2017 NFL Draft – Top Outside Linebackers

Offense: QB | WR | RB | FB | TE | OT | OG | C

Defense: DT | DE | OLB | ILB | CB | S

Note: These are ordered in regards to general overall rating.  This is not necessarily a reflection of predictive draft order as other variables such as scheme, coaching, etc. will alter each team’s rating of each prospect.

  1. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA – Explosive and dynamic at the snap. Is utilizing elite speed and a combination of excellent footwork and pass rush moves to get past and around offensive tackles. Electric first burst. Lacks the length and core strength at this point to be effective as a run blocker, but could be a defensive weapon as a pass rusher with linebacker help, or designated pass rusher. Will be watched for drop back skills as the season progresses as well as through the draft process.
  2. Haason Reddick, Temple – Extremely productive outside linebacker that could play in multiple systems at the next level. Extremely quick and versatile pass rushers that has also shown that he can drop back into coverage. As the draft process proceeds, the more he can showcase his skills moving backward, the more his stock will rise with 3-4 defenses, but still will have a lot of value as a pass rusher in a 4-3.
  3. Jarrad Davis, Florida – Excellent sideline to sideline defender, superb lateral coverage. Closing speed is elite, once he identifies his target and takes and sharp angle to ballcarriers. Strong, sure tackler, but could use to build his bulk and strength. Potential for being a three down linebacker, but needs to work on his recognition skills.
  4. T.J. Watt, Wisconsin – Very smart, productive, and instinctive outside linebacker.  Quickly diagnosis plays and doesn’t get caught up in traffic. Can disengage a blocker quickly and get to the play without hesitation. An old-school type player that defensive coordinators will be lobbying for come draft day.
  5. Charles Harris, Missouri – A true tweener prospect, able to play as a DE in 4-3 or OLB in 3-4. Has multiple pass rush moves, while most college pass rushers stick to their primary move. Explosive and has rare quickness.  Ideally fits in a 4-3 that has attacking ends, or as a designated pass rusher, which has become more of a premium with defenses that utilize a heavy rotation of defensive linemen.
  6. Tim Williams, Alabma – Excels as a pass rusher on the outside, and will excel if put in the right situation where he won’t have to do too much read and reacting. An explosive athlete, Williams could thrive as a designated pass rusher, and the book is still out on him regarding his ability to drop into coverage.  If he tests well, and he continues to progress, his draft stock could soar if he can prove to be effective dropping back.
  7. Tyus Bowser, Houston – Exceptional in space, Bowser could find himself in one of several different roles at the next level, depending on scheme. Very explosive off of the edge, he could find himself as a situational pass rusher, or a 3-4 OLB. Overcoming some character concerns, and doesn’t have a lot of experience with football, so an interesting prospect that a team will have to be patient with, but that is a high ceiling.
  8. Ryan Anderson, Alabama – Ideal 3-4 outside linebacker that shows excellent initial burst, and ability to cover the underneath zone. Has played most of his career as a backup, but at Alabama that is not much of a downgrade, as they rotate defensive players constantly. Doesn’t possess the length to disengage well, but very strong first strike, and displays superb technique as a pass rusher.
  9. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee – Excels in diagnosis and pursuit. Excellent range and tracking down runners. Possible third down capabilities, drops well and can see plays as they develop. Not a strong presence against the run, could build up some bulk to help in that area.
  10. Joe Mathis, Washington – Had a breakout season cut short with injury at Washington. Showed versatility in pass rush and stopping the run. Has a nice combination of size and speed, along with very good tackling ability.

Comments: Besides the quarterback position, the 3-4 outside linebacker is the most difficult to evaluate. The combine is probably most important for this position as it will run a lot of projected 3-4 OLB’s through drop back and move in space drills. Haason Reddick has had an amazing draft process so far, and will have an opportunity to show his agility at the combine.