It seems like everyone would love the Green Bay Packers to take an inside linebacker high in this year’s draft.
Many have pegged that guy as Alabama inside linebacker Reggie Ragland. Others have suggested Ohio State’s Darron Lee, assuming Ragland would be gone when the Packers pick at No. 27.
While both of those guys are first-round talents, they may not provide what the Packers actually need in terms of an inside linebacker.
That need is someone who can cover on third down.
The Packers used Clay Matthews extensively in that role in 2015, but Matthews is moving back to outside linebacker this season. Backup Joe Thomas was also used almost exclusively as a coverage linebacker. The problem with Thomas — even though he is solid in coverage — is he’s too small to be an every-down linebacker.
The Packers already have two inside linebackers who can play the run — Jake Ryan and Sam Barrington.
If they were to draft someone like Ragland, the Packers would have to believe he’s a true three-down linebacker. If they don’t, they may as well pick someone else because they already have two solid two-down inside linebackers on the roster.
So can Reggie Ragland cover anyone?
That’s what Pete Dougherty tried to find out and the answer was a definitive, “Boy, we’re not sure!”
“The biggest question mark I have about Reggie Ragland is how well he can cover, because you never really saw it at Alabama,” an anonymous scout told Dougherty.
“He’s a little bit of a deceptive athlete, so he does have some ability to stay on the field (on passing downs). He’s not the ideal coverage linebacker, but he’s pretty athletic and he’s sharp. He’s a smart dude, so he can get other people lined up. He doesn’t put himself in tough situations. Pretty instinctive guy.”
That’s a red flag if you ask us.
Ragland is 6-1, 247 pounds, which is ideal. He also ran a 4.72 40, which is not, especially for a guy you’d be asking to cover.
In fact, Ragland looks like a slightly more athletic Barrington (6-1, 236). They’re essentially the same size, but Ragland is a bit faster. Barrington ran a 4.91 40 back in 2013.
Still, that 4.72 time isn’t anything to write home about. Historically, it wouldn’t put Ragland in the top 50 percent of inside linebackers.
We imagine fans will riot if Ragland is on the board at No. 27 and the Packers pass.
We’ll just shrug our shoulders and assume Ted Thompson and company don’t think Ragland can cover. If he can’t or they don’t believe he can, then he’s not a huge upgrade over what’s already on the roster at inside linebacker.
Thus, that first-round pick would be better spent elsewhere.