NFL DRAFT PROSPECTS - LINEBACKER

Click on the names of the prospects below to see their draft profiles:

LB #1: ISAIAH SIMMONS, CLEMSON TIGERS

Height: 6’4”.   Weight: 230lbs

PRO’S: Ultra-versatile playmaker who has done everything asked of him to an elite level at college. A rare breed - can play slot corner, free safety, strong safety, linebacker or a hybrid that is vogue in today’s NFL. Elite athlete with top-end speed as a defensive back, let alone a linebacker. Short-area quickness and lateral agility is just as impressive - he’s literally a mismatch against whoever you line him up. Brings the physicality to his game with a non-stop motor and is a violent finisher with his tackling. Excellent length that he utilises well - never gets tied up in blocks and his wingspan allows him to make every tackle. A playmaker with an innate feel for the game and where he needs to be regardless of where he lines up.

CON’S: Could he get a little bigger? Most teams likely want him at linebacker and they may ask him to add more play strength. This may help in run duties as a true inside linebacker where he can get caught up in the wash a little. Might cost him some athleticism though, which is key to his versatility.

SIMON CARROLL: “You really have to work hard to find fault with Isaiah Simmons’ game. He’s a generational, do-it-all talent that defensive co-ordinators will love to move all over the field to maximise mismatch opportunities. I truly believe you shouldn’t pinpoint a particular position as his home - just throw him out there with a diverse mandate dependent on the strengths that different offenses bring each week”.

NFL COMPARISON: DARIUS LEONARD/DEION JONES/TYRANN MATHIEU HYBRID

PREDICTION: TOP TEN PICK

LB #2: KENNETH MURRAY, OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Height: 6’2”.   Weight: 234lbs

PRO’S: Physical linebacker with excellent range who makes plays all over the field. 100% effort prospect who attacks the football from snap to end of play. Urgent off the snap with the acceleration to get ahead of down blockers and to the ball carrier. And when he gets there - wow! Murray LOVES to hit. Drives into his opponent with venom. Impressive tackler - pursuit is efficient and rarely misses his man, even with arm tackles. Shows good mobility to slide between blocks and into the backfield and make plays. This athleticism should translate well to pass coverage at the next level.

CON’S: Play diagnosis is susceptible to deception. Plenty of occasions on tape where he misreads the play. And because he’s operating at warp speed a little mistake can look like a full blown mess. Only has eyes for the football and can sometimes not be quite as aware of his surroundings as he should be. Game built on athleticism and a noted lack of functional power when engaged with blockers; finds it difficult to shed to the football.

SIMON CARROLL: “A tornado on the field, Murray was born to disrupt offenses. His outstanding athleticism allows him to shoot gaps and be a playmaker behind the line of scrimmage - 36.5 TFL’s and 9.5 sacks in his Oklahoma career testifies to that. Suitable at pretty much any linebacker spot in any alignment, he’s best when he can keep off blocks and zero in on the football.”

NFL COMPARISON: ROQUAN SMITH
PREDICTION: 1ST ROUND PICK

LB #3: PATRICK QUEEN, LSU TIGERS

Height: 6’1”.   Weight: 227lbs

PRO’S: This guy is FAST. Sideline to sideline speed is excellent - covers every blade of grass smoothly and efficiently. Far too quick off the snap and is a refined gap buster that will give him linebacker blitz duties in the NFL. Naturally good at running through crowds and finding lanes to the ball carrier. Elite play diagnosis - seems to be a half-step ahead of the rest of the field once the ball is snapped. Very good technique and co-ordination between legs and body - plays with nice balance and rarely directed off his chosen path. Has the requisite length to keep himself free and make the play. Brings an edge to his tackles. Raised his game against the elite competition en route to LSU’s National Championship success.

CON’S: Doesn’t possess the core strength scouts typically look for from inside linebackers, instead relying on his length and athleticism to win. He was blessed with playing on an excellent defense at college and it’s fair to suggest he won’t have as much space and freedom at the next level - how will he perform in more confined quarters in the NFL?

SIMON CARROLL: Patrick Queen’s dynamic skillset is very much in vogue in the NFL right now. Despite a shortfall in functional power he has the game to be a mike linebacker where he can showcase his elite sideline to sideline speed. The tape shows blitz traits that could see him rack up the stats and become a household favourite at the next level”.

NFL COMPARISON: THOMAS DAVIS

PREDICTION: 1ST ROUND PICK

LB #4: MALIK HARRISON, OHIO STATE BUCKEYES

Height: 6’3”.   Weight: 246lbs

PRO’S: Aggressive, run-stuffing middle linebacker who marshals the centre field. Downhill thumper - loves nothing more than zeroing in on the running back and blowing up anything and anyone inbetween. Physically imposing with excellent length, enabling him to lock out blockers and shed as the ball comes through. Excellent upper body strength which allows him to manipulate blocks away and find the gap. Excellent hand usage keeps himself free to make the play - really heavy hands and hits with good accuracy. Non-stop motor and sets the tone for the rest of his defense.

CON’S: Short area athleticism is okay but working in space sees him lost and slow-footed. Change of direction speed slows right down and as such he’s too stiff to be relied on consistently in pass coverage. Likely a mike/inside linebacker only - limited quickness precludes him from sideline to sideline duties or chasing down plays from the backside. Play recognition a tick slow and needs to show a better feel for the position in general to remain on the field all three downs.

SIMON CARROLL: “A hark back to the good old days of smashmouth football, Harrison may have been a first round lock fifteen years ago. Teams will value his ability to destroy any hope an offense has of running the football, but until he displays better athleticism and understanding of pass coverage responsibilities he won’t be a three-down linebacker. That limits his draft value - he’s a day two pick for me”.

NFL COMPARISON: JARRAD DAVIS

PREDICTION: 2ND ROUND PICK

LB #5: AKEEM DAVIS-GAITHER, APPALACHIAN STATE MOUNTAINEERS

Height: 6’2”.   Weight: 219lbs

PRO’S: Athletically gifted. Quickness off the snap is impressive and he’s into the line of scrimmage quick, gaining the upper hand. Smooth as he covers the field, navigating through the wash and to the football. Makes a home in the backfield - able to slide through gaps untouched and to the ball. Excellent blitzer, off the edge in subpackages or delayed from the second level. Mental processing and reaction speed - brain to feet is instantaneous. Good form tackler with nice wrapping up. Extremely productive from multiple spots at Appalachian State, alluding to his versatility. Shows some good ball skills in coverage on tape.

CON’S:Not got the size or physicality required to play the middle at the NFL. Lack of anchor sees him out gunned on contact. Not enough upper body strength or length to stack and shed to the football - just not his game. Needs to throw more weight behind his hands and when he attempts to, he loses some balance. Length also makes you wonder if his ball skills will diminish at the next level. Quick across the field but seems to get a little lost in zone coverage, just doesn’t come naturally to him.

SIMON CARROLL: “Explosive on tape, ADG is a finesse player with a violent finish. He knows how to avoid contact, slip through gaps and make plays. You ask him to put weight on and he may lose some of that searing speed that sees him always in the mix. Some scouts may call him a ‘tweener but for me he is perfect as a movable chess piece that can play the ‘viper’ (hybrid LB/S) role on early downs and blitz from anywhere on the field on passing plays. His special teams prowess is just another string to his bow and value like that doesn’t escape day two”.

NFL COMPARISON: JABRILL PEPPERS

PREDICTION: 3RD ROUND PICK

LB #6: TROY DYE, OREGON DUCKS

Height: 6’4”.   Weight: 225lbs

PRO’S: Playmaking machine at Oregon - 391 tackles in four years. Jaw dropping speed and range for a linebacker. Ultra-quick off the line and on his way to the ball carrier. Works gaps with suddenness and acceleration, sliding through and into the backfield. Difficult to get a bead on as a blocker. Cat-like reflexes and can change direction on a dime with no drop-off in speed. Excellent length, and uses it well to break off blocks and get to the ball. Tough as they come and packs a punch when he hits. Team captain and locker room leader.

CON’S: Tall and lean with little in the way of muscle mass for the position. If he can’t keep blockers at length the play is over - he simply does not have the upper body strength to disengage or manipulate gaps open. Very much avoids engagement if he can, ghosting behind other defenders rather than competing power for power. Quick to the ball once it clicks but play diagnosis seems sluggish and quicker blockers have their hands on him before he’s decided what to do.

SIMON CARROLL: ‘One of my favourite players in this draft class, Troy Dye is extremely fun to watch. He’ll tackle anything within his postcode and fly around the field looking for action. If he can speed up his processing a notch and add some more mass to his linear frame he could very well be a steal late on day two”.

NFL COMPARISON: TELVIN SMITH

PREDICTION: 3RD ROUND PICK

LB #7: JORDYN BROOKS, TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Height: 6’1”.   Weight: 245lbs

PRO’S: Ultra-productive four-year starter at Texas Tech, racking up 360 tackles in his time in Lubbock. Seek and destroy linebacker who likes to play downhill with toughness and grit. Ideal NFL size and shape for a linebacker. Marauds around the field - excellent range to cover every blade of grass. Impressive wingspan and uses it to good effect. Like his evasiveness and burst in short-area situations - can catch blockers flat footed and shoot gaps when presented to him. Reactionary defender who can adapt on the fly. Has some nasty lower body strength that he can unleash into a pretty tasty hit at speed.

CON’S: Problems shedding blocks when engaged - knows where he needs to be and when to get off, but upper body strength betrays him. ‘Headless chicken’ style of football that leaves him a little uncoordinated and his balance is jeopardised. Better pre-snap anticipation and understanding of what an offense is showing him would improve his initial advantage in a rep. Full-tilt attitude to every play from the off can empty the tank before the game is over.

SIMON CARROLL: “A poor man’s version of Kenneth Murray, Jordyn Brooks is a little less blessed with athleticism and a little further behind the curve in terms of game development. He has some instincts and burst you can’t teach, and his range will eventually allow him to play the will linebacker position and chase down plays from the backside. Until then he’s a situational guy whose productivity will pop on the TV screen”.

NFL COMPARISON: DEMARIO DAVIS

PREDICTION: 3RD ROUND

LB #8: LOGAN WILSON, WYOMING COWBOYS

Height: 6’2”.   Weight: 241lbs

PRO’S: Well-balanced linebacker who is effective against both the run and the pass. Keys on to the offense’s intentions quickly. Has a captain’s mentality and is a good communicator pre-snap, getting his teammates aligned and ready for what is about to come. Has a good, sturdy frame that aids him well against the run - he’s stout at the point of contact and knows how to get rid of a block and get to the football. Awesome tackler - wraps up anything in his postcode. Production throught he roof at Wyoming - over 400 tackles, 14 pass breakups and 10 interceptions. Football smarts make him dangerous in zone coverage, particularly shallow zones. Has enough athleticism to compete in man coverage with consistency.

CON’S: Over-exuberant. Is so keen to get to the play he can sometimes fail to contain the backside and allow the ball carrier to juke behind him. Sometimes shows a lack of patience, particularly when engaged - he sheds and hits his gap too early, giving the running back an easy decision. Eagerness sees him susceptible to misdirection. Athleticism is average but he’ll never have elite sideline to sideline speed, and he may struggle to chase down from the backside as a will linebacker.

SIMON CARROLL: “I’m just gonna go ahead and say it - if Logan Wilson played for a Power 5 team he’d be a guaranteed day two pick in this draft. He has a balanced skillset that with some polish could see him become a three-down linebacker at the next level - not many other prospects in this position group can say that. To me he’s a high-upside pick on day three that will have a healthy professional career”.

NFL COMPARISON: JORDAN HICKS

PREDICTION: 4TH ROUND PICK

LB #9: EVAN WEAVER, CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS

Height: 6’2”.   Weight: 234lbs

PRO’S: Ultra-competitive, highly intelligent linebacker with the production to boot. Simply will not be out-worked in the film room or out-hustled on the field. Not many better out there at diagnosing what’s in front of him - mental processing is elite and he translates that into tackles with clever angles and avoidance of blocks. Well built, stocky frame that translates to adequate play strength. Impressive wingspan and tackling form with very few missed tackles; he seems to be able to corral ball carriers from unlikely distances. Anticipates and identifies gaps to shoot and is frequently causing chaos in the backfield.

CON’S: Short on athleticism - relies heavily on his ability to read the defense and being a step ahead mentally. Can eventually get up to speed but his short area burst and quickness off the snap are lacking. Exposed when playing in space and dropping back into coverage - doesn’t possess the sideline to sideline range. Gets clogged down in the trash and struggles to force his way through it. Likes to play a beat off teammates to use them as shields and get where he needs to be. Plays tall - needs to keep his pads lower.

SIMON CARROLL: “A true old-school thumper of a linebacker, Weaver is a coaches dream in that he’ll do exactly what he’s coached to the best of his ability. He’s developed an impressive game that mitigates his physical and athletic shortcomings and showcase his leadership and tackling skills within the tackle box. This will be much more difficult to get away with at the next level, but any 3-4 team looking for inside linebacker depth should give him a call early on day three”.

NFL COMPARISON: DENZEL PERRYMAN

PREDICTION: 4TH ROUND PICK

LB #10: MARKUS BAILEY, PURDUE BOILERMAKERS

Height: 6’1”.   Weight: 240lbs

PRO’S: Absolute workhorse - line him up and tell him what to do and the job gets done. Physicality jumps off the screen - fires into ball carriers with reckless abandon and looks to set the tone for the defense. Impressive football intelligence - acutely aware of what the offense is about to throw at him and how best to stop it. Play diagnosis is quick and can float into run defense or pass protection on a whim. Always - and I mean ALWAYS - around the football. Smooth across the field and is an asset in pass coverage in shallow zones where he can stalk the QB and jump short to intermediate routes.

CON’S: He’s not quick. Snap twitch is slow and he relies on his anticpation and football knowledge to stay a step ahead of blockers. Won’t be running down plays that get stretched outside the tackles. Change of direction fluidity is lacking - it’s almost like he has to stop and start again. Significant injury history that has sidelined him for a lot of his college career - tore his acl as a freshman for which he took a redshirt year, then missed most of his final season at Purdue with another injury to the same knee. It required surgery and teams will definitely want a positive medical report from him.

SIMON CARROLL: Despite physical and athletic limitations Markus Bailey is an excellent linebacker prospect that projects to be at the very worst a two-down lineman as a middle or inside linebacker at the next level, in any scheme. Sadly his injury history is very concerning and it will undoubtedly affect his draft stock. This time last year he was my favourite returning linebacker”.

NFL COMPARISON: KIKO ALONSO

PREDICTION: 5TH ROUND PICK

LB #11: JOE BACHIE, MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS

Height: 6’2”.   Weight: 231lbs

PRO’S: Tough, physical linebacker who plays with a real chip on his shoulder. Phenomenal tackler at the line of scrimmage - hunts down the football and hits with force. Strong - able to stack and shed to the ball carrier with a degree of comfort despite short arms. Has a good nose for the football. Excellent run defender - keys the run early and is able to get to where he needs to be to nullify the threat. Able to use his upper body strength to work his way across blockers and through gaps. Shown some proficiency in pass coverage near the line of scrimmage in short zones.

CON’S: Lacks speed. Can’t keep up with tight ends or running backs in man coverage. If the play stretches outside of the tackles he’s not going to be near the ball. Flat footed with questionable fluidity. Short arms which he has been able to overcome with play strength but will be more exposed in the NFL. Failed a PED test in his final year at Michigan State and was suspended for the final five games of the season. Because of this, scouts may question if his impressive power is natural.

SIMON CARROLL: “Joe Bachie by no means has a complete game, but his dominance against the run and capability in short area pass coverage gives him a chance of being a three-down nfl inside linebacker, preferably in a 3-4 defense. The suspension for performance enhancing drugs doesn’t just bring his character into question, it also makes you wonder if his physical dominance is a result of anything other than hard work in the weight room. His stock has taken a hit, but he could definitely be a high-upside draft pick in the late rounds”.

NFL COMPARISON: REUBEN FOSTER

PREDICTION: 5TH ROUND PICK

LB #12: JUSTIN STRNAD, WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS

Height: 6’3”.   Weight: 235lbs

PRO’S: Explosive linebacker whose speed in short areas can be devastating. Build up speed is lightning quick. Attacks gaps and into the backfield before blockers have got close to their sets. Range is phenomenal - will run all day and has that rare sideline to sideline speed. Athleticism aids him in man coverage but he excels in zone, dropping to his depth smoothly and effortlessly with the read and react quickness to make a play on the ball. Comfortable being moved around and offers blitz ability through inside gaps or from the edge.

CON’S: Skinny frame that doesn’t hold enough muscle mass to be a consistent factor in the run game. Too easily latched on to by blockers and without the requisite play strength struggles to disengage. Better hand usage in space when he build up speed can palm to the edge of a blocker, but in close quarters he can’t find his way through. Awkward tackler - form isn’t right unless he’s engaging square. Frame seems to slide down arms and is easily palmed off by the ball carrier. Play recognition is sluggish.

SIMON CARROLL: “Strnad’s impressive athleticism on an undersized frame will have poeple considering him as one of the new linebacker/safety hybrids that can be utilised in different ways by clever co-ordinators. He’s got a myriad of technique issues to clean up and could stand to add more weight if his frame can take it. Until then he’s a third down linebacker with the tools to be a playmaker”.

PREDICTION: 5TH ROUND PICK

LB #13: SHAQUILLE QUARTERMAN, MIAMI HURRICANES

Height: 6’1”.   Weight: 241lbs

PRO’S: Toughness personified. Played through the pain barrier at Miami and never missed a game for the Hurricanes in his four year career. Productive too, with over 350 tackles as he marshalled the middle of the field. Thumper - dominates in the ground game. Always about the business end of a play, and knows how to get into the backfield consistently. Hits HARD. Smart footballer who smells an opportunity. Shows good blitz tendencies, identifying routes to the quarterback. Knows when to halt his attack and swat at the football - 12 passes defensed during his time in Miami.

CON’S: Distinct lack of fluidity and flexibility. Works with hustle but little true speed - change of direction quickness the most obvious deficiency when watching tape. Early down linebacker only - offers nothing more than the shallowest of zone coverage. Can’t keep pace in man coverage. Plays like an uncaged animal and shows little finesse or patience to his game. Can get too excited and overshoot, leaving the backside open for a counter. Clunky with a high pad level that is disguised by his superior power.

SIMON CARROLL: “Old school. Quarterman just loves to hit people with venom, and he’s a real asset in the run game when the play is in front of him and he understands a direct route to the ball. He’s a liability in space and won’t be on the field in obvious passing situations, but you can see him finding a home in a more physical division where he can offer positional depth. Running backs need to keep their head on a swivel when this guy is out hunting”.

PREDICTION: 6TH ROUND PICK

LB #14: WILLIE GAY, MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS

Height: 6’2”.   Weight: 235lbs

PRO’S: Looks the part - perfect NFL linebacker size and shape. Broad frame which holds good muscle mass that aids his contact power. Ultra-aggressive who hits with relish, and when he gets it right can de-cleat the ball carrier. Good pad level and drives up into blocks. Impressive athleticism and shows good speed and burst to find gaps and slip through. Quickness aids him as a designated blitzer. Impressive in pursuit and will hound down from the backside. Can operate in space and is smart in coverage. Happy out on an island in man coverage.

CON’S: Discipline issues - been ejected from multiple games, and had a fight with teammate (starting QB Garrett Schrader) towards the end of the year, breaking his orbital bone. Gay was also suspended eight games in his final year in Starksville for academic misconduct, reportedly allowing tutors to falsify papers. Inconsistent. Whirlwind style of play sees him overshoot gaps, whiff on tackles, fooled by misdirection and can be a liability.

SIMON CARROLL: “Willie Gay comes with a lot of baggage. He can’t keep his temper in check and he plays with a raw emotion that overspills too often to be a reliable member of a team. He possesses the size, strength and athleticism to really make his mark in the NFL but needs to refine and harness his game to really reach his potential. If someone is willing to take the risk he is an instant situational linebacker with blitz tendencies, and if he matures his mind and his game has a shot at being a starter at the next level”.

NFL COMPARISON: HAASON REDDICK

PREDICTION: 6TH ROUND PICK

LB #15: DAVID WOODWARD, UTAH STATE AGGIES

Height: 6’2”.   Weight: 235lbs

PRO’S: Cerebral linebacker with a sixth sense of where to be and how to get there. Makes plays on the ball - two picks and six forced fumbles in his last two years at Utah State. Good football intelligence and a hard man to deceive, rarely making the wrong choice on RPO’s in the backfield. Hits hard and fast and is not afraid to stick his nose in to make the play. A workhorse on and off the field - noted for his dedication to the film room and it shows up on tape. Understands zone coverage concepts and shows good spacial awareness and timing in the passing game.

CON’S: Brutal injury history. Reckless style of football has cost him going all the way back to high school where he broke two vertebrae in his neck. Multiple concussions more concerning. Final year at Utah State lasted just seven games before he was sidelined with an unspecified injury. Functional play strength underwhelming and if he were to add more muscle to his frame he may compromise his modest athleticism even further. Lack of length, couple with strength, make it difficult for him to dispose blocks once engaged. Lack of fluidity shows on tape in his speed when scraping to the ball carrier.

SIMON CARROLL: I find it hard to believe that, in this day of ultra-precaution from medical staff with regards to concussions, Woodward is anything other than a late-round flier for teams hoping for some unexpected longevity. If it was based on his game alone, Woodward is a damn good footballer with the toughness and smarts to start inside in a 3-4 defense. Sadly, he may not ever get that chance”.

NFL COMPARISON: BRIAN CUSHING

PREDICTION: 7TH ROUND PICK

LB #16: CAM GILL, WAGNER SEAHAWKS

Height: 6’2”. Weight: 238lbs

Pros: High motor energy-conduit of the Wagner defense. Gill is active and rangy, making an impact on multiple levels of the field. His versatility is one of his key selling points. Gill ought to be offer depth in various spots across the defense and a special teams demon. Working out at defensive end while also doing defensive back drills during his pro day speaks to the potential he has to contribute throughout the defense. Undersized as an edge rusher, being used as an off-ball linebacker is a potential projection as well. Gill’s film and play style ought to translate well as a run-and-chase LB, with his play in pursuit a standout area of his game film. Gill’s strong senior season saw him total 60 tackles, 20 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, 2 PBUs and 3 forced fumbles. He’s often able to make additional plays simply by outworking his opponents with second and third effort hustle stops. As a rusher, Gill shows nice upfield burst, bringing his relentless motor into early exchanges. He offers a useful inside counter move, using fast and violent hands as he cuts inside. A physical finisher, he consistently makes plays when in position, despite modest length. A good athlete, Gill took advantage of being able to go ahead with his pro day early. He ran a 4.58 dash, jumped a 34” vert, 10-2 broad and totalled 21 bench reps.

Cons: Gill’s production may be tricky to replicate at the next level. In addition to having a smaller frame and reach, he may also lack ideal flexibility. The college edge defender has quickness but looks a little tight hipped on film. Dipping and bending round the edge looks difficult, and may see him neutralized more often than not as a pro. Gill attended the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and flashed, but also highlighted some of the struggles. During the game itself, he was caught out several times, getting overly aggressive and out of position, opening lanes for the ball carrier and exposing space. His positioning and reads could be more consistent, which hopefully comes with time.

Rebecca Rennie: “This is a player who looks hungry for it, each snap played as if it’s his last. He might struggle to set the edge in run defense but will chase down ball carriers in pursuit and could find a role as a situational pass rusher. Gill has plus traits in his motor, good upper body technique and tackling ability, with the consistent production to back it up. He could sneak into the late rounds, with his versatility and special teams potential boosting his value.”

NFL Comparison: Kevin Pierre-Louis

Prediction: 7th Round Pick

LB #17: JACOB PHILLIPS, LSU TIGERS

Height: 6’4”.   Weight: 233lbs

PRO’S: Reliable tackler who consistently produces at the heart of the defense. Excellently coached - plays with patience to maintain gap discipline, forcing the ball carrier to choose before closing the hole. Good technique with hand placement and efficient footwork. Understands his role on every down and more often than not executes. Motor runs hot and battles to the end of every play. Willing special teamer who offers upside as a gunner.

CON’S: Lack of fucntional play strength. Can’t hold his own against most blockers at SEC level, so the step up in class is going to be a problem for him. Poor anchor and is too often driven backwards and taken out of the equation. One-dimensional - does what is asked but struggles to react on the fly and the tape shows a distinct shortage of awareness during snaps. Athleticism also sub par. Isn’t quick or slippery enough to shoot gaps and get into the backfield consistently. Hasn’t got the range to cover the horizontal field. Seems detached from the emotion of the game rather than feeding off the intensity.

SIMON CARROLL: “ A very disciplined and controlled game, Phillips plays within himself somewhat. Put him in a specific role and he’ll do a job for you, but his one-dimensional game means he won’t be able to pivot and bring something else needed on a play by play basis. He’s a backup, position group filler with some special teams upside, but I’d expect to see him on a practice squad early in his career”.

PREDICTION: 7TH ROUND PICK

LB #18: DANTE OLSON, MONTANA GRIZZLIES

Height: 6’2”. Weight: 237lbs

Pros: The Griz standout has been a tackling machine in the Big Sky throughout a prolific FCS career. He led the country with a ridiculous 179 stops in 2019 as a finalist for the Buck Buchanan award given to the nation’s defensive player of the year. His consistently high level of play saw Olson twice named as an FCS first team All-American. Olson has NFL-level size with a stout build to hold up to the physicality of the pros. One of the few small school invites to the Combine, the Montana linebacker had a bizarre combination of testing results but proved to have some of the best numbers in explosive tests. His 42” vertical led all LBs and also put up a strong 10-4 broad jump. Though not blessed with speed, his 7.00 cone was above expectations also. Olson is a phenomenal seeker, finding the football consistently. His active game sees him constantly around the action, aided by his hustle and overall high motor. He wins with good football IQ and diagnosing skills, with reliable positioning and discipline. As indicated by his tackling production, Olson finishes well. Bringing force on contact, he wraps up ball carriers firmly and decisively. Though not rangy, Olson uses his anticipation and recognition to position himself well to make occasional plays in coverage.

Cons: While his 3-cone time impressed, on film Olson looks a little stiff with modest-at-best change of direction ability. Overall, his game lacks speed and range. He will be limited in his ability to contribute in space and outside the tackles. His issue with speed sees him often beaten to angles outside. The up-and-down Combine results mentioned included a very poor dash time of 4.81 that is reflective of his play speed on film. His angles to ball carriers aren’t always ideal, and on those occasions, Olson struggles to recover. It’s likely that the Grizzlies LB will be a bit of a liability in passing situations that limits his game.

Rebecca Rennie: “The outstanding production and strong football IQ has been a part of Olson being one of the most watchable defensive players in the FCS the past couple seasons. It ought to earn him a good look at the NFL level. Ultimately though, his limitations as an athlete are notable and could leave him on the outside of the draft. At best, he projects to a depth spot on the roster and short-term spot starter.”

NFL Comparison: Jason Cabinda

Prediction: UDFA

LB #19: CHRISTIAN ROZEBOOM, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE JACKRABBITS

Height: 6’2”. Weight: 228lbs

Pros: The list of accolades is extensive for the all-action linebacker who has been a stud starter since his instant-impact redshirt freshman season in 2016. The consistency in production has been outstanding. Rozeboom surpassed triple digit tackles all four seasons for the Jackrabbits. More than just a clean-up tackler, Rozeboom has also added eight career interceptions, two each season. Showing quickness working downhill, laterally and backwards, Rozeboom is consistently around the football as his gaudy numbers suggest. The redshirt senior’s motor is non-stop, playing with a fantastic energy that resonates with his teammates around him. He appears on film to be a nice athlete for the next level. The Jackrabbit LB shows short area quickness, burst and loose hips. The combination of experience, production and high character will tick off plenty of boxes typically looked for in a smaller school prospect. Taking part in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Rozeboom had a good week in front of scouts, including 4 tackles and a TFL during the game.

Cons: As fantastic as his energy and motor is, Rozeboom isn’t consistently efficient with how he applies it. Despite his extensive playing experience, he’s prone to some wasted motion and frequently taking less-than-ideal angles and rounded paths toward the action and through traffic. Such situations will be more exposed at the higher caliber of competition in the pros.

Rebecca Rennie: “Rozeboom’s commitment to the cause as a physical tackler and his obvious love of the game will greatly aid his chances. He’ll have to work and fight for a roster spot, whether drafted late or invited to camp as an undrafted free agent. He brings enough quickness and range for the next level but needs to sharpen up his game. There’s little doubt that he’ll put that required work in, take well to coaching, and contribute well on special teams while he develops.”

Prediction: UDFA

Feature Image Credit: Icon Sportswire (Getty Images)

Simon

Simon Carroll

CFB/NFL DRAFT EDITOR

PREVIOUSLY THE FOUNDER OF NFL DRAFT UK, SIMON HAS BEEN SCOUTING DRAFT PROSPECTS FOR MORE THAN A DECADE.  HE FULLY MIGRATED TO THE TOUCHDOWN AS HEAD OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND NFL DRAFT CONTENT IN JULY 2019. ALL THE RANKINGS ABOVE ARE HIS OWN, AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE OPINIONS OF ALL THE WRITERS AT THE TOUCHDOWN. FOR DISCUSSION OF ANY OF THE DRAFT PROSPECTS ABOVE, HIT HIM UP ON TWITTER @NFLDRAFTSI.

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