Many of the most respected draft analysts have placed Myles Jack at very top of their Big Boards. But Jack has too many question marks and potential issues. The Ravens will have better prospects at their disposal with their highest slot in 16 years for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Myles Jack played in 29 games over three seasons for UCLA. His combined statistics total 117 solo tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, one sack, four interceptions, 19 passes defended and one forced fumble. Eleven of his passes defensed were recorded in his freshman season. Jack also picked up eleven penalties over his last 1,277 snaps, leading all linebackers in 2014 and 2015 at the time of his season ending injury.
Prorated over a 16 game regular season, Jack's college stats would average 64 solo tackles, eight tackles for a loss, less than one sack, two interceptions and eleven passes defensed per season. Jack's production was earned in the Pac-12 which is an offense oriented conference where it is easier to rack up stats than when playing for one of the perennial powerhouse programs with multiple first round defenders in the lineup.
A Top 10 prospect should boast a more impressive body of work with better discipline and consistent playmaking statistics.
Jack tore the meniscus in his knee last September. At his Pro-Day in early April, nearly six months after the initial injury, Jack was only at around 85%. According to various sources, several teams were concerned about the medical recheck on his knee, especially the lack of progress since the NFL Combine.
Some have speculated that the injury could cause a slide to the middle of Day 2 and one unnamed source went as far as to say Jack's knee is a "time bomb" with "bone and cartilage starting to break away." A week and a half out from the draft is primetime for misinformation and smokescreens, but with this much smoke there is likely at least a flickering flame.
Jack does not have the typical build of an NFL linebacker, he lacks ideal length and his lower body is underdeveloped. His speed an agility would be much more impressive if he was as physically stout as most NFL level inside linebackers. A running back frame, combined with the hits he took while playing running back in college could make him more susceptible to new injuries.
After all the injuries over the last three seasons, including Breshad Permian's nightmare injury that erased his rookie season, the Ravens should not risk even the slightest chance of drafting damaged goods.
The last three inside linebackers drafted in the top 10 include two colossal busts in Aaron Curry and Rolando McClain, as well as Luke Kuechly who was drafted at the more reasonable #9 slot. For comparison's sake, Kuechly had nearly three times as many solo tackles, more than twice as many tackles for a loss and nearly twice as many interceptions in addition to two defensive touchdowns compared to Jack's zero while playing in 24% more games for Boston College over his three year collegiate career.
The last three Super Bowl champions feature inside linebackers who were selected much later in the draft - Danny Trevathan (6th round), Brandon Marshall (5th round), Jamie Collins (2nd round), Dont'a Hightower (#25), Bobby Wagner (2nd round), Malcolm Smith (7th round) and K.J. Wright (4th round).
Jack has been compared to Navarro Bowman, Thomas Davis and even Ray Lewis. Jack's counterparts in the Top 5 conversation are Laremy Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey, Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner. Tunsil has been compared to Tyron Smith or Trent Williams, Ramsey to Patrick Peterson or Sean Smith, Bosa to Jared Allen and Buckner to Calais Campbell. Ray Lewis was special because he brought the best intangibles and leadership ability of any player in his generation. Bowman and Davis are both good players but do not create as many favorable matchups or have as big of an impact on games as Tyron Smith, Patrick Peterson, a young Jared Allen or Calais Cambell do week in and week out.
First round draft picks are more valuable than ever with salaries predetermined by draft slot and fifth year contract options that allow teams to control cheaper labor. Pro Bowl caliber inside linebackers in their prime can be signed to contacts that average between $6-$8 million per season. On the other hand, top left tackles in their prime make more than $10 million per season, top cornerbacks make more than $12 million per season and top defensive ends make more than $9 million per season on the free agent market. Future financial implications should be an important factor for a franchise like the Ravens who always seem to be close to the salary cap and have committed to pay their franchise quarterback through 2021.
The Ravens just invested a first round draft pick in C.J. Mosley two years ago. Just like it is not a good business decision to pay two offensive guards elite money, it is not wise to draft two inside linebackers in the top 20.
Myles Jack is a fine prospect with the potential to be a great player. He may be the best coverage inside linebacker to ever come out of the college football ranks. However, coverage inside linebackers do not win games on their own. It is too easy to scheme around and attack outside the hashes when a defense does not possess a strong pass rush and/or multiple capable cover corners.
The pass rush and coverage were both problem areas for the Ravens in 2015 and Jack would only help defend the middle of the field, not the wide receivers who can make game and season defining plays downfield. Furthermore, the Ravens 2016 schedule features a who's who of the very best wideouts in the entire NFL. The Ravens can overcome a defense that bends but not a defense that breaks.
Ideally, a top ten draft pick combines elite upside, proven college production and minimal injury or character risk, while playing at a premium position. Laremy Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey, Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Vernon Hargreaves each incorporate all of these characteristics. Jack's potential is his only redeeming quality.
The Ravens can do better at #6