The middle linebacker class in the 2016 NFL Draft is Reggie Ragland of Alabama and everybody else.
Ragland was the leader of the Alabama defense last season, his second year as a starter. He's not a true sideline-to-sideline speed linebacker, but he's smart and will read a play to take proper pursuit angles. Ragland has the strength to shed blocks, a key factor for an inside linebacker who works between the tackles. He's a solid blitzer who can attack from the middle or get used on the outside – a trait he got to show more at the Senior Bowl than at Alabama. Will get overaggressive at times and miss some blocks.
Like Ragland, Missouri's Kentrell Brothers was incredibly productive the past two seasons. He totaled 274 tackles as a junior and senior, the most for any player in the nation. Although he played a lot at weak-side linebacker, he projects as a middle man in the NFL. He plays faster than the 4.89-second 40 at the NFL combine would suggest. He's arguably the draft's best tackler, and uses proper technique to take down the ball carrier.
After Ragland and Brothers, it's hard to project any of the other inside linebackers in this draft as top 100 players. Nick Kwiatoski of West Virginia is a dependable downhill tackler, but he doesn't offer a lot of athleticism. Nick Vigil of Utah State can play inside or out, and is quick to attack the play. Scooby Wright of Arizona was an All-American in 2014, but played just three games in 2015 because of injuries. He's not a very good athlete, but he's a strong competitor who should stick on a roster thanks to his passion and sure tackling.
Day 3 gem: If teams miss out on Ragland or any of the other top run stuffing inside linebackers early, Steven Daniels of Boston College could be a nice pickup. He's not a flashy linebacker, but a classic two-down thumper with good short area quickness. Daniels doesn't offer much in the pass game, but he's good playing between the tackles and moving forward.
Overall position grade: C-
|1. Reggie Ragland, 6’2, 252 pounds, MLB, Alabama|
|2. Kentrell Brothers, 6’1, 235 pounds, MLB, Missouri|
|3. Nick Kwiatoski, 6’2, 235 pounds, MLB, West Virginia|
|4. Nick Vigil, 6’2, 235 pounds, MLB, Utah State|
|5. Dominique Alexander, 6’0, 220 pounds, MLB, Oklahoma|
|6. Tyler Matakevich, 6’1, 235 pounds, MLB, Temple|
|7. Antonio Morrison, 6’1, 229 pounds, MLB, Florida|
|8. Steven Daniels, 6’0, 243 pounds, MLB, Boston College|
|9. Scooby Wright, 6’1, 246 pounds, MLB, Arizona|
|10. Jared Norris, 6’2, 240 pounds, MLB, Utah|
|11. Josh Forrest, 6’3, 255 pounds, MLB, Kentucky|
|12. Blake Martinez, 6’2, 245 pounds, MLB, Stanford|
|13. Cassanova McKinzy, 6’3, 253 pounds, MLB, Auburn|
|14. Joe Bolden, 6’3, 232 pounds, MLB, Michigan|
|15. Raphael Kirby, 6’0 1/8, 236 pounds, MLB, Miami|
|16. Jake Ganus, 6’1, 231 pounds, MLB, Georgia|
|17. Brandon Chubb, 6’0 1/8, 235 pounds, MLB, Wake Forest|