While all of the focus has been on All-American stud line-backer Rolando McClain as a possible replacement for the departed Antonio Pierce, I get the feeling that McClain is unlikely to end up wearing blue in 2010 because he will either be gone before the mid-first round (several true 3-4 teams like Miami (regardless of the Dansby signing), Denver (even with rumors swirling about a Brandon Marshall trade which would obviously put wide receiver as a big need position) or even Buffalo (converting to a 3-4 this upcoming season and lacking the requisite linebackers, and also just plain lacking) and I am not sure Reese and Giant scouts will see McClain as a true fit for the 4-3 defense.
How might Jerry Reese bring in a little competition at the middle linebacker spot (for starters, I do think Giants brass views Jonathan Goff favorably, but to be fair, his starting stint at the end of last year was met with mixed reviews but the kid has the dreaded word, “potential”). Also, a point I have pounded home (much like Ben Roethlisberger pounding brews with college kids in Georgia) is that Reese will take the highest rated player and not reach for need (which opens up the possibilities considerably).
Let’s assume the Giants end up taking a defensive tackle like Brian Price from UCLA in Round 1 (why is this guy not getting more attention after a dominant junior season)? Brandon Spikes of Florida could very well fall to the middle of Round 2, but it is also possible that he is off the board as well. Here is my argument for the following guys (true inside linebackers only) who are not getting enough attention as the draft approaches (note, Mike Mayock’s top 5 rated linebackers are Rolando McClain, Brandon Spikes, and these gentlemen below):
1. ILB Sean Lee (Penn State): Lee returned to the Nittany Lions in 2009, coming back from a torn knee ligament (in 2007, fully healthy, Lee registered 138 tackles, 2 picks, and 3 forced fumbles, yeah, this guy is plays all over the field and has the ability to be a true 3 down player in the middle). Many experts (I am not sure why we keep calling draft analysts experts) projected Lee to be a first round pick prior to his injury and the consensus is that he is a better pro prospect than Posluszny, a 2nd round pick in 2007 or Dan Connor, a former 3rd round pick). For my money, if the G-men wait on adding a middle linebacker, Lee would be a great fit in round 3.
2. ILB Pat Angerer (Iowa): A name most do not know (but should), Angerer totaled 135 tackles in 2009, leading the Hawkeyes defense. Sure, I like him just for his name, but the kid plays with a non-stop motor and finds his way to the ball. Angerer could be had in round 4 or even 5, and he is likely to outplay his draft position.
3. Donald Butler (Washington): A guy really no one has heard much about, barely a combine invite, Butler showed faster and stronger than predicted, Butler is the kind of player who just makes plays, Butler is another prospect who should be there in middle rounds.
We’ll keep looking at other middle linebacker prospects between now and the draft as the Giants are a lock to bring in competition for Jonathan Goff. Other names of interest include Jamar Chaney out of Temple and Kion Wilson from South Florida. Keep scouting Jerry, keep scouting! Stay Blue.