2017 NFL Draft Prospects: Inside Linebackers

By Charlie Campbell.
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The top 2017 Inside Linebacker prospects available for the 2017 NFL Draft. * - denotes 2018 prospect. ** - denotes 2019 prospect.

This page was last updated March 11, 2017. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.
2017 NFL Draft Position Rankings:
QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | NT | 3-4 OLB | 3-4 DE | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K | P

2018 NFL Draft Position Rankings:
QB | RB | FB | WR | TE| OT | G | C | DE | DT | NT | 3-4 OLB | 3-4 DE | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K | P

  1. Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
    Height: 6-0. Weight: 229. Arm: 32.38.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.69.
    Projected Round (2017): 1.

    3/11/17: Foster was sent home early from the NFL Scouting Combine after getting into a heated argument with a hospital staffer during the medical-exam portion. The incident probably won't have much of an impact on where Foster goes in the draft. Offseason shoulder surgery was going to limit Foster's participation in the combine prior to him being sent home early anyway.

    In 2016, Foster totaled 115 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, five sacks and two passes broken up. He was a very physical defender for Alabama.

    Foster is an excellent athlete with serious speed, but needs to improve his pass-coverage skills for the NFL. He is a fast, athletic linebacker who can go sideline-to-sideline while also dishing out punishing hits when he gets there. Teams believe Foster will go in the top-20 picks.

    8/13/16: In 2015, Foster had 73 tackles with eight for a loss, two sacks and nine passes broken up. He had the game of his life in the championship against Clemson. He was a rotational player for Alabama in 2014 and had 22 tackles. 2016 should see him take on a larger role with Reggie Ragland moving on to the NFL.

    Foster could be poised for a breakout season, and playing for Alabama will give him plenty of opportunity to get noticed.

  2. Zach Cunningham*, ILB, Vanderbilt
    Height: 6-3. Weight: 234. Arm: 34.38.
    40 Time: 4.67.
    Projected Round (2017): 1-2.

    3/11/17: In 2016, Cunningham totaled 125 tackles with 16.5 for a loss, three passes batted and two forced fumbles. He is a phenomenal run defender with excellent instincts. Cunningham is strong to take on offensive linemen, shed blocks, and then make tackles. He did well in pass coverage and showed the ability to be a three-down starter in the NFL. There has been buzz about Cunningham in scouting circles, and teams are giving him late first-round/early second-round grades.

    8/13/16: There has been some buzz about Cunningham in scouting circles. It can be hard to get noticed playing when playing for a team that has struggled on the field, but Cunningham managed to do that in 2015 as he turned in a strong season. He totaled 103 tackles with 16.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes batted and four forced fumbles on the year. Cunningham was only a redshirt sophomore last season and has upside to develop.

  3. T.J. Watt*, ILB/OLB, Wisconsin
    Height: 6-4. Weight: 252. Arm: 33.13.
    40 Time: 4.69.
    Projected Round (2017): 1-2.

    3/11/17: Watt had a strong debut to open the 2016 season with an impressive game against LSU. That set the tone for an excellent junior year, and Watt decided to skip his senior campaign to enter the 2017 NFL Draft. He is a good edge rusher who also is very tough at setting the edge in the ground game. Watt would be a perfect fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

    Watt performed well at the combine showing good speed, athleticism and plenty of upside.

    In 2016, Watt recorded 63 tackles with 15.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, four passes batted and two forced fumbles. In 2015, he was a backup who totaled eight tackles with three passes broken up. T.J. Watt is the younger brother of J.J. Watt and Derek Watt.

  4. Jarrad Davis*, ILB/OLB, Florida
    Height: 6-1. Weight: 238. Arm: 33.5.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.74.
    Projected Round (2017): 1-2.

    3/11/17: The senior collected 60 tackles, two sacks and four passes broken up in 2016. Davis played well, but didn't generate as much of an impact as he did in 2015. Sources say that Davis has above-average instincts, but is inconsistent with taking on blocks. Some teams tell WalterFootball.com that they have given Davis a second-round grade. He missed three games with leg injuries during 2016.

    8/13/16: Davis is a strong inside presence who made some clutch tackles for Florida last season. He was an unsung hero of one of the best defenses in the nation and a beast in the SEC Championship. In 2015, Davis totaled 94 tackles with 11 tackles for a loss, four passes broken up, an interception and 3.5 sacks. Davis is fast, physical and instinctive. He is a play-maker who has a real presence on the field.

    In the ground game, Davis is all over the field as a run defender. Routinely, one sees plays where Davis is phenomenal at quickly reading the play and darting into the backfield to blow the play up. Not only does he explode into the backfield, he flies to the sideline, and throws his body around at the line of scrimmage.

    For the most part, Davis is a good tackler and can hit with authority. He can be a little overaggressive and over pursue, but generally he is sound about getting the ball-carrier on the ground. Davis is very physical when hitting backs, quarterbacks, receivers and offensive linemen.

    In the passing game, Davis shows skills and is a dangerous blitzer. In the short to intermediate zone, he does well picking up receivers and also has shown some ball skills. Davis could be even better now that he has some experience. For the NFL, Davis could continue to improve his ability to get off blocks and his pass-coverage skills.

  5. Raekwon McMillan, ILB, Ohio State
    Height: 6-2. Weight: 240. Arm: 33.
    40 Time: 4.61.
    Projected Round (2017): 2-4.

    3/11/17: McMillan played well for Ohio State in 2016 with 102 tackles, five for a loss, four passes broken up and two forced fumbles. Sources say that McMillan is a solid run stuffer, but they have doubts about him in pass coverage for the NFL. As a result, sources from multiple teams say they could see McMillan going off the board in the middle of the 2017 NFL Draft. One team thought he could go in Round 2, but they had a third-round grade on McMillan. One playoff team said they had a third- to fourth-round grade on him. McMillan performed well at the combine, so he should be safe on Day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft.

    8/13/16: McMillan played really well in 2015, totaling 119 tackles with 1.5 sacks and four passes broken up on the year. As a freshman in 2014, he played a lot for Ohio State and totaled 54 tackles with 2.5 sacks and a pick-six.

    McMillan is a physical, tough defender at the point of attack, and with Darron Lee, Von Bell, and Tyvis Powell in the NFL, it wouldn't surprise me if McMillan has even bigger tackle totals in 2016. Plus, Ohio State lost defensive linemen like Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington, who were made tackles against the run as well. McMillan could produce a huge 2016 season.

  6. Kendell Beckwith*, ILB, LSU
    Height: 6-2. Weight: 252. Arm: 33.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.75.
    Projected Round (2017): 3-4.

    3/11/17: In 2016, Beckwith totaled 91 tackles with six for a loss, one sack and four passes broken up. He turned in a solid regular season for the Tigers and was really missed when he was out with injuries.

    8/13/16: Beckwith played well in 2015 for LSU as a physical in-the-box presence. On the year, the junior totaled 84 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and a pass batted. He had 77 tackles with three break ups, two sacks and an interception as a sophomore.

    Beckwith has been a strong tackler and good at taking on blocks while a Tiger. He needs to show more pass-coverage skills for the NFL.

  7. Alex Anzalone*, ILB/OLB, Florida
    Height: 6-3. Weight: 240. Arm: 30.88. Hand: 9.13.
    40 Time: 4.63.
    Projected Round (2017): 3-5.

    3/11/17: After some solid play in 2016, Anzalone's draft stock was dealt a serious blow by a broken arm that has ended his season. While sources say that Anzalone is not real twitchy, sudden or explosive, he takes on blocks and uses his hands well. Anzalone is fast in a straight line, but not that quick. He lacks quick twitch change of direction. Anzalone is decent in pass coverage, but lacks good awareness in zone. He is viewed as a third- or fourth-rounder who could develop into a starting inside linebacker; however, there are major durability concerns from repeated injuries in college and he could get flunked medically.

    Anzalone should have returned for his senior year, but he decided to enter the 2017 NFL Draft. He had a solid week at the Senior Bowl, where he showed impressive pass-coverage skills.

    Anzalone was very impressive at times during the 2016 season, racking up 40 tackles with 3.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and two passes broken up. He barely played in 2015 because of a shoulder injury that led to a medical redshirt. Anzalone was a backup and had injury issues during his first two years as well. Still, he can play inside linebacker and also is a dangerous pass-rusher off the edge or when blitzing up the middle.

    Other sources around the Gators program speak very highly of Anzalone as being a hard worker with good character. Even though he was injured, Anzalone was considered a team leader in 2015 and was a vocal tone-setter on the sideline.

  8. Duke Riley, ILB/OLB, LSU
    Height: 6-0. Weight: 235. Arm: 30.88. Hand: 9.5.
    40 Time: 4.58.
    Projected Round (2017): 3-5.

    3/11/17: Riley was a backup before coming on as a senior. He had an impressive game against Alabama and got better as the year progressed. In 2016, Riley totaled 93 tackles with nine for a loss, 1.5 sacks, one pass batted and one interception. Riley is a fast and physical linebacker who would fit as a Will (weakside) linebacker in a 4-3 defense.

  9. Anthony Walker*, ILB/OLB, Northwestern
    Height: 6-1. Weight: 238. Arm: 30.38.
    40 Time: 4.65.
    Projected Round (2017): 4-6.

    3/11/17: Walker gained 20 pounds prior to the 2016 season, and sources say that has cost him some of his speed and explosiveness. He could have used 5-10 pounds to help get off blocks in the NFL, but his 20-pound weight gain appears to be too much. Sources preferred him at the lower weight, and his per-game averages were down. In 2016, Walker recorded 105 tackles with 10 for a loss, four forced fumbles, two sacks, five passes broken up and one interception.

    Sources have said they were really disappointed with Walker's 2016 season and just based on that alone, he would have been a late round or undrafted free agent. However, his sophomore year helps his grade enough that he could go on Day 3.

    8/13/16: Northwestern had a good team in 2015 and was led defensively by Walker as he totaled 122 tackles with 20.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, four passes batted, one forced fumble and one interception. Walker reminds me of Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David.

    Against the run, Walker is tremendous when he goes unblocked. He is very fast to fire into the hole, bolt into the backfield, or get to the perimeter. Walker has good very good read-and-react skills and instincts.

    The NFL is a passing-driven league, so Walker's pass-coverage skills are the first area to scrutinize. He has shown an impressive ability to cover backs out of the backfield, and in the 2015 season opener, he was running stride for stride with the superb, speedy Stanford play-maker Christian McCaffrey on routes out of the backfield. Walker has the ability to cover in man, but really is excellent in zone.

    There are some areas where Walker could improve. With his listed size, he could use five to 10 pounds of muscle to help take on NFL running backs. When offensive linemen fire off the ball and get to him, Walker is in trouble. He is good to take the block on, but he struggles to hold his ground or shed the block. That comes back to his size and needing more strength. Shedding blocks is the biggest area that Walker should seek to improve.

  10. Elijah Lee*, ILB, Kansas State
    Height: 6-3. Weight: 228.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.70.
    Projected Round (2017): 4-6.

    3/11/17: In 2016, Lee recorded 110 tackles with 6.5 tackless for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and three passes broken up. The junior is a solid tackler with some athleticism. In 2015 as a sophomore, Lee had 80 tackles with three interceptions. He was a surprise early entry into the 2017 NFL Draft. Lee was not invited to the combine.

  11. Ben Boulware, ILB, Clemson
    Height: 6-0. Weight: 236. Arm: 30. Hand: 10.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.85.
    Projected Round (2017): 4-6.

    3/11/17: In 2016, Boulware collected 116 tackles with 11.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, one interception, two passes broken up and three forced fumbles. He has some athletic and speed limitations for the NFL in pass coverage, but he was a gritty college run defender. For the next level, Boulware could be best as a run-down defender in a 3-4 defense. Boulware's struggles in pass coverage were very obvious at the Senior Bowl. He also didn't look good in the field drills at the combine.

    8/13/16: There has been some hype around Boulware, but sources say they aren't buying it. In preseason study, they say Boulware has not impressed them in terms of his athleticism and speed.

    Boulware had 82 tackles with 3.5 sacks, seven passes broken up, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions last year. As a sophomore, he recorded 40 tackles with an interception and a sack.

  12. Richie Brown, ILB/OLB, Mississippi State
    Height: 6-2. Weight: 245.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.82.
    Projected Round (2017): 4-6.

    3/11/17: On the year, Brown had 102 tackles with 1.5 sacks, four tackles for a loss, two passes broken up and one forced fumble. He is a solid run defender. Brown had a quality week of practice at the East-West Shrine. He wasn't invited to the combine.

    8/13/16: Brown was a contributor as a freshman and sophomore, but he took his game to another level as a junior. In 2015, Brown totaled 109 tackles with 13 for a loss, 6.5 sacks, two passes broken up, and an interception. He was a solid tacker and also displayed good instincts.

    With Chris Jones and Beniquez Brown in the NFL, Richie Brown will take on a bigger role in 2016, and he could easily surpass his tackle production from last year. For the NFL, showing pass-coverage ability along with the speed and athleticism to be a three-down starter is critical for the senior.

  13. Ben Gedeon, ILB, Michigan
    Height: 6-1. Weight: 243. Arm: 32.63. Hand: 10.
    40 Time: 4.75.
    Projected Round (2017): 4-6.

    3/11/17: Gedeon is a similar prospect to former Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan, but the post-knee injury version of Ryan. In 2016, Gedeon totaled 106 tackles with 15.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and two passes batted. It was a huge jump over his junior (34 tackles), sophomore (17 tackles) and freshman (19 tackles) totals when he was a backup. Gedeon is a tough run defender, but has athletic limitations for pass coverage in the NFL.

  14. Harvey Langi, ILB, BYU
    Height: 6-1. Weight: 255. Arm: 32.38. Hand: 8.88.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.79.
    Projected Round (2017): 4-6.

    3/11/17: Langi had 57 tackles with two sacks as a senior, plus 20 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns on offense. For the NFL, he projects as a backup inside linebacker and special teams player.

  15. Riley Bullough, ILB, Michigan State
    Height: 6-2. Weight: 226. Arm: 31.25.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.82.
    Projected Round (2017): 4-6.

    3/11/17: Bullough totaled 76 tackles with 6.5 for a loss during the 2016 season.

    8/13/16: Bullough was a steady run defender for the Spartans in 2015 as he totaled 106 tackles with 7.5 for a loss, four sacks, two interceptions and two passes broken up. Like his older brother Max, Riley Bullough looks limited in terms of speed and athleticism for the NFL.

  16. Connor Harris, ILB/OLB, Lindenwood
    Height: 5-11. Weight: 241. Arm: 28.75. Hand: 9.25.
    40 Time: 4.73.
    Projected Round (2017): 4-6.

    3/11/17: Playing in Division II, Harris was a tackling machine with 138 stops as a senior, 184 as a junior, 152 as a sophomore, and 126 in his full freshman season. He had two interceptions in each of the past three seasons, too. Harris didn't stand out at the Senior Bowl or combine.

  17. Jordan Herdman, ILB/OLB, Simon Fraser
    Height: 5-10. Weight: 238. Arm: 29.88. Hand: 8.13.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.73.
    Projected Round (2017): 4-6.

    3/11/17: Herdman had a strong collegiate career with impressive tackle totals during the past three seasons. As a senior, he made 113 stops after 133 as a junior and 165 as a sophomore. Herdman didn't impress at the Senior Bowl though and didn't get invited to the combine.

  18. Keith Kelsey, ILB, Louisville
    Height: 6-0. Weight: 233. Arm: 31.38.
    40 Time: 4.92.
    Projected Round (2017): 4-6.

    3/11/17: In 2016, Kelsey had 93 tackles with 5.5 for a loss, three forced fumbles, two passes broken up and one sack. He played well for Louisville. Kelsey ran a slow 40 at the combine.

    8/13/16: Kelsey has been a reliable defender for Louisville over the past few seasons. In 2015, he had 107 tackles with 12 for a loss, 3.5 sacks, three passes broken up, and one forced fumble. As a sophomore, Kelsey recorded 87 tackle and six sacks.

  19. Hardy Nickerson, ILB/OLB, Illinois
    Height: 6-2. Weight: 232. Arm: 32.
    40 Time: 4.78.
    Projected Round (2017): 5-7.

    3/11/17: Sources say that Nickerson could be draftable late in the 2017 NFL Draft. He totaled 107 tackles with 5.5 for a loss, two sacks and two interceptions in 2016. Nickerson could be a backup linebacker and special teams contributor in the NFL.

    8/13/16: Nickerson has transferred to Illinois for his senior year to play for his father and new Illini head coach Lovie Smith. Previously, Nickerson had been a solid linebacker for California, where he had 112 tackles with one sack in 2015. Nickerson totaled 70 tackles with two for a loss and an interception in 2014. The previous season, he totaled 64 tackles.

    Nickerson needs to elevate his game as a senior. He is the son of former Steeler and Buccaneer great Hardy Nickerson.

  20. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, ILB/OLB, Tennessee
    Height: 5-11. Weight: 230. Arm: 32.25.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.60.
    Projected Round (2017): 6-FA.

    3/11/17: A shoulder injury ended Reeves-Maybin's season in September. He totaled 20 tackles and two for a loss for his year.

    8/13/16: In 2015, Reeves-Maybin had 105 tackles with six sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and four passes batted. The junior broke out during the regular season in SEC play with impressive games against Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama. Reeves-Maybin (6-0, 225) has shown good instincts and the speed to run sideline-to-sideline.

  21. Jabari Ruffin, ILB/OLB, USC
    Height: 6-3. Weight: 240.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.70.
    Projected Round (2017): FA.

    3/11/17: Ruffin made two tackles during the 2016 season.

    8/13/16: Ruffin notched 11 tackles in 2015 before going out for the year with a knee injury. He could earn more playing time in 2016 as a replacement for Hayes Pullard. Ruffin was on track to start for USC in 2014 before a torn knee ligament ended his season early. He's a player to watch in 2016, but he has to stay healthy.

  22. Nyeem Wartman-White, ILB/OLB, Penn State
    Height: 6-1. Weight: 236.
    Projected 40 Time: 4.72.
    Projected Round (2017): FA.

    3/11/17: Wartman-White totaled 14 tackles in 2016 before suffering a season-ending injury. Scouts said they liked Wartman-White before the injury.

    8/13/16: Wartman-White made two tackles in the 2015 opener against Temple before suffering a season-ending injury. He had 75 tackles with 3.5 for a loss for in 2014.

2017 NFL Draft Position Rankings:
QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | NT | 3-4 OLB | 3-4 DE | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K | P

2018 NFL Draft Position Rankings:
QB | RB | FB | WR | TE| OT | G | C | DE | DT | NT | 3-4 OLB | 3-4 DE | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K | P



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