April 13, 2016 - Greg Gabriel
The Top 5 Inside Linebackers in the 2016 NFL Draft
This is not what I would call a great inside linebacker class. Before his horrific injury, Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith would have been a top five selection, perhaps top three but until after clubs get more information at this weekend’s medical rechecks, he is a wild card. Jaylon Smith – Notre Dame Before his injury, Jaylon Smith was one of the best players in this draft. He had all the traits needs to be a great player at inside or outside linebacker. His plays shows, instinctiveness, strength, power, speed and explosiveness. He was the type of player that offenses had to game plan for because he could single handedly destroy and offense. The only question I have about his play is why Notre Dame didn’t use him to rush the passer. There is a tape that I have and that was sent to all 32 NFL clubs that shows Smith being used as a pass rusher in practice. No Notre Dame tackle and that includes Ron Stanley who will be a top 10 selection this year could block him coming off the edge. His combination of speed, explosiveness and power is hard to find. The unanswered question on Smith is when/if he will return to the player he was before the injury. He tore two ligaments (ACL, LCL) and had some nerve damage. While clubs will get an updated prognosis this weekend, there is still no way to tell how good he can be again until after he gets on the football field. Reggie Ragland – Alabama With Smith’s injury, the first inside linebacker who will be drafted this year will most likely be Alabama’s Reggie Ragland (unless you count Myles Jack as an ILB, I don’t). We have all seen Ragland pop up as a mid to late first round pick in many mock drafts. Personally, I feel that is too high for him, as I see him as more of a guy who goes in the early second round. Why? As good as Ragland is, he does not have first round athletic numbers (4.72 speed, 7.55 3-cone, 9’8” LJ. 31.5” VJ). He also is more of a reactor than an instinctive anticipator. Ragland plays behind an NFL quality defensive line which also helps his numbers. He has size and strength, can shed and stack at the point. While he is used at times to rush the passer that is not really a strong point. He should become a solid 3-4 ILB starter in the NFL. Kentrell Brothers – Missouri Brothers actually measured bigger than he looks. On tape he looks like a 5’11” – 6’ type but measured at 6005 – 245. While he only ran 4.89 at Indy, he came back to run 4.82 at the Mizzou pro day. He is so instinctive and quick reacting that he plays like he is a 4.70 type. He is a fun guy to watch on tape as he is a playmaking machine. In the last two seasons he was credited with 274 total tackles including 17 tackles for loss. Brothers plays with strength and explosion and is quick to shed, he has good range and shows very quick lateral agility. While his 40 time may take him out of the second round, Brothers will come in and start as a rookie for most teams….he’s that good! Josh Perry – Ohio State Perry is what a proto-typical 3-4 inside linebacker should look like. He is 6035 -255 and runs 4.68. He doesn’t get the notoriety of some players because he play on a star studded Ohio State team. Perry is a presence in the middle and was a three year starter for an OSU team that went 38-4 over that span. Perry reads and reacts quickly, is strong at the point, can shed at make plays at the line of scrimmage. He shows the speed and range to make plays on the perimeter. In coverage, Perry is adequate at best and at early in his career he may only be a two down player. Still he has upside as he will get better in coverage as he gains experience. I doubt you will ever see him locked up in man coverage that often. Blake Martinez – Stanford When it comes to inside linebackers, I have to admit I am a bit “old school”. I prefer guys who are strong at the point of attack, instinctive, can shed and make plays at the line of scrimmage. That is exactly what Blake Martinez does. His speed is at the enough level (4.71). He is alert, around the ball and makes plays. Weighing in at 237, he needs to get a little bigger but that should be no problem once he is in an NFL weight room and nutrition specialists. Martinez is a very consistent tackler both at the point and in space. In coverage he gets depth with his drops, has good receiver awareness and can transition. I feel he has the versatility to play Mike in a 4-3 or either 3-4 ILB position. With smarts, instincts and toughness, he will be an NFL starter early in his career.