Top 5 inside linebacker prospects

Nick Saban should be well-equipped at linebacker in 2013

Originally Published: May 16, 2013
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
C.J. MosleyAP Photo/Chris O'MearaC.J. Mosley would have been the first inside linebacker off the board in the 2013 draft.

When we scrutinized the 2013 NFL draft class of inside linebackers, speed was a big discussion. The debate about it became a big deal because, historically, a very good linebacker who lacks speed is the type to end up on the inside. Shed blocks, plug holes, occasionally hit the A-gap with a blitz and make tackles. That's the old paradigm.

Now, there's a greater emphasis on how well inside linebackers can cover -- not just in the seams, but also to the edges -- what kind of length they have to tighten windows, and whether they have the athleticism to move around and help defensive coordinators provide more exotic looks. The scrutiny over Manti Te'o's 40 time wasn't a big deal because of the surrounding storylines, it was a real number that teams legitimately associate with what he's able to do on a football field. Yes, the film comes first, but it speaks to the demands on the position. You have to be able to do a lot of things.

Here's a first look at prospects I consider the best right now for the 2014 draft.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst