CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Inside Linebackers

CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Inside Linebackers

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CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Inside Linebackers

CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Inside Linebackers


From the college football perspective, who are the top inside linebackers in the 2017 NFL Draft?


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It’s not a deep group of versatile inside linebackers, but there are a few big calls to make among the SEC and Big Ten stars up top.

Mostly, there are special teamers and backups to choose from, but as always, there should be one or two leading tacklers from a group that might not fit the measurables.

So what’s the college football analysis and take on the 2017 NFL Draft inside linebacker class? Who can play, and who can’t? It’s this simple – who are the ones who matter, and who are the ones who are just guys who’ll make it if someone gets lucky?

After seeing and covering these guys from recruiting until completion, from the college football perspective …

2017 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers

1. Rueben Foster, Alabama

The opinions are going to be mixed about him – especially after a positive drug test at the combine. He’s a gigantic hitter who can get all over the field and do big things as a pass rusher and in coverage. The problem? He’s a smallish 229 pounds, but that’s by design, getting lighter and faster. If he can hold up at this weight – and not get overpowered – he’ll be a stud in any defense.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 1st Round

2. Jarrad Davis, Florida

A great leader who every defensive coordinator is going to want, he just makes plays. While he’ll have to stick on the inside in the right system, he’s one of the few inside linebackers in the draft who’s fine in pass coverage, and can bring a little pop.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

3. Anthony Walker, Northwestern

Special in all phases of his game – on the field – he’s an elite pass rusher, can crank up the power against the run, and is great in pass coverage. While he’s not the smoothest of athletes, it doesn’t matter – he produced at a high-level. The opinions on him are going to be all over the board. He’s a second-rounder in terms of production, a late-round flier on raw tools and smoothness.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

4. Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State

There’s a lot not to like. He’s a big defender who isn’t quite quick enough at the highest of levels to fit into every system, and he’s not going to do much in pass coverage if he has to stay with a back, but he’s a tough defender who’ll make a ton of tackles. Don’t think too much about this – let him slide, take the steal.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 3rd Round

5. Kendell Beckwith, LSU

He looked the part. The 6-2, 243-pounder is a big thumper who blasts away on the interior. He can’t move all that well, and he won’t show any range, but he’ll be a dominant force against the run once he gets over his torn ACL. He would’ve been a top 50 pick if he wasn’t hurt.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

NFL Draft: Dumb Luck If Any Of These Inside Linebackers Are NFL-Good Starters

6. Tanner Vallejo, Boise State

Way too small, the 228-pounder it a tough guy of tough guys who’ll always fight through problems to get on the field and make things happen. He’ll be a special teamer who rotates into linebacking corps, but he should stick as a versatile option.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 5th Round

7. Ben Gideon, Michigan

A great combine boosted him up. The 6-2, 244-pounder has the size, he’s extremely quick, and he’s strong for the interior. A killer on special teams, he should make it for his versatility in a few different areas. You can’t build an NFL linebacking corps around him, but he can produce.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

8. Ben Boulware, Clemson

There’s absolutely nothing to like in terms of tools and athleticism, but he knows how to make lots and lots of plays. Stunningly good in pass coverage considering his lack of quickness, he can get behind the line, too. He might turn into one of those late-round picks who ends up leading a team in tackles – if he’s surrounded by a ton of talent.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 5th Round

NFL Draft: Draft Them. Don’t Draft Them. Whatever.

9. Hardy Nickerson, Illinois

Son of the NFL dad with the same name, he’s a form tackler who got in on everything for Cal, and then when his father took over the defensive coordinator duties at Illinois. He’s lacking the NFL tools, and he can’t cover, but he could be a core special-teamer.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 6th Round

10. Marcus Oliver, Indiana

It was a strange move leaving early. He was a big-time playmaker last year as a forced fumble machine and tackler behind the line, but he’s not big at 5-11 and under 240 pounds with a tough-guy style. He’s not going to do anything in pass coverage, but he’ll be an impossible cut for a staff.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: Free Agent

11. Kevin Davis, Colorado State

Too small – 6-2, 235 – too slow, not strong enough. Other than that, everything’s fine. He’s got a good burst into the backfield and he was a highly-productive run stopper who moves well. However, he’s going to get crushed by the power running games.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: Free Agent

12. Brooks Ellis, Arkansas

Quick, the 6-2, 240-pounder is great in the box and a nice-hitter when he’s able to get to the ball. He might not be a sideline-to-sideline playmaker, but he looks the part when things come his way. Forget about it in pass coverage.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: Free Agent

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