When it comes to current Cincinnati Bengals head coach, Marvin Lewis, the guy knows linebackers. Whether it was his stint at the position at Idaho State University, or his creating of one of the best defenses the NFL has ever seen with the Baltimore Ravens two decades ago, the guy knows how to recognize talent at the spot.
Even so, he hasn’t had the best track record with building the position group while with Cincinnati in his 15-year tenure. Rey Maualuga had a decent eight-year stint with the club, while Vontaze Burfict was a diamond in the undrafted free agency rough, but names like Keith Rivers, Roddrick Muckelroy, Sean Porter, Dontay Moch and so many others highlight the list of failures.
One of the intriguing names at the inside linebacker position in the 2017 NFL Draft is former Ohio State Buckeye, Raekwon McMillan. Recently, the school has put out a lineage of talented linebackers, ranging from James Laurinaitis to Ryan Shazier and Darron Lee.
McMillan isn’t quite the athlete that Lee and/or Shazier are, but he does have some good instincts and tackling ability. Inside linebackers have become a bit devalued in recent years, as teams have preferred for outside linebackers who either have range in pass defense, or can put their hand in the dirt and get to the passer.
The Bengals signed former Cardinals linebacker Kevin Minter to a one-year deal to replace Maualuga in 2017, but it’s far from a sure thing that he ends up sticking with the team long-term. Might McMillan be a day two pick to bring a solution for the foreseeable future?
Weight: 240 pounds
40-Yard Dash: 4.61 seconds
Broad Jump: 10’1”
Vertical Jump: 33”
Projected Round: 2-3
Tackles: 275 career; 102 in 2016
Tackles for loss: 18 career; seven in 2016
Sacks: Six in career; two in 2016
Passes defended: 10 in career; five in 2016
Interceptions: One in career, returned for touchdown
(Editor’s Note: Our apologies for some of the NSFW language in the music provided in the clip below.)
McMillan is a stout player in the run and when he grabs a ball-carrier, he almost always gets them to the ground quickly. He fits the mold of a linebacker Lewis has traditionally liked while heading up the Bengals, but isn’t known as a guy who often makes a back-breaking play against the opposition. Still, he’s one of the top inside linebackers in this year’s class.
As it often goes with the top teams in the NCAA ranks, McMillan was a talented guy whose prowess might have been a bit accentuated by surrounding talent. If he were to join the Bengals on day two of the NFL Draft, he would have the luxury of playing with a number of talented players around him. That may bode well for him as a solid ancillary piece in Paul Guenther’s defensive unit, which already has talent on all levels.
The knocks on him revolve around him being a bit of a chase-and-tackle guy and his infrequent ability to shed blocks with ease. He had a nice 40-time for a player you look at the position, which is a coveted trait, but some wonder if his lateral movement is what you looking for in a player to anchor the middle of a defense for many years.