2021 NFL Draft Preview – LB

First Round Potential

Micah Parsons – Penn State, JR

Parsons is not only the top rated linebacker in the draft, but also one of the top players in the class. Parsons opted out of the 2020 season, but did not effect his draft stock due to his generational athleticism from the linebacker position. Parsons is young, but was dominant at Penn State in 2019 and played in the traditional outside linebacker position in the 4-3 defense. Parsons will be drafted to play in the middle of the defense, although he has a natural instinct for rushing the passer, which only boosts his NFL potential. Parsons also excels in coverage making him into the most well rounded player in this position.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – Notre Dame, SR

Owusu-Koramoah is one of the biggest risers through the 2020 season, and has had a dominant year with the #2 ranked Fighting Irish. At 6’2″, 215lbs, he is a much smaller linebacker than the typical size to play inside, but is an extremely versatile player who can play several positions within any scheme. He can play the outside backer position, but also could convert to a strong safety if necessary, as he has logged over 275 snaps lining up in the slot. Owusu-Koramoah is a ball hawk in coverage, but also among the best run stoppers in college football and leads the Fighting Irish in tackles. Rumored to be one of the fastest linebackers in the draft, it is expected for him to run a sub 4.5 40 yard dash, which certainly would lock him into the first round. Following two great years of production, Owusu-Koramoah ranks second amongst linebackers.

Nick Bolton – Missouri, JR

The dominant SEC backer has had a dip in 2020, but was the SEC’s highest grade linebacker in 2019 and was voted as 1st Team All-SEC and 3rd Team All-American. The extremely intelligent linebacker also got it done in the classroom as he was also on the SEC All-Academic honor roll in 2019 as well. Bolton is a traditional middle linebacker who is a dominant run stopper and has consistently been a force in the pass rushing game as well. His biggest weakness lies within his pass coverage, something that will expose him early in his career and limit his versatility. Bolton could return for another year to have a shot at becoming a top 10 pick, but if he goes this year he could possibly sneak into the later half of the first round.

Zaven Collins – Tulsa, JR

Zaven Collins is a force to be reckoned with, standing 6’4″ 260 lbs. Collins is a monster in size, but what is most intriguing is his combination of dominance in pass coverage as well as pass rushing. Collins ranks towards the top of both categories in the country and has 4 sacks (causing 2 forced fumbles) along with 4 interceptions. His most impressive moment of the season was his pick 6 in double overtime to ice the victory against conference rivals Tulane last month, where not only did he display exceptional coverage, but also amazing breakaway speed for a guy of his stature. Collins could be transformed into a stand up end or edge rusher, but also could take over as a mike or will linebacker. Collins played in a weaker conference, but always showed up in big games against ranked opponents and would be a steal in the 2nd Round.

Projects with Potential

Jamin Davis – Kentucky, JR

Davis has had a breakout season and has emerged as one of the best run defenders in the country. He has prototypical size for an NFL linebacker and compares to the likes of Luke Kuechly. He plays with great vision and play recognition and you can identify his growth on tape throughout the progression of his career. He will need to improve on his pass coverage, but he has some of the most potential in this class. Despite missing the Alabama game, he is 5th in the SEC in tackles and has racked up 6 double digit performances. He is in his first season as a starter, which makes it clear that he will be a project in the NFL.

Jack Sanborn Wisconsin, JR

Sanborn is one of the most instinctual linebackers in this class and has shown steady improvement through his careen at Wisconsin. He is a smart and decisive linebacker who will take over as the QB of an NFL defense. He is one of the most steady prospects in the draft and doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses, but as most college MLBs, he could work on his coverage. Sanborn is a stud who could certainly sneak into the 1st Round.

Sleepers

Nick Anderson – Tulane, JR

Anderson is another one of the most talented run stoppers in the NCAA and has made drastic improvement from 2019. Apart of a solid LB group, Anderson benefits from Sophomore LB Dorian Williams. Anderson has racked up 79 tackles this season along with 3.5 sacks. As a juco transfer, Anderson has limited reps at Tulane through his two seasons. He is a late bloomer, but has an interesting combination of run stopping and pass covering abilities. Anderson will be a project as well, but could turn into something special in the NFL.

Micah McFadden – Indiana, JR

Micah McFadden has emerged as one of the most improved players in the country and is a key reason why Indiana had resurrected into becoming a contender for the Big 10. McFadden is one of the best pass rushing linebackers in the country and has tallied 5 sacks, but also has been a great run stuffer as well. McFadden might not fit as a perfect sideline to sideline NFL Middle Linebacker, but he certainly could be a Day 2 sleeper pick.

Kadofi Wright – Buffalo, SR

Kadofi Wright is a major sleeper, but amongst the top coverage linebackers in the country. He doesn’t have as much tape as he should as he started just 8 games coming into the shortened 2020 season. Buffalo only appeared in 5 games this season prior to the MAC Championship. There is a chance he goes undrafted, but remember this name when training camp starts in 2021.

Dylan Moses – Alabama, SR

Moses is a very interesting prospect, and not too long ago was widely regarded as a 1st Round pick. Moses tore his ACL last season, which deterred many teams from wanting to spend such high draft capital and ultimately led to a weak NFL Draft grade. Although there was speculation of Moses cashing out an insurance policy, he returned to Alabama for his senior season. He has had his weakest season in college and currently ranks as the 246th rated linebacker in college football. The ability is there, but such a disappointing season could lead to Moses falling to the later rounds of the draft. Although, given his past success, Moses is certainly a name worth noting.

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