Isiah Simmons – Clemson
I’m not sure what’s not to like. He’s been given endless responsibilities and excelled in every role. He had over 100 snaps at 3 different positions. (Safety, L Slot, R Slot) The team that drafts him may look to play him at Safety and Nickle LB more than a traditional Mike but has shown no reason why he wouldn’t excel there as well. He has a huge wingspan that assists in getting his hand on ball-carriers at the point of attack, and with breaking up passes in coverage. Very visible effort that stands out whenever he’s on the field. His speed and fluidity in coverage may be what separates him from the rest of the class. Simmons is the only Power 5 player with at least 6 sacks and 3 interceptions this season.
Kenneth Murray – Oklahoma
While Simmons may be the premier guy in the LB class, Murray would be no slouch of a consolation prize. Another big, athletic LB that every NFL team could use. Does an excellent job at remaining patient while a play is developing and explodes on the ball-carrier. Good blitzer from the middle and off the edge. Chases people down sideline to sideline at an elite level. His speed is very noticeable when you watch his tape. Doesn’t miss once he gets his hands on you. Has the athletic ability to be a good coverage LB at the next level.
Malik Harrison – Ohio State
At close to 250 lbs he’s one of the biggest LB’s on the list. He’s improved on his reaction time and hits gaps quickly on running plays. Great tackler, stays in good position even while being blocked. Doesn’t have great length but can stand up OL so he still stacks blockers well. He’s fairly quick in small spaces but may struggle trying to follow RB’s in coverage. Should be an above average run defender at the next level, but may be forced off the field in passing situations.
Akeem Davis-Gaither – Appalachian State
He is an undersized LB, but he plays extremely physically. Has great athleticism. Covered WR’s in the slot but also navigates congestion well in the run game and attacks RB’s. Has a natural nose for the ball. Utilizes his quickness well against bigger blockers and uses his length to get his hand on ball-carriers. He will need blockers to be occupied in front of him to remain effective but he can absolutely be a Weak-Side LB at the next level.
Troy Dye – Oregon
I believe he will need to add size to his frame to be consistently effective on the next level. Played well as a downhill linebacker and navigates blockers effectively. Has the athletic ability you want with today’s offenses. Tall enough to stay with TE’s and quick enough to cover RB’s. Thin frame allows blockers to eat him up. Disappeared in some games, want to see him remain more consistent.
Jacob Phillips – LSU
Doesn’t possess the elite athleticism of LSU LB’s in recent memory. (D. White & D. Jones) but is very consistent run defender. May not be a three down LB unless he improves in coverage. He is very patient on his reads which limits his splash play ability but also limits the amount of splash plays he gives up.
Evan Weaver – California
Nation’s leading tackler. It makes sense why, when you see him traverse run plays. Plays with a high football IQ, and a has a tremendous tackling radius. Engages blockers well and even displays a few pass rush moves. His effort is relentless. Sideline to sideline speed isn’t ever going to be a strength for him. His elite run stopping ability will make him an effective NFL player but he may be forced off the field in passing situations.
Patrick Queen – LSU
A gifted athlete with great sideline to sideline speed. Attacks gaps aggressively and is a sure tackler when he gets his hands on ball-carriers. Uses his speed to be disruptive in passing windows. Relies on quickness rather than strength when dealing with OL. Struggles when forced to deal with blockers. Man coverage seems to be a liability.
Monty Rice – Georgia
Great gap disrupter in running game. Very explosive when he decides to commit on a gap. Athleticism is not in question but processing plays seems to slow him down sometimes. He definitely possesses the traits to become a competent 3 down LB in the NFL but he is more of a potential pick than ready player.
Chazz Surratt – North Carolina
Great athlete who puts himself in good positions. He’s new to the position and it shows sometimes in tackling. Good natural field awareness for not a lot of experience. Athletic traits show up on tape in coverage and tracking down ball-carriers. If he continues to improve his skills he can become an above average LB on the next level.