The Colts would love Bradley Chubb, but he's not available in this update. It's difficult to imagine Chubb making it past both the Browns and Broncos at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively (though I still don't like the fit for Cleveland.)
With Chubb off the board, the Colts have three viable options: Roquan Smith, Quenton Nelson and Denzel Ward. Of the three Smith makes the most sense. Indianapolis' new defensive scheme requires a play-making linebacker who can be on the field for all three downs, and the team lacks that at the moment. Also, there has been a lot of smoke connecting Indianapolis to Smith, who would finally solve the team's woes as far as not being able to stop tight ends and pass-catching running backs are concerned.
*** OTHER 2018 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. Quenton Nelson, G - Indianapolis must protect Andrew Luck, but guard isn't a huge need right now.
2. Denzel Ward, CB - The Colts are in a prime position to trade down again. Maybe they'll do that and get Ward at 12 or so.
The Cowboys' defense has fallen apart in recent years when Sean Lee has been out of the lineup. Anthony Hitchens was developing into a solid second linebacker, but he signed with the Chiefs this offseason. Dallas needs help at linebacker.
We published a report that one NFL team medically flunked Leighton Vander Esch. While this is 100-percent true, it's also true that other teams really like Vander Esch and would consider taking him in the first round. I believe the Cowboys to be one of those teams.
*** OTHER 2018 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. D.J. Moore, WR - If the Cowboys opt for a receiver in the first round, I believe it'll be Moore.
2. Taven Bryan, DT - A sleeper pick if the Cowboys really want to focus on improving their interior pressure.
Rd. 1, Pk. 22
Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama
Conventional wisdom says the Bills would upgrade their offensive line after trading up for a quarterback, but they may believe that solid interior blockers could be obtained on Day 2. Buffalo has to bolster its weak linebacking corps, and it'll be much tougher to snag a talented three-down linebacker in the second or third rounds.
*** OTHER 2018 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. James Daniels/Billy Price, C - If the Bills keep this pick, and use their other first-rounder to move up for a quarterback, they'll have to select some sort of offensive lineman at this spot.
2. Isaiah Wynn, G - Another possible blocker, though the Bills might just wait on those.
Rd. 2, Pk. 19
Darius Leonard, OLB/ILB, South Carolina State
Detroit's linebacking corps is in terrible shape. The only viable player there is Jarrad Davis, and he's coming off an underwhelming rookie campaign.
Rd. 2, Pk. 25
Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas
The Titans are looking for linebackers of all sorts - edge rushers, interior guys - and this is them addressing the latter, which they need to do after losing Avery Williamson.
Rd. 3, Pk. 28
Joel Iyiegbuniwe, ILB, Western Kentucky
The Steelers missed out on Leighton Vander Esch and Rashaan Evans at No. 28. They couldn't get Malik Jefferson in the second round. This is the best they can do, in this scenario, to replace Ryan Shazier.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Azeem Victor, ILB, Washington
The Colts have one of the weakest linebacking corps in the NFL, so they could double up on the position in the first few rounds.
Rd. 4, Pk. 11
Josey Jewell, OLB/ILB, Iowa
The Rams traded Alec Ogletree, so they'll need to find some linebackers who actually fit their 3-4 defense.
Rd. 4, Pk. 27
Oren Burks, ILB, Vanderbilt
The Saints signed Demario Davis this offseason, but they could stand to add another linebacker in the middle rounds.
Rd. 4, Pk. 36
Micah Kiser, ILB, Virginia
Speaking of doubling up, it might make sense for the Rams to select a pair of linebackers, as they really need help at that position.
Based off some information, I think Washington's pick could come down to Reuben Foster, Marlon Humphrey, Adoree' Jackson, Haason Reddick or Charles Harris. If Foster gets to the Redskins' pick, I think they would be thrilled as he is their first choice. After Foster, I think there will be a big debate between the others. I think the decision would then come down to Harris or Jackson. This is a deep cornerback draft, so Washington could lean toward the rusher with its first pick. Additionally, Harris is loved by teams for his football character, but he is the Plan B, I believe. I think the Redskins want Foster more than anyone else though and character concerns could push him down to them.
In 2016, Foster amassed 115 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, five sacks and two passes broken up. The 6-foot, 229-pounder came on strong late in the 2015 season for Alabama and had the game of his life in the National Championship against Clemson. He totaled 73 tackles with eight for a loss, two sacks and nine passes batted for the year. The light looked like it clicked on for Foster toward the end of the 2015 season as he was suddenly a different player. He carried that over into his senior year, when he was a physical force. Foster is a fast, athletic linebacker who can go sideline-to-sideline while also dishing out punishing hits when he gets there.
Rd. 1, Pk. 1
T.J. Watt, OLB/3-4OLB/ILB, Wisconsin
The Lions need to improve their linebacking talent and add an edge rusher to pair with Ziggy Ansah. Watt could play linebacker on run downs and rush off the edge in passing situations. Thus, he would help Detroit's defense in two spots.
Watt was one of the breakout players of the 2016 season. He is good at setting the edge in run defense and also is a terror in the pass rush off the edge. Watt recorded 63 tackles with 15.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, four passes batted and two forced fumbles in 2016. The 6-foot-4, 252-pounder could be even better as he gains experience. Watt isn't the fastest or most explosive edge defender, but he is tough with advanced technique and a great motor.
The Raiders could use an upgrade at middle linebacker. Davis is an instant plug-and-play contributor for Oakland. His intelligence and character are a great fit with Khalil Mack and Derek Carr.
Davis collected 60 tackles, two sacks and four passes broken up in 2016. Davis was a strong inside presence who made a ton of clutch tackles for Florida in 2015. He was an unsung hero of one of the best defenses in the nation and was a beast who season in the SEC Championship along with the other late-season games against elite competition. In 2015, Davis totaled 98 tackles with 11 tackles for a loss, four passes broken up, an interception and 3.5 sacks.
The 6-foot-1, 238-pounder is fast, physical and instinctive. He has sideline-to-sideline speed with the athleticism to be a three-down defender. Davis could be a Mike (middle) or a Will (weakside) linebacker in a 4-3. He also could function on the inside of a 3-4.
The 49ers could use a linebacker upgrade, and Cunningham is a good value in the second round.
In 2016, Cunningham totaled 125 tackles with 16.5 for a loss, three passes batted and one forced fumble. The 6-foot-3, 234-pounder is a quick, instinctive linebacker who is a reliable tackler. He is a versatile player with the skill set 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.
In 2015, Cunningham totaled 103 tackles with 16.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes batted and four forced fumbles on the year. He was only a redshirt sophomore that season and has upside to develop.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Raekwon McMillan, ILB, Ohio State
The Lions could use multiple linebacker upgrades from this draft class.
In 2016, McMillan was solid for Ohio State with 102 tackles, seven for a loss, two sacks, four passes broken up and two forced fumbles. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder played 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 tough defender who has the skill set to be a three-down starter in the NFL. Right now, however, he struggles in pass coverage and needs to improve his ability to drop into coverage. McMillan is a physical, tough run defender at the point of attack.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Duke Riley, OLB/ILB, LSU
The Saints grab some linebacker competiton.
Riley (6-0, 232) was a backup before coming on as a senior. He had an impressive game against Alabama in 2016 and got better as the year progressed. Riley totaled 93 tackles with nine for a loss, 1.5 sacks, one pass batted and one interception for the season.
Riley is a fast and physical linebacker who would fit as a Will - weakside - linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Alex Anzalone, OLB/ILB, Florida
The Patriots could use more linebacker depth.
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.
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, so teams could flunk him medically.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Elijah Lee, OLB/ILB, Kansas State
The Chiefs could use more linebacker depth and a potential replacement for Derrick Johnson. Kansas City has shown interest in Lee.
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.
Lee (6-3, 228) was a surprise early entry into the 2017 NFL Draft. He was not invited to the combine.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Kendell Beckwith, ILB, LSU
The Bengals could use multiple linebackers as they have a few veterans entering free agency after this season.
In 2016, Beckwith totaled 91 tackles with six for a loss, one sack and four passes broken up. He 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. As a sophomore, he had 77 tackles with three pass breakups, two sacks and an interception.
Beckwith (6-2, 243) was a strong tackler and good at taking on blocks in college. He needs to improve his pass-coverage skills for the NFL though, but teams really liked him before he got injured.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Anthony Walker, OLB/ILB, Northwestern
The Colts need to improve their roster all over the place. Here is some linebacker help.
In 2016, Walker recorded 105 tackles with 10 for a loss, four forced fumbles, two sacks, five passes broken up and one interception. Sources say they liked Walker (6-1, 238) more as a player in 2015. He was 20 pounds heavier in 2016, and sources feel that the extra weight severely degraded his speed and explosion.
Prior to his weight gain, Walker was a fast sideline-to-sideline defender. He functioned well in man coverage and was very dangerous in zone. Walker had a great 2015 season as he totaled 122 tackles with 20.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, four passes batted, one forced fumble and one interception.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Ben Gedeon, ILB, Michigan
The Giants grab a linebacker to compete.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Richie Brown, ILB/OLB, Mississippi State
The Ravens could use some inside linebacker depth after letting Arthur Brown leave.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Ben Boulware, ILB, Clemson
The Jaguars could use some inside linebacker depth given the age of Paul Posluszny and Myles Jack struggling as a rookie.
Rd. 7, Pk. 7
Tanner Vallejo, ILB, Boise State
The Panthers hosted Vallejo and could use some linebacker depth.
Rd. 7, Pk. 7
Eric Wilson, ILB, Cincinnati
The Rams get some linebacker depth with a player they hosted.
I've heard that the 49ers love Minkah Fitzpatrick. If it weren't for Reuben Foster's uncertain future in the NFL, Fitzpatrick would probably be the pick for San Francisco. However, Foster's NFL career could be over, which would leave the 49ers with a huge hole at linebacker. Roquan Smith is a great scheme fit for San Francisco, and he probably reminds John Lynch of his former teammate Derrick Brooks. I've heard that the 49ers are leaning toward Smith over Fitzpatrick, but it's very close and could break the other way.
From the start of the 2017 season, Smith (6-1, 236) impressed scouting sources with his great play. They compared him to the Falcons' recent second-day picks of the LSU duo of Deion Jones and Duke Riley, except they say that Smith is better than either Jones or Riley. These sources feel Smith is more on a par with Lavonte David coming out of Nebraska. There is no doubt that Smith is a fast and physical linebacker who flies around the field. He is an excellent run defender with speed and athleticism to cover in the passing game. <br> <br>
Smith amassed 137 tackles with 6.5 sacks, 11.5 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and two passes batted in 2017. In 2016, he led Georgia in tackles with 95. Smith also had five tackles for a loss, one pass batted and two forced fumbles that season.
This is the pick that the Browns received from the Texans to trade up for Deshaun Watson. This regime running Cleveland has been drafting freak athletes in the first round, and Jefferson would fit that. He could be a dynamic linebacker next to Jamie Collins playing behind Cleveland's talented young defensive line. <br> <br>
In 2016, Jefferson recorded 59 tackles with 5.5 sacks and three passes broken up. The numbers don't illustrate how good of a linebacker he was. <br> <br>
Jefferson (6-3, 238) was highly recruited and showed why as a freshman contributor for the Longhorns. He totaled 61 tackle with seven for a loss, 2.5 sacks, three passes broken up and one forced fumble. Jefferson was a bigger presence than the stats illustrate. Jefferson possesses a nice combination of size and speed. He has a ton of upside, and it wouldn't be surprising if he is in store for some massive seasons with Texas.
I thought Stephone Anthony had major bust potential, and unfortunately for the Saints, that feeling was proven right. The Saints could use an upgrade at Will linebacker, and Evans would form a talented tandem if Alex Anzalone can finally avoid injury. Given Anzalone's fragile health, drafting a linebacker makes even more sense for New Orleans. <br> <br>
In 2017, Evans totaled 74 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, six sacks, one forced fumble and three passes broken up. The 6-foot-3, 231-pounder possesses an impressive skill set with size and speed. The senior did well rushing off the edge for Alabama in 2017. Evans was a backup in 2014 and 2015 before rotating onto the field during the 2016 season. As a junior, he totaled 53 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, two passes broken up and one forced fumble. Some teams have medical concerns with Evans.
Tennessee's secondary and pass rush have really struggled this year. General manager Jon Robinson has put more resources into the back end, so I think he will be more inclined to take a pass-rusher in the 2018 NFL Draft. If he gets younger and cheaper on the edge, however, that isn't an indictment on his picks or free agency signings in the secondary. <br> <br>
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Allen has been one of the top edge defenders in college football during the 2017 season. The junior has seven sacks so far. He also has 47 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and three passes batted. Allen produced well as a sophomore in 2016 with 62 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and four forced fumbles. One national scout compared Allen to Leonard Floyd coming out of Georgia with Allen's ability to rush off the edge. That scout said Allen isn't as freaky of an athlete as Floyd was, and Allen is not a top-10 pick, but he did grade Allen as a first-rounder. <br> <br>
Another director of college scouting said he had given Allen a high second-round grade, but thought Allen could definitely end up going in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. That director said Allen was an interesting player because he also can play inside linebacker, whereas Floyd was just an outside edge defender. That college director said that as an inside linebacker, Allen has similarities to current Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham in terms of his height, speed, length, and athleticism in the middle.
<i> 2017 NFL Mock Draft Pick (as of 9/30): Carroll Phillips, DE/OLB </i>
Eventually, the Packers could stand to use a premium pick on an inside linebacker.
In 2016, Jewell has 33 tackles and a pass break up. <br> <br>
The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder was a tough defender for Iowa in 2015 as he racked up 126 tackles with 7.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, six passes broken up, one forced fumble and four interceptions. It was an impressive season from the Iowa defender. If he stays consistent to that play-making production as a junior and senior, his stock could really rise.