Updated: Apr 28, 2022
Disclaimer - LB falls into 3 categories (WIL, MIKE, SAM) with some nuance between 3-4 & 4-3 fronts. I put ( * ) next to players that are likely Saints targets & scheme fits. I put ( + ) next to players that are scheme fits, but not necessarily guys I'd target.
*Nakobe Dean Georgia
Mean, physical. Has some devastating hits and a throwback form tackler. He's a good athlete who looks really natural in his backpedal into coverage. You can see the lower body dexterity is top tier. Good burst traits which flash on blitz. Coming from a very aggressive defense where he was the leader. Even on plays he misses, he's being aggressive. His aggression opens him up to overrunning some plays, but put him in position more often than not. Acceleration and burst in space. UGA lined him up in the slot on WRs on occasion and he didn't look out of place. He plays fast. Some plays are 'off the stat sheet' too like pressures that resulted in INTs. He's got havoc causing potential but teams may have to scheme around him. I initially thought he was 6'3 230 based on play style (turns out he's almost 6'0 220); very surprising because he's built thick and plays so physical that I assumed he was bigger. There aren't many examples of him being overpowered by strength. He'll bang with lineman and seek noise; at no time did I think he was small (or not physical enough). Quite the contrary. He plays all over the field, yet his stats are surprisingly more erratic than expected. Statistically boom or bust; an 11 tackle game than a 1 tackle game. Played on a fantastic defense plus his role fluctuated so that all has to be considered. If he's in the slot, he's not going to have as high of tackle numbers vs in the box, for example; however I need more game film to really know why production was erratic. Dean looks like a 3 down player who can blitz, cover, and play the run. He finished his JR season leading a championship defense with 72 TKL, 10.5 TFL, 6 SK, 2 INT, 5 PD, 2 FF, & 1 TD. On tape alone I would've thought he'd be graded higher than Devin Lloyd and even would've thought he's a potential top 10 pick. Once I realized he's only 220, I think that's the only reason he could fall. Still, it's hard to imagine him falling out of the 1st round. Smaller LBs like J.O.K. last year went 2nd round and performed well so size is becoming less important for LBs and teams are becoming more okay with sacrificing power in order to get speed. The level of competition has to be factored when assessing top LB in this class; compared to Lloyd from Utah, that difference in competition has to affect differences in production. It is hard to watch Dean's tape without #41 jumping off the screen too (Channing Tindall - we'll get to him later). Dean will most likely play WIL, has potential to play in either a 34 or 43, but most likely he'll end up in a 43.
Scout Grade - Top 20 Pick
Scout Comp - Shaq Thompson
*Devin Lloyd Utah
6'3 235 Built like a safety, but plays MLB. Made plays in pass coverage like a DB. Athletic, speed player who's all over the field and stat sheet. Had 111 TKL, 22 TFL, 7 TFL, 4 INT, 6 PD, 2 TD, 1 FR, & 1 FF as a SR. Similar production since his SO season. Only played 5 games as a JR (Covid season). Lloyd came to Utah as a 200 pound WR but converted to LB and gained 35 pounds. 200 pound frame is small for a pro LB, not unprecedented, but that's his main downside. He's been durable in the middle, but as a pro will likely move to SAM in a 4-3...maybe WIL. Not sure he has the power to stay at MLB. Valuable on 3rd downs, can blitz and cover. He's going to be drafted high because his athleticism & versatility is real. He's rangy; you really see it on blitz. Lloyd makes so many plays. Coverage looks sensational. He's more of a speed/space player than a physical/downhill player. It's more like watching a box safety than a LB. How well will he hold up against pro size and strength? Normally a smaller guy like this I want to see physicality. He flashes some, but in reality while trying to watch #0 (Lloyd) the player next to him #6 (Cole Bishop - a FR box safety) kept jumping off the screen as the team's more physical player in the box. So Lloyd's not a bullet proof prospect by any means. He's more finesse than dirty work. That said, he has sideline to sideline speed and 3 down potential. He converts speed to power okay but I wish he had a little more "umf" on his hits. He fits the modern game though. Top 15 type talent. Can take away the flats. Makes some tackles that others just simply can't. Even against good teams like USC and Stanford, he appeared like the most athletic player on the field. Lloyd looks ready to contribute early in his career, but being newer to the position combined with his size and subpar conference, it may take some time to adjust. As far as comps, he's similar in size and athleticism to KJ Wright. Lloyd's fun to watch, and I like him, but he may need to add power. I worry about "missed tackle" potential due to frame. Needs to go to a team that can scheme him into clean looks. He's almost like Patrick Queen or Kwon Alexander in the sense that he's a playmaking fast box safety type OLB who will catch teams and fans attention with big time splash plays, however he also may get overpowered easily and miss tackles due to lack of frame. Hard to ignore the production, and splash plays can win you championships if you make enough of them. My favorite moment was at the end of the Stanford game, he's near the LOS, and intercepts a throw at an angle in which most guys would be batting the ball down at the line. Not him; he hauled it in and scored. Those are the type of game winning moments that make him intriguing. My only concern worth mentioning is a little bit related to deja vu more so than an indictment on Lloyd himself. It's just I've seen similar players from that conference not translate as well as expected. Chase Hansen for example was a former LB/S hybrid with similar "wow" stats at Utah; he was a prospect that I really liked way more than most, yet he never had impact at the pro level. So I wonder if that program/conference allows for more production at the LB/S role? What would his production have been in the SEC? Still, Lloyd is an athletic fast linebacker who can cover and blitz so he fits the modern NFL and the direction of a league moving towards speed. Strength can be added, so he'll want to make sure he's carrying as much strength as possible. Hard to imagine him falling out the 1st round, but he is the type of player who will be reliant on surrounding cast. Because of that, it's possible he falls further than pre-draft projections. I could see him going as high as pick 9 to Denver and as low as early 2nd round. Most likely, he's a top 20 pick. Equally graded with Dean; they're neck and neck. Lloyd has more upside.
Scout Grade - Top 20 Pick
Scout Comp - KJ Wright
*Channing Tindall Georgia
Channing Tindall is ridiculously fast. He defines "sideline to sideline" speed. He's an aggressive player in space. Didn't start. Only saw him in flashes. Feels like Deion Jones type sideline to sideline potential, athletically, at least. He's someone that could measure off the charts with 40 yard dash time and vertical leap, and probably climbs into 2nd round. He's a weird prospect because there are definitely 1st round traits here, but he's very raw. Low production and did not even start in college. He's coming from a freakishly deep UGA team so he likely would've started on 99% of other programs, however you can only go by what he did, not what I imagine he may have done somewhere else. Still despite the lack of production, it's hard to imagine someone this fast and physical not being picked by round 2 or early in round 3 at the latest. Tindall is the rangiest LB in this class. He's likely a WIL, but has the size and strength to maybe develop into a SAM. He's got great 3rd down traits for the NFL. His top tier explosion gives him upside as a blitzer and he showed the ability to cover guys in space. He's the type of LB you have to keep clean and more of a sideline to sideline presence than a downhill presence. His speed traits are just so off the charts. Tindall had a tackle versus Clemson where he chases a WR from the opposite side of the formation and it is the single most definitive play that sticks out to me among this LB class. It's similar to how scouts felt watching Darius Leonard at SC where you get enamored by the jaw dropping type range. The knock on Tindall is that he never started, and he mainly only contributed 1 year as a SR. In his final season he contributed to a championship defense though and had 67 TKL, 7.5 TFL, 5.5 SK, & 1 FF. The potential to become a threat as a blitzer is most intriguing. Not too many LBs flash the range/burst to potentially develop into 10 sack type players. His upside is that high. I don't mean as "an EDGE" player either. I'm talking as a 3 down LB, he has the upside to get sacks. Early in his career, he'll be utilized as a chess piece defender. He's versatile, but seemed most natural in run support, especially runs to the outside. Some teams may grade him late 1st rd and others may grade him late 3rd rd. Most likely goes in the early to mid 2nd round because the traits are just too enticing to pass up.
Scout Grade - 2nd Round
*Damone Clark LSU
Monster production in the SEC for a team known for producing athletic productive pro LBs (Kwon Alexander, Devin White, Deion Jones to name a few). Clark outproduced them all including Devin White who was a top 5 pick. Clark contributed as a SO & JR averaging about 55 TKL, but really exploded as a SR where he had a whopping 135 TKL, 15 TFL, 5.5 SK, 1 INT, 3 PD, 1 FR, & 2 FF. Had a 19 tackle game vs Ole Miss; worst game was an 8 TKL game vs Alabama (which still isn't bad). That's consistent. Tape reflects that production too. He's all over the field and a pursuit player that ambitiously tries to find the football. I like how he disengages from blocks at the last second to get the tackle. Some of those last second tackles felt strategic, like he's baiting the ball carrier towards him by appearing to be blocked when in reality he's priming the blocker and baiting the runner. Athletically he's not blazing speed (like Devin White, Deion Jones & other LSU LBs) so he's different than previous LBs from LSU, but he moves sideline to sideline well enough, and he's also 245 pounds of downhill nuisance. Might be a 4.6 type athlete, give or take 0.1s. A strength player, who converts his speed to power. Best displays of strength are when he arrives to the ball carrier. Isn't going to move bodies at the LOS. Mainly a downhill MLB who might have just enough pursuit to be a sideline to sideline presence. Instinctive player, always in position to tackle the ball carrier. He knows how to find the ball and breaks down well to maintain positioning on tackles. He'll likely climb come draft time. Currently, projected 4th/5th round by most outlets, he'll probably go in the 2nd or 3rd round. I think bad teams might really like a reliable player like this in the early 2nd round. Clark's built like a weight room warrior so athletically what you see is what you get. There's not an ounce of fat on him, and he is muscular especially in his lower half. Because of that, he lacks top tier "upside" and will never be a rangy type LB, but all things considered he's one of the most underrated LB in this class. I expect that to change come draft day. He's a reliable pro ready early down run defender that may man the middle of your defense successfully for 10 years. Although an average to above average athlete, he has just enough athleticism to possibly develop into a 3 down player. Needs to prove he can be an asset in coverage and on 3rd downs. Athleticism in straightline speed is good but could become more natural in his backpedal. As far as pro comps, he reminds me of Bradie James from LSU who was a tackle machine for the Cowboys for years. Some might see him as a Cole Holcomb type player, who went 5th round. Both comps went late, but performed well as starters. Clark has similar traits, similar game, and slightly higher upside. Hard to imagine him falling out of the 2nd round. If so, someone may get a steal. (4/28 edit: added pre-draft) - Clark had a spinal issue that came up at combine. Will miss a year and require a redshirt. Career might even be in jeopardy. The fact he played through it; I'd still take my chances as high as 4th round because the upside is real.
Scout Grade - 2nd Round
Scout Comp - Cole Holcomb
*Brandon Smith Penn State
6'3 241 Athleticism jumps off the screen quickly. Has true MLB physicality, especially when smashing into the LOS and gets to fighting with blockers. You really see his competitive streak in not wanting to concede ground, even when he's outsized. There's really solid explosive athletic traits especially for his girthy, muscular frame. This guy may shred the combine and fly up draft boards. Even if he "measured poorly" which I don't expect, you wouldn't care because he plays fast. Smith is a true MLB that could play in a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme. He's athletic enough to be a SAM too, although I expect he'll man the middle in a 34. Smith gets in on tackles and is a downhill player. He's better in the noise than he is sideline to sideline, but you still see sideline to sideline potential and athletic traits to be dangerous in nearly any facet of the game. It's not lightning fast like Dean or Lloyd who are the top of this class, but Smith is also about 20 pounds heavier, so for a thumper type build, he's really fast. I could see him taking time to develop but really thriving in a 3-4. He's a similar prospect to a player like Terrell Edmunds who was picked top 20 to Buffalo. Smith may be a shade less fast and a hair smaller, but there are similarities in traits. For that reason I could see a team like Buffalo really liking him as a depth developmental guy especially if he falls to them in round 2. He's someone that may be picked on flashes (like his INT vs Nebraska where he looked like a TE), but I like that he's not a "measurables only" type prospect. Smith plays hard. There are some missed tackles, but overall I think he can help fortify a team's run support without being a liability on 3rd down. He has 3 down potential, and a ton of upside. He's similar to Cameron McGrone from Michigan last year and likely outperforms his comp. May creep into the late 1st round come draft time based on athleticism plus Penn State's recent success at LB. Right or wrong, teams will have Micah Parsons on their mind which benefits Smith. He is a speed athlete with size, strength, explosion in short space, and a competitive nose for the football. One knock is some of his tackles in space are nipping at heals instead of timing the hit for full contact (compared to Dean from UGA who lands hits 'body to body' by having a natural sense of timing). For someone this athletic, you'd hope for a few more bone crushing early arrival hits. I'm nitpicking though because Smith is generally reliable. It's just his timing on angle IQ, diagnosing plays ahead of time, & desire to obliterate could all improve by a hair. I generally like his nose for the ball. He has the raw tools to be coached up and could go as early as the late 1st round but most likely goes early to mid 2nd round. Athletic LBs don't always play physical but he does. That's why I'd give him a slight edge over high floor guys like Damone Clark or Chad Muma. Both Muma and Clark are better players right now, but Smith has potential to develop into a higher ceiling player. LBs like Devin Lloyd have more traits that will make scouts drool, but may be more 'splash players' whereas Smith may be a little more boring, but also more reliable and consistent. He's still raw, played 7 games as a FR & 8 games as a SO. JR year had 81 TKL, 9 TFL, 2 SK, 5 PD, & 1 FF. Smith is a name you don't hear much in pre-draft talks, but you really should. He's got upside through the roof. That tells me that teams might be trying to keep him quiet so he falls.
Scout Grade - 2nd Round
Scout Comp - Alec Ogeltree
*Troy Andersen Montana State
6'4 235 Thinner build, rare breed, 2 way player. Started as FR of the year at RB. Converted to a run 1st option QB where he broke his school's TD record with 21 TDs. Converted to LB for last 2 seasons. As a RB/QB he threw for 1200 YD, 7 TD, 3 INT & rushed 206 times for 1412 YD & 12 TD. Defensively as a SR had 111 TKL, 9.5 TFL, 2 SK, 2 INT, 1 FR, & 7 PD. The only QB/LB I can remember in recent drafts was Chazz Surratt from UNC. In Anderson's case, he has a little more upside as a strength/speed combination and he appears to play faster. He has outstanding balance which you really saw when he had rushing opportunities (offensively). Deceptively athletic because he plays reckless. Might only run a 4.6, but when you can take it 60 yards to the house on offense, you're likely 'fast enough.' Excited to see more highlights or games if they become available because his production and versatility are pretty unique. There's a nastiness to his game where he really makes some mean plays. As far as attitude, he has one of the nastiest attitudes in this class. He may not be not ideal in speed traits when it comes to "measurables" but he plays fast. There's a lot of upside here and scheme versatility. I could see him being a good 43 SAM, rotational blitzer/cover guy, and maybe even an undersized MIKE. I need more games to fully assess, but 1st impressions are very intriguing. He's raw and plays high for a linebacker, but there's some leeway since he's new to the position. The nuances of leverage and wrapping up can come in time. He's relentless and nasty, which you can't teach so you like the baseline attitude and athlticism. He has better range than you 1st realize too. The more you watch the more good examples of athleticism you see. It's long speed though so it can be deceptive and not appear "bursty." Andersen's projections range widely. Most have him ranked around round 4, but I could see him climbing into round 2 or 3 if he measures well. His coverage ability alone has value. His ceiling is a 3 down starter and floor is rotational 3rd down defender.
Scout Grade - 2nd/3rd Round
Chad Muma (+) Wyoming
Makes plays in coverage, in the box and in space. Has decent play strength especially when arriving to the ball. Not a top tier speed athlete, but just athletic enough to develop into a starter. He plays with great pursuit and has high angle IQ when chasing after ball carriers. He may not go high in the draft because he lacks one particular athletic skill (like speed, burst, or power), but he could be a reliable player from IQ, savvy & toughness. Navigates traffic really well and finds ways to maneuver through heaps of bodies. That's his best trait. His angle IQ is really good. If 4 of his teammates are all chasing the ball, he always seems to be the one taking the best angle and arriving 1st. The way the NFL is moving in terms of athleticism, I think he could fall slightly in the draft. But falling for Muma would be 3rd/4th round. One of the most productive players in college football. Performed well in spite of athletic traits. He was a tackle machine for Wyoming. As a SR he had 142 TKL, 8 TFL, 1.5 SK, 3 INT, 1 FR, & 2 TDs. He's not a bad athlete; he's just not a great one. Muma is a reliable wrap up tackler who makes plays in the box and in space. He's a throwback style player. He's versatile enough to play MLB in a 4-3 or 3-4. He doesn't "jump" off the tape, but the more you watch the more you like. He just makes a ton of tackles. Because of his play style, I expect he may do the same as a pro. He may not be your ideal option in coverage on 3rd downs. That's where he'll require the most development. With an undrafted below average athlete like Alex Singleton leading the NFL in tackles, you wouldn't want to bet against a guy like Muma. It's worth noting that the Eagles thriving with 2 undrafted LBs in Singleton & Edwards have changed the way I scout and view LBs, and it might affect how the league scouts them too. It makes me prioritize IQ a little more, and athleticism a little less. Yes, I'll still grade the top athletes high because of potential, but I'm not as quick to rule out subpar athletes (especially at LB & most especially at MLB). Every year athletic players like Christian Harris go above savvy players like Chad Muma, but when the season ends and you're comparing numbers, it's usually the high IQ 'tough as nails' types that wind up with better production. Truth is, when you consider IQ & physicality can't be measured by a combine, it's why linebacker and running back have so many guys fall through the cracks. Muma is similar to Logan Wilson who came from the same school and went 3rd round last year. Wilson had more athletic upside and a longer track record of production, but Muma had more presence as a thumper and run defender. He could fall to round 4 or 5 at the latest, and he could go as high as round 2, yet regardless of where he goes, I could see him being a reliable run defender from day 1. Teams that have had bad track records drafting LBs might be willing to reach on Muma because they'll like his high floor.
Scout Grade - 3rd/4th Round
Scout Comp - Alex Singleton
Leo Chenal Wisconsin
6'2 261 Arrives with outstanding power on some blitzes and run stops in the back field. I mean the brute force on his arrival is top of this class. He's a unique player because he looks most comfortable as a pass rusher, and often from the middle which is rare. One of the better blitzing MLBs I can remember. He's not agile and lacks sideline to sideline long speed, but those attributes can be overcome with enough functional acceleration, IQ, and strength which he displays. This is a unique player, but for a creative 3-4 defense that can utilize blitz from their MLB, he could be a solid rotational player especially on 3rd downs and possibly even a starter. He could have some value as an EDGE rusher in a 3-4 too. So he's hard to project as a pro because he's so unique in skill set and build. Athletic profile is a hair below what you look for regarding speed from your starting front 7 defenders but he's also 261 pounds at 6'2 and a downhill wrecking ball. He's got a nose for the football and is very physical. Best work is between the tackles. A throwback player, really. In 1970s might've been a 1st rd pick. In today's NFL, he only fits a few 34 schemes with teams like the Patriots & Cardinals, that are willing to build & scheme around what he does well instead of asking him to convert to something new or fit into a predetermined positional box (i.e., just because most 3-4 MLB are not blitzers does not mean you can't make it work with the right scheme and surrounding personnel). Because he's unique, he has an unusually wide potential range of outcomes. I could see a team loving him and picking him as high as early 2nd round; I could just as easily imagine him falling into round 4 or 5. If you held a gun to my head, I'd guess early 4th round.
Scout Grade - 3rd/4th Round
Beavers is a huge interior linebacker whose built more like a pass rusher or even TE. As a FR & SO, he contributed situationally. Started as a JR with 58 TKL, 7.5 TFL, 2.5 SK, 2 INT, 2 PD, 1 FF. As a SR he really exploded with 98 TKL, 11 TFL, 4 SK, 1 INT, 2 FF, 2 FR, 1 PD. I like that his best game was against his toughest opponent in Alabama where he had 10 TKL, 2 TFL & 1 SK. Beavers is somewhat of a 'clean up' type player, meaning he may not be the 1st to arrive, but he will clean up the play and be a finisher. Might have more tackles come in the form of assists over solo tackles type guy. Beavers is a physical downhill player that looks best between the tackles in run support. He has pass rush upside athletically as well as zone coverage upside via high IQ in space. He's athletic enough to make plays in space but not necessarily a sideline to sideline type LB. He's a long, patient strider, and more long speed/power oriented than explosive. Downhill, early down interior defense with some pass rush & coverage upside for 3rd downs. Long, strong athlete. Arrives with force. Flashes a 2nd gear. In zone coverage has good moments because he stays in tune with the QB and can 'read' the pass well. He reminds me of Brandon Spikes when he came out of UF. Spikes went end of round 2. Beavers might be a slight tick below that level of prospect, but they're built similarly. The difference between him and Spikes is that I wanted to see more physicality from Beavers. He has good moments, but I went back and watched Spikes as a reference, and on Spikes' best hits you'd really see him time his hits for maximum impact. With Beavers, there are a lot of ankle tackles for example. It's not a knock on Beavers, because a tackle is a tackle, and the job is to bring guys to the turf, but I did have a longing for more massive hits especially given his sheer size. You see the potential in frame and fluidity. 34 Ds will really like him as a MLB and possibly even SAM. I could see him going high as round 2 and as late as round 4/5. Teams like Buffalo, New England, & Arizona would be his best fit. I could see him being an option to replace AJ Klein for the Bills.
Scout Grade - 3rd/4th Round
I'd completed my LB grades pre-combine, however I had to add a profile for Rodriguez because I didn't even know about him until after the combine. He was very under the radar and not even listed as an eligible prospect on any of the 3 draft outlets (TDN, PFN, PFF). He's a 4 year starter as SO, JR, SR, rsSR. He finished his career w/ 408 TKL, 32 TFL, 7.5 SK, 2 INT, 11 PD, 4 FR, 13 FF. His ball production, versatility, durability, & athleticism really stick out. He's not a power athlete or a thumper, but is more of a modern day speedy WIL LB who moves almost more like a box safety. His feet are extremely quick and he's very rangy. He's got an above average nose for the football and plays a physical brand of football. It's not overly imposing due to size, however he is physical. I like Rodriguez a lot especailly for a team like the Saints if they lose Kwon Alexander in free agency. Even though he was extremely 'off the radar' I expect he'll hear his name called as early as round 4. He has some 2nd/3rd rd type athletic speed traits and may be the most agile LB in this class along w/ some of the top of class guys. Lack of downhill power is the only reason he could fall, however his role in the pros should be more sideline to sideline, run n chase, with contributions in coverage and blitz. Has traits to develop into a potential 3 down starter who's only reason to come off the field might be short yardage situations where more thump is required. Overall, he presents some unique value late for teams in need of an athletic WIL w/ starting upside.
Scout Grade - Early 4th Round
*Terrel Bernard Baylor
Instinctive, extremely productive, athletic undersized WIL who'll likely be targeted by a 43 D. As a SR had 103 TKL, 12.5 TFL, 7.5 SK, 4 PD. Similar production early as a SO. Had about 50 TKL as a FR & JR in 5 games. Bernard's game in 2 words: fast, physical. Built more like a box safety than traditional LB, he's best when he's kept clean and can play fast in space. Looks to hit. More physical than his listed 222 pound weight. Made a ton of 2nd effort tackles. Sideline to sideline type range/speed. Clear leader of his defense (which is a fast, physical & really well coached Dave Aranda defense). Size/power is Bernard's limitation but I like that he converts speed to power. Looks like he'll measure well. Bernard was projected by most outlets around round 5 but I could see him going a round or two earlier. I wouldn't have a problem with a team taking as early as 3rd rd. He has the tools to become a potential starter and the IQ & physicality to possibly do it early in his career. As far as team fits, if the Saints lose Kwon Alexander, I think Bernard would be a good option as a replacement. Even if they resign Kwon, they may bring someone like Bernard in to develop into that long term 'sideline to sideline' speedy WIL.
Scout Grade - Early 4th Round
Brian Asamoah II (+) Oklahoma
6'1 228 Extremely athletic in frame and movement. Has insane sideline to sideline range. One of the rangiest LBs I've ever watched really. Not a big player, but plays strong enough. Doesn't get pushed off his spot. He's more 'read and react' than predictive. You'd like to see him diagnose quicker and attack the space where a player is heading instead of reading & reacting to what's happening because by the time you react it's already happened. It's micro-seconds of difference but at pro level that difference in IQ can be the difference in becoming a starter or just being a rotational player. 1st impression is higher IQ players may've diagnosed quicker and arrived a yard or two earlier on many of his tackles. Asamoah was moderately productive and contributed all 3 seasons FR, SO, & JR. Had 80 TKL, 3.5 TFL, 1 SK, & 2 FF as a JR. Zero PDs sticks out as a negative. For someone this fast, you'd expect more plays made in coverage and on blitz. Asamoah seems like a developmental player at this point, but high upside based on speed. He's likely a WIL and long term developmental prospect. He would've benefited from returning for his SR season. There are definitely tools here. Very athletic, flashes of physicality, but still very raw. That slight hiccup in processing time; he'll have to read the game quicker. There are also big downs where his coaching staff didn't have him on the field. They took him off the field on a lot of passing downs in fact. It makes you wonder how much of a liability he might be in coverage. At his speed, the fact that they took him off the field, may mean that he's just bad in coverage. As much as scouts and fans want to think coverage ability revolves around speed, it's really more about IQ. You have to be able to diagnose the oppositions movement before it happens. That's the bottom line. Yes, you need to be able to keep up too, but the fastest guy in the world won't be able to cover if he can't diagnose in advance. Asamoah is a big time, high upside project player that will be picked on traits and need time to develop. I see massive upside & downside. He doesn't have the IQ I normally look for. Some teams may like his athletic traits enough to draft him as high as early 2nd round, however he's more of a 4th round prospect based on tape. At this point he's more of an ATH than a LB. As far as pro comps, he's similar to Jerome Baker who was a developmental undersized athlete picked in the 3rd round based on ceiling and potential instead of performance on tape but it worked out well. Asamoah is similar in almost every regard. He could be a complete bust or a pro bowler. Not many LBs outside of rounds 1 and 2 can offer that wide of a range of potential outcomes.
Scout Grade - 4th Round
Scout Comp - Jerome Baker
Christian Harris (+) Alabama
6'2 232 Right off the bat, before reading his measurables, he looks like an undersized, explosive, sideline to sideline OLB. Has good moments in blitz. Not natural ball skills in coverage, however his backpedal, fluidity & movement is beautiful. He drops into coverage like a DB and has agile feet for coverage. I don't like his IQ/instincts/play style in run support especially in space. He'll show the ability to find the ball but once he starts closing in, I'd like to see more ambition in getting to the ball. It's like he lacks the desire to hit. His teammate To'o To'o has that desire; you see it in his run support. For Harris, he's more of a finesse player who might be best suited for a 3rd down role until he develops as a more complete player/tackler. There are far too many plays where he is near the ball and you're expecting him to put a lick on the ballcarrier, but he just doesn't; he's a bit too willing to let his teammates do all the dirty work. He's athletic though. He converts speed to speed, not speed to power. The NFL is becoming more of speed driven game, so he could be picked as high as early round 2, but I'd like to see more impact on tackles and more physicality. Typically guys don't just learn how to be mean. May need to add strength, but it's more an issue with attitude. He's someone that really looked the part on his highlight reel but once I dived into the game by game film, I had to demote his grade by 2 rounds. He could fall a little bit in the draft. He's currently considered a top 50 prospect; that's a bit high. This is more of a 4th/5th round player who will be picked on upside because he has 1st/2nd round tools. Think a guy like Jabril Cox from LSU or Baron Browning from Ohio State. Athletic OLBs best suited for 3rd downs as coverage assets with pass rush potential. He was productive on the stat sheet (as a FR, SO, JR) on a renowned Alabama defense. So when you start on a Nick Saban D as a true FR LB, it says a lot about pedigree and can't be ignored. So he's not a bad prospect or player. He produced well with seasons of 61 TKL, 79 TKL, & 80 TKL. Totaled 26 TFL, 10 SK, 1 INT, 6 PD, 2 FF, & 1 FR in those 3 years too so he's capable of making splash plays. I just wonder, like on a down by down basis, if he's really a 3 down player. He's clear upside & flashes elite sideline to sideline speed, range and athletic ability, but there's not enough physicality to make me think every down player, not right away at least. And that might be the expectation considering his top 50 projected grade. He'll have to improve his nose for the ball and desire to inflict pain. He's a high upside athlete for a 4-3 SAM or WIL and there's enough raw tools to become a 3 down player, however he's not someone I'd target before round 3 because of the development required. The more I watch him, the more work I realize he needs, and the more I end up liking his teammate To'o To'o. It's impossible to watch Alabama games without the 'other guy' jumping off the screen consistently; it's amazing To'o To'o didn't declare early, but that's another story.
Scout Grade - 4th Round
Scout Comp - Jabril Cox
*Zakoby McClain Auburn
6'0 219 Funny enough when watching teammate Owen Pappoe's film (who's ranked above McClain by most outlets), #9 kept jumping off the screen. So much so that I had to do a double take like, "wait, am I supposed to be watching #0 or #9?" So that's a good sign. He has some really physical plays, lots of big hits. He's athletic too. This is a late round player I'd target and has sleeper potential. Need to dive deeper in tape, but initial reaction is "why is he ranked so low?" I mean if you play well in the SEC, are athletic, physical, tackle with proper form, and navigate traffic well...what's not to like? I just looked him up and he is statistically better than Pappoe too. As a JR he had 113 TKL, 5.5 TFL, 3 SK, 1 PD & 1 FF. As a SR he had 95 TKL, 8 TFL, 2 SK, & 6 PD. SO year in rotational role he had the most splash plays with 3 FF & 1 INT for a TD along with 55 TKL. His low grade is likely due to his listed size of 6'0 219 which is small by pro standards but I wouldn't have known that from just watching him play. He's similar to Dean from Georgia; he plays much bigger than his listed height/weight. I really like his potential as an athletic 4-3 WIL. With a player like Foyesade Oluokun dominating the NFL, at about the same size, it makes me okay with taking chances on "smaller" LBs. The game is changing, and teams that take chances on players like Oluokun in the 6th round are more likely to get rewarded. I'd like McClain, and his ceiling is evident quickly when watching him play. This was the 1st year where I didn't look up player stats or measurements (height, weight) in advance. I just wanted to let the tape speak first. Had the draft been based on tape alone, there's not enough of a gap between a player like like Zakoby McClain (who projects 5th-7th rounds) and a player like Devin Lloyd (who projects top 15 pick). In fact one could argue that McClain produced similarly against tougher competition in the SEC. McClain may go lower than my grade due to lack of size, and he doesn't "wow" you athletically, but he's the type of player who plays fast. I don't care what his 40 yard dash is because he flashes range in 15 yard splits and he runs hard. On unimpeded blitz you really see him cover ground quickly so I wouldn't be surprised if he measures well on combine drills. He can be overpowered by strength in space, but he's very tough and fights hard even when outmatched by size. Auburn lined him up in a variety of ways and utilized him in run support, blitz, and coverage. He mainly played in the middle of their defense though. As a pro I expect him to move to OLB. His game in 1 word: competitive. McClain fights hard and stays locked in; in general I like his instincts and ambition in run support. He has a nose for the football and there aren't many examples of his size being a major issue. He's a good football player and very underrated in this class. Expect him to climb draft boards if he runs a good 40 yard dash. You can also expect him to contribute to a rotation early in his career because he is instinctive and experienced enough to contribute immediately. It would surprise me if he fell past round 4 or 5. Anything after round 3 seems like good value.
Scout Grade - 4th/5th Round
Scout Comp - Kyzir White
*D'Marco Jackson Appalachian State
Traditional throwback style MLB. Tough, good nose for the ball. Has moments where he pauses instead of attacks, almost like he's diagnosing. Overall I see a ton of upside if he can be coached to react and attack instead of think. Physical player with athletic upside. 4 year player who started 3 years. As a SR had 119 TKL, 20 TFL, 6 SK, 1 INT, 5 PD, & 1 FF. As a JR had 89 TKL, 6.5 TFL, 2.5 SK, 2 INT, 6 PD, 1 FR. The fact that Jackson had such outstanding production in 3rd down traits like PD, INT, SK gives him upside. Not only could he contribute early in his career on 3rd downs, but you see the potential to be a full time 3 down starter who could play nearly any LB spot or scheme. Due to size, he'll likely be a WIL in a 43 but App State lined him up in the middle and he rarely looked out of place. He may be a hair small to stay in the middle as a pro so that's why he might fall in the draft. Players like Jackson make you realize just how deep this LB class is. Some outlets project him to be a 7th round pick. Other outlets like PFF project him as a 4th round pick. Either way Jackson has some 2nd/3rd round traits. To think someone might get a player with this much upside in the 4th round or after, is crazy. He affected the game in a lot of ways and was all over the field. Out of all the pure LBs (not listed as "EDGE") Jackson is one of the better blitzers. He has range and closes space between 2nd level and the QB very quickly. He's explosive, instinctive and mean. His burst should translate to the pro game well. He just needs to read the field quicker and trust his instincts.
Scout Grade - 4th/5th Round
Micah McFadden (+) Indiana
6'2 232 Not much tape available (mainly just Ole Miss bowl game and a few highlights), but from that game alone you see flashes that indicate a very high IQ player. Pro comp looks similar to Troy Dye from ORE. There are moments on play action where he doesn't bite, on pass rush where even though he doesn't have a shot at the QB he'll eat 2 blockers and sacrifice his body. Finds the ball. Sleeper vibes. He's an above average speed athlete who plays physically and intelligently. I like how he closes space and you don't see him making many bad plays. He should be ranked higher than most of the pre-draft rankings. It may be because he's not a particularly 'bursty' athlete. I could see him measuring better than expected (like 40 YD dash) and climbing a little bit. Not sure if he's thick enough to stay at MLB, may move to SAM or WIL. He'll need to gain strength in order to disengage from blockers better. Shows the 'want to' but not always the pure force required to overcome blockers. Has upside as a blitzer. This is sort of the ideal LB you'd look for when it comes to 4th round or later. Very instinctive. I really like his attitude. There's a leadership vibe that's hard to explain but you see flashes: like against Ole Miss, they're outmatched as a team; the opponent is marching into the red zone and McFadden ripping at the ball to try to force a fumble. It may sound odd but most defenders I've watched in this class didn't attempt to force many fumbles. When I was younger attempting FF was commonplace. Prospects lately tend to play it safer and make sure to make the tackle instead of trying to force the ball out at the expense of missing the play completely. It could be a result of the game getting faster and a byproduct of not wanting to miss tackles on speed in space. McFadden has flashes like attacking the ball that really catch my attention. It's not always on the stat sheet, but you recognize the attitude when you see it. He had some other intriguing plays too like head to head collisions where he wins mono e mono battles even if it's a car crash type collision. So he seems tough, durable, aggressive, smart. McFadden played all 4 years for Indiana and improved year after year. I like that progression. He's not a downhill tackle machine type LB, but he's someone I trust overall. Versatile enough to play a variety of roles and could develop into 3 down starter, which based on his usual day 3 projections, most people might not expect. Best fit will be in a 4-3 but he's scheme diverse. I need more tape to really assess coverage ability but he looked adequate and didn't have many bad moments in the games that I could find. Finished SR season with 77 TKL, 15.5 TFL, 6.5 SK, 3 PD, 1 FF, & 1 FR. As a SO & JR averaged 60 TKL, 10 TFL, 2 INT & 3.5 SK. Intriguing prospect considering late round projections. I expect him to measure well and climb draft boards but even still he might be underrated. Granted, his grade and assessment was made with very limited information, but from the little bit I could find, there was enough flashes to warrant intrigue and mid round consideration.
Scout Grade - 4th/5th Round
*Aaron Hansford Texas A&M
Hansford came out of nowhere to have a good 5th yr. As a rsSR had 89 TKL, 8.5 TFL, 2 SK, 4 PD, 2 FR, 1 TD. He's definitely a pro level athlete. Fast player who flashes a physical edge. His size, speed, and strength are conventionally what teams look for. His lack of early production and late development aren't what they look for, but he flashed enough speed and physicality in his final season to warrant a mid round pick. He has 4th round traits athletically. The main issues I saw on film were missed tackles from not wrapping up and lack of downhill force. It wasn't chronic but there were instances where he didn't wrap up and it resulted in long plays. He flashed some potential as a blitzer, has solid range, and covers a lot of ground quickly. He also showed good desire, hustle to get to the ball in run support. Most outlets projected Hansford late or even undrafted but I could see him climbing, presenting good value on day 3, and going as early as round 4 or 5. It'd be hard to imagine him going undrafted like some outlets project. He's got too many pro traits and even possible 3 down starter upside. I'm not sure what position would be ideal for him. Possibly SAM in a 43. There wasn't a ton of tape available, so it's based on limited information. He may have enough physicality to stay at MLB but might not have the brute power to man the middle. He isn't overtly powerful, but he converts speed to power well. It'll be interesting to see how his game translates to the pros. For a day 3 pick, he offers starter upside which is more than can be said for many of the guys who will be picked ahead of him. He's a potential sleeper and low risk/high reward type prospect if he falls past round 4.
Scout Grade - 4th/5th Round
*Avery Roberts Oregon State/Nebraska
3 year starter with tons of production. Roberts isn't big for a MLB but he uses his size to slip through traffic well. He has a 2nd gear and flashes ability to turn on the jets and close gaps. There's some pro level burst and acceleration here. He's got a physical downhill presence despite his small frame. Roberts had some really dominant games, like a 16 TKL & 1 INT performance versus Washington. Roberts started at Nebraska but transferred to Oregon State where he hit the ground running. As a SO had 84 TKL, 6.5 TFL, 2 SK, 2 PD. As a JR had 69 TKL, 3 TFL, 0.5 SK (in 6 game covid year). As a SR had 123 TKL, 9.5 TFL, 2.5 SK, 1 FF, 1 INT, 2 PD where he nearly led the country in tackles. Roberts doesn't have much fanfare in this class, but when it comes to a "between the tackles" ability, he might have the best GPS in this class. His tape really impressed me. Even against really good RBs. There were RBs I liked like Rachaad White who dominated nearly every team he faced and averaged about 100 YD at 7 YPC, yet when going against Roberts led Ore St he only had 39 YD at 2.6 YPC. That made me take notice. Roberts has such a ferocious motor and an extremely aggressive play style that I really love. There's 2 types of LBs (attitude-wise): 1 - the types that play gap responsible football and make safe reads; they 'bend don't break.' 2 - the types that may disregard their gap responsibilities and are willing to take a more 'boom or bust' aggressive approach even if that means shooting the wrong gap to make a potential TFL. Stylistically, I have a much higher threshold for the 2nd aggressive type of LBs. Yes, the more aggressive types open you up to bigger mistakes, but they also open you up to bigger plays made. Roberts is definitely the 2nd type and even has some similarities to Nick Bolton from Mizzou who was one of my favorite players in last year's class and a 2nd round pick. Like Bolton, Roberts isn't going to wow anyone in coverage and people who dislike him will consider him "overaggressive." To me, it's a potential strength, not weakness. I want my whole team to play like that. I want my defenders trying to dictate their will, instead of reacting to someone else's will. Considering Roberts is projected to go undrafted, I think he presents a ton of value. He looks like a potential NFL starting MLB & 100 TKL player. In this entire LB class, Roberts has the widest gap between draft grade and what I see on film. I get that he's not an uber athlete, but I think he's fast enough/strong enough. I get that he's not big, but I think he's tough enough/smart enough. He may be my favorite sleeper at the position, and is someone I'd absolutely target if I were building a team. That doesn't mean I'd reach on him, or even draft him where I have him graded, but I would prioritize him as a high value target on day 3. By merely copy and pasting lists of eligible prospects into this blog, I have a general idea of other people's 'rankings,' so I know that he's universally regarded as a UDFA. PFF doesn't even have him listed as a top 300 prospect, and the highest grade I could find where he was listed is PFN where he's ranked as the 340th prospect. But if I watch Roberts in an unbiased way, like just pretend I didn't know those other projections, I'd think he'd be a 4th round player and maybe even a late 3rd round pick. He's not the frame or measurables you draw up as your dream prospect at MLB, but I think he could have starter type impact and potential. He's got some sideline to sideline range, a great nose for the football, a nasty physical demeanor, and unique ability to maneuver through traffic. He may be limited to early downs, which could be why he's ranked so low by other outlets. Improving 3rd down traits like coverage and blitzing ability will help his chances of getting an opportunity. Where players get drafted usually affects their potential opportunities so I'm not sure if he'll ever get a legit chance to start, but if he does, I bet he'll perform better than expected. He's someone I'm pulling for because he plays the game the right way. He just doesn't check all the measurables boxes.
Scout Grade - 4th/5th Round
Quay Walker Georgia
6'4 240 No highlights available, only 1 game vs. Kentucky. Shows decent sideline to sideline ability but won't wow you with speed. He's not uber fast but appears fast enough especially between the tackles. The problem is the way he runs appears like he's "loafing" (running at 80%) instead of pursuing at full speed. Some guys just move in a more graceful less explosive way so it's not always easy to tell, but my initial impression of his play speed is that it's more oriented downhill than it is sideline to sideline. Makes some nice open field tackles and flashes enough athletic base to not be a liability. May not be a high pick, but comes from the middle of the best defense in college football. It's just weird to watch a player who appears like he's not playing fast (mentally). It does appear to be mental though more so than physical so maybe there's upside to play faster via coaching and development. Because on a few blitzes where it's a predetermined 10 yard sprint so to speak, he appears much more explosive. Looks like a 34 MLB with upside as a physical run stopping presence, but in need of development in other phases of the game like coverage and blitz. The grades on Walker range really widely. Some scouts like on NFL official site view him as a 1st rounder (like top 25 pick), but most outlets project him around the 4th round. I lean more towards the latter. There's not a ton of tape available, so my assessment is based on limited information, but athletically and production-wise, he seems pretty middle of the pack from what I can tell. His physicality is above the norm, and he does have a lot of length and strength. He has no problem taking on offensive lineman head on, so you like his attitude. I just don't see enough value outside of run downs yet. He has the athletic potential to develop, but I think he could play a lot faster. He's almost too patient to the point where it borders on lazy. On too many plays I wanted him to "attack!" It's almost a chronic issue too. Baron Browning was similar in last year's class, he went 4th round and had a great rookie year. So it really depends where he lands, respective role, and how he's being coached/what he's asked to do. It's possible UGA didn't want him playing overly aggressive. Still it comes off kind of lazy. If there's one LB I'm wrong on, Walker is probably it. He doesn't really jump off the tape in any great ways. Than again he was the starting MLB on the best D in college and led a championship caliber team, so the pedigree shouldn't be overlooked.
Scout Grade - 5th Round
As a SR had 61 TKL, 8.5 TFL, 0.5 SK, 1 INT, 1 TD. Very stoutly built, extremely thick lower half. Played some hand in the dirt DE and also more traditional style LB. Some sources list him as a LB and other sources list him as an EDGE rusher. More likely in the middle of a 34 as a pro, maybe an EDGE rusher depending on the team. Arrives to the ball fast and with authority, but not necessarily the best form or timing (i.e., sometimes arrives too high, needs to break down better when arriving in open field). Looks like an above average "project player" but worth a late round flier based on program, production, and strength. He's athletic for his size and about as lean as it gets for 251. He's definitely in pro shape and looks like a pro athlete. Production was just average though and didn't quite meet what you see athletically. A potential rotational player and special teamer at this point, but upside to develop into a starter. He doesn't have top tier speed or explosion, but he's also one of the biggest LB prospects in the class so that has to be considered. He also has a nice blend of strength/speed. Most players are oriented towards one or the other, but he's equally adept at both. Admittedly, there's not much tape available on Luketa but my initial reaction is "enh." He seems average but his tools seem above average plus he's versatile so he'll get his name called, and probably earlier than I have him graded. I see him as a day 3 player because he lacks top end speed, but much like Leo Chenal in this class, he's sort of 34 hybrid player caught somewhere between MLB and EDGE. Some traditional 34 teams may see that as a detriment and other more creative 34 Ds might see it as value. Prior to this class, that's not an archetype I'd see very often. If he measures well, he's someone that could climb into round 3. If not he could fall to round 6. Unlike most prospects, where I set their grade based on tape alone, he's one of the few that really depends on how he measures. At his size, the cut off will be a 4.7 forty yard dash. If under that than he arguably belongs on the higher end of that range. If below, than he could fall. One of the few where the timed speed really matters.
Scout Grade - 5th Round
Ellis Brooks Penn State
6'1 235 Thick build reminds me of James Harrison's build but not as chiseled. Looks like he'd benefit from a pro strength & diet program. He has some tackles where he arrives with a lot of force. He's a MLB who looks at his best in the heap of the noise amidst traffic. Not much tape available but appears physical on 1st impression. Has some requisite tools (like strength traits) but could improve body composition. Very productive player who contributed all 4 years and finished strong with 100 TKL, 3.5 TFL, 1 SK, 1 PD as a SR. Had a 16 TKL game against 6th ranked Michigan. Based on production and strength, he'll get his name called higher than currently projected, which for perspective he's not even listed in PFF's top 300 prospects. He did not receive an invite to the NFL combine though so teams may view him as a MLB skill set but too small to hold up as a pro. In my eyes, the body should come second to the production and play style. Nick Bolton was about the same size and he was my favorite LB in last year's class. They're different style players and Brooks is not that level of prospect, but he should've been invited to the combine and is talented enough to warrant a late pick. All things considered, I'd have expected him to be a round 5 player. What I like most about Brooks is you won't have to teach him to play low. He understands leverage and uses it to lay some massive hits in space. He's very aggressive to where he overruns some plays and takes some overly aggressive angles, but he's productive in run support and not a bad athlete. There could be some off-field issues because other than over aggression, his tape looks above average. He flashes NFL LB skill set and potential early down starter in the middle. Needs to learn to break down better in space and would benefit from developing better 3rd down traits in coverage and blitz. For teams that need early down run support, he offers a lot of value if he falls past round 5. Could be a target for 43 or 34 teams, but might be favored by 34 alignments.
Scout Grade - 5th Round
Nate Landman Colorado
Landman was big time productive in 2018 and 2019 but he only played 5 games in a covid shortened 2020 & 7 games as a SR. Still his early performance sticks out. As a SO had 104 TKL, 15 TFL, 4 SK, 2 INT, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR. As a JR had 113 TKL, 8 TFL, 2 SK, 1 INT, 4 PD. As a SR in 7 games had 63 TKL, 6 TFL, 4 PD, 1 FF. Landman and his teammate Carson Wells made one of the best LB combos in their conference and possibly the country. Landman was the team's thumper in the middle. He's not built like most MLBs but he has potential as an undersized MLB. He's a very physical player, sort of a throwback. He's not the rangiest athlete, but he's a high IQ run defender and tough player who moves fluidly. He's not fast athletically, but he plays fast mentally. I think the early production could be enticing for a high upside day 3 pick. I could see Landman going as high as round 5 and low as round 7. Hard to imagine him going undrafted (if he's okay medically). He may not be someone that sees the field on obvious passing downs, but on early run downs he has rotational value, and potential starting upside. Comps similarly to guys like Craig Robertson who overachieve and play better than their measurables.
Scout Grade - 6th/7th Round
Nakobe Dean vibes, but without the 1st round hype. For teams that miss on Dean, Ross is a good consolation prize. Ross produced well as early as his SO year where he had 54 TKL, 5.5 TFL, 1 SK, 2 PD. Only played 9 games over the next 2 seasons (one of which was covid year). As a SR he caught my attention with 106 TKL, 9 TFL, 0.5 SK, 2 PD. Michigan used Ross similar to Nakobe Dean's role at UGA. He was a hybrid OLB who they'd line up in the box sometimes and other times line up near the slot. He's the type of player who may not time great when it comes to combine drills, but I give some leeway because he plays faster than his likely timed speed. He's a physical player who looks best in space, and he's always near the ball. He's a high IQ player and good coverage asset for a zone defense. Ross is very under the radar on draft websites, but I think he's someone that pro teams will value. He has enough tools and production at a good program to warrant a late round pick. I could see him picked as high as late 4th/early 5th round. If the projections are correct and he goes undrafted, he'll be a top priority free agent target for many teams. He's got sideline to sideline game and coverage upside, albeit defensive coordinators may look at him more as a chess piece defender than a traditional position. He played MLB in a 34 D for Michigan, but could translate to multiple schemes and positions as a pro. His biggest issue is he's a tweener. Sort of a MLB mentality in a WIL body. If a team needs a downhill WIL, he's someone that could present potential long term starter value. At worst his physicality should offer value on special teams because Josh Ross is not afraid to hit.
Scout Grade - 6th/7th Round
*Jeremiah Gemmel North Carolina
6'1 225 Plain Jane athlete who plays faster than he is via high motor. Motor is evident in his 1st 3 plays. Not overly big or strong, but can get sideline to sideline just enough to make plays as a pro. May not run a super fast 40, but he plays at 100% play speed. Only 1 game available (vs Duke) so need more tape to fully assess but 1st impressions seem like an above average IQ as far as reading the field and above average physicality. Not big or fast, but well rounded enough to warrant a late pick and develop. Might be a core special teamer. Too many times, he arrives late. I'd like to see him trust his instincts and commit to attacking; there's a little bit of hesitancy in his game as if he's trying to avoid mistakes. He'd be better off trusting his reads so he can play faster. Could go undrafted, but worth a shot to develop. Not sure there's a draftable grade in traits but Gemmel made a ton of plays for 3 years straight so someone might like his toughness and production on day 3. Too many missed plays where he's close to the action but doesn't make the play. The motor and IQ makes me not want to necessarily bet against him though. I liked his production in space and in zone coverage too. Has upside to develop into a rotational player and maybe even a starter as a WIL. Good production. As a SO had 84 TKL, 7.5 TFL, 2.5 SK, 3 FF, 2 PD, 1 FR. As a JR had 78 TKL, 6 TFL, 2.5 SK, 2 INT, 1 FF, & 4 PD. As a SR had 73 TKL, 6.5 TFL, 1.5 SK, 1 INT, 3 PD, 1 FF. The coverage ability may get him picked late.
Scout Grade - 7th Round/UDFA
*Nephi Sewell Utah/Nevada 6'0 228
Not big or fast for his size, but physical and aggressive. Likely more of a rotational player or backup, but has physicality to offer some special teams value and just enough agility and short area burst to possibly develop into a starting WIL in a 43. Very physical player who simply lacks pro level athletic traits (size/long speed/strength). He probably goes undrafted, but it wouldn't surprise me if he developed into a core special teamer or contributor to a team. Similar style profile to a player like JT Gray who was an undersized LB/S hybrid that lacked top tier athleticism but contributed on special teams due to physicality and fearlessness. Sewell could be similar and is worth a camp invite or maybe even 7th round pick if teams like his upside as a rotational WIL. Running below 4.6 forty would help a lot. He's agile in short area space, but not sure about his long speed. Only game available was vs Stanford so need more tape to really assess. 1st impressions are both that he has good flashes and bad. Not enough info to truly grade.
Scout Grade - 7th Round/UDFA
Jack Sanborn Wisconsin
6'2 236 Seems like Wisconsin, LSU, Alabama, and Penn State are the top LB programs because they produce good pros year after year. Very little film available. From what is available he appears to be a strength player more than a speed player. Not sure he has the explosiveness or agility to make it as a pro, but similar to teammate Leo Chanel, he blitzes well from the middle despite lack of athleticism. Solid form tackler. Ability to properly form tackle and arrive with thump; durable build. Not sure if athletic enough and certainly not ideal for 3rd downs. He's produced well all across the stat sheet so production and program will get him some late round consideration as an early down rotational MLB. Likely targeted by a 34 front 7 in need of depth. 3 year starting experience doesn't hurt. As a SR had 89 TKL, 16 TFL, 5 SK, 1 FR. Similar production early as a SO where he also added 3 INT & PD to 80 TKL & 5.5 SK. He's not super bursty but there are some flashes of better than expected range. Biggest issue is he has a MLB game but in a SAM/WIL body. His best bet would be to gain 5 to 10 pounds and try to stay in the middle. Physical player with special teams value. A contact player with some massive collisions who's capable of timing his hits beautifully for maximum pain. Plays like he runs a 4.7 forty which isn't bad if he was 250 pounds but at 236 it's not enough for pro teams to likely get overly excited about come draft day. I could see him falling in the draft as late as round 6 or 7 and possibly even going undrafted. It's possible he develops into a rotational player, and maybe even starter if you can scheme him downhill on early downs and limit his exposure in coverage against speed. Most likely scenario is physical special teamer but production, physicality, & IQ make starter a possibility albeit not likely.
Scout Grade - 7th Round/UDFA
*Merlin Robertson Arizona State
6'3 240 For a 4 year starter, it's certainly hard to find games or highlights of Robertson. No games and only about 50 seconds of highlights available. Will have to grade more thoroughly once/if more information becomes available. Stats across every facet of the stat sheet. Was DPOY as a FR in his conference with 77 TKL, 8.5 TFL, 5 SK, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 FF, 2 PD. As a SO had 74 TKL, 5 TFL, 2 SK, 1 INT, 3 FF, 1 FR, 2 PD. Only 3 games in shorted covid JR year but had 20 TKL. As a a SR had 64 TKL, 3 INT, 1 TD, 1 PD, & 0.5 SK. For his size, you like the stats in coverage. Really hope some tape becomes available. Generally he's viewed as a 7th round prospect so unless more information becomes available, I'll mirror that grade. If he runs under a 4.7 forty yard dash than he's probably a day 3 pick.
Scout Grade - 7th Round/UDFA
DIDN'T DECLARE EARLY (Will be in next year's in class)
Henry To'o To'o Alabama/Tennessee
6'2 230 TN transfer to AL. Battled injuries (may be due to his overtly physical play) but fought through them. As a FR & SO for TN he played well with a total of 140 TKL, 12.5 TFL, 1.5 SK, 1 INT, 1 TD, 4 PD, & 1 FR (in 22 games). He pursues the ball with recklessness, breaks down well in space, and times some of his hits beautifully. In coverage he's patient. In run support he's best suited for run and chase in space. If he stays healthy he could be a tackle machine, likely as a WIL OLB in a 4-3. He's slightly undersized for a MLB. Can move sideline to sideline pretty well but just a few moments make me think 4.6 speed whereas the couple players ahead of him have flashes that look more 4.4. He's similar to Pete Werner from Ohio State from last year's class. He seems intelligent, reliable, and can maneuver around bodies to find the ball. It's not as evident on blitz, where athletically he looks the part on pass rush, but he's not very refined. Developing some counter moves in pass rush would help him a lot. Navigates the noise better than most. Tough. His game should translate well. His best hits, psychopath. Not many prospects will hit this reckless in college because it can put their draft stock at risk. Guys tend to "save themselves." He doesn't care. He's a contact player who looks best when he's hitting the ball carrier. If your team had 11 guys who hit this hard, you'd be a nightmare to face. Could improve blitze by attacking instead of thinking. It's akin to 2 styles of Running Backs (1st type - guys like LeVeon Bell are patient when approaching the hole, they're methodical and calculating their best angle and best method of attack. 2nd type - guys like Mark Ingram waste no time and hit the hole with full speed and "figure it out when they get there" sort of deal). With that metaphor in mind, he needs to be (on the defensive side) more like that 2nd type when approaching the LOS instead of the 1st. 100mph to get there quickly, overcome the obstacle when it presents itself, not in advance. For a player with this kind of attitude, you'd expect more fumbles. He may want to study the best FF players and implement some of those strategies. He'll go high in the draft. Athletically he's like Pete Werner who went late 2nd round, but his game is more reckless for better and for worse. He's aggressive. Sometimes too much so. The fact he transitioned to Alabama's defense so well. In 1 year there as a JR, had 111 TKL, 7.5 TFL, 4 SK, 1 PD, & 1 FF. Main thing he'll have to improve is coverage. Currently, he's a dangerous looking run support player though that will be easy to like. Very hard hitting. Some teams will have him ranked higher than Devin Lloyd because the physicality really "pops." He's just athletic enough too. There's starter potential here. Possibly pro bowl potential. If a team liked him enough in the late 1st, I wouldn't have a problem with it. LB is so dependent on role that it's hard to grade MLBs vs OLBs, and there's also scheme considerations.
Scout Grade - 2nd Round
Scout Comp - DeAndre Levy/Kamu Grugier-Hill
DeMarvion Overshown Texas If a players name determined whether they 'made it' - he'd be your guy. Hard not to like a guy named DeMarvion Overshown. Overshown is explosive, straight-line fast, and will probably run one of the faster 40 yard dashes in the class. Comfortable in Zone coverage, will make plays on the ball in coverage, and even displays safety type patience in waiting 'n baiting the QB so he can make a play on the ball. Former DB, converted and new to LB. It shows where he displays good awareness in pass coverage. He's could get a lot of INTs for a LB. On blitz, he appears to have great acceleration in 10 yard splits. Not tons of sack production, but well rounded production and athletic upside make him an intriguing prospect. He's built like a safety and may be ideal as a 46 box safety/OLB hybrid type player similar to guys like Derwin James (although not as good in run support, just stylistically), Hamsah Nasirildeen, Chase Hansen. Overshown announced he'll be returning to TX. Expect him to add strength and put him on your watch list. I could see his draft grade improving quite a bit come next year.
Scout Grade - 3rd Round
Payton Wilson NC State From the 1st play, "I like this guy." Athletically, he appears just thick enough to be durable, and just fast enough to get sideline to sideline. He appears athletic. Even had a couple pretty INTs vs Duke. In that game he had 19 tackles and 2 INTs. His reaction and team's reaction shows a lot of passion and you can tell he's the leader of this team and well liked. Won state in HS as a wrestler. Dude is all over the field, impacts everything: pass rush, pass coverage, run support. I'm not sure why he's ranked so low. I haven't dived too deep yet because there's hardly any film available on him, but initial reactions from the few plays I can find, make him a good value pick. Looks more like a 3rd round type prospect than 5th like many outlets project. This is someone I'll be watching closely.
Scout Grade - 4th Round
Amari Gainer Florida State I thought I scouted this cat last year, but maybe he didn't declare. From what I remember he was a hard hitting athlete built like a safety. This is likely a 4-3 WIL with some starter upside. Similar athletically to DeVondre Campbell who's a really solid 4-3 OLB. Need more game film to fully assess. Gainer is one of the harder hitting LBs in this class with some beautiful highlights. He'll fall though from lack of strength which shows when trying to disengage from blocks. There are even moments where WRs/TEs locked him up and you'd like to see him steamroll those guys. He's athletic enough and physical enough though so I can't bet against him. At worst you may get a fantastic specimen for special teams who has rotational upside.
Scout Grade - 4th Round
Jack Campbell Iowa
6'5 243 Highly respected player from a program that's produced some quality defensive talent. Hard to find games or highlights. Tackle machine as a JR with 121 TKL & 5 PD in the regular season (prior to big 10 championship + bowl game). Had access to 1 game vs Iowa State. He plays patient. Not much of an athlete sideline to sideline. He's ambitious but not going to wow you with range. May be best suited for a MLB role in a 3-4. You'd rather him in zone coverage than in man to man. Not the type of athlete most teams will look for but it's hard to argue against a guy who can find the ball and bring down the ball carrier so often. He's not an attacking LB in the sense of aggressively hitting gaps. He's more patient and 'responsible.' Might be a liability in coverage as a pro. Just doesn't have the burst and explosion traits I'd normally look for in my LBs. He reminds me a little bit of last year's prospect from Purdue Derrick Barnes. Many outlets projected him undrafted because of lack of athletic traits, but he went 4th round to the Lions; he was a tackle machine in college, similarly. All of that could be true for Campbell. I tend to grade this style of LB lower because I think athleticism is becoming more important to the position. However in a 3-4 that plays zone coverage, he presents some rotational value on early downs. I'd grade him more 7th rounder. Similar to Barnes last year, a team might like the production and toughness enough to warrant an earlier day 3 pick though. Really need more games to grade more thoroughly.
Scout Grade - 7th Round/UDFA
Owen Pappoe Auburn Patient but sometimes too much so. Definitely focused, you can tell he is always using his eyes and it's like you can see his brain at work, dialed in on every play. So he appears to be an intelligent SEC MLB. Doesn't have great play speed or acceleration. There are plays in space where you wish he could close the gap faster; his top speed play speed just appears below average. What he does well is navigate the middle through bodies in order to get to the ball. In the right system that can hide his athletic deficiencies, there's some upside as a rotational run support LB, but I question potential to become a starter. Worst moment on film is when he has to go head to head against blockers, even TEs, where he really gets blown off of his spot. You'd expect more functional strength from a professional LB. Than again, he had 93 tackles and 4 sacks as a Sophomore for Auburn in the SEC so you could do worse with a late round flier. That being said, he does not "jump off the tape."
Jordan Strachan South Carolina Looks built like a safety for sure. Very thin for a LB, and doesn't have the long speed you'd expect from a prospect built this thin. He is competitive on blitz and flashes needed acceleration to make plays in 10 to 20 yard space, but not necessarily the LB I want covering TEs down the seam. Had a lot of sacks at Georgia Southern (10.5) than transferred to South Carolina and SEC competition. Didn't have much production at that level which isn't the best indicator of success translating to pro game, however for a late round flier prospect on a 3-4 defense that needs 3rd down blitz potential, there's some potential. He fits the Pats, Browns, Cardinals style of 34 EDGE/LB.
Dee Winters TCU
Possible early entrant from TCU. Played as a FR, started as SO and JR. Stats indicate 3rd down LB ability with some coverage upside. No tape available though so will have to check back for film closer to draft time.
Mike Jones Jr. LSU Transferred from Clemson to LSU and was a highly sought after transfer recruit. May be best utilized as an athletic coverage LB. Limited in other capacities and not very productive