The Bengals have a veteran linebacker crew consisting of Karlos Dansby, Ray Maualuga, Rey Vincent, and Vontaze Burfict to lineup in 2016. However, that didn’t stop Cincinnati from using the 24th pick of the third round on inside linebacker, Nick Vigil. I’ll be interested to see what happens if one of the aforementioned veterans struggle in camp and if Vigil will get his chance to produce.
*Nick Vigil – Was an incredible college player, racking up 267 tackles and 30 TFLs over his final two seasons at Utah State. He possesses the desire and instincts to be a contributor in the NFL and could easily become a leading tackler if the Bengals current starters struggle, endure injuries, or get suspended.
The Steelers have four, YES four, first round picks slated to be starters at linebacker in 2016, and all but one of them (Lawrence Timmons – 2007) was selected in each of the last three drafts prior to 2016. With such young, highly talented linebackers in the mix, it may be tough for other Pittsburgh LB’s to get playing time, but if one could breakout, look for rookie Travis Feeney to make the splash.
*Travis Feeney – The former Washington star had outstanding measurables at the Combine (see below) and produced solid numbers as a senior in college. However, his immediate value will be on Special Teams, as he was the Huskies 2014 Special Teams Player of the Year, but if he shows promise, he could become much more. In addition, the kid is very well adjusted, proven by the fact that he wore a pink-dyed cancer awareness haircut in honor of his aunt last year.
The Ravens linebackers consist of a couple big names at OLB (Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervill) and a couple of high-round draft picks at ILB (CJ Mosley and Arthur Brown) for 2016. However, the word out of Baltimore is that Brown has fallen out of favor, which leaves the door open for Zachary Orr.
*Zachary Orr – Was an Undrafted Free Agent out of North Texas in 2014 who is now leading the competition against Arthur Brown, a 2nd round pick of 2013, for the Ravens starting ILB spot opposite C.J. Mosley. Orr, considered the favorite to win at this point, did fine in OTAs and minicamp, so, I expect big things from the 24 year-old in 2016 and beyond.
Karlos Dansby and Craig Robertson were last year’s starters for the Browns. They’ve since left, which makes way for Chris Kirksey and Demario Davis to take over as the starting ILBs in Cleveland. So, unless you have access to Kirksey or Davis (unlikely), it’s OLB you’ll be looking for to find LB sleepers in Cleveland. Since Paul Kruger is 30 years old and in the twilight of his career, I recommend checking out his possible replacement, Joe Schobert, for the long term.
*Joe Schobert – Was a walk-on player for the Wisconsin Badgers coming out of high school. Schobert followed in the footsteps of other former Badgers walk-ons like J.J. Watt and Jim Loenhard, to become a real force in the Big 10 and have a great shot to play in the NFL. Now, as a 4th round pick for the Browns, look for Schobert to develop into a contributor for as OLB in Cleveland.