Jerrell Freeman had a terrific 2015 campaign, but he happens to be an impending free agent. Meanwhile, the rest of the Colts' inside linebackers weren't very good. Reggie Ragland is one of the top players available, so he makes a ton of sense for Indianapolis at No. 18 overall.
Jaylon Smith tore up his knee, so he'll drop from the top 10 into the 20s, most likely. I think this is a good spot for him though. Remember, Todd Gurley tore his ACL and still was a top-10 choice. The difference here is that Smith probably won't be ready to play until late in 2016, but he's still too talented to pass up.
Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley, will be free agents in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Mason Foster and Will Compton played at the end of the year, but neither was that great.
For years, the Giants have needed a play-making linebacker. Even with the knee injury, Smith is too good to pass up.
Smith has the skills to cover in the passing game and make an impact against the run. In 2015, the 6-foot-2, 235-pounder totaled 115 tackles, nine for a loss, one sack, four passes broken up and one forced fumble (he was robbed of one by the official scorer). Smith suffered a torn ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl, which could cause him to miss the beginning of the 2016 season.
Smith was all over the field for the Fighting Irish in 2014 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 on the inside or the outside.
Rd. 1, Pk. 11
Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
The Bears look to rebuild their defense with a linebacker who could restore the great tradition in Chicago.
Ragland totaled 102 tackles with 6.5 for a loss, seven pass breakups, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2015. His man coverage on tight ends like Arkansas' Hunter Henry and Ole Miss' Evan Engram was particularly impressive. That, in combination with Ragland's pass rush as a defensive end, illustrates his three-down starting potential for the NFL. In 2014, Ragland notched 95 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, three passes broken up, one interception, one forced fumble and 1.5 sacks. The 6-foot-2, 254-pounder is a big, physical in-the-box defender.
The Vikings could use a young understudy to Chad Greenway. A fast Will linebacker would finish off their trio with Anthony Barr and Erik Kendricks.
Brothers made a huge impact in 2015, recording 152 tackles, 12 for a loss, two interceptions, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, three passes batted and a blocked punt. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder was one of the top tacklers in the SEC in 2014, recording 122 tackles alongside one sack and four passes broken up. He had a decent Senior Bowl week.
Pick change; previously Sebastian Tretola, G
Rd. 2, Pk. 26
Scooby Wright III, ILB/3-4OLB/OLB, Arizona
The Packers have to improve their middle linebackers, and Wright would also give them an edge rusher to help fill the void when Julius Peppers is done.
Wright missed most of 2015, finishing the year with 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. In the season opener, he suffered a knee injury - a lateral meniscus tear - that he underwent surgery for. Wright came back after missing only two games, but he clearly rushed back and wasn't the same. Wright sprained his foot in his first game back - a loss to UCLA - and didn't played the rest of the regular season. In the bowl game against New Mexico, Wright collected 15 tackles, 3.5 for a loss and two sacks.
Wright took college football by storm in 2014. The 6-foot-1, 246-pounder was a pass-rushing force for the Wildcats and one of the top defenders in the Pac-12. He had 14 sacks with 163 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss and six forced fumbles for the year. Wright is an instinctive linebacker and was all over the field for Arizona. In 2013, he notched 83 tackles with 9.5 for a loss and an interception.
Pick change; previously Austin Johnson, DT
Rd. 3, Pk. 32
Antonio Morrison, ILB/OLB, Florida
The Broncos could use inside linebacker talent, and Morrison is a nice value here.
In 2015, Morrison totaled 103 tackles with 12 for a loss, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and a pass breakup. He suffered a serious knee injury in spring practice that required surgery, and most players miss a year after that kind of injury, but Morrison (6-0, 232) made a record-setting recovery to play in 2015.
Morrison totaled 101 tackles with six tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, one sack, one pass broken up and one interception in 2014. He improved as the season progressed and is a tough run defender.
Morrison still has room for improvement in pass coverage and needs to get bigger for NFL blockers.
Rd. 4, Pk. 5
Josh Forrest, ILB, Kentucky
The Jaguars could use some linebacker depth, and it would make sense to start grooming Paul Posluszny's replacement.
Forrest (6-3, 245) is a thickly built thumper who is a good run defender in the tackle box. At the Senior Bowl, he showed some pass-coverage potential with more athleticism and speed than one would think.
Forrest totaled 93 tackles with six for a loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions and five passes batted in 2015. As a junior, he recorded 110 tackles with two sacks and two interceptions. Forrest is a sleeper linebacker who could be a really nice mid-round value pick.
The Rams could use a linebacker to push James Laurinaitis as the veteran looked like he was slowing down last season.
Matakevich (6-0, 233) was on fire to open 2015 and put together excellent games against quarterback prospects Christian Hackenberg and Gunner Kiel. Matakevich totaled 126 tackles with 4.5 sacks, 15 for a loss, five passes batted and five interceptions on the year. He is a tough, physical linebacker who looks short on speed and athleticism for the NFL.
The senior was a consistent and steady contributor for Temple, eclipsing 100 tackles in all four of his seasons. He racked up 117 tackles with 10.5 for a loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception and three passes broken up in 2014. Matakevich had 136 tackles as a sophomore after putting up 101 stops the year before.
The Falcons started out hot, but over time showed their flaws however it was a good first season for Dan Quinn. Last year's first round pick Vic Beasley showed his abilities but needs more consistency which should come with time. The Falcons could be in the market for receiver help if White moves on or retires. Also Atlanta could use some help front especially inside. However, even with the potential severity of the knee injury Smith is much too talented to pass up at this point in the draft. Smith is a Patrick Willis clone able to play all three downs, in any defense. Smith can cover sideline to sideline in either man or zone. Smith is a very underrated pass rusher from the middle of the field. Smith also attacks the gaps in the run game with proper angles and fits. Atlanta will have to do their due diligence when the medical comes around, but if they feel comfortable the pay off could be huge down the line.
Give credit to the new Chicago Bears coaching staff. Adam Gase has done an excellent job with Jay Cutler and John Fox brings stability and experience to the team. Offensively, the Bears are in pretty good shape. Jeremy Langford looks like the future at Running Back and Kevin White should provide a big spark to the passing game next year. Offensive line may get a look here depending on how the coaching staff feels about Charles Leno and Chris Long as the OTs but I think they focus on the defense in this draft.
Defensively, the Bears need an influx of talent and scheme fits. Vic Fangio will opt for either DE A'Shawn Robinson or ILB Reggie Ragland. I think Ragland will remind Fangio of Patrick Willis enough to reach slightly for him here at No. 12. Ragland (6'2", 252) is explosive at the point of attack and will provide a major upgrade to the ILB position. After a great career at Alabama, he should be the Bears' defensive captain for the next 10 years.
With all the top tackles off the board, the Packers will likely revert to their BPA (best player available) strategy. That would likely entail picking injured Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, but with Green Bay needing extensive defensive help immediately, they would be better served picking a more versatile player, ready to play right now in Scooby Wright. The Arizona linebacker can play outside or inside in the Packers' 3-4 scheme, depending on what the coaching staff plans to do with Clay Matthews, who struggled mightily in coverage this year. With former first rounder Nick Perry hitting free agency, along with Mike Neal, the time is now to find future stars for the Packers' defense.
After grabbing a OLB in the first they grab a ILB in the second. Lawson could probably be a starter first game but I see Brothers as a one year sit then start. Improving this LB core is key with talent all around on defense and offense. Only bigger need is QB and there isn't one worth this pick
Alexander is another tweener style LB. He converted from safety to LB in college. Stepone Anthony was a solid choice last year and here Alexander could be another. Similar to Deonne Buccanon of the Cardinals, Alexander may be a little light against the run, but the pass is what hurt the Saints this year. I believe he can be a three down LB eventually.