First round options for the Raiders at linebacker
One of the biggest needs for the Oakland Raiders heading into the draft is at linebacker. Aside from Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, pretty much everywhere in the front seven represents positions that can be upgraded. Because of that, we are taking a look at linebackers in general not just in the middle (where most believe the biggest need is at). So without further ado, here’s a look at linebackers that are worth taking in the first round.
Reuben Foster, ILB
Even after some drama at the combine where Foster reportedly got into an argument with staff as he was waiting for his physical, it’s highly unlikely that Foster would fall to the Raiders at 24. But if he did, the Raiders would have the answer at middle linebacker they’ve been in search of for years.
At a time when traditional middle linebackers are seen more as two down players, Rueben Foster is the perfect solution. He has the build and physicality to be a run stuffer in the middle but also the athleticism to cover well in the passing game and pursue outside runs. Foster has the power to win one on one battles with run blockers and even when he can’t shed blocks, he can eat them and clog up running lanes.
His only weakness is in coverage. Though he has the athleticism to be great in coverage, he is still unpolished. With the right coaching he can be more than adequate in coverage but there is still some work to be done there.
Hassan Reddick, OLB
Hassan Reddick is a guy who sets off my “versatility” spidey sense. If you’ve looked at many of my evaluations of players you will notice that I place a lot of value on versatility. This is due in part to my personal views and in part due to my opinion that Reggie McKenzie values versatility as well.
Reddick was an edge defender in college, primarily as a defensive end and occasionally as an outside linebacker. At the next level he is projected to play more of an off ball linebacker role. His size and athleticism make him a prospect to play either inside or outside with the added value of significant pass rushing experience for blitz packages.
The downside on Reddick is that much of his value comes from his upside. Having played primarily defensive end in college, it’s a big change moving to an off the ball linebacker role, primarily when it comes to coverage. That being said, Reddick walked on at Temple as a safety and converted to edge defender well and has the athleticism to do pretty much anything you ask of him.
Zach Cunninghamg, OLB
If you’re the type to place a lot of value on production in college, Cunningham is a guy for you. He’s a smart and instinctive player who can make big time plays. His speed and lateral movement allow him to defend from sideline to sideline while his instincts make him a monster at shooting gaps and getting tackles for a loss in the run game.
Though some believe Cunningham can play outside or inside linebacker, he seems to be a better fit on the outside because he’s better when running free rather than taking on blockers. He can and will take on blockers in the run game but it’s not his strong suit.
But his big downside is, well, a big downside. The area where Cunningham needs the most improvement is tackling. And when you’re a linebacker, tackling is kind of an important part of your job. It’s something he can improve on and given the upside his athleticism and instincts present, many believe it’s a weakness that’s worth taking a risk on.
- April 12, 2021
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- james arcellana