NFL Draft: Top-20 linebackers

1. Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

This Clemson product needs no introduction. Isaiah Simmons is above and beyond the best linebacker prospect entering this year’s draft, and there really isn’t a close second.

Simmons has no true position, the only reason he’s listed as a linebacker is just because that’s where he spends most of his time. Here’s a breakdown of the snaps played at each position in 2019:

PositionNumber of Snaps
Defensive line116
Middle linebacker299
Slot corner262
Outside corner 13
Free safety132

Only two other players in the country last season played that many snaps at the amount of positions Simmons did, and neither of them graded over 60 on Pro Football Focus, whereas Simmons graded at least 80 in every defensive category.

Simmons is arguably the best overall prospect in the draft this year, so unless Howie manages to climb into the top 5, there’s no chance he’s coming to Philly.

2. Patrick Queen, LSU

When it comes to pass covering linebackers, no one in this draft does it quite as well as Patrick Queen out of LSU — except for the first guy on this list.

Standing at 6-foot-1 and weighing in at just 227 pounds, Queen is undersized for a linebacker, but size has never been a deciding factor for the Eagles when it comes to evaluating linebackers. Nate Gerry is a converted safety and only weighs 230, while T.J Edwards weighs just about 240 pounds. Plus, Queen makes up for his size in speed, as he ran a 4.5 40 at the combine.

With Queen’s small stature comes some limitations, though, most notably against the run. But, he’s solid enough in coverage and has some great athleticism for the position, so he still figures to go late in the first round.

3. Troy Dye, Oregon

I’m a bit higher on Troy Dye than some scouts are, mostly because I believe he’d be a great fit in Jim Schwartz’s defense.

He was a playmaker for four seasons at Oregon. Every single year he produced an above average PFF grade in coverage as well as tackling.

Standing at 6-foot-4, he’s a rangy linebacker and resembles the type of body you’d like to see in a linebacker in today’s NFL. His size allows him to clog passing lanes over the middle of the field, and his athleticism and length serves him well when he’s matched up with tight ends or backs out of the backfield.

There’s a good chance Dye slips in this draft, possibly to the third round. I wouldn’t mind seeing the team use one of their three fourth round picks to move up into the late second or early third to ensure they get this guy.

Howie trading up for a linebacker wouldn’t be on brand for the GM, but anything’s possible come draft night.

4. Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

Kenneth Murray is a high motor, high energy player on the field. He plays like he was shot out of a cannon.

Although he’s missed 50 tackles over his three-year collegiate career, he’s always around the football. He’s easily one of the most explosive linebackers entering this draft.

He gets home on blitzes more often than not, and he usually wastes no time on these blitzes. When he shoots the gap, he always comes with explosiveness and determination to make a play on the ball.

He does struggle a bit in coverage, as he’s allowed 82.4% of balls thrown his way to get completed. This could limit him at the next level, and it’ll surely be the reason he falls in the draft if does fall.

Nevertheless, he would be a solid pickup for the Eagles and someone who could slot right in as a potential starter from day one.

5. Willie Gay Jr., Mississippi St.

Although Will Gay comes with some off-the-field question marks, his talent and athleticism are still top notch. He’s great in pass coverage, posting PFF coverage grades of 87.1 (2017), 90.6 (2018) and 90 (2019) in his college career.

He also has some meat on his bones, weighing at 240 pounds. His size coupled with his ability in pass coverage makes him a really intriguing prospect, any team who wants to draft him just needs to do a thorough vetting of Gay before making the selection.

After one game in 2019, one in which he a had a pick-six on the first drive, Gay was suspended for undisclosed reasons. His on field attributes are hard not to love, so there’s no doubt he’ll still be drafted despite his issues off the field.

6. Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech

When it comes to stuffing the run and getting after the passer on blitzes, Jordyn Brooks out of Texas Tech is top of the line. He’s only missed 34 tackles on 390 attempts throughout his collegiate career. He’s also gotten home quite a bit on blitzes, as he got pressure on the quarterback 44 times out 117 total pass rushing plays.

His coverage ability is another story, though, and he routinely found himself out of position in most passing situations. Regardless, Brooks is a very solid tackling linebacker who would add some punch to the Eagles linebacker corps if they draft him.

7. Cam Brown, Penn State

Considered by most scouts as a project, Cam Brown would be a solid late round pick to add depth and be a core special teamer.

He has great size for the position, standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 235 pounds. Although, he still struggles with tackling, missing 36 out of 196 total career attempts at Penn State.

He needs some good coaching to help him develop his game for the next level, he clearly has the tools to be a productive backer, just needs some time to figure how to use them effectively.

8. Davion Taylor, Colorado

Although he may be listed as a linebacker, Davion Taylor may end up being a box safety at the next level, which could be appealing to Schwartz who utilizes three safety sets often.

As a JUCO transfer, Taylor is a bit raw when it comes to the mental side of the game and with his reaction skills. This isn’t a huge red flag, but it does mean he’ll need a little bit of time before he’s ready for a consistent role on defense.

As a late round pick, I wouldn’t mind seeing Howie pull the trigger on this rangy linebacker.

9. Logan Wilson, Wyoming

As a four-year starter at Wyoming, Logan Wilson enters the draft with an abundance of experience at linebacker, which should serve him well at the next level.

His ability to diagnose the run/pass is stellar and he has the quickness to react as soon as he diagnoses a play. Wilson’s also a stout tackler.

Where he struggles is in pass sets, finding himself lost in more complex coverage schemes. In simple zone concepts where he’s asked to cover the flat or curl, Wilson doe just fine, but nothing is that simple in the NFL.

He has a ton of potential to develop into a three-down backer.

10. Markus Bailey, Purdue

Markus Bailey will likely fall to day three of the draft, mostly due to his injury history (hip surgery last offseason, knee surgery that ended his 2019 season in September). But, he may still be worth a late round pick with his high football I.Q. and stellar run stuffing ability.

He could carve a role as a a first and second down backer so he avoids getting mismatched with a tight end of back out of the backfield in passing situations.

11. Malik Harrison, Ohio State

12. Akeem Davis-Gaither, App. State

13. Justin Strnad, Wake Forest

14. David Woodward, Utah State

15. Evan Weaver, Cal

16. Mychal Walker, Fresno State

17. Francis Bernard, Utah

18. Joe Bachie, Michigan State

19. Kamal Martin, Minnesota

20. Anfernee Jennings, Alabama


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