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IDP Draft Preview: Best and Worst-Case Scenarios for the Top LB in the 2014 NFL Draft

We’ve entered a dead zone, folks.

With the scouting combine and pro days done and done, all that remains between now and the 2014 NFL Draft on May 8 is private workouts (which are, you know, private) and more than a month of idle time.

And idle minds, of course, are the devil’s playground.

So, since we can’t have anyone going to hell around here, this is the perfect time for some speculation about the 2014 fortunes of this year’s top rookie IDPs. We’ve already covered the
defensive linemen

, so let’s move on and take a look at some best and worst-case landing spots for the incoming crop of IDP’s big dogs.

The linebackers.


Khalil Mack, Buffalo



Best Case:
Cleveland Browns

Mind you, I have high hopes for Mack, who sits at third overall on
Mel Kiper’s big board at ESPN

, regardless of scheme. He can be a
Von Miller

or
Aldon Smith

-type pass rushing force from either or a 4-3 or 3-4 front. However, to truly hit the fantasy jackpot, the best that could happen to Mack is the least likely: landing on a team where he might actually play
inside. The biggest chance for that probably lies with the Browns, and it just so happens that new Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine was just talking Mack up according to

Scott Brown of ESPN

.

“Explosive athlete,” Pettine said. “He’s a guy that the tape backs it up. He can play on the ball, he can play off the ball, he plays violently, and he’s played some of his better games against better competition.”

There’s potential IDP LB1 upside present with Mack (in this writer’s opinion), but if fortune shines on IDP owners, Mack could make a serious play to be 2014’s top rookie IDP overall.



Worst Case:
Houston Texans

As I said, there isn’t necessarily a “worst-case” scenario per se with
Khalil Mack

, who possesses more than a little IDP upside inside or outside in a 3-4 or 4-3 front. In fact, more than one draftnik, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper, believes Mack will be the first overall pick in the 2014 draft.

“Mack is a fit in most systems,” Kiper wrote, “but he’d excel in this system as a pass-rusher and a player who can back up and make plays in space and to the edges. Houston hasn’t been active in free agency, but Mack can fill a role and be a key contributor early for a team that can start winning again.”

That may well all be true, but the fact is in Houston Mack would also play in new coordinator Romeo Crennel’s 3-4, and if it’s the same vanilla 1-gap scheme Crennel’s run in the past, that would probably be a damned shame for IDP owners.


C.

J. Mosley, Alabama



Best Case:
New York Jets

The 6-foot-2 254-pound Mosley was almost universally considered the top inside linebacker prospect in the 2014 NFL draft and a certain first-round pick this year until recently, but as
Rob Rang of CBS Sports

points out concerns about Mosley’s knee have dinged his stock a bit of late.

“Mosley’s awareness and reliable open-field tackling skills make him an easy projection to the NFL,” Rang said. “But, like a lot of Alabama players, his checkered medical history could lead to a slight slip on draft day.”

That checkered medical history may be a big concern to a New York Jets franchise that could use an upgrade inside. But, if the Jets can get past that issue and the knee checks out, New York is emblematic of the sort of destination where Mosley would have a good shot at an every-down role (and significant IDP value) right out of the gate.



Worst Case:
New England Patriots


Rang’s colleague Dane Brugler

is one of the draftniks who believes Mosley could fall to the back of the first round, predicting that the 2013 Butkus Award winner will drop to the New England Patriots at No. 29.

“With the
Brandon Spikes

tenure over in New England,” Brugler said, “the Patriots will be in the market to add depth at linebacker. And with Nick Saban likely giving Bill Belichick a ringing endorsement, Mosley makes sense.”

The pick may make sense for New England, and it may be just fine for Mosley’s NFL future, but from an IDP perspective the Patriots would be far from ideal. The reason? Simple. With
Jerod Mayo

set to return to action, and
Jamie Collins

coming off a red-hot end to his rookie year, nickel snaps may be hard to come by for Mosley in 2014. That would leave him, at least in the short-term, as little more than Spikes 2.0, a two-down thumper with limited fantasy appeal.

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