Mayo projected as a top LB in 2016

As part of ESPN Insider's Future Power Rankings profiles, ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates examines the projected top linebackers for the 2016 season. In the projection, the Patriots' top linebacker now will remain a top linebacker three years down the road according to Yates, as defensive captain Jerod Mayo checks in at No. 8 on his list.

"There's little flash to the old-school Mayo, who is the heart and soul of the Patriots' linebacker corps. He's perhaps the best stack-and-shed linebacker in the league, able to square up and subsequently detach from blockers in the running game. He can move around the defense to play any of the three positions in a 4-3 alignment, and he's about as reliable as it comes as a tackler. Mayo's teammates turn to him as an extension of Bill Belichick and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on the field."

Mayo finished the 2012 season with 147 tackles to go with a career-best four forced fumbles and three sacks. He has become a pillar in the middle of the Patriots defense, and at the age of 27 should continue to ascend into the prime of his career.

Another Patriot cracks Yates' "Just missed" category, as Dont'a Hightower is mentioned.

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