At some point in the draft, the Eagles should look to add a linebacker. Jordan Hicks has missed significant time in three of his last five seasons in the NFL and college. Nigel Bradham could be suspended due to his arrests. Even if both play 16 games, a backup is needed: combined, Hicks and Bradham weren’t on the field for just 79 snaps in 2016, Mychal Kendricks played just 28 percent of snaps and won’t be back, nor will Stephen Tulloch and his 69 snaps, Najee Goode played just one snap on defense, Kamu Grugier-Hill none. At the least a third linebacker who can give Hicks and Bradham a breather is needed. Joe Walker might be that player, but a 7th round pick coming off a torn ACL shouldn’t be counted on, and there’s still room for another linebacker anyway.
Today we’ll look at some linebackers that might be in play for the Eagles in the draft. With Jim Schwartz reluctant to blitz, we’ll focus on linebackers who will make their living dropping into coverage or racking up tackles.
Alex Anzalone, Florida
Yearly injuries limited him to just 18 career games in four years. When he played, he was fairly productive. Good week at the Senior Bowl, where he showed off his athleticism and versatility. If he can stay healthy, should be able to at least carve out a role as a backup and special teamer.
Kendell Beckwith, LSU
Three year starter and able tackler. He’s a good fit for a team looking for a ILB thumper. Limited scheme fit and a late season ACL tear probably make him a day three pick.
Ben Boulware, Clemson
His aggressive and fiery play will likely make him a hit in the preseason, especially if he keeps the beard. His lack of size and athleticism will likely have him fighting for a 53 man roster spot during that preseason.
Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
A jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type, Cunningham’s size (6’4” 230) and athleticism will have a lot of teams interested. He probably goes between the Eagles 1st and 2nd round picks.
Jarrad Davis, Florida
When healthy Davis is a highly productive player all over the field, making plays in the backfield and in the passing game. But health is a huge concern, he missed 14 total games in his freshman, sophomore and senior seasons. Health risk likely has him going later than his talent warrants.
Reuben Foster, Alabama
Foster’s the top linebacker in the draft, and while it’s never a bad thing to add top talent, it’s hard to see him being the best player on the board for the Eagles at 14/15.
Elijah Lee, Kansas State
Lee seems to have just about everything you want in a linebacker: he played inside and out and racked up production everywhere: 5 interceptions and 6.5 sacks in two years to go along with 190 tackles. But he was a bit of a surprise early entrant into the draft, and wasn’t even invited to the Combine. He’s a day three project player.
Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
Two year starter after significant playing time as a true freshman, McMillan is a high volume tackler but not necessarily the prototypical ILB thumper. A good Combine could really help him out and help convince teams he’s got potential to play on the outside.
Matt Milano, Boston College
With hybrid linebacker/safeties trending in the NFL, Milano is sure to draw some interest. He started his college career as a safety, then transitioned to linebacker, where he became a playmaker and strong tackler for BC. He’s a little undersized for an NFL linebacker, but could find a role as a situational player and he will contribute right away on special teams.
James Onwualu, Notre Dame
Good athlete, he switched from wide receiver to linebacker after his freshman season. Despite that, didn’t record an interception, but did lead the Irish in tackles for loss in 2016. Someone will grab him in the late rounds as a developmental player who can contribute to special teams right away.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee
Another smaller hybrid LB/S, Reeves-Maybin had two strong seasons in 2014 and 2015 then missed 9 games with a shoulder injury in 2016. Size and injury could make him a day three pick, but and with it potentially “steal of the draft” tags.
Duke Riley, LSU
A one year starter, Riley impressed in 2016 and then followed it up with a strong week at the Senior Bowl, likely solidifying his status as a day two selection. A little undersized but athleticism and versatility compensate.
Haason Reddick, Temple
The Eagles should certainly be familiar with the local product, especially after he had a great week at the Senior Bowl. He might not be available by the time the Eagles are on the clock at 42.
Anthony Walker, Jr., Northwestern
Extremely productive player, with back-to-back 100+ tackle seasons with 4 career interceptions and 8 forced fumbles. The Wildcats dubbed him as “The Franchise” and while he probably won’t be that in the NFL, he should find a home by the end of day two of the draft and a starting role sooner rather than later.