1- Melvin Ingram OLB South Carolina
Sacks by year: (1, RS, 1, 9, 10)
- Talk about an incredible athlete; Ingram is 6-2 and 275 pounds, yet he moves like a Running Back. He recorded 8.5 sacks in 2011 to go along with 2 interceptions when he dropped into coverage from his Defensive End position. Ingram would translate well to the Defensive End position in a 4-3 scheme, but perhaps his best position in the NFL is Outside Linebacker in the 3-4 scheme; he has a similar build to Lamarr Woodley, but Ingram is a much better athlete. He found the end-zone three times last year, one of which being a 68-yard TD scamper on a fake punt against Georgia. Ingram figures to be taken in the top half of the 1st Round; he will likely be gone by the time the 28th pick comes around.
2- Courtney Upshaw OLB Alabama
Sacks by year: (0, 1, 7, 9.5)
- The best pass rusher on perhaps the best Defense in the country, the National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Upshaw has a thick build at 6'2" 265 pounds, which fits the mold of a 3-4 OLB perfectly. Upshaw is likely not quick enough to play a 4-3 OLB, nor is he long enough to put his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 DE. It would appear his best NFL position will be the OLB spot in a 3-4 scheme; the Packers would likely take a long look at him if he were to fall to 28th overall. Upshaw looks like a surefire first-round pick and likely will be off the board in the Top 20.
3- Nick Perry OLB USC (RS JR)
Sacks by year: (RS, 9, 4, 9.5)
- As a Packer fan and after seeing the success of another former stud DE/OLB from USC, Perry is my personal favorite among the potential 1st Round OLBs that could be available for the Packers at 28. Perry plays the same position that Clay Matthews played during his time at Southern Cal, and he has some striking similarities. Matthews was listed at 6'3" 245 before the draft, while Perry is listed at 6'3" 250. Perry is probably a better overall athlete than Matthews, yet both play with a relentless motor. A lot can change in these three months before Draft Day, so Perry could vault himself into the Top 10 or see his stock drop to the 2nd round. I'd love to see Perry available at 28, giving the Packers a chance to have a pair of SC pass rushers on both sides of their Front 7.
4- Whitney Mercilus OLB Illinois (RS JR)
Sacks by year: (RS, 1, 1, 16)
- How about that name for a pass rusher? Mercilus. Merciless. Simply. Amazing. Mercilus enters the Draft a year early after enjoying a breakout Junior season. He led the nation with 16 sacks and amassed 22.5 Tackles for Loss. Mercilus is a bit of a late-bloomer, having made just a minor impact in his first two seasons with the Illini. 2011 was his coming out party, and I've seen the label of "poor man's Aldon Smith" tagged onto Mercilus. As a Packer fan, I'd love to see the Defense with Aldon Smith playing OLB on the other side of Clay Matthews. If Mercilus is going to turn out to be this year's Aldon Smith, then sign on the dotted line, Whitney. He figures to come off the board somewhere in the Late 1st to Early 2nd Round.
5- Ronnell Lewis OLB Oklahoma (JR)
Sacks by year: (1, 3.5, 5.5)
- Known as "The Hammer", highlights of Lewis feature a lot of sideline-to-sideline speed on top of bone-jarring collisions. He saw some time at Defensive End at Oklahoma, but at 6'2" 245 he's best suited to stand up in a 3-4 scheme. Lewis missed the end of the 2011 season with a right knee sprain, but he figures to be in top shape for the NFL Combine. Teams will notice Lewis's motor above all else when watching film of him. His draft stock fits in somewhere between the late 1st and 2nd round.
6- Bruce Irvin OLB West Virginia
Sacks by year: (14, 8.5)
- Irvin's rise to the College Football elite took a very different path than most of his peers. Irvin was academically ineligible to play high school football, and he quickly found himself headed down a slippery slope to nowhere. After failing to make the team at Butler CC, he made good on his chance to play at Mt. San Antonio Junior College. Though he was previously a Defensive Back, they got him on the field as an undersized Defensive End. Irvin recorded 16 sacks and was named 1st team All-American at that level. Watching highlights of Irvin, you'll see speed and quickness above all else. Irvin may be a bit of a sleeper in the 2012 Draft, I'll definitely have my eye on where he ends up. He figures to be drafted somewhere in the 2nd Round.