CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Outside Linebackers

CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Outside Linebackers

2017 NFL Draft

CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Outside Linebackers


CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Outside Linebackers

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

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Quarterback is the ultimate boom-or-bust position in the 2017 NFL Draft, but outside linebacker isn’t all that far behind.

From Tim Williams, to T.J. Watt, to Hasson Reddick, and on and on, someone’s draft will be totally made, or totally broken, but the it does going after one of the top outside linebackers, and when.

So what’s the college football analysis and take on the 2017 NFL Draft outside 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: Outside Linebackers

1. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

Part defensive end, part outside linebacker, he’s a fast 6-2, 250-pound pass rusher who never, ever takes a play off. He’s what you want in terms of motor and want-to, with great skills to get to the quarterback and screw things up.

He’s a true tweener, though, with some likely to want to test him out as an end, so he might need a little time to find the right role. However, you’re never going to get cheated on effort and drive, and he’s got the basics to go along with the attitude. Compared to the other outside linebackers with higher upside, McKinley is the safe stand up double.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

2. Haason Reddick, Temple

He’s not big enough, and he’s been overhyped in the draft process, but there’s a lot to like. He’s only 6-1 and 237 pounds, but that’s been the only knock through the offseason draft process. A special pass rusher with elite quickness and flash, he falls into the unblockable category when he gets a step on a blocker. Don’t ask him to be a thumper or a big-time run stopper. Just let him make big things happen on the outside.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 1st Round

3. Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt

Don’t get caught up in what he’s not. He’s not bulky, needs more power, and he’ll have a rough time when blocked, but try watching Vanderbilt games and find a key defensive play he didn’t make. He’s a good enough athlete, he’s a tough leader, and he’s a baller who’ll put up big numbers no matter what.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

4. Tim Williams, Alabama

Okay, so the guy had issues with drug tests. If you can get past that, take him and let him be your dominant pass rusher. Yeah, there’s massive bust potential, but when he turned it on, he was unblockable, even by his own NFL-caliber offensive tackles in practices. There’s a ton of risk, but if he hits, he’s going to be a game-changing Pro Bowl destroyer.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

5. T.J. Watt, Wisconsin

Way, WAY overloved because of his last name and his ridiculous athleticism and quickness, he’s a late second round talent who’ll go higher because of the speculation and pass rushing upside. However, while there’ll be scouts who don’t want him for the early first round price, he’s going to be guy you might be too afraid not to take.

When he was on, he was a dominant force who couldn’t be blocked, but he’ll get erased as a NFL pass rusher if someone gets a body on him. While he needs to get bigger, he’s got the frame to handle it.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 1st Round

6. Tyus Bowser, Houston

Measurables, measurables, measurables. He’s not massive at 6-3 and 247 pounds but he’s explosive, fast, and really, really quick. He’ll get blasted by the power blockers, and he needs to do more to get behind the line at the next level when he’s dealing with other great athletes, but yeah, he’ll fit in just fine. However, be warned. If he’s not making big things happen in the backfield, what’s he going to do?

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

7. Ryan Anderson, Alabama

Sort of under the radar compared to the other Alabama superstars, Anderson was an elite pass rusher and playmaker for the otherworldly defense. He’s a thick defender with great power, but he’s not all that fast or athletic, and he might drop a bit too far. Very smart and very productive, don’t overthink this.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

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

8. Vince Biegel, Wisconsin

With the ultimate motor and the ultimate leadership skills, many will want him just because he’s the type of guy you want running your defense – he’ll be a future coach. Just quick enough, just athletic enough, and just big enough to get by, his all-out mentality makes up for the other problems. But there’s a hard ceiling on what he can do and if he can hold up.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

9. Alex Anzalone, Florida

Always, ALWAYS hurt, if he can stay healthy, though, he’s a potential star who could blossom at the next level. Really fast, really quick, really athletic, he’s got rare raw skills to go along with good size and excellent toughness against the run. Now he needs his shoulders to hold up.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 3rd Round

10. Ejuan Price, Pitt

The problem is his position – he doesn’t have one. He’s a woefully undersize defensive end – he’s 5-11 and 240 pounds – and he’s not really an outside linebacker in a prototype sense, but he’s an extraordinary pass rusher who never, ever stops. Find a role for him on pure passing downs, get him on the field, let him go.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 5th Round

11. Jayon Brown, UCLA

Some will hate him because of his 6-0, 230-pound size and lack of elite athleticism, but he can get around and produce no matter what. Size matters with him, and it’ll drop him a few rounds, but he should start out as a great special teamer and grow into a whale of a defender if there’s bulk to protect him. He’s a ball player.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 5th Round

12. Devonte Fields, Louisville

Not quite fast enough to be an elite NFL pass rusher, and without the big bulk to be used as an end, he’s athletic on the field with an uncanny knack for dominating behind the line. Some guys just have it when it comes to making big plays, and that’s him. You just have to blow off the measurables and you have to hope he wants it.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 6th Round

13. Jordan Evans, Oklahoma

A little smallish at 6-2 and 233 pounds, he’s not going to bring any sort of power, but he can move. Don’t ask him to get nasty on the inside at the next level, and he’s not going to shed blockers, but he could be a very nice, versatile part of a puzzle on the outside – he knows how to play.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

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

14. Carroll Phillips, Illinois

While he’s a big 6-3, 242-pounder, he doesn’t quite have the right body type for the interior and he’s not fast enough to be a star on the outside. A devastating playmaker behind the line last year for the Illini, he might find a role as a situational pass rusher, but he won’t be a thumper.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

15. Elijah Lee, Kansas State

Only 228 pounds on a 6-3 frame, he’s a long, lean defender with no power whatsoever. Even so, he made a whole lot of tackles and a whole bunch of big plays for a strong Big 12 D. He might not be a difference-maker, but he could fit into a slew of different styles with good speed to go along with his want-to.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 5th Round

16. Matt Milano, Boston College

Very strong, he overcomes his 6-0, 223-pound size with a tough-guy mentality. He’ll get engulfed, but he can get into the backfield. Everyone’s going to love him and want him, but he’s just missing the raw bulk and basic tools to stand out as a starter.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 6th Round

17. Richie Brown, Mississippi State

A baller, he was a tackling machine in the SEC with good pass rushing skills. He succeeded at the highest level doing a little of everything right – he was terrific in pass coverage, too. He’s a bit undersized, and he’s not fast enough or powerful enough, but he might be an elite special teamer and top backup.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 6th Round

18. Marquel Lee, Wake Forest

One of the stronger linebackers in the draft, he’s built like an inside linebacker with the timing to get behind the line. What will he do and where will he play? He doesn’t have NFL talent for any one spot, but he’s got enough of the tools and the smarts to figure it out. He might be a hidden gem with the right coaching.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 5th Round

19. Calvin Munson, San Diego State

Probably more of an inside option, the 6-1, 245-pounder can get in the backfield and he’s always making things happen against the run. He’s not going to do anything in pass coverage, but he’s a big-time tackler who could shock in a camp.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: Free Agent

20. Steve Taylor, Houston

No one’s going to like him because he doesn’t have any of the NFL measurables – he’s 225 pounds and can’t fly – but he was the tone-setter and devastating playmaker in the backfield for a strong D. He can play, but it’ll have to be on special teams first.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: Free Agent

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