Jerry Franklin #34 of the Arkansas Razorbacks returns a fumble for a touchdown
The Raiders are in a bit of a conundrum at inside linebacker. With the new 3-4 looks they will be deploying, they will need to add at least one player. But even for the 4-3, the middle linebacker spot is not exactly solid.
Rolando McClain has not been playing up to expectations and there is no indication he has it in him to rebound. In addition to his on-field issues, he has some real off-field issues. He just settled one assault lawsuit and the second suit is coming up next month. The result could be a sizable suspension.
Behind McClain is Travis Goethel and... that's it. Goethel isn't chopped liver, although he has yet to be able to show if he can even handle a starting linebacker job. This team needs a solid insurance plan if not simply a second starter.
These are the prospects in the 2012 draft that could step in and be the inside linebacker the Raiders need.
Mychal Kendricks, California Round 3
This Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, has all the qualities a team looks for in a middle linebacker. He has a high motor with has the leadership skills and work ethic. He also has the versatility to play outside linebacker which just so happens to also be a position the Raiders could use some help. He is slightly small at just 5-11, 240 pounds and can have some difficulty disengaging from blocks. But he makes up for it with effort and hustle. His versatility will mean when the Raiders switch schemes he wouldn't have to come off the field. He could switch from inside linebacker to outside linebacker or middle linebacker.
Bobby Wagner, Utah State Round 3
If Wagner played at a more high profile school in a better conference, he would probably be seen as a top prospect. But even in a weaker conference, it is hard to deny his amazing production. He was a folur year starter who improved on his tackle numbers ever single season. As a sophomore he had 114 tackle, as a junior 133 tackles, and as a senior he had and extremely impressive 147 tackles. He is a fierce competitor, a good athlete, and is durable. He is an average size at 6-0, 241 pounds and ran an average 40 yard dash time (4.70). Really it appears the only thing that he has going against him is the team and conference offering inferior competition. But, come on, making nearly 400 tackles in his last three seasons has to count for something.
James-Michael Johnson, Nevada Round 4
Two time team captain and four year starter with a high character. The Raiders can take him and plug and play at any linebacker position. He has the size (6-1, 249) to play at strong side linebacker or middle linebacker. He is stout against the run with strong instincts to plug running lanes. Although his aggressiveness can cause him to bite on misdirection plays. With the right coaching, his discipline can be easily fixable. And even if not, his skill set would be valuable at outside linebacker.
Jerry Franklin, Arkansas Round 6
They don't get much more productive than This guy. He led the Razorbacks in tackles all four seasons there and was named 2nd team All SEC in both his junior and senior season. He is a stout run defender and despite being generally seen as not a terrific athlete. Based on his production, it is hard to find a lot of faults in his game. But he lacks fluidity in his hips in coverage and didn't have a great 40 yard dash time (4.63). Those qualities cause concerns about his coverage abilities and is the primary reason he is a late round prospect. But his five interceptions and two touchdowns off turnovers suggests he does well for himself in coverage.