With three first-round picks at their disposal, Howie Roseman and the Eagles brass will have the opportunity to fill a handful of needs come draft night. One of those needs being linebacker.
Despite having a so-so showing at the scouting combine, Utah’s Devin Lloyd is still the No. 1 linebacker on most big boards. He placed 15th on our first big board of the year — right in the Eagles range. He has all the tools to be an impact player from day one, but how will his skill set translate to Jonathan Gannon’s defense? Let’s take a dive into the tape and see for ourselves.
Simply put, Devin Lloyd does everything at an exceptional level. As a true MIKE backer, Lloyd has the ability to plug holes and sift through traffic to find ball carriers. When in coverage, he does a fine job sticking with tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. Per Pro Football Focus, Lloyd was ranked in the 90th percentile or higher in run defense grade, coverage grade, and pass rushing grade among all linebackers in college this past year.
Lloyd’s at his best when moving downhill and attacking the line of scrimmage. PFF handed him an 88.4 pass rushing grade in 2021, his highest grade in the three core areas (coverage, run defense, pass rush). On blitzes, Lloyd presents a lot of issues for opposing offensive lineman or running backs trying to pick him up. His instincts really shine in these situations. This delayed blitz shows us a few things — his awareness on when to pull the trigger and get after the quarterback, along with his burst when running towards ball carriers.
Lloyd is a hard man to fool. He’ll find himself around the ball carrier more often than not, despite what you throw at him or how out of position he is at certain points of a play. On this screen pass, Lloyd is full steam ahead on a designed blitz. He’s in no man’s land at the point of the catch, but he effortlessly changes directions and lays the wood.
He wasn’t asked to shadow tight ends or receivers a ton at Utah, but he did a fine job in zone coverage in the middle of the field. He recorded four interceptions last year, which again, speaks to his instincts in coverage.
If he’s not blitzing or sitting down in coverage, Lloyd is attacking the ball carrier. He has true sideline-to-sideline ability and he does a nice job diagnosing where a run play is heading. Lloyd can track ball carriers down from behind, as well as set the edge and force the action back inside.
All of the core duties that linebackers are tasked with in the NFL, Lloyd does all of them at a proficient level. He has an answer for anything and should be a day one starter for whoever selects him.
The weaknesses list is far shorter than the strengths, but there are no perfect prospects in any draft class.
The first weakness that is a bit concerning is his tackling. Yeah, he always seems to be around the ball carrier, but he doesn’t always bring them down cleanly. In his final year at Utah, Lloyd missed 11.5 percent of his tackles, which is a shade under the 75th percentile among linebackers who played at least 300 snaps. He’s clearly physical enough to tackle ball carriers at a high rate. After all, he did finish the year with 111 total tackles. He just always goes for the bone crunching hit, which makes for a great highlight reel, but can lead some some missed attempts.
Secondly, Lloyd didn’t test that well at the combine this past weekend, which has led some to question his overall athleticism. He’s not quite the freak athlete that Micah Parsons was last year, but by no means is he unathletic. On tape, he looks like a fluid linebacker who doesn’t waste many steps.
Some will argue that Lloyd isn’t elite across the board, but he is elite in certain areas and very efficient in others. He’s not going to be a finished product when he enters the NFL, but he has all the tools to develop into a premiere linebacker at the next level. And he will make an impact from day one, there’s no doubt about that.
If we’re going to measure this class’ crop of linebackers solely on how much they bring to the table from day one, Devin Lloyd is the No. 1 guy. Not only does he have the smarts to excel as a MIKE linebacker during his rookie season, but he brings all the physical tools to the table as well. Aggressiveness, his nose for the football, and his ability to get after the passer on blitzes should all translate to an NFL field.
While linebacker has not been a top priority for the Eagles in recent years, there’s no time like to present to buck that trend. Three first-round picks should give Howie the flexibility to pick almost any position he wants. Lloyd fills a glaring need and he brings elite potential to the position, something the Eagles haven’t had at linebacker in quite some time.
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