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Devin White
AP
Evaluations

NFL Draft LB Rankings

by Thor Nystrom

11. Bobby Okereke (Stanford) | 6’1/239

SPARQ percentile: 64.8

Comp: Jatavis Brown (Matt Miller)


okereke

Okereke plays up to the Stanford egghead stereotype and has immediate special teams chops. Put the play in front of him and he’ll make it -- he's very sharp, very athletic and technically sound.

But blockers who get hands on him Thanos-snap him out of the picture. He gets muddled out of too many plays for my liking, but I do really like the overall skillset. And I especially like that Okereke sniffs things out extremely quickly.

He should see the field early in nickel packages, but adding muscle and increasing play strength will be a must if he wants to start long-term.


12. Vosean Joseph (Florida) | 6’1/228 

Age: 21.7


SPARQ percentile: N/A

Comp: Jerome Baker (Gabe Ward)


vosean

Joseph’s drafting team is going to need a fair amount of thread to sew up his technical holes. An undersized, woefully inefficient body tackler -- he’ll plow into you, you’ll bounce off him -- whose stellar burst, speed and aggression entice even if the product is more a scattering of traits than a consistent football player at this juncture.

Joseph's got skill and very-well may outperform this ranking. There's just too much risk in this wonky profile for me to push him above guys like Pratt or Okereke. And if I want an undersized linebacker, I want the proven production and verified athletic profiles of the Cash Man, Sutton and BBK.


13. Cameron Smith (USC) | 6’2/238

Age: 22.4

SPARQ percentile: 77.5

Comp: Blake Martinez (Kyle Crabbs)


cam

Steady Eddie as they come, Smith surveys the field with a general’s eye and diagnoses with quickness and confidence. He’s strong in run defense and solid in coverage, but doesn’t get there on the blitz and has shown little development as a pass-rusher (3.5 career sacks, PFF pass-rushing grade of 55.4 in 2018). 

Smith looks the part and boasts athleticism, but his play consistently left me wanting more in college. He'd do well to turn into a league-average starting linebacker by tackling what's in front of him and showing well in coverage.


14. Te’Von Coney (Notre Dame) | 6’0/234

Age: 22.2

SPARQ percentile: N/A

Comp: Craig Robertson (Zierlein


coney

Coney has no traits that stick out except for effort. He has solid burst but lacks speed, and he is muscled-up but lacks above-average play strength. A Third-Team All-American last year, Coney gobbled up all kinds of tackles in South Bend. In the NFL, he’ll be more grinder than star. Low-impact starter is the ceiling.


15. David Long (West Virginia) | 5'11/227

Age: 21.6

SPARQ percentile: 9.6

Comp: Mark Barron (Matt Miller)


davidlong

A thunderstorm of a linebacker, Long takes the field with the urgency of a man who wants to be everywhere all at once and knows he's too small to coast on any snap. That energy only goes so far on coverage assignments, where he generally lacks feel, and can be negated when plays are run directly at him with momentum and authority.

For a mid-round option, he intrigues with immediate special teams upside and potential as a subpackage banshee. And heck, maybe you smooth out the rough edges and get a starter out of the deal, too. There's much work to be done, though. 


16. Emeke Egbule (Houston) | 6'0/245

SPARQ percentile: 44.2

Comp: Christian Kirksey (Matt Miller)


egbule

For as smooth as Egbule is on the move, for as at ease he seems in coverage, he plays with little nuance or subtlety. Good news, Emeke, like your buddy Ed Oliver, you might have a chance to land with a competent coaching staff! Just don't expect immediate dividends or instant gratification. Egbule's upside -- and there is undercooked upside here -- is going to require patience to chip into.


17. Terrill Hanks (New Mexico State) | 6’2/242

Age: 23.7

SPARQ percentile: 16.5

Comp: Stephone Anthony (Charlie Campbell)


hanks

Hanks is coachable to the -nth degree and causes bruises to surface when he connects with his targets. Put him in a footrace or ask him to move sideline-to-sideline and that’s where the evaluation fogs up. He has immediate special teams upside, but his lack of athletic bonafides are problematic for much more than that.


18. TJ Edwards (Wisconsin) | 6’0/230

Age: 23.1

SPARQ percentile: 4.6

Comp: B.J. Goodson (Zierlein)


edwards

Rolling off the Badgers' assembly line of competent-but-unspectacular workers, Edwards brings the expected lunch pail to a day’s work, especially against the run, but there simply isn’t much to chew on athletically in that pail.

He decodes plays faster than a CIA agent working code at Langley, though, which should help his chances to develop toward -- if things break right -- a rotational role. Limited upside beyond that.


19. Dakota Allen (Texas Tech) | 6’0/232

Age: 23.8

SPARQ percentile: 65

Comp: Alex Anzalone (Chris Trapasso)


dakotaallen

From LAST CHANCE U to the NFL? Allen is freakishly light a-foot -- posting the second-best 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill times at the combine -- and it helps him to slip past blockers.

A strong run defender, his footing in coverage is less certain and a little play action or misdirection will freeze him like a deer in oncoming traffic. Allen's ability to work against the run despite his lack of size appeals for a Day 3 flier.


20. Joe Giles-Harris (Duke) | 6’2/233

Age: 22.4

SPARQ percentile: 3.9

Comp: Beniquez Brown (Kyle Crabbs)


joegiles

One of my favorite defenders in college football the past two years, but I fear he doesn’t have the measurables to translate into an NFL starter.

But I will say: JGH knows where you want to go, and he often got there first in the ACC. His lack of pure athleticism does put a cap on his ceiling, but it’s not a Hobbit’s ceiling. I think he’s smart enough to hang around as a bench guy and special teams contributor.


21. Chase Hansen (Utah) | 6'3/222


chase

He'll be 26 as a rookie and may not have any developmental advancement to go, but the former safety has the athleticism, coverage chops and football IQ to outplay his draft slot. 


22. Kaden Elliss (Idaho) | 6'2/238


*Was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine

The son of 10-year NFL vet Luther Elliss, Kaden, a Combine snub, opened eyes with a 6.63-second 3-cone at his pro day workout -- he's an interesting developmental flier who'll be a special teams contributor early.


23. Ryan Connelly (Wisconsin) | 6'2/242


connelly

A try-hard three year Big 10 starter, Connelly has enough north-south athleticism to hang but lacks the fluidity in space to make a difference.


24. Cody Barton (Utah) | 6'2/237


barton

Barton offers some developmental intrigue due to his athleticism and dogged work ethic, but he's no sure thing due to his medical rap sheet and lack of experience/polish.


25. Ty Summers (TCU) | 6'1/241


summers

A smart, physical 'backer with 4.5 speed, Summers can blame T-Rex arms and a lack of agility if he washes out quickly.


26. Gary Johnson (Texas) | 6'0/226


gary

A high school track star and verified burner (4.4 speed), Johnson consistently underwhelmed at Texas because he plays out of control and loses access to his straight-line speed when he's jarred or forced to change directions.


27. Drew Lewis (Colorado) | 6'2/229


*was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine

Undersized and at times a tick slow to react, Lewis nonetheless has developmental appeal because he's a top-notch athlete whose father and brother both played in the NFL.


28. Tre Lamar (Clemson) | 6'3/253


trelamar

A big middle linebacker with some speed who showed a knack for blitzing, Lamar changes direction as slowly as your grandpa changes lanes on a busy freeway and doesn't bring his lunch pail against the run -- the latter issue will wash him out of the NFL if it isn't fixed pronto.


29. Ulysees Gilbert (Akron) | 6'0/224


*was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine

A stud athlete and fiery competitor who dominated in the MAC, Gilbert is tough eval because he's got the body of a safety and the game of a linebacker; he's worth a late flier for special teams contributions and the opportunity to see if you can find a way to get his athleticism on the field in sub-packages.


30.  Porter Gustin (USC) | 6'4/255


gustin

The former top-recruit is a great athlete for his size who plays with some pop, but he's a Mr. Glass type who can't stay healthy, and he lacks the movement, bend and skill for edge rushing duties; perhaps he can be salvaged by moving off the ball.


31. Jordan Jones (Kentucky)
32. Tyrel Dodson (Texas A&M)

33. Cole Holcomb (UNC)

34. Deshaun Davis (Auburn)

35. Andrew Van Ginkel (Wisconsin)

36. Jeff Allison (Fresno State)

37. Tre Watson (Maryland) 

38. Joe Dineen (Kansas)

39. Otaro Alaka (Texas A&M)

40. Khalil Hodge (Buffalo) 

41. Bryson Allen-Williams (South Carolina)

42. Dre Greenlaw (Arkansas)

43. Kendall Joseph (Clemson)

44. Terez Hall (Missouri)

45. Josiah Tauaefa (UTSA)

46. Malik Reed (Nevada)

47. BJ Blunt (McNeese State)

48. Azeez Al-Shaair (FAU)

49. Nate Hall (Northwestern)

50. Quart'e Sapp (Tennessee)

51. Darius Harris (MTSU)

52. Luke Gifford (Nebraska)

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!