Jonathan Vilma might be the best from a group of linebackers available in this weekend's draft that includes six from Miami, Auburn and Georgia Tech
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
By Brian Allee-Walsh
The NFL has the University of Miami (Fla.), Auburn and Georgia Tech to thank for their generous linebacker contributions to the 2004 draft.
Each school has two players among the projected top 10 inside and outside linebackers, according to NFL coaches, scouts and draft analysts.
The Hurricanes lead the way with "Mr. Inside" (Jonathan Vilma) and "Mr. Outside" (D.J. Williams) likely to be the first linebackers selected Saturday at Madison Square Garden, between picks 12 and 22 of the first round.
The Saints, with the 18th pick, have an interest in both.
"It's all love between me and him," Williams said. "To me, it doesn't matter (who's selected first)."
"We're always competing against each other," Vilma said. "This is no different. I want to do better than D.J. and I tell him. But we love each other after that."
Williams, who excelled at running back for national high school powerhouse De La Salle (Calif.), is "a genetic freak with an outstanding combination of size, speed, quickness, and athletic ability," said draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly.
He measured 6 feet 0 5/8 and weighed 250 pounds at the National Scouting Combine.
"Williams lacks ideal height and does not have great football intelligence but he has the potential to be a dominant outside linebacker," Nawrocki said.
Vilma, a B-plus student and the Hurricanes' scholar-athlete of the year in 2002-03, played middle linebacker in college but has the ability to play weakside linebacker in the NFL.
"I'd say he's one of the most instinctive linebackers I've seen in quite some time," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. "Because he doesn't have ideal size, he has to be protected by the defensive front, but you could say that about a lot of top-flight NFL linebackers over the years."
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