2022 LB Class; Shaping the Top 8 Prospects

LB1 | Devin Lloyd

6’3”, 235 lbs | Utah

Lloyd headlines this class as the most well rounder linebacker of the group and checks just about every box needed to be a successful player at the next level. Lloyd is an all-around package that will bring NFL size, speed and playmaking ability to whoever drafts him. Not only does he make some of the best flash plays on film, but it is also very hard to spot a time where he makes any mistakes. Not only does he have an incredibly high NFL ceiling, but the floor is also higher than most in this class.

Along with being a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine (118 tackles in 2021), Lloyd was also one of the most effective defenders as both a pass rusher and in coverage. I hesitate to compare him to Micah Parsons, because Parsons is a generational talent, but as a prospect they both offer that extremely well rounded and versatile ability. Lloyd added 8 sacks, 31 total pressures and 16 hurries, which made him one of the most dominant pass rushers in the PAC-12. In coverage he allowed 31 of the 44 targets against, but only 1 TD compared to his 4 interceptions, 3 pass breakups and 53.9 passer rating allowed. Lloyd flies all over the field and has the well diversified skillset that is necessary to be a successful LB in the modern age of the NFL.

There really aren’t many legitimate holes in Lloyd’s game, but he will certainly be tested to become a better all-around tackler at the next level, which is a common step up for all defensive players. He did miss 14 tackles, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary for a linebacker that played 850 snaps and had 118 tackles, but any NFL coach will see his skillset and potential to improve to become one of the best in the league. He absolutely has the potential to be an every down linebacker that will be the heartbeat and soul of the defense he joins.

LB2 | Christian Harris

6’2”, 235 lbs | Alabama

Christian Harris is one of the highest ceiling prospects in the draft but will have a steep learning curve at the next level. He flies around like a bullet all over the field and makes some of the most impressive plays, but he is a very raw prospect that at times can be a bit too reckless. He got away with it at Alabama, but will need to improve at the next level. Like Lloyd, Harris has prototypical size and speed to be an effective LB at the next level, but he will be drafted with the intention of being a true NFL Project rather than someone a team can lean on right away.

Right off the bat, Harris’s biggest glaring weakness is very obviously his ability in coverage. At times he made some incredible plays that should showcase his true potential as a cover-backer, but there were games such as against Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas where he was completely exposes. Sometimes a LBs coverage ability in college can be hard to predict due to schemes or roles, but one thing that is very clear is that he will be playing against much better QBs than Emory Jones, Zach Calzada and KJ Jefferson. In 2021, Harris allowed 3 passing TDs, 421 yards and an opposing passer rating of 123.7. This will be a major point of emphasis in his development.

As a pass rusher, Harris played a major role in the dominate Alabama attack and racked up 7 sacks, 26 pressures and 16 hurries. The raw ability and potential is very evident on film, but he often relies on size and speed rather than any sort of pass rush moves or techniques. Again, the upside is by far the most attractive part of his game as a prospect. At the end of the day, Harris will fit any role or scheme and is a great all-around linebacker prospect with potential through the roof.

LB3 | Nakobe Dean

6’0”, 220 lbs | Georgia

It is only fitting that Dean was the heartbeat of Georgia, because his playstyle is that of a true bulldog. Dean may not be the biggest or strongest linebacker, but he can absolutely play the game as well as anyone. Dean plays with a major chip on his shoulder and is equipped with some of the best intangible skills in this draft class, which certainly will win over teams. Whether a team takes him on day 1 or day 2, expect for Dean to become an immediate contributor.

Dean’s true draft potential probably will rely on how he tests at the combine and at his pro day, but there really aren’t many holes on his film. Although he is small, he still rips through blockers with 80+ lbs on him. Although he may be a step slower than some of the “prototypical” prospects, he has a great head for the game and can sniff out a play as quick as anyone. Even though he isn’t one of the longest prospects, he still was a tackling machine and only has a career miss rate of 11.2% compared to his 158 tackles. Dean was the alpha of the Bulldogs defense, which should ease concerns due to the fact that other more “prototypical” prospects like Quay Walker and Channing Tindall were behind him for years.

Dean was a menace in pass rush and added 8 sacks, 31 pressures and 17 hurries, which is even more impressive when you look at his ability in coverage. In his 324 coverage snaps, he allowed just 21 receptions to his 36 targets (58.3% reception rate), while allowing just 122 yards. He didn’t allow a single TD throughout his career and had 2 interceptions and 2 pass breakups while allowing a passer rating of 41.7. There obviously always are concerns when prospects come from such talented defenses (see some of the classes from Clemson and Alabama now in the NFL), but I think that should be a bigger concern for the weaker guys in the group rather than Nakobe Dean or Jordan Davis. Dean is an undersized pitbull that plays up to the competition and has the intangible abilities to make up for it and keep his draft stock as a first-round grade.   

LB4 | Leo Chenal

6’2”, 260 lbs | Wisconsin

At 260, Leo Chenal is one of the heavier listed prospects, but he moves around the field like a running back. Chenal might have been the best linebacker in college football last year, but the questions are around how well his playstyle will translate to the next level. Chenal starred as the core of the Wisconsin defense, but was rarely ever relied on much in coverage due to the scheme he was in. In 2021, Chenal spent just 22 out of his 607 snaps aligned outside the box. However, he was as good of a sideline-to-sideline linebacker as anyone else and racked up 99 tackles, 63 run stops and 2 forced fumbles. He was also one of the most effective pass rushers on the team and added 26 pressures, 10 sacks and 8 hurries.

Chenal uses his size and power exceptionally well. He often powers through and bullies his way around blocks, which won’t be as easy in the NFL. I’m very interested to see his official weight at the combine, because he really doesn’t move like a 250+ pounder. He is very light on his feet moving around the field with grace and never appearing clunky in the slightest. Chenal will absolutely be drafted to fill the role in the middle of the field, as I am not sure if there is much flexibility in his true positional versatility. His stock could be a bit impacted by his potential role, but every NFL defense rewards run stuffing middle linebackers that can also get after the QB.

LB5 | Chad Muma

6’3”, 240 lbs | Wyoming 

Chad Muma is a small school prospect, but certainly made the most of his time at Wyoming as he led the nation with 148 tackles. Muma was all over the field the technician of a machine and had a shockingly low 22 missed tackles in 4 seasons, compared to his 254 tackles and 118 run stops. Despite not facing a single power 5 opponent in 2021, Muma took over as the alpha of the linebacker group at the Senior Bowl, which was his first experience on a level playing field.

Like Leo Chenal, Muma has a great frame that doesn’t factor into his mobility. Muma move around the field exceptionally well, which was an integral part to his run stopping ability. I would love to see Muma use that size and power a bit more efficiently as there are times that he gets outworked. Despite his tackling production and success, his technique will be challenged a bit at the next level and an immediate area for development. Even Muma knows that he won’t be facing Mountain West RBs at the next level. Lastly, Muma really wasn’t very effective in coverage as he allowed 26 receptions to his 30 targets, which added up to 283 yards. However, he did have 16 coverage stops, 3 interceptions and a pass breakup, which paints the picture as a very up and down linebacker in coverage. On film there is no doubt that Muma has excellent instincts but is sometimes out-physical’d in coverage.  

Muma is an all-around linebacker that brings a diverse and mature skillset to the NFL. He is the type of leader than any defense craves and has the tools to become a very steady NFL linebacker. There are areas that he will be challenged at the next level, but he has the instincts and intangibles to be very successful for a long time.

LB6 | Damone Clark
6’3”, 245 lbs | LSU
Damone Clark is a prospect with a lot to love but is very much an NFL project. His tape shows a lot of great flashes, but there is a ton of work to be done when he makes it to the next level. The athleticism and size are both huge selling points for his stock and he put together a great final season at LSU before declaring for the NFL. He was an all-around linebacker who found success in all phases of the game and was the defensive core of the LSU Tigers in 2021. Over the past few years, LSU has had a loaded LB room with guys like Jibril Cox and Devin White and Clark could be the next in line to make an impact in the NFL.

Clark had a busy 2021 season, where he racked up 123 tackles, 6 sacks and 3 forced fumbles and finished his strong season with 2nd Team All-American and All-SEC honors. A knock-on Clark would be his limited experience, as he had just 20 starts at LSU due to the aforementioned crowded LB rooms he was a part of.

LB7 | Darrian Beavers
6’4”, 250 lbs | Cincinnati
Beavers enters the NFL Draft after finishing up his 5th year of NCAA Eligibility. He began his career at UCONN and was recruited as a 210 lbs safety out of high school, before transitioning to the linebacker position. Beavers played a limited role for his first three years but had a breakout campaign in 2020 that was limited due to COVID. In 2021, Beavers established himself as one of the best prospects in the country with a very intriguing skillset.

The first thing you notice about Beavers is his massive frame, which is probably closer to an edge rusher than a linebacker. He was far and away the biggest LB in-person at the Senior Bowl, which certainly will stick in the minds of the scouts that were there seeing him for the first time, first-hand. Beavers finished 2021 with 96 tackles, but also had a shockingly high 17 missed tackles, which accounted for a rate of 15%. This is certainly a red flag for a guy with Mike potential, but he does make up for it a bit in pass rush. He attributed 21 pressures, 6 sacks and 9 hurries. He was rather average in coverage, but he does move well for a 250+ lbs prospect and you can clearly see his background as a safety. The size and pass rushing ability certainly make Beavers into a very interesting prospect, but he is likely outside of the top 5 backers.

LB8 | Brian Asamoah
6’0”, 222 lbs | Oklahoma
Asamoah brings a lot to the table and enjoyed a very solid career at Oklahoma, which was capped off by a solid week at the Senior Bowl where he enjoyed the honors of being voted team LB of the week. You can probably already guess Asamoah’s biggest weak, as he measures in as one of the smaller linebackers in the class, but the speed and athleticism cannot be slept on. It is also worth noting that he played just 1,200 snaps in his entire career at Oklahoma. He came to the program as a three-star project and has shown steady improvements over the last several years.

Asamoah is a rangy and athletic LB, who found some success in coverage, but is not as strong as you would hope for in that area. He did show some flash plays on tape while in coverage, but allowed a whopping 82.4% of his targets, however, he only allowed a single TD reception. When it comes to tackling, Asamoah seems to be in on almost every play, but sometimes is a step behind. His instincts are very clearly not up to par with others in this class, but he does fly around the field and rarely misses a tackle. He did not add much as a pass rusher due to Oklahoma’s scheme and he had just a single sack in 2021. The athleticism and speed will likely thrust Asamoah into a Will role, which could potentially limit his draft stock and push him outside of day 2.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s