Mike Mayock is one of the most well respected draft analysts, and he takes an interesting approach to the pre-draft coverage. While other analysts are busy making mock draft, Mayock puts together a top five prospects at each position. While it isn’t as in depth as a big board, it is arguably easier to navigate when seeing how a player ranks among players of the same position.
Today we are taking a look at the linebackers. A position the Bengals really need to address at some point this offseason. Nick Vigil had a down year. Jordan Evans is still developing and there is no guarantee that he will be a cpable starting linebacker. Vincent Rey doesn’t deserve to be on a 53-man roster anymore, and Vontaze Burfict has dealt with countless injuries and suspension. Not to mention the entire squad was terrible in pass coverage, which is a huge part of today’s NFL.
The Bengals need to find some stability at the position, and one of the best ways to do that is address it during the draft. Here is Myaock’s top five linebackers:
1). Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
This is semi controversial among draft experts. Many believe that Roquan Smith is the top linebacker of this class, but Edmunds has been making a late push for that spot.
One of the best things about Edmunds is his versatility. He is a bigger bodied linebacker at 6’5 and 250 pounds, but you would never guess that by the way he moves on the field. He is a very fluid runner and is able to turn his hips well in coverage. The best part of Edmunds is his age though. He will only be 20 at the start of his rookie season, which gives a team a great chance to mold him into the type of player they want him to be.
2). Roquan Smith, Georgia
Smith is slightly undersized at 6’1, but you wouldn’t know that by watching him play. He has incredible speed, and he is a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker if there ever was one. He also showed some nice coverage skills when needed at Georgia as well.
Smith had an incredible season as the best player on the best defense in college football. His instincts are the best of any linebacker in the class, and honestly that should push him into that Pro Bowl potential area.
3). Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Vander Esch is an intriguing prospect. He has only one starting season to his credit, but it was a great one. He moved well in his 6’4 and 240 pound frame as he dominated the run and the pass. He was always around the ball for Boise State.
The only problem is he has to fight that one year wonder tag that is sticking to him. If he had sustained this success for even two seasons he’d undoubtedly be a first round pick. He could be quite the steal as a late first or early second round pick.
4). Rashaan Evans, Alabama
This is another semi-hot take from Mayock as Evans is usually included in most first rounds, but he has Vander Esch ranked above him. Not sure whether that means he thinks Evans is a second round talent of if Vander Esch is going in the first. Either way Evans has shown he has a future in the NFL.
He may be lacking the instincts of a Smith, but he has all the athleticism to fly around on defense, and especially be successful in pass coverage. Evans has also helped lead Alabama to three straight National Championships, but Alabama defenders don’t always translate to success outside of college.
Some evaporators view him as more of an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, which will hurt his prospects of joining the Bengals slightly.
5). Uchenna Nwosu, USC
Nwosu is viewed as a troubled prospect. First, he wasn’t as committed to football as you would like. He didn’t start playing until his Sophmore year. Then he was sent home before his team’s Bowl game his Freshman year for fighting with a teammate. He didn’t enroll in the Spring, but he returned in the Fall.
Since then though Nwosu hasn’t had a issue off the field. On the field, he lacks the size and length to set the edge of a defense. There is some doubt whether he will ever be strong enough to be able to play the run, but there is a chance he gets drafted on day three and finds a very niche role as a pass rusher.