Drew Boylhart March 2008
Ali Highsmith   LB   LSU
 
STRENGTHS 
Ali might be one of the most unique LBs in this draft.  He is as good against the pass as he is against the run. Ali is a head up, wrap up squeeze and drive tackler.  He can play anyone of the LB positions, but is not a meet, greet and shed style of LB.  Ali is very quick, very smart and has leadership skills that make the players around him better.  There are bigger LBs in this draft, but there are none better in this draft.  Ali has excellent cover skills, understands angles and without a doubt, will upgrade a defense the minute he steps on the field. 
 
NEEDS TO IMPROVE
Ali is vertically challenged for the pro game and it will be hard for him to add more bulk to his frame.  Of course, in a situation like this, you do have to worry about the injury factor.  If you are expecting Ali to take on guards and tackle head-on as a MLB for a 16 game schedule, dont bother to draft him.  He will do it, but you will limit his impact.  He needs to be in a 4-3 - 2gap style defense like the Baltimore Ravens use.  Ali is good against the run, but if those big guys get their hands on him, they can move him around very easily.,  Ali is also more quick than he is fast.  His ability to anticipate and his intelligence make up for a lack of speed. 
 
TALENT BOARD ROUND 2
If Ali is drafted and used in a defense like the Baltimore Ravens use, he could have as big an impact for the team that drafts him as Ray Lewis has had for his team.  Ali could play in the middle or on the weakside in that style of defense.  He could also play the OLB position in just about any style of defense, but if you want him to impact right away, then cover him up with some big bodied DTs and let him flow to the ball and make plays.  Ali comes hard and strong on every down and, in my opinion, is one of the better LBs in this draft.  He is good because he understands angles and is very instinctive and smart.  Keith Rivers and Dan Conner are excellent OLBs, but Ali, in spite of his size, is a great LB in his own right.  The truth is that all three of these LBs are quality LBs.  I would guess that because of his size that Ali will not be the first LB taken in this draft, but he just might wind up being one of the better ones from this draft class.  Im giving Ali a second round talent grade because he is a systems LB and will struggle if a team whose system is not a good fit for him drafts him.  In fact, those teams just might think about switching Ali to the safety position but I believe that would be a mistake.  He reminds me a lot of London Fletcher (LB Washington Redskins).