Outside Linebacker Outsiders
Linebackers are the lifeblood of the 3-4 defense, and outside linebackers are the stars of the system. The Packers have used every available means to find outside linebackers for their defense, from the draft to converting defensive linemen to picking up undrafted free agents.
This year's team features five rookie linebackers who played outside in college, four of which are undrafted rookie free agents. Carl Bradford is all but guaranteed a roster spot thanks to his status as a recent draft pick, the other four will have to scratch and claw to earn themselves a spot.
Here's a quick look at each of the four and what they could bring to the table.
Shaun Lewis -- 5-11, 226 -- Oklahoma State
Lewis played outside linebacker in college, but there's been talk of moving him inside at Green Bay. He's small regardless of position, but his film (albeit a highlight tape) shows a player willing to attack despite his size. Lewis was a freshman All-American, made three All-Big 12 teams in his career (two second team, one first), and produced eight interceptions, seven forced fumbles, and seven fumble recoveries in his four years as a Cowboy. Lewis is originally from San Diego and majored in sociology in college.
Jayrone Elliot -- 6-3, 255 -- Toledo
Elliot has near prototypical size for an outside linebacker, but isn't terribly fast and doesn't project anything approaching eye-catching athleticism. At least one scouting report described him as a "one-speed" defender, which matches up well to his tape. Elliot was productive (9 sacks as a senior) in a small conference, and even blew past 2013 #1 overall pick Eric Fisher for a sack when Toledo squared off with Central Michigan. To the naked eye, he looks kind of average.
Joe Thomas -- 6-1, 227 -- South Carolina State
Thomas has very similar speed and strength measurements to Elliot, but he could be moved to inside linebacker due to his size. If you watch his highlights, Thomas actually lines up inside quite a bit to begin with, which makes me wonder why so many sites listed him as an outside linebacker, but I digress. On film, he looks a little bit like former Packers' draft pick Terrell Manning, which isn't saying a whole lot. Thomas will likely have a lot of work to do to find a roster spot in Green Bay.
Adrian Hubbard -- 6-6, 255 -- Alabama
At the very least, Hubbard is big. He also is supposedly blessed with talent that could have landed him as high as the second round, according to some scouts, but he dropped completely out of the draft. His precipitous fall may have been due in part to concerns about a heart condition, but those have been all but alleviated.
Hubbard's length is interesting, but he never dominated in college and scouts are almost universally concerned about his work ethic. On the one hand, it may have been hard for him to stand out on a talented Alabama defense, but on the other he may have had more incentive to coast because the rest of the team's talent could make up for him.
At Alabama, Hubbard worked as both a traditional defensive end and a stand-up rusher from the linebacker position, which could translate to the Packers' new use of the "elephant" position.