LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin*

6’2” – 255 lbs.

Background:

Rotated into the defense as a freshman, finishing with seventeen tackles over seven games, then started all seven games at inside linebacker in 2020, finishing with a line of 46-6.0-3.0. Declared after a massive junior season of 115-18.5-8.0.

Positives:

Two-year starter who just had a massive junior season. One of the thickest, strongest inside linebackers in this year’s class. Plays the game the right way, with an excellent motor. Reads keys quickly and plays fast and aggressive against the run; made a ton of plays in opposing backfields this year. Very tough and physical when it comes to taking on blocks, with exceptional contact balance; looks like a bowling ball between the tackles. Also shows some quickness to slip by blockers when working through trash. Has a strong grip and plenty of stopping power to help set the tone defensively and limit missed tackles. Was frequently used as an A-gap blitzer, with the ability to time his rushes well. Looks explosive getting after the quarterback and finished this past season with eight sacks.

Negatives:

Range is just adequate; works hard but probably won’t be a sideline-to-sideline defender. Doesn’t have the most length, which limits his tackling radius and ability to lock out blockers; relies more heavily on power than technique to work through traffic. Was usually used as a blitzer on passing downs and may not have the ideal skillset for coverage; responsibilities were mostly limited to simple zones, where he doesn’t show the same anticipation he does in the run game. Change-of-direction isn’t too fluid; has some clunky transitions in the passing game. Probably not going to be able to work in man coverage much at the next level. Didn’t show a ton of bend when working the edge as a pass-rusher. His role is becoming less common in the pro game as teams shift toward smaller, more athletic linebackers who can stay on the field in sub packages.

Summary:

Not one of the most well-rounded linebackers in this year’s class, but is one of the best at what he does: playing aggressively downhill with quick reads, explosiveness, and power, with a style of play that’s a fun throwback to more physical times. Should be a nice fit as an early-down strong inside linebacker behind a three-man defensive line, where his ability to take on blocks and crush ballcarriers will be highlighted and his lack of ideal range will be masked. Should have a lot of value for teams looking for his specific skillset, but not all teams may view him as a fit.

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