Yesterday we broke down nine defensive tackles that could end up in Cardinal red if the Cardinals decided to pass on one in the first round of the draft. Today we'll assume the Cardinals take a defensive tackle in the first round, meaning they'd select a linebacker later on. Since inside linebacker isn't deep in the draft, I'll look at seven different prospects that could fall to the Cardinals in the second round, all the way to undrafted.
Brandon Spikes | Florida | 6'3, 249 lbs
Projected Round: 3rd
Spikes was originally considered one of the best inside linebackers entering the draft until he ran a 5.0 40-yard dash and slipped down most team's draft boards. Aside from the slow time, Spikes is a very talented linebacker and has a great combination of size and strength. He has very good reaction time and doesn't hesitate once the ball is snapped. He gets deep in his drop and can read opposing quarterbacks to make a break on the ball. He's very aggressive against the run and has the speed to meet most backs on the edge. He'll wrap up the ball carrier and will violently attempt to rip the ball out. Most scouts believe he can be moved to outside linebacker because of his very good pass rushing technique. He had an issue in college when he attempted to eye-gouge another player. He can also become overly aggressive and may allow a running back to cut back up the middle. For a linebacker his size, you would expect Spikes to hit with more power when tackling. Overall he's considered the best inside linebacker after Rolando McClain and Sean Weatherspoon.
Donald Butler | Washington | 6'1, 245
Projected Round: 3rd
Butler is a solid inside linebacker entering this year's draft. He's very aggressive against the run and often anticipates when running plays will take place. He explodes to the line of scrimmage and has the tackling ability to often bring down ball carriers immediately. Although he trys to anticipate running plays, he has the speed to make up for a pass and drop into coverage. Once there he sticks to his coverage and doesn't become flashy. He has the speed to stay with tight ends and running backs and won't let his man out of his sight. Butler shows great effort when pass rushing but needs to improve his technique and movement. He's not the tallest linebacker and isn't an explosive hitter. Butler can find himself in the backfield after over-extending at times.
Jamar Chaney | Mississippe State | 6'2, 242 lbs
Projected Round: 4th - 5th
Drafting Chaney would mean the Cardinals were comfortable with their run defense and strictly wanted him to defend against the pass or help on special teams. Chaney shows adequate reaction time and plays well in open space. He used to be an weak side linebacker so he would provide good depth in coverage. He's an efficient tackler and will maintain his gap control. Chaney may be a bit small to defend against the run and he'll often get overpowered by offensive lineman. He doesn't bring much of a pass rush and needs to add more moves to his arsenal. There are questions about in a leg injury he suffered in 2008 and he may be better fit on special teams.
Phillip Dillard | Nebraska | 6'0, 245 lbs
Projected Round: 5th
Dillard is an every-down inside linebacker that can help on every facet of the defense. He's surprisingly quick against the pass and will hang with a receiver from the flats all the way down the sideline. Dillard provides great run support. He's quick to his gap and likes to disengage from blocks with his hands. He has a lot of upper body strength and rarely misses a tackle once he gets a hold of the ball carrier. Mark him down as a pass rusher because he's a fierce blitz'er that won't let the quarterback out of his sights. The biggest knock on Dillard is his size(6'0) and that he will sometimes lose sight of the ball carrier. Other then that he's an all around solid linebacker that brings leadership and the willingness to improve.
Travis Goethel | Arizona State | 6'3, 240 lbs
Projected Round: 5th - 6th
At 6'3, 240 pounds, Goethel is ideally big enough to play in the middle of the defense. His power is unmatched and once he wraps up a ball carrier they will go down. He's football savvy and reads plays well. Goethel is fine when defending check down routes, but fast tight ends will have their way with him. He provides very dependable run support but most backs can beat him to the outside. He was rarely used as a pass rusher in college meaning his primary skill are defending the run or helping on special teams. Goethel has a team-first and lunch pale worker attitude.
Pat Angerer | Iowa | 6'2, 235 lbs
Projected Round: 5th - 6th
Despite his size(6'0, 235 lbs), Angerer plays like a 6'4, 250-pound inside linebacker. He's ultra competitive and fights for every tackle. He can drop in coverage and actually enjoys the challenge of covering receivers well down field. Although speed receivers will get passed him if he trys to cover them. He attacks the offensive line and will drop a ball carrier with efficient tackling. He can sometimes get lost in the shuffle and doesn't bring explosive hitting to the defense. He reacts quickly to plays and has the lateral speed to catch running backs bouncing to the outside. He's short, which is always a concern for a inside linebacker and blitzing isn't often associated with Angerer. However, he's a hard worker and could provide solid depth right out of the gate.
Vincent Rey | Duke | 6'2, 240 lbs
Projected Round: 7th - FA
Rey is a linebacker that will likely fly under the radar in the 2010 draft. He's projected to land in the 7th round or become undrafted, but he could end up being a steal. He has the size(6'2) to play the middle of the defense and he's been a tackling machine every year in college and high school. He's recorded double digit tackle games and is an efficient pass rusher as well. There are several unknowns about Rey unless you watched most of the games at Duke. He improved his stock at the Duke pro day when he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash meaning he does have the speed roam the open field. If he falls out of the draft, the Cardinals could still give him a look.
After looking over the list, it's clear that inside linebacker is very thin in this year's draft. There's also the fact that most of these linebackers are undersized to play the inside of a 3-4 defense and would have to exceed their potential. If the Cardinals don't find one in the first round, Brandon Spikes may be a necessity day two of the draft. Should the Cardinals hope to land one of these linebackers or is Sean Weatherspoon the number one priority in the draft?