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2016 LB Rankings

April 27, 2016

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    1. Myles Jack UCLA 6’1 245 Jr. He didn’t work out at the Combine due to his season ending knee injury. Some teams worry that it will eventually require microfracture surgery and it has his stock slipping on various draft boards. Jack was the offensive and defensive rookie of the year in 2013 for the Pac-12 as he excelled both at LB and RB. He’s such a natural athlete I really think he could play SS if a team wanted him to as he looks to have 4.4 speed. Going back to his freshman year RB highlights I was shocked how good he was. Solely as a RB I’d give him a 3rd round grade! In 2015 he barely played before his knee injury but in 2014 he had a good season (87 tackles, 8 TFL, 1 INT) and in 2013 he was even better (76 tackles, 1 sack, 7 TFL, 2 INT, 1 FF). Some will discount him due to the injury or the fact that he never had a truly dominant season but his 2013 was pretty close to dominant and his 2015 was cut short by injury (3 games) so I disagree with that level of thinking. Frame wise he’s just a big ball of muscle. His combination of strength and quickness is off the charts. Most people had Jaylon Smith as their #1 LB before the injury but I did not as Jack is so much stronger than Smith. Myles doesn’t get juked in the open field and consistently gets the ball carrier down. He will be elite in pass coverage due to his quickness, speed and good ball skills. His INT return vs. Stanford looked like a punt returner’s highlight, a position I have no doubt he could also fill quite well. There is nothing on the football field (Wildcat QB down the road?) that Jack can’t do well. I love his game, I’ve loved it from the moment I laid eyes on him and have no problem giving him that rare Top 10 grade as a non-pass rushing linebacker. He isn’t Top 5 because he didn’t have elite production and his size makes him fit probably best at WLB or MLB in a 4-3, neither of which have much pass rush potential. Top 10 as my #1 LB 4/27/16.
    2. Reggie Ragland Alabama 6’1 ¼ 247 Sr. He ran a 4.72 40 with a ‘31 ½ vertical and 4.28 shuttle. All were about average and for athletic measurables I’ll take average for Ragland. The reason I say that is because his instincts, strength and hitting ability are all elite. He barely played in 2012 or 2013 but had 93 or more tackles the past two years. He isn’t a big play guy (1 INT, 3 FF) and won’t excel in coverage but he’s about as good as it gets when it comes to a 3-4 ILB that can stuff the run and intimidate an opponent. He won’t play well against the pass in man coverage but have him patrol the middle in zone and he will keep people from wanting to catch balls in the middle of the field, just ask Malcolm Mitchell. His teammates love him and he really gets everyone going when he lays a big hit. Ragland is a step below a Pro Bowl linebacker due to his mediocre athleticism but he very well could make it a time or two in his career as I expect him to be a very good starter in the NFL. He reminds me of David Harris for the Jets, who made two Pro Bowls in his career by the way. He’s also one of the safest players in this draft as he has a great work ethic and his run stopping and instincts easily translate to the next level. Late 1st round as my #2 LB who will be a 10 year starter for someone 4/26/16.
    3. Darron Lee Ohio State 6’0 ¾ 232 Soph Redshirted 1 season. Widely regarded as one of the best athletes in this draft, Lee didn’t disappoint at the Combine as he ran a 4.47 40-better than probably two thirds of the wide receivers in this draft class. He didn’t stop there as his ‘35 ½ vertical was very good, his 11’1 broad jump is rare and his ‘33 ¼ arms are long for his size. As a redshirt Soph he only has two years of film and surprisingly his 2014 (81 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 16.5 TFL, 2 INT, 1 FF) is better film wise and statistically than his 2015 (66 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 11 TFL, 1 INT, 12 FF). His speed is rare but I’ve seen it before and sometimes it means scouts overlook all of a prospects red flags so the question I ask is, “Will Lee end up more like Ryan Shazier or Zach Brown?” Both ran ridiculous 40 times (2012 and 2014) yet Brown was a lightly regarded free agent after his rookie contract ended while Shazier has been injury prone but a Pro Bowl caliber linebacker when on the field. The difference is Shazier embraces the physical aspects of being a linebacker and Brown never did. Unfortunately I see a lot of tentativeness on Lee’s part and a lack of physicality that reminds me a lot of Brown. He is stronger at the POA than Brown was but there is a lot of bad film of Lee this year and I wonder if he played to avoid getting hurt. He isn’t tough, he appears to not like contact and he has no feel for the game. Against the run he has questionable instincts and as a pass rusher he has no secondary moves so if he can’t get almost clean to the QB due to his speed he will be easily blocked. He should excel though as a pass defender due to his elite speed as he also moves around incredibly well and has safety like agility. Lee has elite upside if a coach can get him to ball out, take on blocks and get his nose bloodied once in awhile but those are character type attributes that arguably can’t be coached and are just innate. I see his elite athleticism but I see more of Zach Brown than Ryan Shazier in him and worry that he’ll be nothing more than a tease to a franchise. Late 1st Round as my #3 LB who is lower on my board than others due to red flags like passion for the game, toughness and instincts.
    4. Su’a Cravens USC 6’0 226 Jr. He didn’t run a 40 at the Combine and his vertical (‘27) was the worst of any LB there, his 9’6 broad was mediocre. His body size screams 4-3 WLB and that position is regularly downgraded on draft day. He doesn’t appear to have scheme versatility so that likely is the only spot he can play at. He had similar production all three years at USC with between 53-86 tackles, 2-4 INT and usually some sacks and a forced fumble or two. His career “splash” numbers of 10.5 sacks, 4 FF and 9 INT is elite on a well rounded basis. He has great instincts and really understands the game. His motor is elite and for a small guy he has good strength and a real tenacity about him. He often would get pushed back by an OL but in the end beat the block anyway due to his quickness and relentlessness. He attacks blockers and doesn’t run around them. He isn’t twitchy fast but he has good speed and his poor Combine is a little surprising. He consistently tackles ball carriers low, especially in space, and that could get him in trouble at the next level. Cravens isn’t an elite athlete and plays arguably the least valuable position in all of football, WLB, but he’s a well rounded playmaker that has great instincts, toughness and football IQ. He translates really well to the next level and should be able to start from Day 1. Late 2nd Round as my #4 LB 4/27/16.
    5. Jaylon Smith Notre Dame 6’2 223 Jr. He’s listed at 240 at Notre Dame so his 223 Combine weight surprised me. Many people viewed him as the #1 Overall Prospect before his injury. I’ve never been as high on him as others have as his two +100 tackle seasons is good but his 4.5 sacks, 1 INT and 3 FF in 3 seasons is hardly elite. Also I’ve always viewed WLB in a 4-3, his most natural position fit, as one of the easiest positions to fill and would have a hard time pulling the trigger on him until all of the highly rated QBs, LTs, pass rushers and cornerbacks were off the board. On the field he was dynamic as he has 4.5 or possibly even 4.4 speed and is very physical for his size. I’ve had a 1st round grade on him since his Sophomore year and have had him on my radar since his freshman year so he has very good pedigree (top HS recruit as well). Where he’s special is in pass coverage as he has the speed and agility to defend the pass as well as any linebacker in the country. Pre-injury I had him as a mid to late 1st rounder. Yet everyone’s grade on him changed after his bowl game injury as it was devastating. He tore his ACL and MCL but most importantly he suffered nerve damage that possibly will never fully heal. It’s telling that even his agent admitted he won’t be playing in 2016 as the agents always sell teams around draft time about them being ready for training camp and other bullshit (best example is Marcus Lattimore’s agent selling teams that he’d be ready for game 1 as a rookie, he basically never played again). Smith has pass rush potential if he can play in the 240s but his pre-injury grade was based too much on potential. Mayock said he had special pass rush skills yet how can he say that when he had a grand total of 1 sack in his last year in college? Smith was always overhyped to me as he looked like a potential Pro Bowl 4-3 LB but you don’t take guys like him over an elite LT like Tunsil or an elite S like Jalen Ramsey. This idea that he was in the discussion as the 1st Overall Pick is ludicrous and is being exacerbated by the media that loves the story of the “fallen star.” Smith though would have settled in as a mid 1st on my board and he’s worth a roll of the dice after the end of the 2nd Round as he does have Pro Bowl potential. There is a distinct possibility that he doesn’t play in 2016 and comes back as a shell of his former self in 2017 but I’d roll the dice on him at some point as his upside is immense. Early 3rd round as my #5 LB who is a roll of the dice due to his devastating injury 4/26/16.
    6. Scooby Wright III Arizona 5’11 ¾ 239 Jr. He ran a terrible 4.90 40 which sent his draft stock falling even more. He’s had a pretty poor year with this Combine performance on top of his season ending injury. He’s very similar to Eric Striker as he was an elite pass rusher in college but at sub 6’0 with sub ‘31 arms (‘30 ½) and with a 4.90 40 I want no part of him as a 3-4 OLB. That’s disappointing as I love his film and in 2014 (163 tackles, 14 sacks, 29 TFL, 6 FF) he was undeniably the most productive pass rusher in the country. His 2014 season should go down as one of the ten best seasons ever for a defender as across the board he was prolific. His 163 tackles were the most any defender has had in the past three seasons. The last time someone had noticeably more tackles than that was in 2010-2011 when a guy named Luke Kuechly was having a historic three year run (I called Kuechly statistically the greatest linebacker in college football history so to be up anywhere near him is special). What’s even crazier about his 163 tackle total is that he’s a pass rusher so his tackles are a secondary responsibility. His pass rush is his main responsibility and he did that exceedingly well to as his 14 sacks were third in the country and when you review the list of pass rushers just above or below him, it is a who’s who of NFL 1st and 2nd round prospects (Hau’oli Kikaha, Nate Orchard, Joey Bosa, Shane Ray, Vic Beasley, Myles Garrett, etc.). Next there is his 29 TFL which is the 2nd highest total in the past 8 seasons in college football. You review that list of top TFL guys each year and it also is a who’s who of 1st rounders with Aaron Donald, Ryan Kerrigan, Jarvis Jones and Brandon Graham all going from leading the country in TFL to being 1st round picks. Finally there is his 6 FF which is the 3rd highest total in the past 8 seasons. Again you look at the leader boards of the forced fumble category and see former 1st rounders like Ryan Kerrigan, Jarvis Jones, Anthony Barr and Whitney Mercilus. Combining all of his amazing 2014 stats it is easy to make the case that it is one of the greatest seasons in college football history. So what do you do with him now? It’s an difficult question to answer as I think his best bet is as a 4-3 SLB who rushes the passer at times but his 4.90 40 is scary as few pass rushers or linebackers succeed at the next level with that kind of a 40 time. On film though he doesn’t play that slow and his strength and ability to disengage from blockers is rare. He’s the Joey Bosa of linebackers as he has rare hand use to go with just a passion about him that makes me think he will overcome his deficiencies. While he does play faster than 4.90 he isn’t a speedster and probably plays more like a 4.75-4.8. I still will keep a decent grade on him due to his historic productivity, his elite motor (the guy literally never takes a play off), his elite instincts, his very good strength and his elite hand use. That is quite a few characteristics on him in the elite category so it should allow him to overcome his characteristics I rate on an undraftable type level like his height, 40 time and arm length. He’s a mixed bag for sure but sometimes you just have to stop looking at measurables and just watch the guy play. Scooby is a playmaker and I expect him to continue to be in some form or fashion at the next level. Early 3rd round as my #6 LB who was historically productive in 2014 but has atrocious measurables 4/26/16.
    7. Eric Striker Oklahoma 5’11 ⅜ 227 Sr. He has massive hands (‘10 ⅛) for a sub 6’0 prospect. His Combine was very poor as his 4.80 40, ‘30 vertical and 4.46 shuttle all are DE type numbers and really he isn’t even linebacker size, he’s safety size so those numbers are atrocious on a size/speed ratio. I love Striker’s film and he gave talented players like Cyrus Kouandjio fits but he doesn’t appear to have the ability to continue as a regular edge rusher and I don’t know where to put him elsewhere. Size wise he makes sense as a WLB in a 4-3 but few schemes blitz their WLBs and if you don’t blitz him then you’re getting all his negatives (short, not that fast) without his strengths (heavy handed, great feel for rushing the passer, rare aggressiveness, elite slipperyness and bend around the corner). He had 23 sacks the past three seasons. There is some film of Striker just leaping at QBs with total abandon for his body. I love this kid’s tape as you can just see the passion which he plays the game with. I think his days of being a full time rusher are over, maybe some 3-4 teams don’t agree, but that passion as well as his instincts should allow him to be a playmaker in some capacity at the next level. He is the ultimate tweener but I feel like a guy with his talent will find his niche. Early 3rd round as my #7 LB who is one of my favorite players in this draft but who is still a potential bust due to his tweener status 4/25/16.
    8. Kamalai Correa Boise State 6’2 ⅝ 243 Jr. His sub ‘32 arms (‘31 ⅝) really bother me and aren’t helped by his sub ‘10 hands (‘9 ⅜). He ran a 4.69 40 which is average for his lower weight and was below average in the explosion drills as well. He had a better season in 2014 (59 tackles, 12 sacks, 19 TFL) than in 2015 (39 tackles, 7 sacks, 11 TFL). He showed elite strength and has some wow moments on film as he can just throw around smaller running backs. They moved him around a little bit and I really like his tape as a non-rushing linebacker. His Combine was pretty poor and his arm length all but ends my interest in him as a pass rusher but I do like him as a 4-3 SLB as he has great movement and is strong at the POA. The consensus probably is him staying as a rusher since he did get 19 sacks the past two years but I’m moving him from rusher to linebacker. Mid 3rd round as my #8 LB 4/25/16.
    9. Kentrell Brothers Missouri 6’0 ⅜ 245 Sr. Redshirted 1 season. He is 5 years out of HS so he’s an older prospect. He had a slow 40 (4.89) but it is mitigated somewhat by his heavier weight. His explosion drills were very poor (‘28 ½ vertical-2nd worst among LBs at the Combine) but his quickness drills were good. He had two +100 tackle seasons with 2015 (152 tackles, 2 INT, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF) being his best. 1st team All-American in 2015. He played MLB last year and looks like a good fit as a 3-4 ILB with 4-3 MLB being his second best fit. He shows his lack of speed on film so he worries me in pass coverage and on outside runs but he’s strong, has good instincts and is adept as a run stopper when you reduce the amount of ground he has to cover. He is a big hitter but more importantly he’s a very fundamentally sound player as he always is squared up when hitting someone and really understands footwork. He might end up being a two down player due to his lack of speed. Nonetheless if you are looking for a quality run stopper in the middle of your defense, would be best to compliment him with top level athletes around him, he would be a good fit. Mid 3rd round as my #9 LB 4/26/16.
    10. Deion Jones LSU 6’0 ⅞ 222 Sr. He ran a 4.59 40 which in most draft classes would get him more recognition than it does this year with Jack, Smith and Lee all being such elite athletes. His ‘33 vertical and 10’0 broad were good as well. He’s very much a one year wonder as he was a backup from 2012-2014 but had a great 2015 (100 tackles, 5 sacks, 13.5 TFL, 2 INT and 1 FF). He played MLB in college but projects as a WLB in a 4-3. He might be able to add a little weight but I don’t see him playing in the 240s so it likely is his only position. He has really good speed but doesn’t have great instincts and often takes a false step or two before exploding. He isn’t a big hitter and has quite a few weak tackles in open space. He doesn’t tackle with great technique, breaking down, and often flails at players. I was surprised how average his film was as I expected more from him. He’s a very good athlete but he clearly is raw and will not start as a rookie. Also his lack of scheme or position versatility as well as his one year wonder status all have me less than impressed. Late 3rd round as my #10 LB who I feel is very overrated and has some bust potential due to how raw he is 4/27/16.
    11. Jordan Jenkins Georgia 6’2 ⅝ 259 Sr. He has great arm length at ‘34 ¼ for his height and had a good vertical (‘36 ½) and solid broad (10’1). His 4.80 40 though is troublesome as a 3-4 OLB prospect though at 259 lbs with ‘34 arms some teams could feel comfortable with him as a DE. Another 3-4 OLB prospect from Georgia that had their sack total flatline while in college, Jenkins had 5 sacks as a freshman in 2012 and it surprisingly stayed as his career high (tied with 5 sacks for 3 straight years before reducing to 4 sacks as a senior). I’ve watched Jenkins for awhile, as he actually teamed up with Jarvis Jones as a freshman to form quite a formidable duo, and I was always underwhelmed. He’s a good example of a guy I don’t want to draft as he’s just good enough to cost a team a valuable draft pick and just good enough to warrant starting but he will not be a playmaker and will keep that position from being filled by a player that could become one. He is strong and physical which makes me wonder if his best fit is as a SLB in a 4-3 or as an ILB in a 3-4 because he just doesn’t have the athleticism, bendability or productivity to make me think he will develop into a NFL caliber edge rusher. As such I’m moving him to linebacker from pass rusher as it gives him more value. I could see him working well as an ILB in a 3-4 as he is tightly built and might struggle over the tight end as a 4-3 SLB. Late 3rd round as my #11 LB 4/25/16.
    12. Kyler Fackrell Utah State 6’5 245 Sr. Redshirted one season. 5 years removed from HS he’s an older prospect. He ran a 4.72 40 which was average as were his explosion drills. He missed almost all of the 2014 season due to injury. Despite that he still had three +80 tackle seasons in his career. His made a number of splash plays with 12 sacks, 4 INTs and 5 FF in his career. He has great height and could add a little weight as he isn’t terribly strong due to his thinner frame. He was moved all around the field and looks very agile whether rushing the QB or dropping in coverage. He doesn’t have the burst or strength to be a 3-4 OLB in my opinion and fits better as a SLB in a 4-3, though ILB in a 3-4 would work too, especially if he is bulked up. He reminds me a little of Alani Fua out of BYU last year. He disengages from blocks pretty well and uses his length to set the edge deceptively well, more with length than strength. He doesn’t have great instincts and plays a little tentatively. I heard chatter about Fackrell being a sleeper but I don’t see it as he looks like a mid round 4-3 SLB prospect that has a low ceiling and a high bust potential. I really don’t like his strength and how tentative he plays at times so I’m not his biggest fan. Mid 4th round as my #12 LB 4/25/16.
    13. Tyler Matakevich Temple 6’0 238 Sr. He had a bad 40 (4.81) and poor explosion drills but was good in quickness drills. Even at a small school like Temple it’s impressive to have four +100 tackle seasons. His 7 INTs and 4 FF are impressive as well though they came sporadically as he had a 5 INT season and a 3 FF season with goose eggs in both categories during his very productive 4 year career. Just watching film of him for a second with his face covered in baseball eye black as he races around the field shows the kind of player he is. It is hard not to love this player after watching his film as he’s just so passionate about the game. He has a great motor, is very physical and is a hard hitter. He could be a good special teams player. He has great instincts and might be able to be hidden athletically as a MLB in a 4-3. Unfortunately that will be the only way he’s successful as he plays like a 4.8 player and he will struggle against the pass and on outside runs if he isn’t schematically protected. If given a smaller area to work in and allowed to focus on stopping the run he could be a productive player as his motor, instincts and tackling ability are all elite. I like him but he has obvious flaws that a team will have to work around. Mid 4th round as my #13 LB 4/27/16.
    14. Joe Schobert Wisconsin 6’1 ⅜ 244 Sr. He ran a 4.76 40 and was mediocre in the explosion and quickness drills. They call him Joe the Show. He’s a former HS tailback. He was a 3-4 OLB in college and was productive in that role (79 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 19.5 TFL, 5 FF in 2015) but he lacks the length, burst or strength to continue in that role in the NFL. I do like him as a SLB in a 4-3 or an ILB in a 3-4 with MLB in a 4-3 being an outside possibility. He’s relentless and at worst he’ll improve a team’s special teams as he is one of the 2-3 best prospects in this draft at having no conscience and just throwing their body around. Statistically his best attribute is his forced fumbles as 5 FF is elite (7 in the past 2 years), tied for 2nd in the nation, and it again points to his aggressiveness. I like Joe but he’s changing positions and isn’t an elite athlete so he likely will be a quality backup, special team ace early on with a chance to become a good starting linebacker down the road. Late 4th round as my #14 LB 4/26/16.
    15. Joshua Perry Ohio State 6’3 ¾ 254 Sr. He had a 4.68 40 which is impressive for his weight. He had two +100 tackle seasons but doesn’t make very many splash plays with 1 INT and 1 FF in 3 years of consistent playing time. He’s a strong, thick LB that fits best in a 3-4 scheme but could play decently as a MLB in a 4-3. He’s tightly built and doesn’t have great lateral quickness. Despite his good 40 I wonder how he’d be in man coverage. He’s a consistent tackler but isn’t a huge hitter and doesn’t make many big plays. He’s a pretty boring prospect and projects as a mediocre starter at best. He likely will be overdrafted due to the program he was in but I see a low ceiling prospect without much versatility. Early 5th round as my #15 LB 4/25/16.
    16. Jatavis Brown Akron 5’11 222 Sr. He’s the first guy I’ve scouted that wasn’t invited to the Combine. MAC DPOY in 2015 and 3x 1st Team All MAC. He ran a 4.47 at the regional Combine and it really turned some heads as even at his safety size that is extremely fast. Add in film that has him as one of the biggest hitters in this draft and you have an interesting small school prospect. His film honestly isn’t wowing me but he is pretty good, both on film and measurements wise, so I’d throw a mid to late rounder on him as a roll of the dice. Mid 5th round as my #16 LB who is undersized and a small school prospect but has NFL athleticism and is a big time hitter 4/26/16.
    17. BJ Goodson Clemson 6’0 ⅝ 242 Sr. Redshirted 1 season. He is 5 years out of HS so he’s an older prospect. He ran a 4.69 40 and was above average in explosion drills (‘34 ½ vertical). He had 4 total tackles in 2012-2013. In 2014 he was a part time player with 25 tackles. In 2015 he had his breakout season with 108 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 2 INT and 1 FF. He’s definitely in the one year wonder category. He shows his lack of experience with poor instincts often getting caught out of position. He has poor lateral quickness and struggled to change direction. He can be juked. He played in one of the most talent laden defenses in the country and I think it hid his flaws. I see Goodson as a backup and special teams guy at best though I’m giving him a draftable grade due to his versatile production with sacks, ints and a forced fumble. Mid 6th round as my #17 LB 4/26/16.
    18. Blake Martinez Stanford 6’1 ⅝ 237 Sr. He ran a 4.71 40, had a ‘28 ½ vertical and was below average in all drills except the quickness drills. He barely played in 2012-2013. He had two +100 tackle seasons with 2015 (140 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF) being his best, tackle wise, while 2014 (101 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 3 INT, 2 FF) might have been his better overall season. He has WLB size but is definitely not a WLB as he doesn’t have great speed. He might be able to bulk up to become a SLB in a 4-3 and that appears to be his only hope as he just isn’t a great athlete and might not bring enough to the table for a team to scheme around his deficiencies. His 4 INT, 3 FF the past two years, along with 241 tackles, is impressive and caught my eye but his lack of burst is noticeable. Mid 6th round as my #18 LB who is a low upside 4-3 SLB due to his limited athleticism 4/27/16.








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