2017 Draft: Linebacker Rankings
Whenever you mention the Raiders and the draft, you’re going to have a handful of folks in your mentions talking about linebackers. All of the linebackers. Oakland’s were not very good last season, so that’s the position that everyone wants to address early. I get it.
Even with the addition of Jelani Jenkins (depth signing, I imagine), and the possibility of bringing back Perry Riley Jr. and/or potentially tacking on free agent Zach Brown, it would behoove Reggie McKenzie to add another body (or two).
Overall, I’m not too excited about this class, but I rather like the depth and value as we move into Day 2 and beyond.
This is how I see things, round-by-round.
1) Reuben Foster, Alabama — The consensus top linebacker in this class, and for obvious reasons. He’s not a better prospect than C.J. Mosley for me, but it’s close. Foster was garnering Patrick Willis comparisons early on, which is a little bit unfair. Better player than Reggie Ragland who came out last year for whatever that’s worth.
2) Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State — The biggest riser on my board, personally. Had an early round three grade on Raekwon prior to the Combine, when he proceeded to check a handful of boxes. Best ‘backer against the run that I watched. Needs to clean things up in coverage a bit, but there is a clip of him running with a certain Pennsylvania State running back on a wheel route, which is neat.
3) Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt — Ultra-productive SEC player (that matters, right?) who’s in the mold of Jamie Collins. Playmaker. While I’d be content with him in the first round (depending how the board breaks), for the sake of positional rankings, he’s a Day 2 player for me. Many will note the missed tackles, as a result of attacking a bit too high. He’ll need some seasoning.
4) Haason Reddick, Temple — He’s been rising since the Senior Bowl and hasn’t done anything besides build that résumé. Tested out in the 93rd percentile, if you’re into that sort of thing. You probably want him coming off the edge more often than dropping in coverage, in that off-ball role. Tends to over-pursue, leading to missed tackles and otherwise frustrating play. Still raw. You’re drafting him high and hoping to mold him – I like that “risk” on Day 2.
5) Anthony Walker Jr., Northwestern — Versatile linebacker who’s seen time at all three spots. You want him for the intangibles alone; vocal leader, through and through – that’ll carry over. For as big as he is, struggles with taking on blocks. Surprisingly functional in coverage. I like him more than the next guy.
6) Jarrad Davis, Florida — I could see him sneaking his way into the second round after a solid pro day. Put up numbers that would’ve been at/near the top for linebackers during most drills. Tape’s a bit all over the place, however. Plays with that “throwback linebacker” mentality, for better or worse. He’s vicious at times. Sloppy approaching the ball too often, getting caught up in traffic.
7) Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee — Personal favorite who’s last ride at Tennessee was cut-short due to injury. Arguably a first round talent when healthy, the only real question marks with Jalen are health-based. He may look a little undersized for some. Plays fluid, and the burst is evident. Really smooth. No concerns coming downhill, despite that potentially “maxed frame”. Could be a steal, if he clears from the medical-side of things. Scroll through here:
— Ryan (@StillRyanFive) June 26, 2016
8) Blair Brown, Ohio — Speaking of “undersized”, Blair Brown broke out regardless. Instinctual player who’s always around the ball. Sure-tackler. He’s a mid-round player due to those natural limitations though. Complete question mark in coverage. Raekwon’s got some reservations, I think?
Lol what makes y'all say this ? 🤔. https://t.co/7KobC18zYf
— Raekwon McMillan (@Kwon_daTRUTH) March 16, 2017
9) Kendell Beckwith, Louisiana State — In the injury boat with Reeves-Maybin, and a bit of a throwback player like Davis, Kendell Beckwith would probably be a round or two higher had he stayed healthy. A banger in and around the line of scrimmage, he’ll control the middle. Good eyes, and plays under control as such, even with that big body. Spotty in coverage, and an overall average athlete. I like his value mid-late over a player like, say, Jarrad Davis.
10) Tau Lotulelei, Las Vegas, Nevada — A Jim Cobern special, Tau’s a starting linebacker that you’re probably going to nab toward the end of Day 3. Athletic, strong, and instinctive. Pick your favorite buzzword. Value to be had.
11) Jayon Brown, California, Los Angeles — Arguably the best coverage linebacker in this class. Flies around like a strong safety, has the build to match as well. Hope he can get a bit stronger at the next level. Like the idea of Brown erasing the tight end, but worry about size and potential match-up problems.
— Ryan (@StillRyanFive) February 21, 2017
12) Alex Anzalone, Florida — Two notable shoulder injuries and a season-ending broken arm last year, things haven’t really gone Alex’s way during his time in Gainesville. You’re drafting him based on that size/speed/athleticism alone. He clearly looks the part. If he was healthy, and was able to string some games together, we might be talking about him leaving the board early-Day 2.
13) Dylan Cole, Missouri State — FCS All-American who tested off the charts at his pro day. Super-productive, but obviously conference play questions will be discussed.
— Ryan (@StillRyanFive) March 31, 2017
14) Duke Riley, Louisiana State — Might receive that “undersized” label from some, as well. Only one-year under his belt as a starter. He’s definitely draftable, but the mid-round talk is a bit rich for my taste.
15) Elijah Lee, Kansas State — Standing at 6’3″, and he definitely plays like it. He’s aggressive and has displayed that #burst, but I’ve seen him get out-muscled frequently. Lee’s shown flashes, but he’s simply more of a project. Surprised we haven’t heard more chatter about a move to safety.
— Chris Lilly (@wibwChrisLilly) October 3, 2016
It’s fair to note (and evident, I’d imagine) that I have left out a name or three. These aren’t all the linebackers in the class, but just the ones I feel confident in “grading” (player’s I’ve seen enough of) and projecting to the next level.
Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive