Outside of the top couple linebackers, there is a huge talent gap in this year’s class. This is one of the weaker positions overall this year, but the talent at the top is elite and ready for the next level. We’ll be ranking the top 5 linebackers this year and when you should expect them to be drafted.
#1: Devin Lloyd – Utah
By far the top linebacker in this class, Devin Lloyd has separated himself from the rest of the pack and has made a name for himself at the University of Utah as one of the best defensive players in program history. With that honor, Lloyd should be a top 10 pick in this draft as he raked up 110 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, 4 interceptions, 2 defensive touchdowns, and seven sacks on his way to being a true All-American on the first team. Lloyd is a day-1 starter and is going to be a very desirable pick for many teams as linebacker is a big hole that several teams need to fill. Lloyd has potential to be like Micah Parsons and become a Pro Bowl linebacker in his rookie season. Lloyd should also see his name called within the first 10 picks much like Parsons did a year ago.
#2: Nakobe Dean – Georgia
The 2021 Dick Butkus award winner was Nakobe Dean out of Georgia and for good reason. Dean was a centerpiece on the nation’s top defense and formed a strong 1-2 punch combo in the middle of the field with fellow linebacker and top 5 in this ranking, Quay Walker. Dean is the only player on this list who could challenge Lloyd for the first linebacker off the board depending on what a team is looking for. Both have huge upside and have pro bowl potential in their careers. Dean edges not only Lloyd out but all the linebackers in this class on speed, he has the best range of field coverage and is going to be dangerous for opposing teams on blitz plays. Dean has potential to put up team-leading tackles for loss and sack numbers with his quickness and explosiveness. Dean is a little bit undersized which can make lining up against heavier set lineman a bit of a challenge but we expect him to put on some muscle in the big leagues that will make him very dangerous.
#3: Leo Chenal – Wisconsin
After the top 2 spots at this position, there’s a bit of a distance until we get to the 3rd spot of Leo Chenal. This isn’t to say Chenal is a bad player by any means, he is very talented, but we see Dean and Lloyd as top 15 talent in this class while Chenal is closer to an early 2nd round talent. Chenal might have those 2 beat though in pass rushing and run defense as he is an absolute force to be reckoned with. He is quick off the snap to get past the lineman, but in coverage, he lacks the spread that Dean & Lloyd have which limits his ability to play inside linebacker and only line up on the outside.
#4: Christian Harris – Alabama
Playing on one of the best teams in the country, Christian Harris started every year since he joined the Crimson Tide. Harris didn’t play the linebacker position until he got to college and has come a long way since by already being a top 5 in the position in this draft class. We can only imagine what he could do under the right leadership and in the right situation. There is nothing but upside for this young talented player who should only grow from here. There is a lot on his game that can be improved, but he’s rapidly becoming better and better each season. Since some teams are looking for a day 1 starter, this drops Harris down to a 2nd round level player, but would make a great steal for a team willing to wait to get a long-term systematic player.
#5: Quay Walker – Georgia
The 2nd half of the dynamic duo of linebackers on the nation’s top defense is interior linebacker Quay Walker. A heavily recruited player out of high school, Walker did not disappoint for the Georgia Bulldogs as he was a key part of their National Championship winning season. Arguably the best tackler in this class, Walker has a natural ability to get people down, but his weakness is getting to people. He isn’t as fast as others, he isn’t stellar in coverage, but when he does get to you, don’t expect to get anywhere else as odds are you are going down. If Walker can improve on these fundamentals of the game, he can be an every down starter, but now he’s best alongside another top linebacker to counteract some of his flaws. This puts Walker at a 3rd round/4th round pick at best.
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