1) Reuben Foster, Alabama Crimson Tide
Career Stats: 211 tackles, 23 TFL, 7 sacks
Height: 6' Weight: 229
40 Yard Dash: N/A
Bench Press: N/A
Linebackers are such an old fashioned position but I absolutely love it. There is nothing like that true blue collar, hard nosed football player running around the field trying to decapitate the opponent. Inflicting as much physical pain as possible. Reuben Foster is an absolute animal on the field. He flies to the ball with controlled recklessness. Aiming to pop the ball carrier, Foster really does bring the hammer. Showing his commitment to the game, he dropped 20 pounds heading into senior year and really improved his quickness. He can either bulk back up and become a true middle linebacker or stay around 230 pounds and be a Will linebacker with the ability to cover tight ends and running backs. Nick Saban knows his defense and he has routinely given compliments of the highest standard to Foster because he knows what a dynamic player he is. The downside to Foster could definitely be the medical evaluations. Much is to be discussed about this issue and the little outburst he had that sent him home early from the Combine. The former Crimson Tide player could have a little bit of a tumble on draft day, but when it is time to play, this guy will be ready. When picking players to start a football team, Foster is bound to up there.
Stat to Know - 115: Number of Foster’s tackles this past year.
2) Jarrad Davis, Florida Gators
Career Stats: 201 tackles, 20 TFL, 5.5 sacks
Height: 6'1 Weight: 238
40 Yard Dash: N/A
Bench Press: N/A
Growing up a Florida Gators fan, I have been watching Jarrad Davis play since 2013 and you could tell he was destined for stardom. He is an instinctive and tough nosed linebacker and was truly the heart and soul of these fantastic Gator defenses. He plays with a true defensive physicality that is needed in this day and age of football. But it’s that damn injury bug that keeps biting at University of Florida linebackers. Davis tried playing through his ankle injury but it proved to be too much pain amid being a first round selection. A downhill run stuffer, Davis shoots to the ball carrier and brings them down. He makes shoestring tackles, booming hits and has pretty good coverage ability. His junior year was a thing of beauty. Showing he is a playmaker all over with 94 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and 4 pass deflections. I really do believe that his best football is ahead of him on Sundays. A true lover of the game, his work ethic and leadership coupled with his on the field ability should have Davis going in the first round. While I will miss watching this former Gator star play for my beloved college team, I know Davis will be a hell of a player in the NFL.
Stat to Know - 154: Number of Davis's tackles in his last twenty-three games.
3) Haason Reddick, Temple Owls
Career Stats: 149 tackles, 47 TFL, 17.5 sacks
Height: 6'1 Weight: 237
40 Yard Dash: 4.52
Bench Press: 24
Disruptive. That is the word to describe Reddick. He is disruptive in the run game when he is chasing down ball carriers in the backfield and affects the pass game when he drops back into coverage. Oh, he can also get after the quarterback pretty damn well as noted by his 9.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss in 2016. Playing running back and safety in high school, the former Temple Owl does look a bit hesitant as he is still somewhat new to the linebacker position but there is so much raw talent. That talent and athleticism is what will get him drafted early. Quick twitched, athletic linebackers are far from what most teams want but with the transition to these pass heavy offenses players of Reddick’s nature are needed. Three down linebackers need to be able to cover or rush the passer and this kid can do both. 17.5 career sacks and 47 tackles for a loss show what he can do in the backfield. He does have some issues disengaging from blockers but that is the former defensive back in him. Ryan Shazier is a great comparison for Reddick. They are both fast linebackers that are not “Jack Lambert” physical but they get the job done. Lifting weights and getting stronger is a must for this former Owl but when all's said and done, he gets to where he needs to be.
Stat to Know - 35.5: Reddick’s tackles for loss over the past two seasons.
4) TJ Watt, Wisconsin Badgers
Career Stats: 70 tackles, 17 TFL, 11.5 sacks
Height: 6'4 Weight: 252
40 Yard Dash: 4.69
Bench Press: 21
Another Watt in the league??? Okay, while TJ may not be as good as older brother JJ he is still a damn good player. The versatility to play inside or outside in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3 will have Watt quite high on many team’s draft boards. His ability to rush the passer shows his true skill (11.5 sacks). TJ Watt followed in a very similar career path as JJ. Coming to college as a tight end, they both made the transition to the defensive side of the ball. This ability shows the true nature of a Watt because their athleticism and instincts are second to none. TJ is not an overly great athlete but his time at tight end did produce a very good linebacker. The option of pass rush moves at Watt’s disposal is not of the highest quality. While he does a good job of engaging and disengaging blockers, the edge bend that pass rushers need to posses is not there for him. His older brother isn’t the best at that either but the amount of power that he can generate coming off the ball and then combining that with a nasty spin move makes JJ one of the most dominant and feared defensive ends in the league. TJ will need some lessons from his brother. One year of playing collegiate football is a detriment and the fact that TJ had some pretty bad injuries to his knees does not bode well for him. But Watt’s are a success story in this league and I don’t believe I can doubt TJ.
Stat to Know - 6.79: Watt’s three cone drill time. He can definitely get to the quarterback.
5) Alex Anzalone, Florida Gators
Career Stats: 75 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks
Height: 6'3 Weight: 241
40 Yard Dash: 4.63
Bench Press: 16
The relatively unknown Anzalone was one part of a two headed linebacking dragon at the University of Florida. While Jarrad Davis garnered the majority of the attention, Anzalone is a physically impressive player in his own right. So much is not known of the former gator as he was constantly hurt. Whether it was his shoulder or his broken left arm, one thing after another took Anzalone from the football field. If he has time to get fully healthy, this kid can make an impact. Weighing the risk vs reward factor, the former five star high school recruit could be an absolute steal in the later rounds. The injuries do add up though and must be carefully examined and considered. Standing at 6’3 and over 240 pounds, Anzalone is a mammoth. Consider his 4.63 yard forty yard dash and you have a potential sideline to sideline linebacker that smacks ball carriers around. Having experience playing all three linebacker positions and being a vocal leader will help this guy to make and stick a team. For him, it’s a matter of staying on the field. The best ability is availability.
Stat to Know - 4.63: Anzalone’s forty yard dash was less than .2 slower than Jabrill Pepper’s and he was forty pounds heavier.