The Raiders have some solid building blocks on defense, but they still need lots of help on this side of the ball, particularly at linebacker. Jaylon Smith would provide a big boost in the lacking middle of Oakland's stop unit, and he also happens to be one of the best prospects available at this juncture, so he makes sense for multiple reasons.
Chip Kelly took the preseason way too seriously, but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise for the Packers, as linebacker Sam Barrington was exposed as a huge liability in the interior of their defense. That will need to be addressed.
The 49ers have lost so much talent at the linebacker position. Here is an impact player to help make up for the losses.
In 2015, Smith has totaled 38 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, one sack, three passes broken up and one forced fumble (he was robbed of one by the official scorer). The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder was an impressive defender for Notre Dame in 2014. He was all over the field for the Fighting Irish with 112 tackles with nine tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, 3.5 sacks and two passes defended. Smith has speed and athleticism in the middle of the field with the ability to start in the middle or outside.
Rd. 1, Pk. 23
Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
The Jets could use some young talent at middle linebacker. David Harris turns 32 after this season, and the middle of Todd Bowles' defense could use a play-maker.
Ragland has 42 tackles this season, while his pass coverage on tight ends and pass rush as a defensive end has illustrated he has three-down starting potential. Many expected teammates Trey DePriest and Denzel Devall to be the players who stepped up and replaced C.J. Mosley in 2014, but it was Ragland as the Crimson Tide's best interior linebacker. Ragland notched 95 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, three passes broken up, one interception, one forced fumble and 1.5 sacks that season. The 6-foot-2, 254-pounder is a big, physical in-the-box defender.
Sometimes, a great football player will be underrated by NFL GMs. I had CJ Mosely going 4th overall to Cleveland in my final 2014 mock draft and had Eric Kendricks as Minnesota’s 1st round pick in 2015. Here, I see the same thing happening to Jaylon Smith. He’s a field general type of linebacker; a natural on the field who finds a way to get involved in every play possible. He has experience calling plays on the field, and if the Giants draft him, he could be a candidate to lead this team in tackles and represent them at the pro bowl as a rookie.
A tackling and run defending linebacker is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Chiefs. I like Ramik Wilson (a 4th round pick in 2015) to make for a solid inside linebacker, but with Kansas City’s current starting linebackers aging and in contract years, it’s perhaps time to add a potential starter asap.