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NFL Draft stock report: Linebackers

Eleven weeks into the college football season, many top players have seen their draft stock rise, fall or stay steady. In our latest NFL Draft series, we take a look at some of these prospects. Today we move to linebacker.




Recruiting: Alabama was Williams’ first offer and soon after his official visit to Tuscaloosa in January, the four-star prospect committed to the Crimson Tide. Miami was also a serious contender along with Florida State and LSU.

Performance: Williams only has 23 tackles this season but 13 of them are for a loss of 101 yards and he has eight sacks. He also has 10 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Farrell’s take: Situational pass rushers are all the rage in the NFL Draft lately, or at least uber-talented ones like Aldon Smith, Dion Jordan, Vic Beasley and Leonard Floyd, and Williams could be the best of the group. He is so disruptive off the edge as a situational pass rusher and his bend around the edge is unrivaled. Combined with his pure speed makes him unstoppable at times. We saw him as a hybrid guy who would eventually have his hand down permanently, but he can come off the edge in so many ways and isn’t shabby running down plays to the outside in the run game. He started slow this season but has come on like crazy.

Recruiting: On National Signing Day, Cunningham chose Vanderbilt over Auburn, Colorado, Miami, Oregon, UCLA, Texas and Tennessee. He finished with 194 tackles (43 for loss) and 12 sacks in his senior season of high school.

Performance: Cunningham leads the Commodores by 40 tackles with 105 stops including 15.5 for loss. He also has two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and a blocked kick and made the game-clinching tackle on fourth down in Vanderbilt's upset of Georgia.

Farrell’s take: Cunningham was a tall, skinny linebacker who continued to rise in our rankings throughout his cycle. He started off as a three-star and ended up as a four-star outside of our Rivals250. He was a tackling machine during his high school career, especially as a senior where he nearly eclipsed 200 tackles. He was always in the backfield and made a living making tackles for a loss, but his thin frame was what kept him back from a higher ranking. Those tackling instincts have obviously continued in college and now he’s being talked about in the first-round range.


Recruiting: Foster had one of the most interesting recruitments in recent memory. The five-star linebacker made an early commitment to Alabama, only to de-commit and pick Auburn. He even got an Auburn tattoo on his forearm. Foster then took official visits to Washington and San Diego State weeks before Signing Day and then reportedly left his late Auburn official early to take a trip to Alabama one last time before decision day. He ended up signing with the Crimson Tide.

Performance: Foster leads the dominating Crimson Tide defense with 70 tackles including seven for loss and two sacks. The former five-star also has four quarterback hurries.

Farrell’s take: Foster was a huge linebacker with a ton of potential who could thump downhill but also move laterally. But he also had a major bust factor tag between a knee injury that limited him late in high school and his bizarre recruiting process. But he waited his turn and has panned out. Despite all the questions, we still had him as the No. 13 player in 2013 and No. 1 inside linebacker because he was so talented and he’s showing he can put it all together. He’s the best inside linebacker in this class and the gap is getting wider.

Recruiting: Davis, a former Auburn commitment, pledged to the Gators shortly after his official visit to Florida in mid-December. Tennessee and Duke were two other programs involved in the three-star’s recruitment.

Performance: Despite only playing eight games, Davis leads the Gators with 56 tackles including six for loss with two sacks. He also has five quarterback hurries and four pass deflections.

Farrell’s take: Davis had good size and was a kid who covered a lot of ground and could tackle but needed work at the point of attack and shedding blocks. He was overlooked in the Florida linebacker class by bigger names like Alex Anzalone, Matt Rolin and Daniel McMillian, but he’s getting the last laugh. His ability to drop in coverage is off the charts and he’s having another excellent season. He’s an inside guy but can cover a lot of ground and is excellent in the passing game.


Recruiting: Fields chose TCU over Baylor, Kansas State, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and others out of high school and then transferred to a junior college in Texas. The four-star was then a part of Louisville’s 2015 class.

Performance: In nine games, Fields has 39 tackles (seven for loss) with five sacks. He also has an interception and six quarterback hurries so far this season.

Farrell’s take: Fields was a four-star both out of high school and out of JUCO, but he was obviously much more physically polished coming out of the latter. As a high school prospect, he wasn’t that long, but he was explosive and powerful. An Under Armour All-American, he was one of the big-time prospects that helped TCU begin to gain national attention and compete with Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma for recruits. Louisville has been a good second-chance school for many recruits, and although his production is down this year, Fields is still an elite NFL prospect who will have to answer many questions regarding off-field issues that led to his transfer. But between those off field issues and a down year of sorts, he’s slipping.

Recruiting: The five-star and top-rated inside linebacker in the 2014 class picked Ohio State over Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Georgia in December of his senior year. McMillan intrigued Crimson Tide fans by grabbing the Alabama hat quickly before putting on the Ohio State one.

Performance: McMillan leads the Ohio State defense with 64 tackles including 4.5 stops for loss and a sack. He also has two forced fumbles and four pass deflections.

Farrell’s take: McMillan is one of those rare prospects who started off as a five-star, lost that fifth star and then earned it back. He had added too much bad weight at one point, but re-dedicated himself to conditioning and became a monster out of high school who has been a star in college. He’s big, has great anticipation and instincts and he can move. He’s also a sure tackler and always has been, showing proper technique and not trying to go for the big hit all the time. He hasn’t been as dominant as many expected this season and hasn’t taken that next step in quickness, which is why he could be sliding into the middle of round two.