The Colts have veterans D’Qwell Jackson and Nate Irving entrenched as the inside linebackers in 2016, but at 32 and 28 years old respectively, neither guy would be considered long term solutions for Indianapolis. Therefore, with those aging stars in mind, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson chose Antonio Morrison in the 4th round of the 2016 draft to take over as the team’s next MIKE linebacker.
*Antonio Morrison – Racked up 204 tackles over his final two season at Florida, is a bit undersized, plays ultra-competitively, and brings unmatched intensity. Morrison may need a year or two to learn the NFL game, but could soon fit nicely into the Colts defense.
The Titans signed Wesley Woodyard and Brian Orakpo as free agents in 2015, which were considered poor pickups once the season had closed (see stats below). So, the Titans again took a look at free agency again, and this time found a low risk, high reward type of player in Sean Spence to compete in the Tennessee linebacker mix.
*Sean Spence – Played his college ball at Miami and was a 3rd round pick by the Steelers in 2012. Spence had a gruesome knee injury to start his career, but now is considered a solid option to start at inside linebacker for the Titans. If he gets the job, he will be in line for plenty of production in 2016.
The Jaguars, a laughing stock on defense for nearly a decade, has all-of-a-sudden put together a really nice collection of defensive playmakers. The team will start Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny, Dante Fowler Jr. and Myles Jack at linebacker, so unless an injury occurs, I don’t see much opportunity for “sleepers” in Jacksonville. However, if you get bonus points for sacks, and need a taxi squad option, Tyrone Holmes is your man.
*Tyrone Holmes – Playing for Montana in the Big Sky conference, Holmes led all of the FCS with 18 sacks in 2015. The young man has plenty of athletic talent and an excellent first step for the pros, but is a bit undersized at 6’2”, 250 lbs. for the NFL game. Holmes will watch most of 2016 from the sideline or spend a year on the practice squad, but his abilities could make him a nice edge rusher in a few years.
Houston has big names like Jadeveon Clowney, Mercilus Whitney, and Brian Cushing all lined up for their starting linebacker spots again in 2016, but the Texan you really want on your roster will be Benardrick McKinney.
*Benardrick McKinney – The 23-year old, 2nd rounder in 2015 out of Mississippi State did everything the Texans asked for in his rookie season. Starting 12 games for Houston, McKinney showed he could handle the weekly grind of the NFL. Now, after an offseason of study, coach Bill O’Brien said “McKinney is a guy that really understands our defense well right now,” If the head coach is talking up McKinney, I think he’s got the potential to be a star. I expect McKinney’s 2016 to be very strong for the Texans franchise.