With the 2021 draft quickly approaching it is time to check out pre-draft rankings. Here are @JoeyTheToothIDP‘s top 10 linebacker rankings.
Before the off-season there was not much talk about the 2021 incoming rookie linebacker class. The more that I have dove into film and game tape, the more I tend to love this linebacker class. The top 10 rookie linebacker group here all have potential to be starters or at least contributors in their rookie season, there is that much talent. Once thought to be top heavy, the depth is starting to take place, have a look at how I have them ranked.
Top 10 Rookie Linebacker Class
#1) Micah Parsons – Penn St. (Most upside rookie linebacker)
Micah Parsons has mouth watering potential to say the least. He is athletically gifted match with great strength and sideline to sideline ability. He is also a terrific blitzing linebacker and would actually rank in my top five edge rushers if he moved to the edge. Parsons can be used as a blitzing weak side linebacker though he will need to work on his coverage skills. He should be able to improve their, his potential is through the roof as a rookie linebacker.
#2 Zaven Collins – Tulsa (Best playmaking rookie linebacker)
Zaven Collins won the collegiate Defensive Player of the Year award and rightfully so. He was a turnover forcing machine at Tulsa showcasing ability in all aspects of the game. He finished 2020 with four sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns. Add that to 91 tackle average per season in his first two seasons and I think you get the jist of it. He is a 260 lbs. linebacker that is crazy athletic, especially for that size. Collins can play every linebacker position and the NFL transition should be no problem for Collins.
#3 Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – Notre Dame
This man has some real explosion to his game. If it is speed you are looking for, look no further. Owusu-Koramoah can cover some serious ground and is terrific downhill in run support. He hits like a firecracker and has terrific pursuit speed as well. Owusu-Koramoah can drop into a hybrid nickel backer role as well, his coverage skills are very good. Matching up against tight ends will not be an issue here and he can be a highly productive rookie linebacker.
#4 Nick Bolton – Missouri
Nick Bolton will make anybody think twice challenging him with some of the jarring hits he laid down do his collegiate career. He does a fantastic job sifting through traffic in between the tackles to get to the ball carrier. Bolton also thrives in zone coverage and is also a defensive leader. He was tasked with calling out plays for the Missouri defense and is a quality NFL starter at the MIKE position.
#5 Chazz Surratt – North Carolina
Chazz Surratt is a former quarterback turned linebacker which bodes well for his defensive intelligence. He has shown his understanding offenses and route running by how well he is in coverage. Surratt is fluid in coverage, has smooth hips, a quick pedal and can match up with tight ends efficiently. Add on that he 206 tackles over the past two seasons and he fits the bill of an NFL caliber three down linebacker.
#6 Jabril Cox – LSU (My favorite rookie linebacker value)
Jabril Cox was a star at North Dakota St. and decided to transfer his senior season to LSU to get some more exposure. The transfer to the SEC did not slow Cox one bit as he was an instant starter and impact player. Cox is very versatile and is excellent in coverage and even though her has a smaller frame than some, you do not see it in his play strength. Cox is also very good at blitzing to boot and will give a jolt of life to any defense even as a rookie linebacker.
#7 Dylan Moses – Alabama
At the end of the 2018 NCAA season people were ready to claim Dylan Moses the next Patrick Willis. He was electric and wherever the ball was, so was Moses. Before the 2019 season began, Moses tore his ACL and did not play a snap. He came back with a clean bill of health though he looked like a thinner shell of his former self. Still productive, he was not in the backfield as much as he was prior to his injury and I’m hoping it is just getting your confidence back in the knee. Either way 2018 showed that Moses has tremendous potential and if he comes into the NFL fully healthy and confident, Moses could be a steal.
#8 Jamin Davis – Kentucky (Biggest boom bust rookie linebacker)
Speaking of potential, Davis showed some excellent potential in his one year as a starter. He produced 102 tackles, four for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 passes defended, 3 interceptions, one forced fumble and a touchdown. The arrow could not point any higher and I think declaring for the draft was a great choice. He is long, athletic and has a great feel for zone coverage. If Davis can land in a spot competing for a role, he could very well win and end up a regular starter. A three down starter at that and a terrific rookie linebacker.
#9 Baron Browning – Ohio St. (Most likely rookie linebacker to rise)
Baron Browning was inconsistent throughout his career at Ohio St. though he flashed potential to be a three down player. Leading up to 2020 I would say his coverage ability was very suspect, 2020 was a completely different story. He showed terrific understanding of zone concepts in 2020. In 2019 Browning showed some prowess as a blitzer and was great getting into the backfield coming up with five sacks and 11 tackles for a loss. Unfortunately Browning was very inconsistent in the box score and his teammates soaked up many of the tackles while Browning ran the defense. He should be freed up to do more his early seasons in the NFL and a great rookie linebacker.
#10 Paddy Fisher – Northwestern
Paddy Fisher may not be the most gifted athlete but his blend of toughness, technique and mental processing make him an intriguing prospect. He was the leader of the Northwestern defense his entire career and has a career total of 401 tackles. Fisher may not be gifted enough to stick with athletic tight ends in man coverage but he understands schemes and responsibilities and thrives playing within himself. He may be the first linebacker in the rankings that leaves the field in sub-packages, though if the team he lands on runs a lot of zone, Fisher has some potential.
The 2021 linebacker class is full of potential three-down linebackers. It takes all the way down to #10 for a potential sub-package player which is rare. The linebacker class is the deepest of the entire class outside of the wide receiver group. With how deep this class is, it shows that you can wait to the end of your rookie drafts to grab some legitimate talent.
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