The season may still be young, but the Lions have suffered some injuries that have exposed a lack of depth at the linebacker position. Star linebacker DeAndre Levy has had trouble staying on the field during his career. Additionally linebacker Kyle Van Noy has yet to really make an impact so far in his career, and has had trouble staying healthy himself. For these reason the Lions may consider adding an outside linebacker this upcoming off-season, potentially during the 2017 NFL draft. Three guys who could be options for the Lions at outside linebacker in the 2017 draft are Florida’s Jarrad Davis, Tennessee’s Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and Anthony Walker Jr. who plays at Northwestern. Keep in mind that the Lions run 4-3 defense, so guys who are better fit to be a 3-4 outside linebackers weren’t considered.
2017 Draft Class – Outside Linebacker Prospect Options
Jarrad Davis – Florida
At 6’2″ and 238 pounds, Jarrad Davis has good size for an outside linebacker. He is an explosive athlete which obviously helps him track down the ball carrier. Davis is also a quick reactor and possesses a great ability to read plays. He often uses his athleticism to blow up an offensive play before it gets started. The Florida linebacker has shown that he is capable in pass coverage as well. He can run with most running backs and tight ends that he is asked to cover. Davis does need polish in his pass coverage, he sometimes gives too much separation to opponents. Also he can occasionally get himself in trouble by overrunning ball-carriers which leads to missed tackles. Davis is a senior this year, which usually means he has experience under his belt. However in Davis’ case he didn’t get consistent playing time until last year. He made the most of his opportunity last season. He racked up 94 tackles (50 solo, 44 assisted), 11 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble. With a year of experience under his belt Davis should have no problem increasing his production this season and be a viable linebacker prospect in 2017. Some key games to watch Jarrad Davis in action are: vs. LSU, October 8th; @ Florida State, November 26th.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin – Tennessee
Jalen Reeves-Maybin stands at 6’0″ and weighs 225 pounds. He is undersized for an outside linebacker prospect, but that is made up for by the fact that he has two last names (not really). What makes Reeves-Maybin an intriguing prospect is his athleticism. He possesses great speed which allows him to fly around the field to get to the ball carrier. Despite his size he is still a good tackler. He has good instincts which means he is usually around the ball. Reeves-Maybin is very good in pass coverage. At times he is asked to cover slot receivers, which is not something most teams trust their linebacker to do. Unfortunately his size does hurt him in some areas of the game. He struggles taking on blocks which leads to him being taken out of some plays. Reeves-Maybin has two years of playing experience under his belt. In 2014 he logged 101 tackles (63 solo, 38 assisted), 11 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. And last season he had 105 tackles (66 solo, 39 assisted), 14 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Some good games to check out Reeves-Maybin are: @ Georgia, October 1st; vs. Alabama, October 15th.
Anthony Walker – Northwestern
Anthony Walker may not play at a powerhouse school, but he brings a lot to the table as a linebacker prospect. He has pretty decent size at 6’1″ and 235 pounds. Walker can play inside or outside linebacker on a 4-3 defense. He is a good athlete, however he lacks the speed of the other two linebackers on this list. Although he lacks speed he has shown that he is very capable in man and zone coverage. He is always around the football and reads plays well. Walker is a 3-down linebacker which is something that NFL teams covet very highly. The Northwestern linebacker does occasionally get a little too grabby while in pass coverage which is something he will need to improve. Last season was Walker’s first shot at consistent playing time and he proved to be very productive. He recorded 120 tackles (63 solo, 57 assisted), 19 tackles for loss, four sacks, an interception, and three forced fumbles. Walker set the bar high for himself last season, but it is easy to believe that someone with his talent is capable of being even better. Some good opportunities to watch Walker are:@ Michigan State, October 15th; @ Ohio State, October 29th; vs. Wisconsin, November 5th.