Category: Inside Linebacker

LB Tre Lamar, Clemson*

6’3” – 253 lbs. – N/A
Appeared in fifteen games as a freshman (17-3.0-1.0), then started eight of ten the following year (50-5.0-4.0). Spent this past season as a full-time starter, recording 79-5.5-3.0 before declaring for the draft. Conventionally-built middle linebacker with good bulk and length for the inside; played behind a four-man defensive line in college but it’s easy to imagine him lining up as an inside linebacker in an odd defensive front as well. Smart, physical run defender who looks comfortable working his way through trash between the tackles. Reads keys and plays with discipline; knows his assignment and doesn’t get caught out of position much. Absorbs contact well, has heavy hands to shed, and does a good job of keeping his shoulders square and flowing toward the ball, although he could be more consistent about extending his arms to keep blockers out of his pads. Hit-and-wrap tackler with a wide radius and good burst to close. Not purely a thumper: also has impressive athletic ability for his size, offering sideline-to-sideline range and a strong motor in pursuit. Has a conservative, “safe” approach which limits the amount of plays he blows up in the backfield relative to more aggressive, high-risk/high-reward prospects. Stayed on the field on coverage downs and although he’s not the lightest on his feet or the most fluid, nevertheless does a good job of keeping targets in front of him when playing zone. Effective plant-and-drive to close and limit yards after the catch. Wasn’t really asked to work in man coverage much but looks like he can cover backs and tight ends releasing into the flats. Occasionally shades over a receiver or tight end in the slot and appears to have pretty sound balance and fundamentals in limited backpedaling. Picked up seven sacks over the past two seasons as an A-gap blitzer; gets up to speed pretty quickly and did a good job of anticipating the snap count during the games reviewed. Despite deciding to forego his senior season, is a polished linebacker who comes with pro-ready size and strength, who does a good job of diagnosing plays and flowing toward the ball, and who can contribute in the passing game, either in zone coverage or as a blitzer, traits which should allow him to work his way into a defensive rotation sooner rather than later. Doesn’t make as many splash plays as some of the other top prospects but takes care of business pretty consistently, offering peace-of-mind. Could slip out of the second day after timing barely faster than five seconds in the forty-yard dash at his pro day.

Advertisements

LB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin

6’0” – 230 lbs. – N/A
Was a two-star recruit who redshirted in his first year with the Badgers, then ended up starting in each of the subsequent four seasons, with very good all-around production. Worked his way up the depth chart quickly and has been highly productive for four years. Thickly-built, barrel-chested middle linebacker in the traditional mold, but weighed in fifteen pounds less than his listed weight at the Combine. Excellent on-field demeanor. Likes to play downhill, has pretty good instincts, and flows to the ball well. Very good motor to pursue toward the sidelines. Stays square between the tackles. Not afraid to take on blockers. Uses his arms to keep opponents out of his pads, and has good pop on contact to stick opposing fullbacks in the hole. Physical tone-setter who can lay the lumber. Lighter on his feet and more rangy than his build would indicate; looks comfortable dropping into zone coverage. Covers ground quickly with his backpedal. Does well diagnosing route combinations and putting himself in position to make tackles. Good plant and drive to punish opponents running routes over the middle of the field. Forced a lot of turnovers at the college level, both in terms of fumbles and interceptions. Height is just adequate, and has a frame which looks almost maxed out. Length appears to be just average. Will commit too early at times and take himself out of the play by stepping into the hole prematurely. Coverage duties were mostly limited to dropping into zones and doesn’t really have the type of frame to do a lot of man coverage. Might be limited to playing on the inside. Is a better athlete than his size would indicate, but is also a bit of a throwback player who some teams may want to take off the field on passing downs in the modern game. May not be quite as fast as some teams like their special-teams players to be. A very likeable prospect whose greatest strength is his ability to set the tone defensively with physical thumping between the tackles, but who is also fast and fluid enough to drop into zone coverage in the passing game. Has a very solid all-around game, and comes into the pros with the instincts and functional strength to make an early impact. Could fit in either an even or an an odd front, playing middle/inside linebacker, and potentially on a three-down basis; might fit well on a team like the Steelers.

LB Te’von Coney, Notre Dame

6’1” – 234 lbs. – N/A
Appeared in twelve games as a freshman, then started nine of twelve games played the following year. Started seven of thirteen games played as a junior. Comes with three years of production for a major program. Plays both inside and outside in the Notre Dame defense, probably projecting as more of a middle linebacker. Takes generally sound angles and likes to play downhill in the run game; very solid production in opposing backfields. Patient when making his reads. Has a pretty good nose for the ball and gets involved on a high percentage of snaps. Does a good job of keeping his shoulders square when flowing to the ball. Shows the ability to work through trash and deal with opposing linemen. Extends his arms and demonstrates good awareness of the ball when taking on blocks, keeping blockers out of his pads. Heavy hands to shed. Has good closing burst and shows some explosiveness into contact. Uses his arms to wrap up opponents and appears to have a strong grip. Controlled footwork when working in shallow zones. Effective plant-and-drive. Athletic enough to pursue into the flats in man coverage, or spy most quarterbacks. Consequently, will probably be able to stay on the field for all three downs. A little bit of a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type. Size is just adequate for a pro linebacker, and maybe a little bit smaller than some teams with odd defensive fronts would like. Looked like a reliable tackler during the games reviewed but wasn’t really the type to square up opponents and deliver big hits to intimidate ballcarriers. Adequate but not great athlete; more likely to limit yards after the catch than to put himself on position to make plays on the ball when targeted. Probably lacks the athleticism to work in man coverage against most targets at the pro level. Not used as a blitzer with much frequency. A lot of his production comes on assisted tackles instead of solo stops. Failed a drug test for marijuana in the past. Hasn’t started for a full season. May not be one of the sexiest or most freakish linebacker prospects, but is an instinctive, technically-sound linebacker who can read keys, flow to the ball (through trash if need be) and bring down ballcarriers with reliable technique. Those traits make him a relatively safe selection for teams looking for linebacker help in this year’s draft, but his lack of high-end size and athleticism make relegate him to the third round or so.

LB Mack Wilson, Alabama*

6’1” – 240 lbs. – N/A
Five-star recruit who played sparingly in fifteen games as a freshman (8-0.0-0.0) before rotating in more heavily over twelve as a sophomore (40-2.5-0.0) but didn’t step into the starting lineup until this past season, being stuck behind the likes of Reuben Foster, Rashaan Evans, and Shaun Dion Hamilton. Posted 65-4.5-1.0 and decided to declare for the draft. Well-built for a modern linebacker, with long arms and a muscular frame; should be able to play on the inside in either an even or odd front, with Alabama’s defense often using three down linemen. Athletic player who likes to play downhill and who gets up to full speed in a hurry. Rangy linebacker who is able to pursue toward the sidelines. Not afraid to get physical with opposing linemen, holding up pretty well on contact and being pretty active with his hands; however, does tend to get stuck on blocks at this point. Generally does a decent job of reading keys, with further development possible as he gets more starting experience. Length gives him a solid tackling radius, and has the closing burst to chase down ballcarriers even in backside pursuit. However, production in opposing backfields was somewhat limited. Primarily considered a high-end prospect for his coverage ability. Gets adequate depth and is able to use his burst to plant and drive on a spot when working in zone coverage or when functioning as a quarterback spy and closing in on a passer who’s fled the pocket. Stays focused on the quarterback’s eyes, has pretty sound shuffle and backpedal technique, and was able to record six interceptions over the past two years. Able to flip his hips smoothly. Also athletically-suited to a blitzing role but didn’t produce much in that capacity at Alabama; looked fast and did a good job of identifying lanes to the passer during the games reviewed, so it’s a little bit surprising that he ended up with just one career sack. A prospect who has plenty of explosiveness as well as the athleticism/ball skills to potentially develop into an every-down linebacker at the next level, but who might have benefited from a return to school in order to polish his instincts and technique when playing the run and taking on blocks. Those concerns may relegate him to being more of a second-day pick, whereas he may have had first-round potential with additional progress.

LB Jahlani Tavai, Hawai’i

6’2” – 250 lbs. – N/A
Redshirted, then started eleven games at outside linebacker the following year, posting 56-5.0-3.0. Slid inside as a redshirt sophomore and had a highly productive campaign of 129-19.5-7.0. Enjoyed another strong campaign as a junior (124-11.0-5.5), then sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in late October of his senior year; finished with a line of 82-5.5-2.0. Has a thick build, but just average height and length, with arms which measured under 32” in Indianapolis. Played inside and outside for the Warriors, in addition to taking some snaps on the edge from stand-up rusher looks, many of which were bailed out into spot drops. Has an excellent motor in pursuit, playing the game with the type of tenacity teams look for in linebackers. When combined with solid speed, that allows him to play sideline-to-sideline and also to make tackles in space. At his best when he’s allowed to pin his ears back and play downhill against the run. Attacks blockers, gets what extension he can, and is able to scrape down the line and flow toward the ball. Closes well, with some burst into contact; however, can be more of a hitter at times. A little bit of a feast-or-famine player because of his aggressiveness; blows up plays in the backfield but can also be caught out of position and consequently, many of his tackles come well down the field. Doesn’t have the widest tackling radius because of his lack of length. Stayed on the field on passing downs in college. Has some tools to work with as an edge rusher; pretty good explosiveness and bend, especially for more of an off-ball linebacker. Good slap, with the ability to dip his shoulder without noticeably slowing down into the bend. Was also asked to make a lot of spot drops out of edge looks; has quick feet and can get himself into position fast. However, doesn’t have the soundest fundamentals when backpedaling, and overall athleticism is more impressive than his actual feel in zone. An interesting prospect with the size, athleticism, passion, and versatility teams look for in a linebacker, but whose game has inefficiencies because of his aggressiveness, and who doesn’t have ideal length. Sort of a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type who may be best as an edge rusher in an odd defensive front at the pro level. Draft stock will be to some extent determined by his medical checks; probably a third-day pick either way.

LB Germaine Pratt, North Carolina St.

6’3” – 240 lbs. – 4.57
Started his collegiate career as a reserve free safety, recording 62 tackles and intercepting two passes over his first two seasons with the team. Redshirted 2016 with a shoulder injury. Became a linebacker in his junior year, posting 69-5.5-0.0 with two interceptions without starting a game, and then enjoyed a highly productive senior campaign to conclude his career (104-10.0-6.0). Has solid height with a thick build and what looks like average length; may not really have the frame to carry much more weight. Defense typically uses two linebackers and he can play either spot; looks position/scheme versatile (inside in an odd front, Mike or Sam in an even front). Instincts are good and can often be found around the ball; however, can get a little bit aggressive/inefficient with his pursuit angles at times. Much stouter than his status as a former free safety would indicate; does a good job of taking on blockers and stopping rushing attempts between the tackles. Able to step into the gap, take on a block, and disengage in time to make a tackle. Plays with physicality and uses wrap tackling technique to bring down ballcarriers and help set the tone defensively. Able to sift through trash and find lanes to opposing runners. Lack of length is a limitation affecting his ability to keep blockers out of his pads and also his overall radius. Looks more comfortable playing downhill between the tackles than he does in space. Lacks recovery speed when caught out of position. A little bit limited in coverage; usage was typically restricted to short zone drops, without many snaps taken in man coverage or shaded over opponents in the slot. Shuffle technique looked clean, with enough athleticism to spot-drop. Looks good planting and driving on a spot in front of him. However, might struggle to match up in man coverage against most targets. Style of play is conducive to blitzing the A-gap, and picked up six sacks last season. Value in coverage may be somewhat limited, but is a good run-stuffer between the tackles who can read keys, flow to the ball, and take on blockers if necessary, with additional potential as an interior blitzer. Those skills should allow him to rotate into a defense in a two-down capacity, and possibly develop into an every-down player. Would fit well on a team like the Steelers.

LB Devin White, Louisiana St.*

6’0” – 237 lbs. – 4.42

Rotated into the defense over twelve games as a true freshman, also contributing on special teams and finishing with a line of 30-3.0-1.0. Became a full-time starter the following year, posting back-to-back lines of 133-13.5-4.5 and 123-12.0-3.0 before declaring for the draft. Comes with a solid combination of size and bulk for a pro weakside linebacker; could just as easily be considered for a middle or inside linebacker spot. Butkus Award winner and two-time team captain who functions as the heart of the defense and who absolutely flies around the field. True sideline-to-sideline defender with a nonstop motor and plenty of speed; seemingly always around the ball. Heat-seeking missile who racks up a ton of tackles despite an average tacking radius; hit-and-wrap option who can help set the tone with big sticks. Quick to read keys and flow in the play direction; very rarely takes a false step or gets caught out of position. Gets up to top speed in a hurry and finds ways to storm into the backfield and blow up rushing attempts. Can wriggle between blockers or generate pop when taking on contact; plays with a low center of gravity and can absorb initial contact well. Uses his hands to slip blockers when working through traffic. Can chase down runners from the backside. Will shade over receivers in the slot from time to time but wasn’t used extensively in man coverage; tended to either spy the quarterback or drop into zone coverage. Has a good feel for screens and routes developing underneath and has very impressive plant-and-drive abilities. Has no problem carrying running backs out of the backfield and/or down the field on wheel routes. Ideal A-gap blitzer who also picked up 7.5 sacks over the past two seasons; times his rushes well and can find ways to squeeze through protection schemes and create pressure on the quarterback. Was arrested twice prior to attending college, once for having sex with an underage girl, so character off the field will require due diligence. The type of player that can immediately breathe life into a defense with his speed and ferocity; consequently, looks like a strong candidate to come off the board within the top ten picks to a team seeking to energize their defense with one of the most fearsome playmakers in this year’s draft class.

LB Devin Bush Jr., Michigan*

5’11” – 234 lbs. – 4.43
Son of former pro safety Devin Bush, who was a member of Michigan’s coaching staff during Bush Jr.’s time with the Wolverines. Appeared in seven games as a freshman, then stepped into the starting lineup in 2017 and posted 95-10.0-5.5, following that up with a 66-8.5-4.5 year that earned him a spot on the Consensus All-American team. A little teapot: short and stout. Played in the middle with the Wolverines but could just as easily be asked to line up on the weakside given his combination of physical and athletic attributes. Has impressive wheels, getting up to speed quickly and covering a lot of ground. Speed and excellent motor allow him to cover plenty of ground, either in coverage or when defending the run; a true sideline-to-sideline player. Likes to play downhill and thump between the tackles in the run game; good tone-setter because of his energy and physicality. Aggression can sometimes be used against him, causing him to overpursue and run himself past gaps; would like to see more gap discipline. Needs to square up opponents because of the way his lack of length constrains his tackling radius. Absorbs contact well when working through trash but relies on the initial pop he can generate because of those length limitations; struggles to disengage when blockers are able to successfully line him up. Capable of making short or deep zone drops, or carrying running backs out of the backfield and into the flat or down the field; size limitations might prevent him from matching up on most tight ends. Loose hips allow him to turn and run with opponents. Effective plant-and-drive skills to intimidate receivers and enforce his will over the middle of the field. Frequently used as a blitzer; because of his leverage and speed, can create a surprising amount of push with his bull-rush against interior linemen, something which has allowed him to record ten sacks over the past two years. Does a good job of finding open lanes and has the fluidity to bend back to the quarterback when coming from the edge. Heat-seeking missile who may lack prototypical height and length and who can play a little bit out of control at times but who flies around the field and can do a little bit of everything, whether it’s helping to set the tone in the run game, dropping into man or zone coverage, or rushing the passer. Those traits make him a potential every-down linebacker and should earn him a spot within the first two rounds of the draft.

LB Dakota Allen, Texas Tech

6’1” – 232 lbs. – 4.77
Redshirted, then played in five games the following year. Ended up being dismissed from the team for conduct violations, causing him to transfer to East Mississippi Community College. Returned to Texas Tech and took over the full-time starting job at weakside linebacker in 2017, leading the team in tackles and being named a team captain. Moved over to middle linebacker as a senior but has dealt with injuries including a broken hand and knee injury. Team captain who has experience starting both inside and outside. Plays like his hair is on fire; very active, aggressive player. Quick and light on his feet, with the speed to play sideline-to-sideline, chasing down ballcarriers on stretch plays and screens. Likes to play downhill, with good burst to plant and drive on a spot. Hit-and-wrap tackler who closes fast and can generate pop on contact. Stays on the field on passing downs, often working in zones. Fast enough to carry opposing tight ends down the seams in man coverage. Has the athletic traits to be an effective A-gap blitzer if he can be schemed clear lanes to the passer. Well-suited temperamentally and athletically for a special-teams role. Size and length leave something to be desired. Struggles to deal with blockers; has enough short-area quickness to slip them, but has a hard time keeping them out of his pads and can be engulfed and sealed out of the hole. Tendency to turn his shoulder to the line. Takes some narrow angles to the ball and can run himself out of the play by being too aggressive. More athletic than instinctive in zone; doesn’t always seem to have the best feel for route developments. Has dealt with some injuries this past season and durability may be a concern. Was previously dismissed from the team, although he managed to recover his place on the team a year later. An athletic, energetic linebacker who plays the game with a desirable temperament and who offers inside/outside versatility, but who can let his aggressiveness get the best of him and who struggles to take on blockers. Would fit best in a swarming defense which covers him up with big linemen and let him run to the ball. Might be more of a mid-to-late-round option who may have to start his pro career on special-teams units, but has the raw tools to eventually work his way onto the field on defense.

LB Cameron Smith, Southern California

6’2” – 238 lbs. – 4.69
Started nine of ten games as a freshman, but season ended early after sustaining a season-ending injury. Started all thirteen games the following season, and reprised his starting role as a junior and senior; however, he has missed time while dealing with a hamstring injury in 2018. Comes with four seasons of starting experience for a major program. Lines up both inside and outside. Has adequate size and experience fighting through blocks behind three-man defensive lines. Tenacious and physical player who likes to play downhill and doesn’t shy away from contact. Smooth mover who has enough speed to pursue toward the sidelines. Keeps shoulders square. Plays with discipline and is patient in backside contain. Has some experience setting the edge from the outside. Looks natural in coverage, reading the quarterback’s eyes and making plays on the ball. Handles route combinations well. Effective pattern-matcher who can stick with opponents in his zone. Can carry opposing tight ends down the seams. More smooth than explosive. Looks more effective in coverage than against the run, particularly with regarding to rushing attempts between the tackles. Angles to the ball can be a little bit aggressive at times. Will be washed down the line and open up opportunities for runners to cut upfield. Size, length, and bulk are just adequate and can be swallowed up by blockers at times. Could do a better job of getting his arms extended to keep opponents out of his frame. Uses his arms to wrap but doesn’t usually square up opponents and deliver big hits to set the tone. Struggles to generate push with his bull-rush when rushing the passer. Durability may be an issue given the season-ending knee injury he sustained in 2015 and the minor injuries he dealt with as a senior. An experienced linebacker who plays with a high motor and who looks smooth and comfortable working in coverage, but whose play against the run leaves a little bit to be desired; isn’t quite as physical or successful reading keys and lining up ballcarriers as you’d like. Nonetheless, looks like a potential contributor who could get some early run in sub packages and on special-teams units. Appears to have some inside/outside and schematic versatility and took on a lot of blocks in college, but would probably be best if he’s covered by defensive linemen and allowed to flow to the ball.