The linebacker position has gone through an evolution in the last decade. In order to be an impact player you need to be able to stuff the run, cover in both zone and man schemes, and rush the passer. The 2020 NFL draft produced what the modern linebacker looks like in Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons. Simmons was a Safety who became a linebacker his senior year. Linebackers are not getting less valuable they are just changing the style. Simmons along with 3 others highlighted the lighter, faster, more athletic linebackers. 2021 we will see more of the same.
Micah Parsons – 6’3” 244 – Penn State – Junior – Rating (3.92)
2019 Stats: 109 Tackles / 14 Tackles for a loss / 5 Sacks / 4 forced fumbles
Strength: Elite level blitzer and play maker
Weakness: Opted out of the 2020 season, his next game will be a year and ½ from his last at Penn State.(update Big 10 will start their season October 24th, however it is unknown as of now whether Parsons will be apart of that.)
Player Comparison: Luke Kuechly former linebacker Carolina Panthers
Overall: Linebacker U produces another star at the position. Parsons however, might be the best one yet. Parsons has great size, speed, and smarts as a downhill attacking linebacker. His closing speed is impressive and has vice grips to secure tackles. He has a high football IQ when diagnosing blocking schemes and timing up blitz’s in the A and B gaps. I expect the dynamic defender to be a top 10 pick come May.
Nick Bolton – 6’0” 232 – Missouri – Junior – Rating (3.64)
2019 Stats: 103 Tackles / 8.5 Tackles for a loss / 2 interceptions / 7 Pass breakups / 1 Touchdown
Strengths: Excellent tackler and good coverage skills
Weakness: Not a top level athlete
Player Comparison: Dexter Coakley former linebacker Dallas Cowboys
Overall: Bolton is a intriguing two way linebacker who can be a late first round pick with another good year under his belt. Watching his film I enjoyed his entire catalog of hits. Bolton is like a missile running through ball carriers in the open field. His size could make it difficult to get off blocks consistently. What he lacks in size he makes up with football smarts and nose for the football. The relentless defender is the kind of player you look at in a decade and say he had a good career.
Dylan Moses – 6’3” 235 – Alabama – Junior – Rating (3.50)
2019 Stats: DNP Injured. 2018: 86 Tackles / 10 Tackles for a loss / 3.5 Sacks
Strengths: An impact hitter and excellent blitz timing
Weakness: missed all of 2019 with an ACL tear.
Player Comparison: Patrick Willis former linebacker San Francisco 49ers.
Overall: An absolute thumper of a tackler coming from his linebacker spot. If not for his injury he would be number one on this list. As long as he can show he can stay healthy this season he can certainly work his way back up team’s draft boards. He has all the attributes you want in a classic middle or strong side backer. Moses excellent instincts, leadership qualities, and physicality are a defensive coach’s dream and an offensive coordinators nightmare.
Joseph Ossai – 6’4” 245 – Texas – Senior – Rating (3.50)
2019 Stats: 90 Tackles / 13.5 Tackles for a loss / 5 Sacks / 2 Interceptions
Strengths: Versatility, can play multiple linebacker positions.
Weakness: Gets too far up field and can over run plays.
Player Comparison: Clay Matthews linebacker Green Bay Packers/LA Rams
Overall: Ossai is the most versatile linebacker in this group. He plays on the line of scrimmage, plays middle linebacker in nickel/dime defenses, and used as a blitzer in the Long Horns pressure packages. Long arms and good range makes him a solid cover guy when called upon. Ossai has stepped up in the big games for Texas. Against LSU he recorded a sack, interception, and a tackle for a loss, had 10 tackles vs TCU, and won MVP of the Alamo Bowl vs Utah with 6 tackles for a loss and 3 sacks.
Jabril Cox – 6’4” 231 – North Dakota State / LSU – Senior – Rating (3.50)
2019 Stats: 2x 1st team FCS All-American / 92 Tackles / 9.5 Tackles for a loss / 6 pass break ups
Strengths: Excellent athletic ability and nose for the football.
Weakness: First time playing an SEC schedule has something to prove on this level.
Player Comparison: Chad Greenway former linebacker Minnesota Vikings
Overall: Cox played his first 3 season at North Dakota State and was there best defender during that time. He was highly productive with 258 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, and 6 interceptions. Cox is a true outside backer who can buzz the flat in coverage and play on the line of scrimmage vs. the run. Cox will get his final exam at LSU to prove that no matter the level he is a prime time player.
Chazz Suratt – 6’2” 225 – North Carolina – Senior – Rating (3.35)
2019 Stats: 115 Tackles / 15 Tackles for a loss / 6.5 Sacks / 1 Interception
Strengths: Has excellent closing speed and is versatile.
Weakness: Still a raw talent at linebacker after converting from quarterback in 2019.
Player Comparison: Jesse Armstead former linebacker New York Giants.
Overall: Suratt spent his time as a quarterback during his first two years with moderate success. His career began to blossom last year when he made the change to linebacker. Suratt took to the position seamlessly and exceeded expectations with huge numbers in games. His long arms and knowledge of coverage from the quarterback position helped in his transition. He will have to add some moves to his pass rush repertoire to become more of a complete linebacker. Suratt like Jabril Cox and Dylan Moses can move up this list with an excellent encore season.