Texas' Johnson could change LB trend

Mel Kiper answers questions about some of the nation's best LBs, TEs, WRs, RBs and DEs.

Originally Published: May 19, 2004
By Mel Kiper Jr. | Special to ESPN Insider
YOU'VE GOT MEL | Kiper's Mailbag

Q: Why are fewer and fewer linebackers (particularly middle linebackers) being drafted in the first round? Even on your 2005 Big Board, there's only one linebacker. Are there fewer college players making an impact at that position? Who else this year has NFL potential at linebacker?
Ty, Portland, Ore.
KIPER -- That's a good question. In this year's draft, two linebackers went in the first round: Jonathan Vilma (No. 12, New York Jets) and D.J. Williams (No. 17, Denver Broncos). In the 2003 draft, the first linebacker didn't go until late in the first round (Nick Barnett, No. 29, Green Bay Packers).

In 2002, the first linebacker went at No. 23 (Napoleon Harris, Oakland Raiders), and then the St. Louis Rams drafted Robert Thomas later in the first round (No. 31). In 2001, Dan Morgan was the only linebacker drafted in round one (No. 11, Carolina Panthers).

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst
Mel Kiper has served as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN since 1984. He is a regular contributor on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio and writes weekly for ESPN Insider.