Editor's note: NFL.com analysts Lance Zierlein and Chad Reuter will provide overviews for each position group in the 2017 NFL Draft (April 27-29 in Philadelphia), concluding today with linebackers.
The days of big bangers in the middle of the defense have been over for some time at the linebacker position. Speed is what everyone is looking for, and the line of demarcation for quality starting linebackers has turned into a 4.7-second 40-yard-dash time.
While finding fast linebackers isn't necessarily a new trend, finding linebackers that are capable of running, covering and even rushing is a draft philosophy/concept that is picking up steam. Each of this year's top five linebackers can play all three downs and they can all run. I am only including 4-3 linebackers and 3-4 inside linebackers. No 3-4 outside linebackers are included in this overview.
Let's explore the 2017 LB class.
Note: Click through the tabs above to see overviews for each position.
Teams with greatest need at the position
Top 5 players at the position
Note: Click on a prospect's name for a complete scouting report.
1. Haason Reddick, Temple: Former walk-on cornerback who has ascended to one of the top-rated linebackers in this draft. Reddick had 10.5 sacks as a rush end, but transitioned nicely to inside linebacker at the Senior Bowl. Reddick can play inside linebacker or 4-3 outside linebacker and can move to a pass-rush spot on third downs.
2. Reuben Foster, Alabama: Foster is a tremendous hitter whose play speed gives him the ability to run from sideline to sideline. His athleticism will allow him to drop into coverage and play on all three downs.
3. Jarrad Davis, Florida: Davis is what today's NFL linebacker is supposed to look like. He carries a long, well-muscled frame and high-end athletic traits. Davis could use more production and he missed time due to injury in two of his last three seasons.
4. Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt: He followed up an 88-tackle sophomore season with 125 tackles in 2016, including 16.5 for losses. Cunningham is an athletic, downhill linebacker who looks for the playmaking angle and has coverage talent. He isn't the most reliable tackler in this draft class and will need to tighten up his technique.
5. Alex Anzalone, Florida: Anzalone might have the best combination of size, speed and quickness of any linebacker in this draft. At 241 pounds, he can easily range around the field to make plays or cover running backs out of the backfield. Durability has been a major concern for Anzalone over the years.
Sources Tell Us
"He's not a Mike linebacker. I think he's a pure run-and-hit Will linebacker with good cover talent. I'm worried about what his medicals will show because he's had some issues with stingers during his career. I have a higher grade on him than I had on Reggie Ragland. Better pro potential to me." -- NFC director of scouting on Reuben Foster
Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State: Ran fast at the combine, but tape doesn't always show that same speed. McMillan is solid, but he's missing the big playmaking instincts and reactive athleticism that you usually find in the earlier rounds. I see him as a Day 3 (Rounds 4-7) draft pick, but he could go as early as the second day (Rounds 2-3).
Blair Brown, Ohio: Brown is a little undersized, but he was faster and tested better at the combine than some teams expected. He plays with very good instincts and flows ahead of the play in most instances. Once he gets there, he's a physical, efficient tackler. I see him as a third day (Rounds 4-7) draft pick who will be an NFL starter.
Boom or bust
Alex Anzalone, Florida: As discussed earlier, Anzalone has a terrific combination of size, speed and quickness and his skill-set is a perfect match for today's NFL, which requires NFL linebackers to match up in coverage at various times during the game. Unfortunately, Anzalone's history of injuries could end up becoming a major issue as a pro.
Dylan Cole, Missouri State: If you are looking for a linebacker who is built like a professional wrestler, Cole is your guy. He's heavily muscled and plays with the demeanor of a guy who is ready with his finishing move at any time. Cole played at Missouri State, which means his level of competition was lower, but he posted an explosive workout that has teams' attention.