Earlier this week, Mike Mayock posted his first positional rankings of the 2016 NFL Draft season, and on Thursday, we took a look at quarterbacks. We're going to continue moving through these position-by-position, and today we move to the other side of the ball with the linebacker position.
Mayock separates out his rankings with "linebackers" and "edge rushers." A lot of defensive ends will transition to 3-4 outside linebackers, so it makes sense to separate them out in some form or fashion. For the San Francisco 49ers purposes, the "linebackers" are essentially ILB options. Here's how Mayock ranked out the top five "linebackers" in the 2016 NFL Draft:
1. Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
2. Myles Jack, UCLA
3. Reggie Ragland, Alabama
4. Darron Lee, Ohio State
5. Deion Jones, LSU
The 49ers inside linebackers are led by NaVorro Bowman, but the future beyond Bo remains to be seen. Gerald Hodges and Michael Wilhoite will compete for the second starting spot, with Shayne Skov and Nick Bellore likely to get some reps as well in the preseason. Hodges showed some things in 2015, but potentially investing a high pick in a Smith, Jack or Ragland could set the position up for the foreseeable future.
Would you invest a first round pick at inside linebacker? Or do you think there are other important needs no matter who is there at No. 7? And of course, there are injury concerns with Smith and Jack, so it might not necessarily be a simple matter of yes or no.