The next installment in the draft series is linebacker. We will take a look at the top OLBs, ILBs and pass rush OLBs for the 3-4 defense.
Rueben Foster (Alabama)
Foster is an incredibly athletic and productive LB for Alabama. Foster is 6’0 and 229 pounds with good cover skills. Foster is explosive and sheds blocks well. He knows how to fill rushing lanes and is a good tackler. Foster may be too aggressive and has some injury concerns. He failed a drug test before the combine (diluted) and yelled at a nurse to be kicked out of the combine. Talent-wise Foster is a top 10 pick but he may drop due to character issues to mid to late first round.
Jarrad Davis (Florida)
Davis is an athletic LB from Florida. Davis is 6’1 and 238 but has the size and strength to be run stuffer. Davis is quick with good closing speed for coverage. He may lack the bulk and wear down at ILB but he should still be a three down LB in the league. The former Gator could be a late first round pick or early second round pick.
Raekwon McMillan (Ohio State)
McMillian is 6’2 and 240 pound experienced ILB from Ohio State. McMillan has great strength to shed blockers. He must work on his coverage skills but still is athletic enough to be a three down LB. He must make more splash plays but should be a solid starting LB in the league. McMillan is a solid second round pick.
TIER 2 ILB
Anthony Walker (Northwestern), Kendell Beckwith (LSU) and Ben Gedeon (Michigan) are late day 2 or day 3 prospects at middle linebacker.
Hasson Reddick (Temple)
Reddick has bolted up draft boards with a tremendously athletic combine showing. Reddick was a DE and moved to LB. He has shined there and showed great athleticism and coverage. He can rush the passer and has enough power and speed to shed blocks. Reddick could be a 4-3 weak side LB and a three down player. The former Temple Owl is a solid first round pick.
TJ Watt (Wisconsin)
Watt is a great athlete like his brother stud DE JJ Watt. Watt is 6’4 252 pounds and should be a late first round or early second round pick. He was highly productive for the Badgers and is a smart and instinctive football player. Watt is a good tackler that takes good angles with good balance. Watt has tweener size but should be a starting LB and useful player in the league.
Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt)
Cunningham is 6’3 and 234 pounds four year starter for Vanderbilt. He is aggressive with good instincts and slips blocks well. Cunningham has good range and speed to be a solid cover man in the NFL. Cunningham must add some bulk and refine his tackling skills as he had too many missed tackles. Cunningham is a late day 1 or early day 2 pick at 4-3 OLB.
Takkarist McKinley (UCLA)
McKinley is a pass rushing OLB for UCLA. He has great closing speed and can get around the corner. He had a ton of tackles for losses and was a sack machine for the Bruins. McKinley could play DE but is probably more of a 3-4 OLB. McKinley has some concerns with a shoulder injury but should bolster a pass rush in his rookie year.
Tyus Bower (Houston) is incredibly athletic and has been rising up boards. He could slip into the first round with his production and athleticism. He provides a pass rush and has cover skills.
Tim Williams is a pass rushing 3-4 OLB specialist. He has some off field concerns but should add to a pass rush for a needy team.
Duke Riley (LSU), Ryan Anderson (Alabama), and Alex Anzalone are solid day 2 picks as well in this draft.
Jayon Brown (UCLA), Vince Biegel (Wisconsin) and Carroll Phillips (Illinois) are day 3 picks.
The Packers need a 3-4 OLB after losing Julius Peppers and Datone Jones in free agency. Green Bay still has starters in Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. Kyle Fackrell will be in his second year out of Utah State and Round 3 of the 2016 draft. Jayrone Elliot has always shown flashes but never consistently produced. Green Bay may add one OLB in the first three rounds. Harris, McKinley or Tim Williams could be a Green Bay Packer.
The Lions have 4-3 OLB needs. Detroit added Paul Worrilow in free agency and Antwione Williams enters year 2 as a fifth round pick from 2015. However, Detroit needs that coverage LB. Reddick, Davis, Cunningham or Bowser would all be great fits. Detroit may even trade down to later in the first and still nab the LB they want. Detroit has Tahir Whitehead at ILB and added Nick Bellore to back him up in free agency. Whitehead is in a contract year but had a down year in 2016 after solid years in 2014 and 2015 for the Lions. Detroit could move Whitehead back outside if they take Foster or Davis in Round 1.
The Vikings need a weak side LB after Chad Greenway retired this offseason. Emmanuel Lemur and Kentrell Brothers are more backups at this point and special team players. The Vikings could nab a LB in Round 2 or 3. Minnesota is set with Kendrick in the middle and Anthony Barr in the SAM and pass rushing OLB spot.
Chicago should be set at LB after investing heavily the last two years. Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd, Willie Young and Lamar Houston all return for the Bears. Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman is the best ILB combo in the league. Nick Kwitkowski is a 4th round pick backup at ILB.