade and then the star of the class will be evaluated using the patented octuple-P draft system, where we’ll compare him to a current or former NFL star to evaluate his eventual effectiveness in the league. As we mentioned in the last edition, defense is usually the foundation of championship teams so clubs will reach for defensive players in positions of need.

Inside LB class strength: B

As more and more teams begin to operate the 3-4 defense, inside linebackers are finding themselves in demand. The ’08 draft saw only one inside ‘backer taken on the first day (Detroit took Colorado’s Jordon Dizon in round 2, instead of yet another wide receiver), but this year there are two surefire first round MLBs from two of the biggest football colleges in the entire US of A. USC’s Rey Maualuga and THE Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis head the class, with Maualuga likely to go off the board first.

Maualuga: being sued by Troy Polamalu for image rights.

Maualuga: being sued by Troy Polamalu for image rights.

Maualuga was a four year starter in Southern California, playing in 4 bowl games over that span and winning the Chuck Bednarik award (best defensive player in the country) in 2008. He brings tenacity and hard-hitting ferocity to the middle of the field, and makes wide receivers quiver at the thought of running a shallow crossing route. Along with his ability to dish out pain cake, he’s a smart player who played for a pro-style college team at USC, so he comes ready to play. He should be a 10-year starter and a fan favourite for his passionate play and massive hair.

Maualuga’s octuple-P rating: Al Wilson

Behind the mammoth Maualuga and James Laurinaitis, there’s a significant drop-off in talent, especially given that TCU’s Jason Phillips announced this week he has an ACL tear. LSU’s Darry Beckwith and Darnell Ellerbe from Georgia could squeeze into day one aswell, but aside from the two big names, all other inside backers figure to slip into the 3rd round and onwards.

Outside LB class strength: A

There are an increasing number of quality pass-rushers who play defensive end in college and translate into 3-4 outside linebackers: last year we saw only Vernon Gholston (who looks bust-tacular thus far) go in the first round, but in ’09 the ‘tweener’ class is a lot stronger. Although the best outside linebacker in the draft (Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry) played the position in college, there’s a glut of first-round tweener talent behind him and that earns this group an ‘A’ grade.

Curry: Wake Forest never had it so good.

Curry: Wake Forest never had it so good.

Aaron Curry is probably the best defender in the draft and arguably, the best player overall aswell. Despite not playing for a storied college franchise, Curry is quick, hard-working and intelligent. There’s even been talk of him going #1 to Detroit, but even though he’s unlikely to go top, he will certainly be drafted in the top 5: he’s the safest pick in the draft this year. Curry won the Butkus award as the best linebacker in the country in 2008, and is a hard-hitting playmaker with a complete skill set for the position. He’ll be a high-performer in the NFL who keeps his head down and works his way to becoming one the most respected ‘backers in the league in a long career.

Curry’s octuple-P rating: Keith Bulluck

Behind Curry is a trio of tweeners: Brian Orakpo (Texas), Larry English (Northern Illinois) and Aaron Maybin (Penn State). All of these guys will likely go in the first round along with Curry, but there are also two ex-USC Trojans who are likely to be first round picks in Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews Jr. Probably the best stocked position in the draft outside of offensive tackle, now’s the time to grab outside LBs whether you’re a 3-4 or 4-3 team.

S class strength: D

After hard-hitting, big name safeties have gone in the first round the last few years – LaRon Landry, Brandon Meriweather and Kenny Phillips to name but three – but this year there’s a serious drop-off from previous years. Arguably the thinnest position in the draft this year, the lack of talent serves to explain why guys like Gibril Wilson got paid in free agency although they’re less than stellar.

Delmas, like Antoine Bethea, can one day embody the term solid starter.

Delmas, like Antoine Bethea, can one day embody the term 'solid starter'.

The best player in this weak-as-light-beer class is probably Western Michigan’s Louis Delmas, an aggressive run-stuffer who’s average in man-to-man coverage. He’s a little undersized but has got good playmaking instincts and burst to the ball. He’ll be a early to mid-second round selection and, if he adds some poundage could be a very effective, if unspectacular starter.

Delmas’ octuple-P rating: Antoine Bethea

Delmas aside, the best safeties available are Alabama’s ball-hawk Rashad Johnson, Oregon’s run-stuffer Patrick Chung and the erratic but physically gifted William Moore. A thin class to be sure, but there’s still a modicum of talent to be had at safety in the 2009 NFL draft.

So this brings us to the end of the PPPPPPPP for another season, but not the end of PAP’s pre-draft coverage, so make sure you keep it here for predictions, reactions, retractions and routine bashings of the Redskins’ front office.

Also, if the Titans don’t draft a receiver in the first two rounds AGAIN, expect a tirade from yours truly.

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