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Help Wanted
by Warren DeLuca

Note: This is tenth in a series of college prospect profiles in preparation for the 2006 NFL Draft next April. This time we take a look at the top five linebacker prospects.

One might expect that a team that has run a 3-4 defense for the last four years would be well-stocked with quality linebackers, as that scheme is designed for the linebackers to be the primary playmakers. However, the Texan linebacker talent is mediocre at best and the team could desperately use an impact player (or two, or three) to upgrade the unit.

Morlon Greenwood did not adapt well to the 3-4, but he should be a competent weakside linebacker in the new scheme as he was with the Dolphins. The strong side is less settled with Shantee Orr penciled in as the starter for the time being, although his skill set is better suited for the 3-4. Charlie Anderson and Kenneth Pettway should also be in the mix if they are not moved to defensive end with former outside linebackers Antwan Peek and Jason Babin.

In the middle, recent signee Sam Cowart is a nice addition but he is more of a short-term fix than a long-term answer. Kailee Wong is coming back from a season-ending knee injury and while he has experience at the position from his stint with the Vikings, he has not been a standout either in Minnesota or Houston. DaShon Polk is a solid fill-in but not what the team is looking for in a starter, and Troy Evans is more of a special teamer than anything else. Terry Pierce, a Bronco second rounder in 2003 who has had trouble staying healthy, is a reclamation project and should compete for a roster spot.

The good news for the Texans is that this year’s class of linebackers should be the best group since the 2000 draft, which featured five first-round linebackers: LaVar Arrington, Brian Urlacher, Julian Peterson, Rob Morris, and Keith Bulluck. A.J. Hawk of Ohio State is this year’s headliner and one of the elite prospects in the draft. The stock of Iowa’s Chad Greenway has slipped lately, but he should still be a solid first-rounder. Outside linebackers DeMeco Ryans of Alabama and Ernie Sims of Florida State and inside linebackers D’Qwell Jackson of Maryland and Abdul Hodge of Iowa should all contribute early in their NFL careers.

Other top linebackers:

Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State
Thomas Howard, UTEP
Roger McIntosh, Miami
Kai Parham, Virginia
Gerris Wilkinson, Georgia Tech

A.J. Hawk A.J. Hawk Home

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