Alabama’s Reuben Fos­ter re­mains the top prospect in­side

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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).

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

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