Like Running backs, Linebackers have been devalued a little in my opinion. With the emergence of Edge Rushers as hybrid defensive ends/linebackers in 3-4 defensive schemes, outside linebackers are underappreciated. With the league being more pass heavy Nickle Corners are taking more and more snaps away from linebackers. Even Safeties are making the switch to Linebacker to put more speed and coverage ability on the field. Of Course Luke Kuechly, Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner etc. and new comers like Kwon Alexander, Telvin Smith and Deon Jones are all exceptions. Speed, speed and more speed is becoming a necessity at this position.
Now let’s take a look at this class of Linebackers in 2017. Is there a Luke Kuechly in this year’s class? I’m not quite ready to make that claim yet, Rueben Foster (Alabama) is a talented player for sure, but I didn’t see the Kuechly comparisons on film. But I’m no expert and he will be a top 10 pick. Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt) is a name casual fans probably won’t know but I think he’s the best at shredding and taking on blocks in this group. Jarrad Davis (Florida) is a sideline to sideline backer who reminds me a little of Thomas Davis, an underappreciated fast instinctive linebacker. Raekwon McMillan (Ohio State) to me is the 2nd best Linebacker in this class, but because of things mentioned in the 1st paragraph he likely won’t be a 1st rounder but will add immediate mid- late round value to some team.
You may have noticed I left some big names out of this article, Hassan Reddick, TJ Watt, etc. Well that’s because I think these guys will be edge rushers in the NFL. Keep an eye out for my “edge rushers” breakdown coming later this week. Kwon Alexander, Deon Jones, Kevin Minter are all LSU linebackers who went on to have impact as starters in the NFL, could Kendell Beckwith be next? If healthy Jalen Reeves-Maybin will be a day 1 starter for some lucky team who takes him after day 1 of the NFL Draft.