Joey The Tooth's Early Prospect Analysis: Linebackers (Part 1)
Joey offers his initial thoughts on four of the top LBs in this year's class.
Joey The Tooth is back to offer prospect analysis in the run-up to the NFL Draft. In the first installment, he looked at four of the top edge rushers. This time around, he’s offering up some initial takeaways after studying four standout linebackers.
Be sure to buy a copy of the IDP Guys Rookie Draft Magazine (which covers offense and IDP), in which Joey will be doing a deeper dive on the players you see in these articles.
Also, be sure to follow Joey on Twitter to keep up with all his analysis.
Chad Muma, Wyoming
High-level football IQ
Terrific run defense
Patient: fills and shoots gaps with ferocity
Excellent tackling angles and technique
IQ shows in coverage, always in the right spot
Excellent side to side, good lateral agility
Lacks great speed
Great in zone, though his lack of elite athleticism may be an issue in man coverage
Not as athletically gifted as other top LBs
Chad Muma is a blue collar, you-ask-he-does-it kind of player. His mental processing of the game may be the best of any LB prospect in this draft class. His run defense is elite, and his coverage skills are good as well. Where he will get beat in coverage is when he is asked to cover athletic move TEs.
He isn’t a twitchy or overly explosive athlete. He uses excellent technique to win. Muma is a 3 down LB who can run your defense and could easily be the 3rd or 4th LB off the board. Looking to follow in Logan Wilson’s footsteps.
Draft Grade: Late 2nd/Early 3rd Round
Brandon Smith, Penn State
Good at shedding blocks
Terrific in coverage, very fluid snd has no problem on tight ends
Stays with the play, never checks out
Poor tackle angles
Too many missed tackles
Never dominated how many thought he would in college
Run defense is suspect, not a good suit at MIKE, likely best as WILL
Brandon Smith is a freak of nature athlete. He has a perfect blend of size, speed, and power. His coverage ability should make NFL scouts drool. He can thrive in both man and zone coverages. To boot, he is very good at rushing the passer and can even overwhelm smaller offensive linemen with his power and aggression.
He will need to work on the angles he takes to the ball and squaring up to become a more efficient tackler. He needs more patience in the run game as he often overshoots gaps. Smith is a bit of a work in progress but has mouth-watering potential.
Draft Grade: Mid 3rd Round
Christian Harris, Alabama
Coverage ability in man and zone
Fluid hips, especially for 235 lbs
Closing speed shooting gaps
Great job filling lanes
Great timing on blitzes
Good tackling technique
I fell in love with Harris’ game as a freshman and he only improved every single season. He is a complete package linebacker. He has elite coverage ability, understanding zone concepts and depths while having the fluidity and speed to cover in man. Harris has tremendous closing speed and routinely shoots and blows up gaps.
He has great blitz timing which he showcased in the national title game. Harris is also a very sound tackler. His biggest knock is his strength which goes along with his struggle shedding blocks. Harris has a tough time shedding opposing offensive linemen when they reach the second level. On a couple of occasions, I saw him pushed back on his heels/backside with relative ease. Don't be scared by his strength though, he is a complete package and could thrive at either MLB or WLB.
Draft Grade: Early/Mid 2nd
Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Very athletic and rangy
Probably the best LB in the draft in coverage
Quick twitch ability to change direction and explode into running lanes
Excellent play diagnosis
Sideline to sideline speed
Very good speed rusher off of the edge
Excellent blitz timing
Great pre-snap processing
Small in stature 6’0” and 225 lbs
Can be attacked high when covering tight ends
Has a tough time sometimes shedding blocks
Nakobe Dean is everything you want in a linebacker. He has great in-line and sideline-to-sideline speed with a quick twitch to change direction and stay with a play. His coverage skills are elite in both man and zone, though his size gives him some limitations in man. He can blitz with the best of them and is a solid speed rusher off of the edge. His tackling is fierce for a smaller LB—he doesn’t miss on many attempts.
He does get stacked up at times by strong offensive linemen, but his tenacious nature helps him fight through. Dean will be an instant impact player in the NFL.