NFL DRAFT: THE LINEBACKERS

In the ninth of a series, Colts.com takes a look at the linebackers in the 2009 NFL Draft, with Wake Forest outside backer Aaron Curry widely projected to be a Top 5 selection. The Colts last selected a linebacker last year in the third round.

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Former Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry Could be First Linebacker Selected in NFL Draft
INDIANAPOLIS – This is one label Aaron Curry doesn't mind a bit.

Curry, a linebacker from Wake Forest University, is projected by many analysts to be one of the Top 5 overall selections in the 2009 NFL Draft. He widely is considered perhaps the safest selection among players projected in the Top 10.

That's a label Curry accepts. And in fact, he takes it as a compliment.

"I believe a safe pick means I can come in instantly and make an impact on anybody's defense," said Curry, who is generally projected to be the first linebacker selected in the 2009 NFL Draft, which will be held April 25-26 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Curry (6-2, 255 pounds), who won the Butkus Award this past season given annually to college football's top linebacker, said what it also means is the versatility to play in a number of roles:

A three-lineman, four-linebacker scheme.

A 4-3 scheme.

At inside linebacker.

Or at outside.

"You just can't go wrong," he said.

NFL analysts and mock drafters agree, with some projecting Curry as potentially the No. 1 overall selection to the Detroit Lions, most having him being selected in the Top 5 and few projecting him to slip past the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 8.

"Aaron Curry might be the safest pick in the draft," NFL Network Scouting analyst Mike Mayock said recently. "He's done it over time. He's a fifth-year senior. He's clean off the field. You're going to hand him $30 million or $40 million and he's going to be like (Atlanta quarterback) Matt Ryan.

"He's going to put it in the bank and he's going to go to work.''

Said St. Louis Rams General Manager Billy Devaney, "Curry was the first guy we put (tape) on, and we were like, 'Wow! This guy is special. He is really good on tape.' And then we started talking about all the intangibles, and to a man, everybody said, 'he's top of the line.''

Curry, who had 2.5 sacks and 16 tackles for losses as a senior, played in a 4-3 scheme at Wake Forest, where he played mostly outside, strong-side linebacker.

"It doesn't matter to me where they want me to play," Curry said. "I have the ability to rush the passer in the 3-4 on the outside. I have the ability and the strength to play inside in the 3-4.

"With my versatility, I can play the Sam (strongside), Mike (middle) and Will (weakside) in (the) 4-3. Coach (Brad) Lambert at Wake Forest did a great job of preparing me to play any position. He never allowed any of our linebackers to focus on any one position. We had to play them all."

Curry said while he never actually played in the middle in games at Wake Forest he is confident he could play there in the NFL.

"I think the hardest transition would just be the extra contact," he said. "I have the build to play the Mike. I'm not the tallest. I haven't played the Mike at all. I've played it probably five or six times at practice, but I knew it like the back of my hand. I knew the footwork, the run fits."

Curry, who said he originally had ambitions to attend law school, has since decided he wants to coach after he is through playing. He also said during the NFL Scouting Combine it wasn't always a guarantee that his playing career would last past college.

He arrived at Wake Forest weighing 195 pounds, and when he was considering leaving school a year ago to enter the draft, he was projected as a third-round selection.

"It's been amazing," he said. "It's been an uphill climb, a battle that I was willing to take on. Coming out of high school, I was lightly-recruited. Everybody began to doubt whether I could really fulfill my dreams of playing in the NFL, and all the doubters are really what motivates you in the weight room when you've got your last set coming up and somebody's telling you to get it done. You have to get it done because there are some people out there who believe you can't get it done. . . .

"It always has been my dream to prove them wrong, to make it to the top. To be mentioned as one of the best has been one of my goals, to just show everybody that you can do what you want to do if you put your mind to it.

"I always was a motivated person. The doubters helped me get here, but it's not the only thing that motivated me. My family, my mother (Chris), my two brothers (Brandon and Christopher) did a good job making sure I was always motivated."

He said receiving the third-round grade provided motivation, too. "That was another day that burns in the back of my mind, but I'm glad they gave me that grade," he said. "I returned back to school. I worked even harder. I improved so many small things about my game and that really helped me elevate myself."

Whether he has elevated himself to a place where he will be the first player selected Saturday he doesn't know.

"Don't we all?" he said at the combine when asked if he wanted to be the first selection. "We all want to be the No. 1 pick overall, but it's all going to go on what Detroit needs, as far as their personnel. It would be great to go No. 1 overall and Detroit knows that in Aaron Curry, they'd get a great linebacker, a great person . . .

"I mean, what more can you ask for?"

BREAKING DOWN THE 2009 NFL DRAFT'S TOP LINEBACKERS

Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry is the top-rated linebacker in the 2009 NFL Draft according to most analysts, but after him, it's a deep group with players considered first-round linebackers on both the inside and outside. Three linebackers from Southern California are considered top selections. Outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing are considered strong first-round possibilities, and inside linebacker Rey Maualuga is projected by many as a potential mid-first-round selection. Inside linebacker James Laurinaitus of Ohio State also is projected by many analysts as a potential first-round selection.

ON THE COLTS' ROSTER

Gary Brackett, seventh season, Rutgers; Clint Session, third season, Pittsburgh; Philip Wheeler, second season, Georgia Tech; Tyjuan Hagler, fifth season, Cincinnati; Adam Seward, fifth season, UNLV; Jordan Senn, second season,and State; Rufus Alexander, second season, Oklahoma; Michael Okwo, first season, Stanford.

THE LAST FIVE

The last five linebackers drafted by the Colts . . .

2008: Philip Wheeler, third round, Georgia Tech.

2007: Clint Session, fourth round, Pittsburgh.

2006: Freddy Keiaho, third round, San Diego State.

2005: Tyjuan Hagler, fifth round, Cincinnati.

2004: Kendyll Pope, fourth round, Florida State.

THIS YEAR'S DRAFT

An alphabetical list of 10 inside linebackers projected to be selected in the 2009 NFL Draft . . .

Stanley Arnoux, Wake Forest, 6-1, 230

Darry Beckwith, LSU, 6-0, 240

Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina, 6-2, 250

James Laurinaitis, Ohio State, 6-2, 245

Rey Maualuga, USC, 6-2, 250

Josh Mauga, Nevada, 6-1, 245

Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh, 6-1, 245

Gerald McRath, Southern Miss., 6-3, 220

Jason Phillips, TCU, 6-0, 235

Worrell Williams, California, 5-11, 240

An alphabetical list of 15 outside linebackers projected to be selected in the 2009 NFL Draft . . .

Connor Barwin, Cincinnati, 6-4, 255

Cody Brown, Connecticut, 6-2, 245

Jonathan Casillas, Wisconsin, 6-1, 230

Aaron Curry, Wake Forest, 6-2, 255

Brian Cushing, USC, 6-3, 245

Dannell Ellerbe, Georgia, 6-1, 235

Larry English, Northern Illinois, 6-2, 255

Zach Follett, California, 6-2, 235

Marcus Freeman, Ohio State, 6-1, 240

DeAndre Levy, Wisconsin, 6-2, 235

Kaluka Maiava, Southern Cal, 5-11, 230

Clay Matthews, USC, 6-1, 240

Tyrone McKenzie, South Florida, 6-2 245

Lee Robinson, Alcorn State, 6-3, 250

Clint Sintim, Virginia, 6-3, 250

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