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2021

2021 NFL Draft Linebacker Big Board

With NFL Draft season upon us, it’s time to evaluate this year’s linebacker class. Today I’ll be revealing my big board amongst the 17 linebackers I’ve thoroughly scouted from this year’s class, starting with number one.

#1. Micah Parsons, Penn State

Pros

  • Amazing athlete.
  • Great speed. He buzzes all over the field.
  • High-IQ.
  • Elite instincts.
  • Super versatile. He can blitz, stop runs, pass rush, and drop back in coverage.
  • Next level at the point of attack.
  • Great tackler.

Cons

  • Could use a little more strength.
  • Needs to become more discipline in pass coverage.

Player Overview

Micah Parsons is a special talent at the linebacker position. He’s a very well rounded linebacker with a ceiling as high as the sky. Not to mention, he’s the definition of a modern day linebacker thanks to his speed and versatility. Parsons is going to be a dream for defensive coordinators, and he has the potential to be a game changing linebacker that etches his name as one of the best linebackers in the game.

#2. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

Pros

  • Great instincts.
  • Shoots the gaps well.
  • Proven performer in pass coverage.
  • Very solid speed.
  • Explosive athlete.
  • Plays fast with a high motor.
  • He has experience as a safety. This has potential to translate into the NFL.

Cons

  • A little undersized at 6’1, 220 pounds. There are a lot of questions as to whether he can play inside the box.
  • Plays a little too fast for his own good at times.
  • Not a bad tackler by any means, but he could clean up his tackling a bit.

Player Overview

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has been a game changing piece for the Fighting Irish defense. As a linebacker-safety hybrid, he’s been very productive in pass coverage, on blitzes, along with chasing guys down in space. He’s a quick athlete with a high motor with a lot of potential as an outside linebacker, or potentially even a safety. With that being said, Owusu-Koramoah’s a bit of a tweener, and it’s tough to see him really making an impact in the trenches at the next level without sacrificing some of his speed.

#3. Zaven Collins, Tulane

Pros

  • Excellent frame at 6’4, 260 pounds with great length.
  • Great in pass coverage.
  • Constantly disrupts passing lanes.
  • Amazing footwork.
  • Fluid athlete.
  • Nice instincts.
  • Very solid tackler.
  • Plays great in open space.

Cons

  • He’s been productive as a pass rusher, but it’s been on a limited sample size. The potential is clearly there for him as a pass rusher, but he needs to get more experience and improve upon his lackluster technique.
  • Has trouble shedding blocks too often.

Player Overview

In what has been a breakout 2020 campaign for Zaven Collins, he has been shooting up draft boards as of late, and rightfully so. He’s got incredible athleticism and fluidity to pair with an excellent frame, and he’s one of the better coverage linebackers in this year’s class. Not too mention, he’s a very solid tackler with great instincts and excellent footwork. This all makes him a great player in the open field. With that being said, Collins definitely has a couple things to clean up on. He certainly has upside as a pass rusher, but with limited experience and poor technique, he needs to do some growing before he’s ever rushing quarterbacks in the NFL. Not too mention, his block shedding has to be better, especially for a guy of his stature. All in all, Zaven Collins is a guy I’ve been very fond of ever since the first time I’ve watched him, and he warrants a fairly high selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.

#4. Dylan Moses, Alabama

Pros

  • Superb athlete.
  • Good strength with room to improve.
  • Sideline to sideline speed.
  • Hard hitting tackler.
  • Doesn’t give the offense any hints pre-snap.
  • Good instincts.
  • Excellent work ethic.

Cons

  • Not good at shedding blocks.
  • Room for improvement in coverage.
  • Suffered a torn ACL in 2019.

Player Overview

Ever since 8th grade, Dylan Moses has been receiving a ton of hype, and unlike most young stars, Moses has lived up to the hype. He’s got sideline to sideline speed with excellent athleticism and a tremendous work ethic. There’s a lot to like with Moses, but he does have a few concerns. He really struggles at shedding blocks, he’s got to improve in coverage, and he suffered a torn ACL injury in 2019, which he’s recovered well from, but it’s still served as a bit of a setback. With all of this being said, Moses clearly has tremendous upside, and barring a healthy future, I have confidence in Moses’s excellent work ethic that he will continue to clean up on his weaknesses to fulfill his potential.

#5. Nick Bolton, Missouri

Pros

  • Plays with great physicality.
  • Profound tackler.
  • Impressive strength.
  • Elite instincts.
  • Does well in blitz packages.
  • Shoots the gaps well.
  • Gets downhill fast.
  • Constantly rallying to the football.
  • Great leadership.

Cons

  • Average athlete.
  • His block-shedding is poor.
  • Has his struggles in pass coverage.
  • Lack of length gives him a poor tackling radius.

Player Overview

After leading the Missouri Tigers defense for a couple of seasons, Nick Bolton is now turning towards the NFL. He’s a hard hitting tackler and a great leader that rallies to the football with ease, whether that’s in blitz packages, or it’s in the open field. With that being said, he’s got a poor tackling radius, he really struggles when it comes to shedding blocks, and his average athleticism hurts him in pass coverage and his sideline-to-sideline ability. Bolton’s a hard hitting tackler that if utilized properly could really be successful, but it’s clear he doesn’t scream a prototypical linebacker due to some of his weaknesses, and this hurts his draft stock for me.

#6. Chazz Surratt, North Carolina

Pros

  • Excellent speed and mobility. He plays very fast.
  • Advanced instincts, especially in pass coverage. His experience as a quarterback gives him a big advantage.
  • He’s great in pass coverage.
  • Excels at shooting the gaps.
  • Not afraid to play physical.
  • Performs well on designed blitzes.

Cons

  • He’s still new to the linebacker position, so he’s fairly inexperienced.
  • A very subpar tackler. He’s constantly missing tackles in the open field due to poor technique when trying to finish tackles. It’s safe to say this is tied in with his inexperience at the position.
  • Doesn’t possess any true pass rushing moves. He relies solely on his vision and speed.
  • Could gain a little more strength.

Player Overview

After playing quarterback for UNC in his freshman year, Chazz Surratt did the unthinkable, transitioning over to linebacker and having immediate success. Despite being new to the position, Surratt has been extremely productive for the Tar Heels. It’s clear that his quarterback experience gives him an instinctual advantage in pass coverage, an area where he thrives, and his speed helps him make a ton of plays all around the field. With that being said, Surratt has a couple of flaws that are tied in with his inexperience at the position that lead me to believe he needs more development before he can be consistently relied upon in the NFL. He has no pass rushing moves, and he could gain a little more strength, but the big one is tackling. Surratt is prone to missing multiple tackles each game as the technique for finishing tackles just isn’t there. He gets to guys on a consistent basis, and he’s not afraid to get physical, but he’s still learning tackling technique. Chazz Surrat has many impressive aspects to his game and a lot of upside, but he must gain more experience and improve as a tackler in order to be relied upon in the NFL.

#7. Baron Browning, Ohio State

Pros

  • Great athlete.
  • Definitely possesses sideline-to-sideline speed.
  • Great frame at 6’3, 250 pounds with solid length.
  • Decent tackler.
  • Does a nice job rallying to the football.
  • Effective in blitz packages.
  • Should be an above average coverage linebacker with his physical tools.
  • Length helps him shed blocks.
  • Projects as a decent special teams player.

Cons

  • Play recognition.
  • Bites on fakes too often.
  • Doesn’t have a lot of experience in pass coverage.
  • Wasn’t put into a full-time role until his senior year.

Player Overview

After four seasons with the Ohio State Buckeyes, Baron Browning is ready to take on the NFL. He’s got all the physical tools at 6’3, 250 pounds with great length, athleticism, and speed. He’s great at rallying to the football, blitzing, and he also does a nice job at stopping the run in the trenches. With that being said, he wasn’t fully trusted until his senior year at Ohio State. His play recognition is poor, and he bites on fakes too often which leads to a lot of mistakes. He projects as above average in coverage due to his physical tools, but Ohio State didn’t use him much in coverage, so he’s fairly inexperienced here as well. Browning will have some questions he will need to clear up at events such as the Senior Bowl, but I’m a big fan of Baron Browning and the upside he brings to the table.

#8. Monty Rice, Georgia

Pros

  • Strong instincts.
  • Shoots open gaps really well.
  • Good athlete with solid agility.
  • Decent tackler, although I think he should try getting a bit lower.
  • Good strength.
  • Projects as a great special teams player,

Cons

  • Just 6’1 with lackluster length.
  • He’s not good enough in pass coverage. He’s shown he’s got capability here, but it’s not consistent enough. He wasn’t trusted in pass coverage at Georgia.
  • Not a very explosive player.

Player Overview

After taking strides at Georgia, it’s time to see what Monty Rice has got in the NFL. All around, he’s a very solid prospect with very few holes in his game. I’m not sold on him in pass coverage, and he does lack length, but he brings a lot of good things to the table. He’s a solid tackler that shoots open gaps well and plays solid football overall. With that being said, nothing really pops with Rice. He doesn’t really have an elite trait, and he’s not a reliable three down linebacker as of now. There’s definitely some upside with him considering the strides he made and his already fairly well rounded portfolio, but with no real elite trait, it’s tough to put Monty Rice’s name up there with the best of the best in this class.

#9. Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin

Pros

  • Excels in pass coverage
  • Great instincts.
  • Finds gaps well.
  • Moves well in the open field.

Cons

  • Misses far too many tackles.
  • Lacks strength.
  • Bites way too hard on play action.
  • Not great around the line of scrimmage.

Player Overview

Jack Sanborn has added to the long list of successful linebackers for the Wisconsin Badgers. He excels in pass coverage with great instincts and solid movement in space. With that being said, Sanborn doesn’t bring much more to the table. He misses way too many tackles, he lacks strength, and he bites hard on play action, which will definitely cost him playing time. His ability in pass coverage alone provides a lot of value to NFL teams, but with a fairly limited skillset, Jack Sanborn doesn’t project as a high value, three down linebacker unless serious development is done.

#10. Cameron McGrone, Michigan

Pros

  • Very solid athlete.
  • Stops the run well.
  • Good tackler.
  • Sideline to sideline range.
  • Does a good job shooting the gaps.
  • Great on designed blitzes.
  • High motor.

Cons

  • Poor in pass coverage.
  • Bites on fakes way too often. He’s too aggressive to shoot the gaps, and it leads to him getting toasted when offenses run plays such as play action passes.

Player Overview

Ever since earning the starting job towards the beginning of the 2019-2020 season, Cameron McGrone has run with it. He’s a fairly well rounded linebacker with a hot motor. His athleticism, tackling, range, and blitzing ability all project well in the NFL, but he still needs to clean a few things up. For one, his pass coverage is far too inconsistent. Not to mention, he bites on way too many fakes as he’s often too aggressive as he shoots the gaps way too early. McGrone certainly has a lot of upside, but he needs to clean up his weaknesses and expand on his strengths before he hits it.

#11. Jabril Cox, LSU

Pros

  • Great in pass coverage.
  • Excellent length.
  • Does a decent job at shedding blocks.
  • Projects well as a reliable piece in blitz packages.

Cons

  • Needs to clean up his tackling.
  • Not a very physical player.
  • Play recognition. 

Player Overview

After dominating for the North Dakota State Bison, Jabril Cox transferred over to LSU for his senior season. There have definitely been a few hiccups, but Cox has handled the transition fairly well. He’s a great pass coverage linebacker with decent block shedding thanks to his length, and along with his length, he’s got enough speed to be a reliable player in blitz packages at the next level. With that being said, Cox struggles as a tackler, and he seems to shy away from contact, which is terrible for a linebacker. Personally, Jabril Cox really hasn’t impressed me, but with great pass coverage skills outside of some hiccups he’s had in his NDSU-LSU transition, Cox clearly has a valuable trait to build upon.

#12. Merlin Robertson, Arizona State

Pros

  • Nice frame at 6’3, 250 pounds with good length.
  • Solid mover in space.
  • Plays well in coverage.
  • Has the physical tools to be an edge rusher. He’s also got experience here.
  • Good tackler.

Cons

  • Poor block-shedding.
  • Doesn’t possess much technique as a pass rusher.
  • Fairly inconsistent player.

Player Overview

After three years with the Sun Devils, it’s time to see what Merlin Robertson’s got in the NFL. He’s got a nice frame at 6’3, 250 pounds with decent length, yet he’s still a good mover in space. He doesn’t excel at any one spot, but he proved he’s a versatile player that can rush the passer and drop back in coverage. He definitely has the experience and physical tools to be a pass rusher, but his lack of technique and poor block-shedding suggests he’s not a guy you can rely on to rush the passer without some more development. Robertson will need to clean up parts of his game and become more consistent before he takes snaps in the NFL, but with correct development, he could become a decent, well rounded pro.

#13. Anthony Hines lll, Texas A&M

Pros

  • Great tackler.
  • Solid athlete.
  • Sideline-to-sideline speed.
  • Decent in zone coverage.

Cons

  • Poor block-shedding.
  • Length seems a bit underwhelming.
  • Struggles in man-to-man coverage.

Player Overview

After getting offers from virtually every school and choosing Texas A&M back in 2016, Hines is now gearing up towards the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s a decent athlete with sideline-to-sideline speed, and he’s a pretty damn good tackler as well. Not too mention, his above average zone coverage capabilities definitely help his value and dependability. With that being said, his length isn’t ideal, he struggles in man-to-man coverage, and he does a very poor job at shedding blocks. Anthony Hines may not pop out on tape, but he’s definitely a sleeper to keep an eye on in this years draft.

#14. Pete Werner, Ohio State

Pros

  • Great frame at 6’3, 245 pounds.
  • Good tackler.
  • Strong at the point of attack.
  • Sheds blocks well.
  • Plays smart and hard.
  • Excels in zone coverage.

Cons

  • Limited athlete.
  • Average speed.
  • Not a great mover in open space.
  • Doesn’t project well in man-to-man coverage or in deep zones.
  • Not a pass rusher.

Player Overview

After four years at Ohio State, Pete Werner is finally ready for the NFL. He’s got a great frame, he’s a solid tackler, he sheds blocks well, does really well in shallow zones, and of course, he plays smart or hard. Werner doesn’t really excel at anything, and he’s certainly not the highest upside guy considering his athletic limitations, but with a nice frame and plenty of positives to work with, Werner projects as a day 2-3 option with a low ceiling, but a decent floor.

#15. Charles Snowden lll, Virginia

Pros

  • Excellent frame at 6’7, 235 pounds with insane length.
  • Great athlete.
  • Possesses sideline-to-sideline speed.
  • Great tackling radius.
  • Love his pursuit,
  • Has played all over the field (coverage, run stopper, blitzer, etc.) at Virginia.

Cons

  • Needs to gain some more strength.
  • Misses too many tackles. His wrap-ups warrant improvement.
  • Pass-rushing technique needs work.
  • Despite showing flashes and having high upside here, the consistency in coverage just isn’t there right now.
  • His broken ankle ended his 2020 campaign early.

Player Overview

Charles Snowden is a projection pick. With excellent athletic tools and flashes in a ton of different roles during his time at Virginia, Snowden’s upside is very intriguing. With that being said, he’s still extremely raw. He needs to gain more strength, he misses too many tackles, his pass-rushing technique is fairly non-existent, and he’s not a consistent player. Not too mention, he suffered  a season ending ankle injury this year. The upside is very intriguing, but with a lot of concerns, Charles Snowden projects as a mid-to-late round upside pick.

#16. Erroll Thompson, Mississippi State

Pros

  • Plays very physical.
  • Great run stuffer.
  • Big frame at 6’4, 250 pounds.
  • Very strong.
  • Sheds blocks well.
  • Good instincts.

Cons

  • Lackluster athlete.
  • Doesn’t possess sideline-to-sideline speed.
  • Doesn’t project well in coverage, especially man-to-man.
  • Below average blitzer.

Player Overview

Erroll Thompson is a big, physical linebacker coming out of five years at Mississippi State. With his strength, frame, and physicality, he’s an excellent run stuffer. He’s not afraid to get in the trenches and make those tough tackles at the line of scrimmage. With that being said, his lackluster speed and athleticism leads to many flaws in his game. He doesn’t project well in coverage, as a blitzer, or as an open field tackler, which definitely hinders at his overall value and draft stock. Erroll Thompson will mainly be used as an in the trenches tackler during running situations.

#17. Paddy Fisher, Northwestern

Pros

  • Very solid frame at 6’4, 250 pounds with nice length.
  • Great instincts.
  • Plays with physicality.
  • Hard hitter.
  • Great strength.
  • Play recognition.
  • Does well in zone coverages thanks to his instincts.

Cons

  • Underwhelming speed and athleticism.
  • Misses too many tackles due to inconsistent technique.
  • Doesn’t project to be that great in blitz packages.
  • I highly doubt his man to man coverage ability.

Player Overview

After grabbing people’s attention in 2017-2018, Fisher’s stock has definitely taken a hit due to a dip in his performance since then. Despite this, Fisher still brings some nice things to the table. He’s got a great frame with amazing instincts to pair with it. He’s a hard hitter that forces a lot of fumbles, and he’s a decent defender in zone coverage due to his great instincts. With that being said, he’s an underwhelming athlete, his tackling technique is poor despite being a fifth year player at Northwestern, and I highly doubt his man-to-man coverage skills. Fisher would’ve been better off heading to the NFL a couple of years ago, because to me, there isn’t a whole lot to love with Paddy Fisher.

Linebacker Big Board

#1. Micah Parsons, Penn State

#2. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

#3. Zaven Collins, Tulsa

#4. Dylan Moses, Alabama

#5. Nick Bolton, Missouri

#6. Chazz Surratt, North Carolina

#7. Baron Browning, Ohio State

#8. Monty Rice, Georgia

#9. Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin

#10. Cameron McGrone, Michigan

#11. Jabril Cox, LSU

#12. Merlin Robertson, Arizona State

#13. Anthony Hines lll, Texas A&M

#14. Pete Werner, Ohio State

#15. Charles Snowden lll, Virginia

#16. Erroll Thompson, Mississippi State

#17. Paddy Fisher, Northwestern

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