Denver Broncos | News

Draft position breakdown: Inside linebackers

draft_ILBs_170406.jpg

1. REUBEN FOSTER, ALABAMA

HEIGHT:6-0- WEIGHT:229
ARM LENGTH:32 3/8 inches- HAND SIZE:10 1/4 inches

A prototypical three-down linebacker, Foster took his time working his way up the Alabama depth chart, first serving as a backup middle linebacker before starting eight games as a junior and all 15 as a senior, working on the weak side.

Foster's size and speed makes him an ideal fit in coverage against tight ends and running backs. He's not the best inside linebacker in this class at reading plays as they develop, but his speed, quick first step and ability to deliver thunderclap hits more than compensate for that.

Foster's stock took appeared to take a hit at the Combine when he was sent home after an incident at a hospital during the medical-testing portion of the event. But according to an NFL Network report, Foster subsequently sent a letter to all 32 teams apologizing for the incident.

Nick Saban, Foster's head coach, defended him, saying at Alabama's Pro Day that the coaches "never had issues with him" during his years in Tuscaloosa.

"He's always been a great leader," Saban told reporters. "He's a signal-caller on defense. He's bright, and he's always been a great team guy and really well-liked by his teammates."

2. HAASON REDDICK, TEMPLE

HEIGHT:6-2- WEIGHT:237
ARM LENGTH:32 3/4 inches- HAND SIZE:10 1/8 inches
40: 4.52 seconds- BENCH:24 reps
SHORT SHUTTLE:4.37 seconds- THREE-CONE DRILL:7.01 seconds

Perhaps no one in the draft is a bigger projection than Reddick, given that he spent his four years at Temple playing at defensive end. He now projects to linebacker, working outside in a 4-3 alignment and inside in a 3-4 package.

Reddick's first extended work at linebacker came during Senior Bowl week in January. He looked as if he'd been playing the position for years, relying on his instincts and physicality to make plays against the run. His coverage skills are technically raw, and he may not be ready for three-down work right away, but the speed, quickness and instincts are there.

No FCS product among this year's 3-4 inside linebackers had more tackles for losses the last two years than Reddick, who racked up 35 stops behind the line of scrimmage.

3. ZACH CUNNINGHAM, VANDERBILT

HEIGHT:6-4- WEIGHT:234
ARM LENGTH:34 3/8 inches- HAND SIZE:9 1/4 inches
40: 4.67 seconds- BENCH:15 reps
SHORT SHUTTLE:4.29 seconds- THREE-CONE DRILL:7.03 seconds

Quickness and anticipation are Cunningham's defining characteristics. He is perhaps the best linebacker in this class at reading run plays as they develop, and he is rarely caught out of position.

His quick reaction leads to many stops in the backfield; he leads all draft-eligible 3-4 ILBs with 1.32 tackles for losses per game the last two seasons.

Cunningham pointed to his tackling as an area in which he needs improvement, saying at the Combine that he needed to finish his tackles better and "be more physical [with] the strength to shed blocks."

If he can refine his tackling technique and add between 5 and 10 pounds, he could avoid the missed tackles that occasionally plagued him at Vanderbilt and become a Pro Bowler within three seasons.

4. RAEKWON McMILLAN, OHIO STATE

HEIGHT:6-2- WEIGHT:240
ARM LENGTH:33 inches- HAND SIZE:9 3/4 inches
40:4.61 seconds- BENCH:23 reps
SHORT SHUTTLE:4.39 seconds- THREE-CONE DRILL:7.15 seconds

At 240 pounds, McMillan is strong enough to handle the kind of traffic he'll face at the core of a defense; he is capable at shedding guards that move up to the second level and is difficult to move, which allowed him to rack up 221 tackles for the Buckeyes over the last two seasons.

The biggest question on McMillan is how he operates in space, particularly in pass coverage. He broke up eight passes in his two seasons as a starter for the Buckeyes and generally did well at reading the quarterback's intent and reacting, but he will have to further refine those skills to handle tight ends and running backs on wheel routes. If he improves in that area, McMillan will rarely leave the field.

5. JARRAD DAVIS, FLORIDA

HEIGHT:6-1- WEIGHT:238
ARM LENGTH:33 1/2 inches- HAND SIZE:9 3/4 inches
40:4.58 seconds- BENCH:23 reps
SHORT SHUTTLE:4.29 seconds- THREE-CONE DRILL:7.30 seconds

When healthy, Davis is quick and anticipates the intent of the play well. At 238 pounds, he can handle an interior role in the 3-4 alignment, but he also has enough speed to be a 4-3 weakside linebacker and take on coverage responsibilities.

The biggest question on Davis revolves around his injury history, which includes a meniscus tear in 2014 and an ankle injury in 2016 that ended his senior campaign in October.

REST OF THE TOP 15

  1. Ryan Anderson, Alabama
    1. Duke Riley, LSU
    2. Alex Anzalone, Florida
    3. Anthony Walker Jr., Northwestern
    4. Vince Biegel, Wisconsin
    5. Jayon Brown, UCLA
    6. Marquel Lee, Wake Forest
    7. Blair Brown, Ohio
    8. Kendell Beckwith, LSU
    9. Connor Harris, Lindenwood
      **BRONCOS ILB OUTLOOK**

Head Coach Vance Joseph said at the Scouting Combine in March that the Broncos were comfortable with Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis as their ILB tandem. Marshall signed an extension last June and is under contract through 2010. Davis is a restricted free agent after receiving a tender from the Broncos in March.

"He fits the mold of what we want," Joseph said of Davis.

Davis, Zaire Anderson and Quentin Gause are the only returning ILBs from last year's 53-man roster under team control beyond this season. Backup Corey Nelson is in the final year of his contract, while Davis will become an unrestricted free agent in 2018 unless he signs a long-term deal before then. Anderson and Gause will be exclusive-rights free agents in 2018 if they play another season on the 53-man roster.

TEN-YEAR HISTORY: ILBs DRAFTED BY BRONCOS

The Broncos haven't picked a player who projects as a 3-4 inside linebacker since 2014. Since that draft, they found young ILBs via the waiver wire (Davis, November 2014), practice squad (Gause) and from the undrafted pool (Anderson, who was a 2015 post-draft signing).

2007:None
2008:Spencer Larsen, Arizona (also a FB) - Round 6, No. 183 overall
2009:None
2010:Jammie Kirlew, Indiana - Round 7, No. 232 overall
2011:Nate Irving, N.C. State - Round 3, No. 67 overall; Mike Mohamed, California - Round 6, No. 189 overall
2012:Danny Trevathan, Kentucky - Round 6, No. 188 overall
2013:None
2014:Lamin Barrow, LSU - Round 5, No. 156 overall; Corey Nelson, Oklahoma - Round 7, No. 242 overall
2015:None
2016:None

(Note: This includes linebackers drafted for 4-3 alignments that were considered strong- and weak-side outside linebackers, but not edge rushers. Therefore, 2011 first-round pick Von Miller -- who began his career as a strong-side linebacker in the base 4-3 alignment, but played defensive end in sub packages -- is not included in this list.)

*

*

Related Content

Advertising