The RotoViz Scouting Index (RSI) IDP version uses a variety of rankings that aren’t consistent across the board, as some scouting sites group all defensive line and linebackers together, and others separate them into edge rushers and outside or inside linebackers. I’m tracking the sites that separate the strong and free safeties as well as the different types of linebackers and defensive lineman. Most sites have posted updated NFL prospect rankings following the NFL combine, so let’s update our index.
In this edition I’ll focus on outside linebackers, inside linebackers and safeties. Particular focus will be on strong safety and every down linebackers. Many of these players will be factors in the NFL Draft this Spring as well as many IDP rookie drafts.
Tracking the scouting services is helpful for getting in the heads of scouts. We get clues about positional fit for these players and whether or not we should pay attention when one of these players are drafted. I believe some of the scouting sites have direct access to BLESTO or national scouting reports. Whenever I identify some actionable data from reviewing these rankings I’ll continue to pass that along to our subscribers here.
|Player||HT||WT||College||Mar Rank||Feb Rank||Change||Note|
|Reuben Foster||74||244||Alabama||1||1||0||Was booted from the combine but has all the skills.|
|Raekwon McMillan||75||243||Ohio St||2||3||1||Some concerns about coverage.|
|Anthony Walker||73||245||Northwestern||3||4||1||Firmed up his stock after combine.|
|Kendell Beckwith||74||252||LSU||4||5||1||Torn ACL Nov. 2016, Coverage concerns.|
|Jarrad Davis||74||230||Florida||5||6||1||Game-changing speed and explosiveness; needs improvement in run defense.|
|Ben Gedeon||73||243||Michigan||6||9||3||Great performance at combine.|
|Connor Harris||72||243||Lindenwood||7||14||7||Tremendous combine; keep an eye on him.|
|Zach Cunningham||73||230||Vanderbilt||8||2||-6||Being evaluated at OLB by some sites, but I’m not worried.|
|Ben Boulware||72||236||Clemson||9||7||-2||Maybe just another guy, and there are coverage concerns.|
|Marquel Lee||75||240||Wake Forest||10||11||1|
|Duke Riley||72||235||LSU||11||8||-3||I still love him, second fastest ILB, with 4.58 40-yard dash time.|
|Jayon Brown||72||230||UCLA||12||20||8||119 total tackles last year at UCLA.|
|Elijah Lee||75||228||Kansas St||14||10||-4||No combine invite, bye.|
|Riley Bullough||74||227||Michigan St||15||15||0|
|Blair Brown||72||240||Ohio||16||16||128 total tackles for Ohio last year, excellent at combine.|
|TJ Watt||75||243||Wisconsin||19||16||-3||Versatile player that might be a first round pick.|
Despite being asked to leave the combine, Reuben Foster’s stock has remained stable. He appears to be on a tier to himself with the second and third tier yet to crystallize. If drafting today, Foster would be followed by Jarrad Davis and Zach Cunningham in IDP rankings at linebacker. I have Jarrad Davis really close to Reuben Foster and I may have Davis ranked ahead of Foster by the time the NFL Draft gets here. Duke Riley and Anthony Walker are both headlining the third tier for me.
Although Raekwon McMillan’s RSI value remained stable, I must note he has a two-down red flag. McMillan has some knocks on his coverage abilities from many of the draft analysts, and it’s widely known that Ohio State pulled him on many third downs. Lance Zierlein notes in his analysis of McMillan that he “has limitations in man coverage.” Pro Football Focus also shares the concern as they noted on McMillan’s recent scouting report that “He had a number of negatively graded plays in 2016 because he did not recognize assignments in zone coverage and failed to get proper depth, and his general play against the pass at Ohio State may have some teams worried that he is just a two-down player at the next level.”
McMillan will need a good landing spot to be sure there’s effort to develop his coverage skill set. Considering McMillan might be selected quite early among inside linebackers in rookie drafts, it’s worth raising the red flag on his coverage concerns. I’ve noted a few more two-down concerns in the notes above.
There weren’t any major shakeups, but some players that were set to be later-round draft picks flashed enough athleticism to bump into some better roles. Ben Gedeon and Connor Harris were both surging after filling up the box scores at the Senior Bowl, and their NFL combine performances have them now more in the conversation to compete for starting roles. There are many NFL teams that are in need at the linebacker position and I like the way both are positioned to be some later-round value in rookie drafts.
|Rank||Player||College||Draftcountdown 3/18||Walter 3/11||Drafttek 3/18||Total Score|
|8||Elijah Lee||Kansas St||11||13||24|
Reviewing the rankings at outside linebackers can be a little frustrating, as we know there are potential three-down linebackers in there, but there are also some that could be pure edge rushers, as well some who are only suited for two-down work. The three sites that submitted updates for outside linebackers also appear softer in their analysis, and I don’t find as much helpful information as at other positions. Elijah Lee, for example, has no business being ranked above Duke Riley, as Lee wasn’t even invited to the combine. I expect future outside linebacker updates to be more fruitful for discussion.
While there are some exciting names here which will factor into the first round of the NFL draft, the names which will be at the top of IDP rookie draft boards are more difficult to discern. Two which can cover as well as provide run support are Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis. I mentioned Davis earlier but Anzalone does have some two-down downside which makes him a far riskier IDP option. Both also performed well at the NFL combine and should continue their momentum into the NFL Draft.
|Rank||Player||HT||WT||Ovr||Pre||Ch||College||Draftcountdown 3/18||Walter 3/25||Drafttek 3/18||Total Score|
|1||Malik Hooker||74||205||1||1||0||Ohio St||9||10||10||29|
|7||Justin Evans||72||193||7||4||-3||Tex A&M||5||5||10|
|10||Josh Jones||74||215||NC State||1||2||3|
Focusing on the cream of the safety group is wise, as any safety drafted beyond round three of the draft has a steep mountain to climb to see early action as an NFL starter. This safety class has four players that could be drafted in the first round with an additional one or two that could go in the second round.
The top four are likely locked in as first round selections in the 2017 draft. Of those, Jabrill Peppers could end up at linebacker due to his versatility, and from an IDP standpoint any of his likely roles are going to be quite good. Malik Hooker will be a free safety and Obi Melifonwu can play either strong or free safety. Jamal Adams is rated as the top strong safety by both CBS, and Ourlads and I think that’s where he ends up. He has Landon Collins upside. If I drafted these right now in a fictitious MFL10 that included IDP I’d want Peppers over all of these and next I’d want Jamal Adams.
Josh Jones tripped the breakers for me in this edition as a player to watch. Jones lit up the combine with one of the most impressive defensive back performances, and he followed up with an exceptional pro day. The RSI reflects this, as he has surfaced at tenth place but should rise as we approach the draft. NFL Draft Scout’s Dane Brugler believes it’s reasonable to expect Jones to be taken in the second round, and I concur. Consider Jones’ elite percentiles among NFL safeties as demonstrated on his Mock Draftable spider graph:
Jones could project at either free or strong safety and is being ranked at free safety by Ourlads and strong safety by CBS. Before the combine, CBS didn’t have Jones in their top ten, but on their March 28th update they bumped him all the way to their fourth overall strong safety.
The three sites we’re following for all the safeties have combined to place him tenth, but this will likely change, as he’s receiving first round mentions by the draft analyst community. The film analysts don’t like Jones’ inconsistent play last season and that’s what’s going to cap his ceiling for the draft. Despite the criticism, Jones has cemented himself as my fifth-rated rookie IDP safety for the time being.
Like Josh Jones, Montae Nicholson had the kind of combine that will get him a stronger look and he should continue to move up draft boards over the coming weeks. Mock Draftable draws a Deone Bucannon comparison and I love that fit for him, as he’s got the ability to take on running backs but can cover anywhere.
With the combine data now factored into all the sites rankings we can look to additional updates as pro day data and film scouts analysis continue.