If the Los Angeles Rams were to take a linebacker during the 2017 NFL Draft, the ideal target should be a prospect that can play inside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. One prospect that comes to mind is Northwestern’s Anthony Walker. Here is a look at the former Big Ten star:
Pros: Walker is one of the most physically gifted linebackers in the year’s draft. He has great strength and the athleticism to be a decent coverage linebacker. Walker’s overall speed isn’t necessarily the best, but it is still a force to be reckoned with. His relentless pursuit will frustrate offenses. Walker is a polished open-field tackler, who especially makes his presence felt in sideline pursuits. He tends to be able to shed blockers with his quickness, and generally uses his speed to his advantage when pursuing the ball or ball-carrier.
Another intriguing aspect is his versatility. Unless defensive coordinator Wade Phillips feels like Mark Barron can thrive as an inside linebacker, it wouldn’t hurt to have a backup plan. Walker could fill the void if Barron doesn’t transition well to the 3-4 scheme. Even if Barron pans out, Walker can provide sufficient depth and play as a situational outside linebacker as well.
Walker made an immediate impact for the Wildcats, creating mayhem during his freshman year. In three seasons at Northwestern, Walker picked up 276 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 12 pass deflections, four interceptions and eight forced fumbles. These stats speak volumes regarding the potential that Walker possesses.
Cons: Having strength is great, but it doesn’t matter if the opposing blocker is bigger and stronger. The NFL is the elite level, and if Walker relies solely on his strength, he will struggle. His footwork is good, but he does over pursue the opposition from time to time. Walker will need to work with the coaching staff regarding his hand placement. He can shed more blockers if he was better with his hands. Once Walker is semi-blocked, he is likely out for the duration of the play. He is a gifted open-field tackler, but has missed too many close-range tackles. He will struggle with speedy receivers in the NFL level due to his slow adjustment to shifts.
Overall: Walker has a ton of potential and has the athleticism to make an impact in the NFL. He does need to adjust a few things, but much of what he needs to adjust can be coached. The important factors are his instincts, versatility and experience. If he falls to the third or fourth round, the Rams should definitely take a look at him. However, Walker will likely be a second or third round prospect.