LB Anthony Walker, Northwestern Wildcats
Okay, you’ve noticed we’re talking about a defensive player from Northwestern and you’re frowning. Right now you’re trying to remember the last time you saw more than just a couple guys selected in the draft from this program. Guess what? They have won ten games twice in the last four years! So read on people.
I first noticed Walker last season when he had 20.5 tackles for a loss. It’s one of my go to stats. If you’re in enemy territory I want to see more from a player. I found a player I like a lot. In college leagues he would have been a major contributor to your fantasy team. 122 tackles last season. Now your eyes are tweaking and you’re becoming interested. Great! More on the 6’1 235 pound Linebacker now. In a game against Duke he jumped off the stat sheet with 19 tackles. My mouth is watering thinking about all those points he could have gotten for my team. In 2015 he was awarded All Big Ten honors. He is known around campus as “The Franchise”. Sure wish I got that nickname when I played. I’m sure he has a bit more talent than I did when I played ball though.
While looking at LBs I try to determine quickly if they can be a help in pass defense. This is what could keep them on the field as a three down player at the next level. “The Franchise” played safety and WR in High School so I was hoping I would see a LB with some coverage ability. When asked to backpedal into zone he often lets WR’s make the catch and was not able to pass along RB’s with any type of regularity. He allows the catches in front of him but often makes the tackles. He is very raw but I believe he will learn and get coached up to fix this part of his game. Turning and running with a RB or TE he does keep a good angle and shadows his guy. I love his play reading skills which he shows on reading the QB in zone coverage. Courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com watch this video at the 6:40 point where he reacts and breaks up the pass. This play highlights his football smarts on screens as well. He can see it unfolding and gets to the RB to make the play. Against Stanford last season he showed that skill well. While watching the play unfold here 5:50 mark watch him get aggressive and go get the sack.
Playing the Run
This is the area where we fantasy owners get the consistent stat lines from. The players who get to the ball carriers get the points. Love the power he hits with. Attacks the gaps and can bring the hit stick. Taking on initial blocks with leverage he does prevent the linemen from moving on but he will get locked onto the blockers. Would like to see him get off the blocks quicker. Working more on hand movement will help. I noticed a nice shoulder drop to get free which is good. Sometimes he will get lost in the trenches and will miss a chance at a play on the RB. His aggressiveness flying into the gaps pays off at times but does set him up for big plays behind him. In the open field he does a good job of breaking down and making the tackle.
Not that he has been used to rush the passer often but he likes to go get the QB with his speed. Needs to work on separation and work on some moves. Bull rush is okay but not resulting in sacks. This is not a strong part of his game but again it’s not something he is asked to do often.
“The Franchise” has racked up 40 tackles and 2 sacks this season so far. Tackle machine. Dial this kid up and watch him play. This will be a player were all looking at for our rookie drafts in 2017.
I have high hopes for Franchise. His all-around game will only improve more with coaching and playing. You can find my rankings here. A LB who can make some plays in the pass and run game is someone to watch. Strong and quick with good football IQ he will be moving up draft boards. Capable of fitting into a role in any NFL defense he will be someone we’re tracking and watching.