Raiders Draft: 2017 Watch List – Linebackers

“It’s never too early…” is generally how a majority of these look-ahead pieces start.

It’s always too early, but here we are nonetheless.

For this “2017 Watch List” series, I’m looking at four position groups Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders should be targeting early and often next spring: linebacker, running back, cornerback, and safety. If time allows, I’ll roll out the wide receiver names-to-watch too, as I think you can definitely make the argument for an early-round selection.

But first, the linebackers.

Depending how things play out this offseason in the middle with names like Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball attempting to make a jump to starter, linebacker could emerge as the biggest need for the Raiders next offseason. Malcolm Smith is serviceable, certainly, but a player who you could look to upgrade.

On paper, this incoming class looks solid.

1. Jarrad Davis, Florida

Davis may look more like the “traditional” linebacker, but he’s undoubtedly twitched up; a monster against the run, and dependable in coverage. If Jalen’s my 1a, Jarrad’s definitely holding down the 1b spot. He’s exactly who you want manning the middle.

Davis tops Lance Zierlein’s watch list, as well:

2. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tenneessee

Speaking of 1a, Reeves-Maybin appears “undersized” to most, but the hyper-aggressive backer is everywhere on film. I guess I have a type?

3. Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State

McMillan may have flown under the radar for the casual fan (despite his recruitment), given how stacked that Buckeye defense has been, and the talent they just funneled to the league. 2016’s the year he becomes a household name.

…he’s gotta bounce-back from this though, first and foremost:

4. Reuben Foster, Alabama

Coach Nick Saban just keeps collecting excellent linebackers and Foster (keep tabs on teammates Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson, too) is next up. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was firmly at the top of many positional rankings by the time the spring rolls around.

5. Kendell Beckwith, Louisiana State

A true Mike, and more of the “thumper”-type in the middle. He won’t blow you away with speed, but early viewings will reveal a fundamentally sound player: sure-tackler, instincts and recognition, etc. — all the superlatives.

He’ll get some looks early on:

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