Early Rounders (Top-5)
As I study games and prospects throughout the college season, I always try to keep in mind a top-five prospects ranking at each position. For the most part, my top-five inside linebackers have relatively stayed the same throughout the 2015 season.
However, I am by no means an exception here. Other draft boards around the internet tell a similar story with this year’s linebacking group.
Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith has been my clear-cut top linebacker prospect since before the 2015 college season kicked off, and after watching a majority of his junior year, I haven’t changed my mind. Smith is a special player, and in my opinion, one of the few elite players in this draft. I put him right up there with Joey Bosa as far as “can’t-miss” talent.
However, the ACL and LCL injury he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl earlier this month may cause him to fall out of the top-ten and lead to other linebackers in this class getting drafted ahead of him. Despite this, I highly doubt Smith will be available to the Packers when they’re on the clock with the 27th overall pick.
Myles Jack is also an unique talent and a likely top-15 pick in the draft. Perhaps, the most versatile and athletic linebacker in the class, Jack can line up wide over slot receivers or roam the middle of the field and light anybody up crossing his area. Unfortunately for the Packers, Jack won’t last to the end of the first round.
Of the top players at the position, the Packers may have a chance at either Ragland, Lee, or Cravens, who could all go in the first round as well.
Reggie Ragland is an outstanding prospect–maybe the best pure inside linebacker in this year’s class. However, some speculate he could run a slow forty time at the combine next month, which could cause him to drop out of the middle-first round. This then becomes a bit of a catch-22 for the Packers. If Ragland drops because he runs in the 4.8 range, do they still spend a first round pick on him?
His instincts and physical play are off the charts. He’s a beast against the run, but it may come down to whether the Packers feel he could be a liability in coverage or not. We all saw how the Packers inside linebackers struggled to cover backs and tight ends this past season.
If Green Bay wants to go another route maybe they take a look at either Darron Lee or Su’a Cravens, who could both be available at the end of the first round.
They’re both smaller linebackers weighing in at 235 and 225, respectively, but they both also offer athleticism and speed on the field. Immediately, either one of them could step in as the Packers dime linebacker and replace Joe Thomas. As former safeties, they both move well in space and can lockdown on tight ends or slot receivers in coverage.
Personally, I like Lee a little better because I think he’s a more physical player and offers more in run support, but Cravens is no slouch. He’s a explosive and can blitz off the edge and create pressure.
They’re both unique talents that could be big-time playmakers if used in the right way at the next level.
Next: Day Two Options?