The San Francisco 49ers are going to have a lot of issues to address in the 2017 NFL Draft, and one of the most prominent is likely to be the inside linebacker position. NaVorro Bowman and Ray-Ray Armstrong were looking like the starters early on, but both are now on injured reserve. The team traded for Gerald Hodges, but he has yet to gain consistent playing time, and is a free agent after this season. Michael Wilhoite has bounced in and out of the lineup, and is also a free agent next spring. And of course, Nick Bellore is getting an opportunity, but has a limited ceiling and is also a free agent next spring.
We are a long way from when the 49ers rolled out Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. They were the best linebacker duo in the league, and it is amazing to think they only got to play three seasons together (2011-2013). The team is at a point where even if Bowman returns at 100 percent, they need to be thinking of the future. Maybe they add some depth in free agency, but it is imperative they add a young ILB in the draft.
CBS Sports has ranked out inside linebackers as the 2016 college football season rolls along. Here’s a look at the top ten prospects, with overall rank and projected round in parenthesis:
1. Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State (19, 1st)
2. Reuben Foster, Alabama (21, 1st)
3. Anthony Walker Jr., Northwestern (68, 2nd-3rd)
4. Azeem Victor, Washington (97,3rd)
5. Kendell Beckwith, LSU (125,3rd-4th)
6. Keith Kelsey, Louisville (161, 4th-5th)
7. Hardy Nickerson, Illinois (180, 5th-6th)
8. Riley Bullough, MIchigan State (203, 6th)
9. Tanner Vallejo, Boise State (222, 6th-7th)
10. Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State (240, 7th)
Friend of the site Matt Miller put together his own top ten linebackers, looking at basically all options that were not pure edge rushers. He swapped McMillan and Foster, calling Foster the most NFL-ready, the best ILB, and the best run-stopper. He thinks McMillan has the most potential from the group.