April 26, 2017

2017 Linebacker Prospects

#10 Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama


QB / RB / WR / TE / OT / IOL / EDGE / DL / LB / CB / S



This linebacker class in pretty insane. I don't even think it's getting enough credit. So many potential Day One starters. Most of the top talent can play inside 'backer or outside. Haason Reddick has a shot to be the first linebacker drafted, but Reuben Foster is seen as the consensus top linebacker prospect. Several SEC linebackers look to be in the late first round mix.

Prospect rankings are based on film breakdown provided by Draft Breakdown with a minimum of 3 games watched per prospect in most cases. Measurables, athletic testing, future roles and projections are also taken into effect.
Injuries, off the field issues, etc. will mot be taken into consideration. These rankings are based on talent and projections on the field. Players are grouped into "tiers" to separate them. Players that I project as early round picks will be placed in the "All-Pro"/"Pro Bowl" tiers for example. Prospects that I saw limited film of or was unable to watch at all will not be ranked, but listed under "Other Notable Prospects". Specifically, prospects well known in the scouting community and draft sites like CBS Sports and Pro Football Focus will be listed here.



Tier One: All-Pro Prospects


1. Reuben Foster
Experience: Senior | School: Alabama
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 233 lbs.
Hand Size: 10 1/4" | Arm Length: 32 3/8" | Grade: Top 15


40 Time: N/A | Bench: N/A | Vertical: N/A | Broad: N/A
3 Cone: N/A | 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A


Analysis: An elite linebacker prospect who can pretty much do it all. He has sideline to sideline range, is exceptional in coverage, will take on and shed blocks, takes smart angles, and is an impact run defender. He also has the potential to be an effective blitzer as well. He is one of the most athletic linebacker prospects I have seen in a while. He's like a missile on the field, and is a certified big hitter. He's fluid, can stop on a dime, and change directions really well. Needs to limit the head first tackles. Very dangerous. Causes him to miss some tackles. First rounder all the way, but a "diluted sample" at the combine could cause him to slide.




Tier Two: Pro-Bowl Prospects


2. Tyus Bowser
Experience: Senior | School: Houston
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 245 lbs.
Hand Size: 10 1/8" | Arm Length: 33 1/4" | Grade: Round 1


40 Time: 4.65 | Bench: 21 | Vertical: 37.5" | Broad: 127"
3 Cone: 6.75 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.38 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A


Analysis: I have a feeling Bowser is going to go very early in the draft. He hasn't had as much opportunity to rush the passer as some of the other top EDGE players, but has flashed the potential to be one of the best in this class. He is a top tier athlete, who can win with his speed around the edge, and quickness rushing inside. Displays violent hands and a relentless motor, plus pursuit. Can convert speed into power. Was asked to drop into coverage a lot at Houston, where he looked comfortable, showing fluidity and change of direction skills. Will take on and shed blocks. Use his length to his advantage, and is an impact player against the run. Should look to get stronger and add more pass rush moves. His versatility is a plus.




3. Haason Reddick
Experience: Senior (RS) | School: Temple
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 230 lbs.
Hand Size: 10 1/8" | Arm Length: 32 3/4" | Grade: Round 1


40 Time: 4.52 | Bench: 24 | Vertical: 36.5" | Broad: 133"
3 Cone: 7.01 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.26 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A


Analysis: Reddick is actually an EDGE player who projects best as an off the ball linebacker due to lack of size. However, like Reuben Foster, Reddick shows the athleticism, sideline to sideline range, change of direction skills, and instincts to be a stud at the next level. He wouldn't rank as highly for me as an EDGE rusher, but it's still one of the strong parts of his game and teams should look to take advantage. He can also set the edge and is really good against the run. Not Khalil Mack, but could be viewed as such by NFL teams.




4. Jabrill Peppers**
Experience: Sophomore (RS) | School: Michigan
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 214 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 5/8" | Arm Length: 30 3/4" | Grade: Round 2


40 Time: 4.46 | Bench: 19 | Vertical: 35.5" | Broad: 128"
3 Cone: N/A | 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A


Analysis: You can make a case for Peppers being the best athlete in the draft. He is so good with the ball in his hands, especially in space. He'll be an immediate impact player during his rookie season as a return man. He's also a reliable player in space on the defensive end. He needs to learn a position in order to reach his true potential. Not a ton of experience in coverage, but the athleticism, fluidity, and play making are there. Needs to get stronger if he's going to play linebacker. Some teams think he can be a running back. Only thing stopping Peppers from being a first round pick is figuring out what position you're drafting him to play. At least, before the news of his "diluted sample" at the combine. Lock to fall out of the first round.




Tier Three: Future Starter Prospects


5. Zach Cunningham*
Experience: Junior (RS) | School: Vanderbilt
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 235 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 1/4" | Arm Length: 34 3/8" | Grade: Round 2


40 Time: 4.67 | Bench: 15 | Vertical: 35" | Broad: 125"
3 Cone: 7.03 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.29 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A


Analysis: Usually when describing a linebacker as a "thumper", it means he's a two down linebacker. Not Cunningham. He has three down ability as a linebacker. He's strong, fast, and athletic. Not as explosive as Foster or Reddick, but has the ability to excel as a coverage linebacker while taking on and shedding blocks to make plays in the running game. Needs to work on his tackling technique. He ends up going high and as a result leads to a lot of missed tackles. Best fit is probably going to be an inside linebacker in a 4-3 defense.




6. Jarrad Davis
Experience: Senior | School: Florida
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 234 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 3/4" | Arm Length: 33 1/2" | Grade: Round 2


40 Time: 4.58 | Bench: 23 | Vertical: 38.5" | Broad: 129"
3 Cone: 7.30 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.29 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A


Analysis: Davis is a well rounded linebacker prospect. He has the speed and agility to play sideline to sideline and be an excellent pursuit player. He will take on blocks and deliver the first punch to bigger lineman, then disengage and make the play. He was really good in coverage on tape. Love his patience, but at times can be a little too patient. Also needs to take better angles to the ball. Luckily, he has the overall athleticism to make up for these mistakes. Durability concerns? Played through an ankle injury, then re-aggravated it against Alabama.




7. Alex Anzalone*
Experience: Junior (RS) | School: Florida
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 243 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 1/8" | Arm Length: 32 1/8" | Grade: Round 2


40 Time: 4.63 | Bench: 16 | Vertical: 30.5" | Broad: 116"
3 Cone: 6.88 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.25 | 60-Yard Shuttle: 11.71


Analysis: Durability concerns and lack of production will push him down the board, but Anzalone is a stud. Great size, speed, and has the athleticism to be a true sideline to sideline linebacker. Very good in coverage and plays well in space. Takes on blocks and makes plays against the run. One of the best blitzers in the draft, and has the speed and length to rush from the outside potentially. Will occasionally bite on play action fakes, though he has the speed to make up ground if beaten. Not a bad tackler, but there is room for improvement.




Tier Four: Developmental Starter Prospects


8. Kendell Beckwith
Experience: Senior | School: Louisiana State
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 245 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 1/2" | Arm Length: 33" | Grade: Round 3


40 Time: N/A | Bench: 20 | Vertical: N/A | Broad: N/A
3 Cone: N/A | 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A


Analysis: Beckwith is a stud. Downhill linebacker who is a force against the run. Has very good straight line speed. Above average tackler, and has shown the ability to cover tight ends down the field and looks comfortable in zone coverage. Has the strength to take on blocks, and sheds them to make plays. Takes smart angles. May not be athletic enough to play in space. MLB/ILB prospect.




9. Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Experience: Senior | School: Tennessee
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 230 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 5/8" | Arm Length: 32 1/4" | Grade: Round 3


40 Time: 4.65 | Bench: N/A | Vertical: N/A | Broad: N/A
3 Cone: 7.34 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.38 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A


Analysis: Fast, athletic linebacker that has sideline-to-sideline range. Looks smooth and comfortable in coverage. Can sniff out screens and attack really well. Great closing speed. Displays physicality against ball carriers. Athletic enough to avoid blocks, but struggles when forced to take them on due to lack of size and strength. Gets caught in traffic too often. Bites on play action fakes more often than you would like and has a tendency to over-pursue plays at times. Some miss tackles due to improper technique. Flashes the ability to be an effective blitzer. Weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense is his best fit.




10. Raekwon McMillan*
Experience: Junior | School: Ohio State
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 241 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 3/4" | Arm Length: 33" | Grade: Round 4


40 Time: 4.61 | Bench: 23 | Vertical: 33" | Broad: 121"
3 Cone: 7.15 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.39 | 60-Yard Shuttle: 11.84


Analysis: Prototypical linebacker based on size who looks the part. Really reliable tackler. Looks to have the mindset of stopping the run first, and he just seems to have a nose for the football. Can struggle to get off blocks at times. Run first mindset causes him to bite on play action and option fakes way too often, resulting in him getting beat in coverage. Looks uncomfortable at times in coverage: doesn't get deep enough in zone coverage, and sometimes appears unaware of assignment. Good straight line athlete, but not overly agile or explosive. Hard for him to compensate athletically when he takes a bad angle. Lack of fluidity limits his already questionable ability in man coverage.




Tier Five: Developmental Backup Prospects


11. Duke Riley
Experience: Senior | School: Louisiana State
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 230 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 1/4" | Arm Length: 32" | Grade: Round 4


40 Time: 4.58 | Bench: 18 | Vertical: 34.5" | Broad: 122"
3 Cone: 6.89 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.21 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A


Analysis: Another fast, athletic linebacker that always seems to be around the ball. Can shoot the gaps really well and is a good pursuit player. Lack of size and strength are issues, as he's done once a lineman gets their hands under his pads. Can play in space, but tackling in space is another issue. Needs to be better in this area. Has the athleticism to excel in coverage, but didn't look that great when playing man to man. Gives up some plays.




Other Notable Prospects


Josh Harvey-Clemons
Experience: Senior (RS) | School: Louisville
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 222 lbs.
Hand Size: 10 3/8" | Arm Length: 35 3/8" | Grade: N/A


40 Time: 4.75 | Bench: 15 | Vertical: 33" | Broad: 121"
3 Cone: 7.09 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.59 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A


Analysis: Too big and slow to be a legit safety prospect. The talent is there, but he is flying under the radar.




Tanner Vallejo
Experience: Senior | School: Boise State
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 227 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 5/8" | Arm Length: 30 1/2" | Grade: N/A


40 Time: 4.67 | Bench: 19 | Vertical: 33.5" | Broad: 121"
3 Cone: 7.08 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.30 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A


Analysis: Did not get the chance to watch him, but I would not be surprised to see Vallejo sneak into the 3rd round.




Anthony Walker*
Experience: Junior (RS) | School: Northwestern
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 239 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 1/2" | Arm Length: 30 3/8" | Grade: N/A


40 Time: 4.65 | Bench: 23 | Vertical: 30.5" | Broad: 116"
3 Cone: 7.23 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.34 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A




Elijah Lee*
Experience: Junior | School: Kansas State
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 229 lbs.
Hand Size: N/A | Arm Length: N/A | Grade: N/A


40 Time: 4.71 | Bench: 18 | Vertical: 38" | Broad: 122"
3 Cone: 7.14 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.36 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A




Ben Boulware
Experience: Senior | School: Clemson
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 232 lbs.
Hand Size: 10" | Arm Length: 30 1/2" | Grade: N/A


40 Time: 4.85 | Bench: 20 | Vertical: 29.5" | Broad: 111"
3 Cone: 7.02 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.40 | 60-Yard Shuttle: 12.13




Jayon Brown
Experience: Senior | School: UCLA
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 226 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 5/8" | Arm Length: 31 3/8" | Grade: N/A


40 Time: 4.51 | Bench: 20 | Vertical: 32.5" | Broad: 120"
3 Cone: 7.20 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.51 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A




Blair Brown
Experience: Senior (RS) | School: Ohio
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 240 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 3/8" | Arm Length: 31 1/4" | Grade: N/A


40 Time: 4.65 | Bench: 22 | Vertical: 38" | Broad: 124"
3 Cone: 6.92 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.18 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A




Marquel Lee
Experience: Senior | School: Wake Forest
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 235 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 1/2" | Arm Length: 32 1/2" | Grade: N/A


40 Time: 4.78 | Bench: 25 | Vertical: 31" | Broad: 118"
3 Cone: 7.28 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.33 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A




Jordan Evans
Experience: Senior | School: Oklahoma
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 232 lbs.
Hand Size: N/A | Arm Length: N/A | Grade: N/A


40 Time: 4.50 | Bench: 19 | Vertical: N/A | Broad: N/A
3 Cone: 7.00 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.27 | 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A




Connor Harris
Experience: Senior | School: Lindenwood
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 242 lbs.
Hand Size: 9 3/8" | Arm Length: 30 1/8" | Grade: N/A


40 Time: 4.73 | Bench: 18 | Vertical: 33" | Broad: 114"
3 Cone: 7.13 | 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.31 | 60-Yard Shuttle: 11.84