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Anthony Walker Jr. NFL Draft Scouting Report

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The stud linebacker left early and is projected as a mid-round pick.

Eastern Illinois v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Anthony Walker Jr. came to Northwestern as a three-star recruit from Miami with just a trio of Power 5 offers, having been overlooked by all of his in-state powerhouses. After bursting onto the national scene late in his redshirt freshman season, he put together a dominant, All-American 2015 campaign. Hyped up by the athletic department and given the honors of captain and the No. 1 jersey, Walker Jr. took a slight step back during a junior year that started with injury. Still, after leading Northwestern to a Pinstripe Bowl victory, ‘The Franchise’ made the decision to become the first Wildcat to leave early since Darnell Autry in 1996. He went to the combine. He’s met with teams. He’s been training like crazy. Now, all that’s left is to wait and see which NFL franchise will bring him aboard this weekend.

Combine Results, Measurements

Measurable Measurement
Measurable Measurement
Height 6' 1"
Weight 238 lbs
Arm Length 30⅜"
Hand Size 9½"
40 Yard Dash 4.65s
Vertical Jump 30½"
Broad Jump 116"
3-Cone Drill 7.23s
20 Yard Shuttle 4.34s
Bench Press 23 reps

Below is a visual representation of how Walker Jr.’s combine measurements and results stack up historically against other linebackers, via Mockdraftable. You can also click to see some player comparisons.

Notes: Obviously, this chart doesn’t jump out at you. Walker Jr. possesses good straight-line speed and performed solidly in the bench press and broad jump. He’s also undersized and not as agile as some would like. The Mason Foster comparison would be excellent for Walker Jr., as Foster has been a highly productive inside linebacker during his career in Tampa Bay.

Strengths

Walker Jr. is an excellent downhill linebacker with good instincts and closing speed. He frequently is able to sniff out a play’s direction and chase down smaller running backs as they attempt to get to the outside. Look at the burst he displays in dropping Stanford’s Bryce Love back in the 2015 season opener.

Here’s another example, this one from last season against Illinois.

Walker Jr. also has the ability to drop back into pass coverage and read a quarterback, although he’ll need to continue to improve upon that at the next level. He picked off four passes in his three seasons at Northwestern. Watch as he cuts into the passing lane of Christian Hackenberg and shows off his wheels on the return.

Walker Jr. is a productive, intelligent player who is an excellent teammate and leader and works hard to get better. He’s got a great feel for the game and a nose for the ball. However, he is not without his share of flaws.

Weaknesses

Some speculate that part of the reason why Walker Jr. took a step back in his third season was due to the stiffness of adding too much muscle to his frame. Starting out the year with an injury in fall camp certainly didn’t help, but that’s a valid theory. It sure looked like Walker Jr. was slightly less agile last season, and it showed in the form of several missed tackles that he’ll have to make at the next level. He also still occasionally struggles to get off blocks due to his short arms and can be completely wiped out of a play by a good one. His pass coverage reads will need to be worked on as well.

Career Stats

Year Games Tackles Tackes For Loss Sacks Fumbles Forced Fumbles Recovered Interceptions Passes Defended Touchdowns
Year Games Tackles Tackes For Loss Sacks Fumbles Forced Fumbles Recovered Interceptions Passes Defended Touchdowns
2014 10 51 9 1.5 1 1 2 3 1
2015 13 120 19 4 3 3 1 4 1
2016 13 105 10 2 4 2 1 5 0

Projections

Walker Jr. will absolutely be the first Northwestern linebacker selected in 15 years, it’s likely just a question of whether that happens late Friday night in the third round or early Saturday afternoon in the fourth or beyond.

CBS Sports: 115th overall, No. 4 ILB

ESPN (Insider Only): 113th overall, No. 9 ILB

Outlook

It’s tough to think of a scenario in which Walker Jr. isn’t the first Wildcat off the board this weekend. He might even be the only one. Walker Jr. is a productive, versatile middle linebacker who still has plenty of things to work on, but has the work ethic to improve quickly as a professional. He’s down to 238 pounds from the 245-250 he played at as a junior, but one AFC scout said they’d like to see him down to 230 to increase his mobility. Walker Jr. is built like a prototypical linebacker and possesses good speed in bursts. If he soaks up NFL coaching and continues to improve, he could be a solid starter in a couple of seasons.

Make sure you know how to watch rounds 4 through 7 of the Draft on Saturday.