Rivers, Connor tops among '08 linebacker prospects

The bad news is that the 2008 crop of linebackers lacks a talent of the same caliber as A.J. Hawk or Patrick Willis. The good news, though, is that this might be the deepest linebacker group in the past five drafts. Don't be surprised if as many as eight second-tier talents come off the board between picks No. 20 and 63 overall (the last selection of the second round).

Keith Rivers, Dan Connor, Ali Highsmith and Xavier Adibi each used the Senior Bowl to solidify their status as the premier prospects in this year's class. Rivers and Connor have the versatility to play either inside or outside depending on the scheme and preferences of their future NFL teams. Highsmith and Adibi are smaller but more athletic, which is why they project as weakside linebackers in a 4-3 scheme.

There were six early-entry linebackers added to the 2008 class, four of whom have been invited to the combine. While none of the four (OLBs Jerod Mayo, Erin Henderson and Geno Hayes, and ILB Curtis Lofton) is considered elite, each is talented enough to one day emerge as a starter in the NFL.