In advance of the April 22-24 draft, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock has agreed to provide Daily News readers with his evaluation of the top player, riser and sleeper at each position. This is the third of three parts. Today, he looks at linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties. He previously has looked at the skill-position players on offense, and the linemen on both offense and defense.

Outside linebackers

The Best

Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri

Height, weight: 6-1, 239

40 time: 4.52

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "He can play the MIKE [middle linebacker]. He wants to play the MIKE. He wants to make the calls. He's a smart kid with a great motor. He played too heavy this year. He tried to get big at 251, then got down to 239 for the combine and Pro Day. I thought he had a great week at the Senior Bowl. I like him as an outside linebacker. I like him in a four-man front. He can probably play all three positions in a 4-3, but I like him best at the WILL [weak side]. He needs to be at 239 to be most effective, which probably is too light to play the SAM [strong side]. Should go between 15 and 25."

The Riser

Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech

Height, weight: 6-1, 254

40 time: 4.49

Projected round: 3

Mayock: "He played with his hand down [DE] at Virginia Tech. But his size is more predicated to a 3-4 rush linebacker. He's explosive with a great motor. He tested really well at his Pro Day. He was an afterthought not too long ago. Now, I think he goes in the third round. Year 1, he's a situational pass-rusher who can put his hand in the dirt and go."

The Sleeper

Chris McCoy, Middle Tenn. St.

Height, weight: 6-3, 261

40 time: 4.70

Projected round: 4-5

Mayock: "He was the co-defensive player of the year in his conference. He had heavy production. Wasn't invited to the combine. He's a defensive end converting to outside linebacker. With so many 3-4 teams now, his value is going to get pushed up. He tested well and probably is going to go in the fourth or fifth round. A couple of months ago, nobody knew about him."

Inside linebackers

The Best

Rolando McClain, Alabama

Height, weight: 6-3 1/2, 249

40 time: 4.68

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "You can see him playing that 3-4 inside linebacker in [Nick] Saban's defense. So there's no questions about projections or anything. He's a safe pick. He's got the size. He's got the speed. He's smart. He's tough. He's a safe first-round pick, who could go as early as 10 to Jacksonville. His true value is probably closer to 20. He can play MIKE in a 4-3, too. The problem I have with him is I don't see the explosion I saw with [previous first-round inside 'backers Patrick] Willis or [Jerod] Mayo. I see a really good, safe pick. But I'd like to see him pull the trigger more. I don't see the elite explosion and playmaking that I saw with those other two guys."

The Riser

Sean Lee, Penn State

Height, weight: 6-2, 236

40 time: 4.60

Projected round: 1-2

Mayock: "The only thing possibly keeping him out of the first round is his history of knee injuries. But the more people watch tape of this kid the more they like him. He's rising. People thought he was just another one of those Posluszny/Connor-type [Penn State] guys. They're finding out he's more athletic than both of those guys, and just as smart and as instinctive."

The Sleeper

Ryan D'Imperio, Rutgers

Height, weight: 6-1 1/2, 241

40 time: 4.68

Projected round: 6-7

Mayock: "Another guy that will be hard to cut because he'll be a core special teams guy. He's an inside 'backer who ran better than people expected at his Pro Day. They also threw passes to him because, with the spread offense in college football, there are no fullbacks anymore. Everybody's looking for fullbacks in the NFL. A guy like D'Imperio has a better chance of making a team than people think because he's an inside 'backer by trade, will be a core special-teamer and he'll probably get a chance to play offense in special situations to block people."


The Best

Earl Thomas, Texas

Height, weight: 5-10 1/4, 202

40 time: 4.37

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "I think he's what the league is all about today. To me, he should be a top 15 pick. He probably won't be, but he should be. He's the most instinctive free safety I've seen in a lot of years. He will tackle. He's a playmaker. He had eight interceptions. He can cover man. In the passing league that the NFL has become, he's the ideal safety."

The Riser

Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech

Height, weight: 6-1 1/2, 209

40 time: 4.45

Projected round: 2

Mayock: "He looks the part [of a safety]. He had a great Pro Day. People like him as a free safety. He's big. He runs well. He's got range. He will tackle. For me, he's a little too inconsistent. But he probably goes in the second round, even though his play on the field this year was closer to a third- or fourth-rounder."

The Sleeper

Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech

Height, weight: 5-11, 203

40 time: 4.55

Projected round: 6

Mayock: "Russ Grimm's son. He finally cracked the starting lineup last season and had great 1-year production. He was always considered too slow or too small or too something. But he had six or seven forced fumbles; a ridiculous number. He'll be a core special teams player. He'll be a strong safety. And he'll be impossible to cut."


The Best

Joe Haden, Florida

Height, weight: 5-10 1/2, 193

40 time: 4.43

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "He's smart, physical, instinctive and tough. He's a little tight. Doesn't have elite corner speed. He plays that boundary corner. People might get a little nervous putting him out there with a 6-2 burner. But I like him because he's so physical and so instinctive. I think he goes in the top half of the first round."

The Riser

Kareem Jackson, Alabama

Height, weight: 5-10 1/2, 196

40 time: 4.40

Projected round: 2

Mayock: "He's a typical Nick Saban corner. Well-coached. Physical. This kid will tackle. He'd make a great compliment to Asante Samuel if the Eagles took him. He ran better than people expected and really helped himself. Some people think he'll sneak into the first round, but I think he's a second-rounder."

The Sleeper

Myron Lewis, Vanderbilt

Height, weight: 6-1 1/2, 203

40 time: 4.42

Projected round: 4-5

Mayock: "He kind of had a down year last year and fell off a lot of people's radar. Had some injuries and wasn't as physical his senior year as he was as a junior. But he's one of the biggest corners in the draft with extremely long arms [34 inches]. He ran well at the combine, and [vertical] jumped 37 inches. He's a guy somebody's going to take fairly late and they're going to get a good football player."

- Paul Domowitch