Draft season is upon us and you may be wondering who are the top IDP prospects in the 2020 draft class. I will be writing on my top five at each position. Here I will start with the top rookie inside linebackers.
Unfortunately for IDP enthusiasts, the linebacker class in 2020 is pretty thin. There are three linebackers that could go in the first and second round while the rest could range anywhere from the second round to the seventh. There are a handful of teams that are in dire need of an inside linebacker presence but landing spot will be very key on who to select in rookie drafts. Let’s take a look at who the top rookie inside linebackers will be.
Isaiah Simmons – Clemson
Isaiah Simmons is what we all like to call a “unicorn” on defense, the man does it all. He has lined up all over the field from cornerback to safety, to inside linebacker, and on the edge. This clip shows all the positions he has lined up on and made plays at:
Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, #Clemson:
• Position-less prospect (++)
• Elite athleticism
• Do-it-all/Unicorn chess piece
• Run, hit, and cover prospect
• Effective blitzer from all levels
• Team fit will be key to his successpic.twitter.com/nb8hOTlsw3
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) February 11, 2020
The senior year that Simmons had was out of this world. He finished the season with 104 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 8 sacks, 8 passes defended, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Simmons was, to say the least, a playmaking machine. He checks in a 6’4 and 230 lbs. which is the prototypical size of today’s rangy inside linebackers. His speed is unbelievable to boot. Watch here as he goes from covering the slot to playing from behind the play where he starts to catch Ohio St. stud running back J.K. Dobbins:
— alec rozmus (@arozmus3) February 13, 2020
Simmons is the consensus top rookie inside linebacker in the 2020 draft and has a chance to land in the top 10 of the draft.
Kenneth Murray – Oklahoma
After Isaiah Simmons, opinions start to differ on who comes next in line for top rookie inside linebackers. For me, I like Kenneth Murray’s upside. Murray has great athleticism and explosiveness for the position. His tackle ability in the open field is very solid as well. Murray has great play diagnosis as well and has great closing speed. Watch here as he patiently diagnoses the play and closes quickly on the play to make the excellent tackle:
Kenneth Murray, LB, #Oklahoma:
• Brings the muscle and intensity (++)
• Treats tackles like street brawls
• Alpha mentality (+)
• Range/Speed for days
• Square shoulders to attack downhill
• Play vision/diagnosing must improvepic.twitter.com/HUw81pW9bh
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) February 11, 2020
Murray is also very capable as a blitzer. He uses great timing and speed off the edge and even shows good bend against tackles. Watch the sack he comes up with here:
Kenneth Murray is a BEAST 💪💪
— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) February 9, 2020
Over the past two collegiate seasons, Kenneth Murray has been a monster. He has totaled 257 total tackles, 29.5 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, 6 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries over the span of 27 games. Murray only has a few flaws, one being he tackles too high and times and allows ball carries to slip, but that is easily fixable. The main thing he needs to work on is his reaction against the run option and can over commit at times. All in all his flaws are teachable and he can be a day one starter.
Patrick Queen – LSU
Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray are ranked about the same to me and both have similar play styles. Both are incredibly rangy and athletic and play with extreme game speed. He covers a lot of ground and has great play diagnosis. Watch these clips and you can see how quick he is from sideline to sideline:
Patrick Queen, LB, #LSU:
• Range (++)
• Excellent diagnosing skills
• Play violence pic.twitter.com/zp0dDWJrg5
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) February 3, 2020
Queen also does a great job of filling gaps and shedding blockers. His run stuffing defense is excellent and takes great angles in his tackling. Watch some more clips here with how well he beasts blockers:
#LSU LB Patrick Queen’s film is so much fun to watch. He’s special with being able to diagnose plays by following pulling blockers, which take him to ball locations.
This is a 1st-round LB. pic.twitter.com/SH8lcqdtGa
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) February 4, 2020
Murray comes out ahead of Queen for me mainly due to his college resume. Murray was a two-year prolific starter for two years which vaults his draft stock. Patrick Queen started the last 5 games of 2018 but still could not lock down the starter role to start 2019. He did eventually run with the job after in-season progression but his lack of polish has him, a spot lower than Murray for me.
Troy Dye – Oregon
Troy Dye is yet another athletic and rangy rookie inside linebacker. He is a very good downhill and reactive linebacker. He has solid instincts as a pass rusher and is very quick like you see here:
Another sneak peak from tomorrow's film review of #CALvsUO: Troy Dye gets loud with the leap over the back in pass-pro, but Isaac Slade-Matautia is a little bit softer coming around with balance and fluidity to reverse course with speed and make the sack. #DuckTape pic.twitter.com/3b7HWILfZ3
— hythloday almond (@hythloday1) October 7, 2019
Dye has a very good football IQ. He is the linebacker in the middle of the field who calls out motions and shifts. He is very good in coverage and can stick to tight ends up the seams and stay underneath receivers on inside routes. Watch the great pass defended he has covering the tight end up the seam here:
Teams are going to fall in love with Oregon's Troy Dye at the @seniorbowl.
All of the things I've heard about his character are incredible, and he's one of few off-ball linebackers in this class that can make splash plays/hold their own in coverage. pic.twitter.com/GgTM7MsQkZ
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) January 8, 2020
Dye has excellent football instincts and athleticism but does lack some functional strength. He is only 226 lbs. and can get swallowed up by interior lineman in his pass rush and run defense. Dye is the best fit for a 4-3 scheme as a weakside linebacker, unfortunately, there are not too many 4-3 scheme teams in need of a weakside linebacker. Dye will start the season as a rotational and special teams player.
Malik Harrison – Ohio St.
Malik Harrison is a very physical linebacker and a vicious tackler and has solid closing speed. Harrison has good hand usage and hand strength to help stand up offensive lineman who try to move him out of his gaps. Here he shows a great ability to get the edge and shed his blockers to make the play:
OSU SAM LB Malik Harrison played very well vs UNLV. Here he does a nice job of leveraging against the outside run. Good play strength. pic.twitter.com/XWNgyB41bh
— Kyle Morgan (@KyleMorgan_ASU) September 24, 2017
Harrison has a very active motor and plays downhill with great competitive toughness. His read and react ability is strong but sometimes forces him into overplaying on trick plays and read options. He is not the speediest of linebackers but fills his gaps quickly. Here you see him shoot the gap and times his blitz perfectly to come up with the sack:
Some Intriguing third-down packages by Ohio State's defense.
The most recent had Tyler Friday and Javontae Jean-Baptiste as rush linebackers, Haskell Garrett at defensive tackle and Tuf Borland and Malik Harrison on a twist rushing up the middle. Borland got home for the sack. pic.twitter.com/1Xl7som6yp
— Colin Hass-Hill (@chasshill) November 9, 2019
Harrison is not the most flexible player and his coverage skills are just adequate. It is definitely not an area where he excels and can become a liability. Harrison is most likely to be a special teams player in year one unless he lands in a good spot but will most likely only be a base down linebacker.
Like I said earlier, the 2020 rookie inside linebacker group is one of the weaker classes we have seen in recent years. I would say that Isaiah Simmons, Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen are the only rookie inside linebackers with a clear path to snaps, though it still depends on the landing spot. If you are to keep your eyes on some inside linebackers in rookie drafts, these are the top guys, outside of Simmons you can land the rest quite late.
Follow me on Twitter @JoeyTheToothIDP and look for all of my written content on idpguys.org and dynastyfootballdigest.com. Be sure to tune into the @F3Pod podcast where @Lanny1925, @BiddyCentFF and I will be breaking down player profiles leading up to the draft.