Over the decades in the NFL you can see speed, power, covering ability, and adjustment intelligence. In the earlier years, you only needed a linebacker with only a couple of these abilities. Lately, NFL teams are looking for hybrid linebackers that can do all of the above abilities to play inside linebacker or outside linebacker. This makes it easier for defensive coordinators to adjust to an offensive scheme throughout the game and keep the same quality players in the game. In this class there’s four very possible first round locks that I can see being picked.
1. Tremaine Edmunds – The hybrid combination of inside and outside linebacker that I mentioned earlier points directly this man. You can put him anywhere around the defensive line and he will be able to attack and play the ball. Has lightning speed for being 6’5″ 255 pounds. Edmunds is very rangy and has a huge tackle radius and you rarely see players get away from him or out of his grasp. I already hear defensive coaches clawing at this man.
2. Roquan Smith – This is the premier sideline to sideline, tackling machine, stud inside linebacker you want running your front seven. He may be a bit undersized at 6’1″ 235 pounds, but don’t let that fool you because Smith hits like he’s an offensive lineman. He has shown he can handle covering running backs and tight ends with no problems at all. Reminds me of a big comparison to Bobby Wagner because of the impact he brings with the smaller size. Smith also won the Butkus award for top linebacker in the country.
3. Rashaan Evans – You may know him already from countless times on during Alabama football games hearing “There’s the doctor again doing his work”. Evans is all over the field hitting anything that moves in a different jersey and has a plus side in blitzing from the inside. One main reason he’s down this far is that he had to bide his time until 2017 to start and boy did he make an impact. He just needs to be coached up for his covering ability in the NFL.
4. Leighton Vander Esch – LVE has probably the highest upside in the linebacker class. Only had one year of starting and showed he can handle everything thrown at him with having 141 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 4 pass breakups, and 4 forced fumbles (didn’t think i was ever gonna end did you?). He has the natural instinct to play the pass better than expected. Even though he has that massive stat sheet. LVE still is fourth because of his limited starting time and his low conference opponents.
5. UChenna Nwosu – Nwosu showed a ton of flash plays with his quick burst and his power. He is able to chase down runners whether running back or wide receivers. Scouts say he projects as an outside linebacker, but his stat sheet shows he is a raw inside backer. His big tackling radius and runs through players to finish tackles. He has a very smooth change of direction that helped to show his ability for good pass coverage.