Alabama’s Reuben Foster remains the top prospect inside
1. REUBEN FOSTER
Alabama, 6-0, 229 Foster was the top-ranked linebacker before the NFL scouting combine, and he remains there even after being sent home early after a verbal altercation during the medical checks. That punishment kept Foster from being able to complete his slate of interviews and from participating in on-field drills, but his film and college production at Alabama should be more than enough to make him the No. 1 inside linebacker drafted, perhaps as high as in the top 10. Foster is an excellent tackler but also has the speed and athleticism that should allow him to hold up in pass coverage – a critical skill teams are looking for when drafting a linebacker in the first round.
2. HAASON REDDICK
Temple, 6-1, 237 Reddick is the fastest-rising linebacker, in part because of a spectacular series of workouts at the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine, where he ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash. The question about Reddick is that he projects to linebacker in the NFL after having never played that position at Temple (he was an undersized defensive end in college). But he has all the physical traits and athleticism that should have NFL teams convinced he can make the switch. He already has pass rush skills (and had 101⁄ 2 sacks as a senior at Temple) and his pre-draft workouts have shown he should have the coverage abilities teams covet.
3. ZACH CUNNINGHAM
Vanderbilt, 6-3, 234 If college production matters, Cunningham should be among the top linebackers drafted in April. He led the SEC in tackles last year as a junior and also recovered four fumbles, both signs that he always manages to be around the ball. Also helping Cunningham’s case to be a first-rounder is how easy it is to picture him in any defensive scheme. He’s versatile enough to play weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, but he could also be an inside line- backer for a team running a 3-4. And with so many NFL teams running some sort of hybrid scheme, Cunningham could be plugged into a variety of different roles. 4. JARRAD DAVIS Florida, 6-1, 238 NFL teams weren’t able to see Davis work out until his pro day at the University of Florida after Davis declined to participate in on-field drills at the NFL scouting combine in order to maximize his recovery time from the ankle injury that cut his final season at UF short. But he appears to have done enough in that work out – with a 4.56-second 40-yard dash – to answer any linger questions about the health of his ankle, which should give teams confidence he’ll be able to display the same sideline-to-sideline coverage range in the NFL that he did at UF.
5. RAEKWON McMILLAN
Ohio State, 6-2, 240 There is no questioning McMil- lan’s college credentials, as a three-year starter at Ohio State, but McMillan has spent this spring trying to prove that he can quickly transition to the NFL, just like former Buckeyes defensive teammates Darron Lee and Joey Bosa did a year ago. The knock on McMillan was about his athleticism, with questions about if he had the speed necessary to stand out in the pros. He helped answer that with a 4.61-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, thirdbest among linebackers in Indianapolis.
6. ANTHONY WALKER
Northwestern, 6-1, 238 When Walker weighed in at the NFL combine at 238 pounds, it showed he had heard one of the biggest questions about him, and
was willing to answer it. Walker played at closer to 250 pounds at Northwestern, and that extra bulk would likely hamper his ability to be fast and fluid enough in an NFL defense. But if he can manage to keep a slightly leaner frame, he projects as a prototypical middle linebacker.
7. KENDELL BECKWITH
LSU, 6-2, 243 Beckwith suffered a torn ACL late in his senior year at LSU, so an NFL team will have to draft Beckwith based on his college film and interviews alone. That injury is certainly a setback that will hurt his draft stock, though he told reporters at the NFL combine that he has already started running and that he expects to be healthy in time for training camp.
8. ELIJAH LEE
Kansas State, 6-3, 228 Lee didn’t get an invite to the NFL combine, so he didn’t get to measure himself directly against the other top linebackers in this draft class, but expect teams to give him a hard look after a solid career at Kansas State, including more than 100 tackles and two interceptions last year. Lee is slightly undersized, which might have teams concerned about his ability to hold up against the run. But with how often teams are in sub passing packages, having a smaller, faster linebacker is becoming increasingly valuable, which could increase Lee’s stock.
9. ALEX ANZALONE
Florida, 6-3, 241 Anzalone certainly looks the part of an NFL inside linebacker and he performed well at the NFL combine, but a team is largely going to have to draft Anzalone on his potential after an injury-plagued career at the University of Florida. He missed the last five games of the year of the Gators (in his only season as a starter) because of a broken arm, and also dealt with shoulder issues in his career.
10. RYAN ANDERSON
Alabama, 6-2, 253 Anderson was extremely produc- tive in college, and recorded nine sacks last year while playing alongside other talented front seven players, like Reuben Foster and Tim Williams. But Anderson faces plenty of questions in the draft process on if he’s athletic enough to be a full-time contributor in the NFL. He hasn’t help alleviate those concerns yet, especially after running a slower 40yard dash at his pro day in Tuscaloosa (4.84) than he did at the NFL combine (4.74).
Alabama's Reuben Foster puts a hit on Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. Foster is expected to be the first inside linebacker taken in the NFL draft.
LSU’s Kendell Beckwith makes a tackle on Wisconsin’s Dare Ogunbowale. A torn ACL may hurt Beckwith’s draft stock, but he says he’s already running.