LB1: 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.
LB2: 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.
LB3: 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.
LB4: 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.
LB5: 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.
LB6: 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.
LB7: Jacob Phillips – LSU
Doesn’t possess elite athleticism but is a 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.
LB8: Shaquille Quarterman – Miami
Tackle machine that will continue to make tackles if given space by the linemen in front of him. Shaq’s shortcomings will come in his range and ability to get sideline to sideline. Could really struggle keeping up with RB’s because of lack of short area quickness and could struggle with TE’s because of height and overall athleticism.
LB9: 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.
LB10: David Woodward – Utah State
Another #9 LB from Utah State. Woodward will need to drastically improve in his pass coverage abilities if he’s going to become a consistent fixture on anyone’s defense. Lack of true athleticism may always hinder his ability to be on the field for passing situations. Should absolutely excel if tasked to put his head down and explode on running lanes though.