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Special teams contributions could be key for midround linebackers

4/11/2008 - College Football NFL

Questions about his athletic ability and instincts caused LSU ILB Bradie James to slide into the fourth round of the 2003 draft, where he was snapped up by the Dallas Cowboys. It appeared at first that the Cowboys simply got good value with the pick, but as time goes on the selection of James looks more and more like an absolute steal. James didn't crack the starting lineup until 2005, but led the team in tackles that season and was an excellent special teams player his first two years in the league.

It's no coincidence that his breakout season came the same year that Dallas implemented the 3-4 front. The change in philosophy allowed James to move from the outside to the inside, where he played in college, meaning he did not have to make as many plays in space and could attack downhill as a physical run-stuffer. In addition, the Cowboys don't ask much of James in coverage and take advantage of his ability to get to the quarterback by blitzing him at times.

Below is a look at four mid- to late-round prospects from this year's inside linebacker class who will look for a similar path to success in the NFL, and an explanation of why certain teams offer a better fit than others.