2017 NFL Draft: Five linebacker prospects the L.A. Rams should target

The only thing predictable with Los Angeles Rams’ general manager Les Snead’s draft classes are how unpredictable they turn out to be. It’s rare that Snead drafts based on needs alone, and while linebacker isn’t the most glaring need now, expect Snead to pull the trigger on one if a talented prospect falls.

Currently, the starting linebacker corps appear to be Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn, Connor Barwin and Mark Barron. Barron doesn’t seem to fit defensive coordinator Wade Phillip’s defensive scheme and may be asked to return to safety. If that’s the case, the Rams may be in the market for a linebacker. They could use more depth at outside linebacker too.

T.J. Watt, Wisconsin

Watt is probably one of the more recognizable prospects on this list for simply being J.J. Watt’s younger brother. Make no mistake, his lineage isn’t what prompts the praise. Watt is talented and aggressive enough to be a nuisance against opposing offenses. He’s skilled with his hands and can shed blockers using technique alone. Watt is not the strongest guy on the field, but if he bulks up, he can truly become a force to be reckoned with. The biggest knock on Watt is that his footwork needs a lot of work. He’s also not the quickest of the snap and can get burned easily on the NFL level if asked to cover speedy receivers/tight ends. That said, he can be a starter in the NFL, especially with Phillips coaching him. Expect Snead to take a hard look at him if he falls into the second round.

Projected round selection: Late first-early second round.

Jarrad Davis, Florida

One of the more versatile options is Davis. Scouts see Davis coming into the league as an outside linebacker, but he has experience playing inside and could shift around during situational plays. Davis has the strength and explosiveness to make a real impact in the NFL. He made an impact with the Gators from the moment he stepped on the field and played consistently throughout his collegiate career. His leadership is one of his most cherished attributes. Still, Davis does struggle with his vision and instincts, especially pertaining to coverage. He lacks patience and over accelerates past intended targets. Also, he struggles to get away from blockers once semi-contained. Nonetheless, his ability and versatility is intriguing enough to take a chance on.

Projected round selection: Late first-early second round.

Anthony Walker, Northwestern

Walker is one to keep an eye out due to his physicality. He has the desired physique in a linebacker, and that helps with overpowering blockers. Walker also has great instincts all-around and his covering skills are underrated. He has an excellent burst of speed and is capable dismantling a play easily if left unblocked. However, Walker does need to improve on his tackling technique. He oftens tackles too high, which is a huge mistake at any level, and he doesn’t always wrap-up on tackles. His hand placement needs a ton of work, while being strong has its advantages, it means nothing if the blocker can shut him down with technique. Walker is not a perfect or finished product, but he may develop into a solid starter in the NFL one day.

Project round selection: Second round.

Haason Reddick, LB, Temple

Reddick has a ton of talent, but the problem with him is finding the right spot for him. He plays as an outside linebacker/defensive end, but Reddick lacks the size and strength to compete in the NFL. He has the athleticism to move toward the inside, yet still his strength remains a concern. His covering skills are good; he has the capability to change direction and stick with receivers with ease. Reddick has great ball awareness and is determined to be in the heart of every play. Reddick is a project player, but if the Rams take the time to coach him and allow him to bulk up, there can be so much more benefit down the line.

Projected round selection: Third/fourth round.

Jordan Willis, LB, Kansas State

Willis is a perceptive player, who is always willing to watch and wait before turning on all cylinders. He sticks with receivers well and does so with the ability to change directions effortlessly. Willis wraps up on tackles and doesn’t quit until the whistle is blown. Willis though, is simply a pass-rusher on the next level. He works with only one speed, so he is best suited as a defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. Still, the kind of heart he possesses is one that can keep him on teams as a solid backup or situational role player.

Projected round selection: Third/fourth round.

You can follow Johnny Gomez on Twitter @Johnny5not6. Be sure to follow Rams Talk on Twitter @TalkRams.

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