top of page

NFL Draft PRR 2024: Linebackers

Welcome back to the PRR series, where today, we'll at the most lacking position group in this class: Linebackers. I'll be honest, outside of maybe four or five guys on this list, it'll be a long shot for most of the LBs in this class to play the majority of reps throughout their careers. Having said that, the eight prospects I'll cover today have some solid skills that should translate well to the NFL.


The league is constantly changing, and a position that used to be one of the most important on defense, has become an afterthought when building a scheme. Despite this, we'll cover my top guys in this class who go against the new grain that has been laid out over the past decade.


Photo: Barry Reeger/AP Photo

 

8. Curtis Jacobs - Penn State

What They Do Well

What Could Limit Them

Has a nose for the football, can find it in the pass or run

Coverage is hit or miss, either locks down his zone or gets exposed

Tackles well and has solid overall physicality

Not the best at taking on blocks, tries to avoid them rather than fight through them

Good versatility, used all over the defense at LB and Star

Overcommits in the run game at times, needs to be more patient

Jacobs has what it takes to be an every down LB in the league; he is constantly working to get to the ball, he showed good personnel versatility on tape, and he is a sure tackler. He'll need to get better at flowing in coverage, as well as being more physical against bigger blockers, but there is a path for him to be an impact player at the next level.


Pro Comp: Akeem Davis-Gaither


7. Cedric Gray - North Carolina

What They Do Well

What Could Limit Them

Phyiscal LB, takes on blocks and delivers good hits

Gets to his gap too quickly at times, just inserts himself into the hole

Phases well in coverage, reads QBs eyes effectively

Doesn't bump anyone in ocverage, doesn't help out his DBs at all

Dissects run plays quickly, gets to his gap on time and fills well

Struggles to read the OL in the run game, just runs to the ball-carrier

Underrate ball skills, had some nice picks and pass breakups against WRs


A solid mike-linebacker overall, Cedric plays well in coverage, is physical at the contact point, and tackles well. He needs to be more patient at times instead of inserting on a lineman's pull, and needs to get more physical in coverage to chuck receivers off their routes. Other than that, he has a good foundation to build upon.

 

Pro Comp: Anthony Walker Jr


6. Jeremiah Trotter Jr - Clemson

What They Do Well

What Could Limit Them

Reads QBs eyes at a high level, doesn't get looked off easily either

Doesn't have great athleticism, takes a while for him to get going

One of the best blitzers in this class, manipulates linemen with his eyes

Played as a mike-backer in college, may not have the size for it in the league

Flows well in coverage and flies downhill once the ball is committed

Doesn't use his hands when fighting off blocks, tries to outpower guys instead

Plays like he's 250 despite being under 230, incredibly physical


Trotter plays like an old-school Mike; he's a pretty solid tackler, he gets downhill easily, and he plays in zone coverage well. His athleticism leaves something to be desired, and was limited positionally in Clemson's defense. He will need to get twitchier and react to plays faster at the next level to be a consistent starter. Trotter may be a rotational guy at the next level given his profile, but I love his play style otherwise.

 

Pro Comp: Jarrad Davis


Photo: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire


5. Marist Liufau - Notre Dame

What They Do Well

What Could Limit Them

Top notch block destruction, great hand strike to grab and throw blockers off him

Not a great blitzer/pass rusher, runs right into linemen without making a move

Understands run fits at a high level, exchanges gap responsibility on the fly

Not the rangiest player, takes a while to cover ground

Eliminates cutback lanes with how he flows with the line

Doesn't press down to run fit as fast as you'd like, too patient at times

Takes good drops in zone, reads route combos well


Marist is a smart player with good LB instincts. He's aggressive against blockers and flows well in coverage, he's a solid tackler in open space, and will usually make his teammates right. He needs to get a bit twitchier and more refined as a blitzer/pass rusher, and he could work on reacting faster when diagnosing plays. Overall, Marist has some nice tools to develop into a versatile LB.

 

Pro Comp: Frankie Luvu


4. Junior Colson - Michigan

What They Do Well

What Could Limit Them

Good tracking and pursuit, chased down a ton of plays that got to second level

Not great in coverage, allowed some catches that crossed through his zone

Once he commits to the ball, he becomes unblockable, great physicality

If he isn't flying around at 100 MPH, he'll get blocked and won't fight off them

Great open field tackler, rarely gets juked, at worst will make an ankle tackle

Loses footing at times, stumbled when filling gaps and playing in man coverage

Young and raw, has upper level athleticism to help him develop


A good LB overall, Colson is young and plays the position like a prototypical LB does. He fills gaps quickly and hard, is a sure tackler, and has the speed to be rangy. He needs to get better in coverage and not stumble as much as he does, but he should get that coached out of him and be a solid LB at the next level.

 

Pro Comp: Kenneth Murray


3. Edgerrin Cooper - Texas A&M

What They Do Well

What Could Limit Them

Definition of a playmaker, constantly making splash plays

Below average in the run game, gets blocked off his spot often

Good in zone coverage, solid in his drops and passing routes off

Spotty tackler, will get juked out of his boots in the open field

Twitchy, fills gaps quickly and is fast to react to plays

Softens at the point of contact, won't punish players he takes on

Off the charts athleticism, great speed and good change in direction


Edgerrin is definitely worth a pick if you want a ball-hawking LB. He will find the football and make plays on it when needed, but he needs to stop getting his eyes lost in the backfield. I also wanna see him be more physical, which he has the tools to do. I think he could turn into an every-down backer with NFL coaching, as he has solid instincts and the athleticism to be a starter.

 

Pro Comp: Kwon Alexander


Photo: Sam Craft/AP Photo


2. JD Bertrand - Notre Dame

What They Do Well

What Could Limit Them

The most phyiscal LB in this class, sizes up anyone that comes at him

Doesn't keep his head on a swivel, just drops and reads QBs eyes, misses route pickups

Great in run fit, understands his gap and how it changes on the fly vs different blocking schemes

Over-penetrates the LOS and overruns his gaps at times

One of the best blitzers in the class, fills holes with urgency and power

Will turn 24 a week after the draft, old for a rookie

Tackles extremely well, made gator rolls, hit sticks, and ripped the ball constantly


I'm not sure why JD isn't higher from a consensus standpoint, outside of his age and being slightly undersized. He plays like he's a 250 pound LB from the 90's, incredibly sound as an in-the-box defender, stuffs runs and blitzes well. To go with this, he's one of the few LBs that will actually chuck crossing routes and mess up route timing. I do want to see him prove his coverage overall and play a bit more under control, but he's an absolute menace at the LB spot.

 

Pro Comp: Elandon Roberts


1. Payton Wilson - NC State

What They Do Well

What Could Limit Them

Unmatched hustle, always chasing after plays full speed, stops big plays

Technique could use some work, relies on his athleticism more than he should

Played every LB position, can drop into coverage, rush the passer, and hold the edge

Liability in coverage at times, doesn't keep his head on a swivel, loses zone pickups

Great tackler, very rarely will he miss a tackle, mainly due to a lapse in technique

Will over-pursue plays and shoot gaps at times, needs to stay patient

Ridiculous athlete and has good size for what he can do

Will be 24 his entire rookie season, also has some injury history

Wilson's raw athleticism is off the charts. He's really rangy and fast to the ball, he can line up at any LB position, and he provides versatility that's needed in modern NFL defenses. He needs to get more sound in coverage and get more technical with his craft. Wilson does have some age and injury concerns as well, but his upside is more than enough to make up for that in my opinion. He just needs some fine-tuning to be a monster at the next level.

 

Pro Comp: Leo Chenal


Photo: Griffin Bryant/NC State Athletics

 

Final Notes:


Someone who just missed the cut was Ty'Ron Hopper. He's an explosive player who slips off blocks at a high level and plays decently in coverage, he just struggles tackling in open space and doesn't have the best size, but still packs a punch despite this. I see him as more of a project, and there are some shades of Deion Jones - from early in his career - in Hopper's game.


Join me next week as we cover the top running backs, cornerbacks, and offensive tackles in this class!

Comments


bottom of page