2024 NFL Draft Preview - LB (2024)


Draft Grade Index:

90+ All-Pro Projection

85-89: Pro Bowl Projection:

81-84: 1st Round – Year 1 starter

77-80: 2nd/3rd Round – Year 1 contributor, year 2-3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3: Core Special teamer and rotational player

71-74: Mid Day 3: Core special teamer and backup

68-70: Late Day 3: Developmental and special teamer


1)Edgerrin Cooper – Texas A&M – 6’2 / 230

Grade: 81

Two-year starter. First team All-SEC and All-American in 2023. Cooper was a constantly ascending player during his four years at Texas A&M. He was mainly a special teamer in 2020. He then rotated in as a sophom*ore but still finished fourth on the team in tackles. He then won the program’s offseason strength and conditioning most improved award. He then breaks into the starting lineup in 2022 and leads the team with eight tackles for loss. And finally, be breaks out as an All-American in 2023, leading the SEC with 17 tackles for loss. Cooper’s game is based on pure speed and physicality. This is the kind of player the Niners have turned into complete game-changing studs. The question will be how fast he can diagnose in the NFL. He was late more times than I like, and those mistakes will hurt more at the next level. This is a player you may have to take some bad if you want some of the good. You can trust his tackling, you can trust his playmaking, and you can trust his energy. He is a starter that can stay on the field.

*Cooper has superstar potential. If he can improve his first two steps both against the run and pass, he could be another Fred Warner. He is an absolute menace as a blitzer. No other linebacker in the country had as many sacks as Cooper did. The guys that were near him were essentially hybrid edge guys that rushed the passer twice as many times. There remains a sense of rawness to his decision making which kept him down a couple tiers. Two years as a starter with another season as a rotational guy and I do think it should be further along. He is a bit of a gamble-on-traits type, but the production cannot be ignored.

NFL Comparison: Fred Warner / SF

2)Payton Wilson – North Carolina State – 6’4 / 233

Grade: 80

Sixth-year senior. Three-year starter. First Team All-ACC in 2023 and 2022 and an All-American in 2023. Winner of both the Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker) and Chuck Bednarik Award (top defensive player). Wilson’s story is one of the most interesting in the draft overall. He enters the league with arguably the most alarming medical history in the class. He missed all of 2018 with a knee (also injured his knee in high school). He missed the spring season of 2021 after surgeries on both shoulders and then played just 51 snaps before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. In 2022, Wilson stayed healthy for most (but not all) of the season and almost declared for the 2023 Draft. Feedback from agents and NFL scouts was not encouraging, as the ten surgeries and lack of back-to-back seasons led him to a day three or undrafted grade. Thus, he came back and played at a completely different level. Wilson is the best pure speed linebacker in the class that always brings personality to a front seven. The risk is real, as bad shoulders on a violent linebacker are likely to create long term issues. But at some point, this is a guy worth a risk because he is a true difference maker at a position where it is hard to find them.

*I get asked a lot what his grade would be with a clean bill of health. It would be in the 84-86 range. Wilson’s tape from the past two years is almost as good as I’ve seen. He is blazing fast, and he plays blazing fast. He is smart and moves well in coverage. He converts his burst to power. His missed tackle rate is one of the best I’ve seen. He is 6’4” but he is short-limbed and that will show up from time to time. Inside run fits can get him in trouble. And bringing down NFL backs will be harder. If I needed a linebacker and I could afford a risk – Wilson is a top 40 pick no question. You better be OK with potentially watching a pile of money burn in the living room floor before you spend it on this, though.

3)Junior Colson – Michigan – 6’2 / 238

Grade: 80

Junior entry, three-year starter. Brentwood, MI. Colson is a native of Haiti and moved to America as a nine-year old after being adopted. His biological father passed away when Colson was young. The highly rated recruit got on the field as a rotational player his true freshman season before earning the starting job halfway through the year. He never looked back, leading the Wolverines in tackles in both 2022 and 2023. He is a heavy thumper with enough range to play sideline to sideline. The blend of size, power, and speed will make him a plus-run defender early on in his career. The athleticism does not always show up in coverage, but it appears to be a result of a sometimes-slow trigger, not a physical shortcoming. When he makes his mind up, he gets to where he needs to be and knows how to finish. The missed tackle rate is incredibly low for the position and his pressure rate as a pass rusher is above average. There is a lot to like about Colson. He projects to a solid starting inside linebacker role that can fit into all schemes. If his anticipation skills improve, the baseline talent is enough to be one of the better inside guys in the league.

*The two guys above are labeled “risky” for different reasons. Colson may not have the upside but if I want reliable and safe, he’s the guy. He has quite the story stemming from a childhood filled with adversity. The talent with him is real. Colson missed a lot of the pre-draft process while recovering from a hamstring injury. He didn’t miss a single game in three years at Michigan. The physical thumper may have been best suited for the NFL about 10-15 years ago, but don’t mistake him for an immobile guy. He can move. And he can destroy blocks. Set it and forget type inside linebacker that won’t be a star but will be a guy a dozen teams wish they had.

4)Cedric Gray – North Carolina – 6’1 / 234

Grade: 76

Three-year starter. First Team All-ACC in 2023 and 2022. Gray was a two-year captain that put up incredible production over his career, his final two seasons especially. Whatever there is to get from a linebacker, Gray brought to the North Carolina defense week after week. He led the power five in tackles in 2022 and accrued 23 tackles for loss over his final two years. Over that span he added 10 pass break ups and five forced fumbles and three interceptions. Simply put, this kid is all over the field and has the athletic ability to do so at the next level. Gray does not fit well as a pure inside run defender, however. He lacks power presence and struggles to get off blocks consistently. What he does well is play in space. If he can find a home at weakside linebacker that can shift away from the box at times, he will be difference maker. Teams just need to try and protect him from too much traffic and big bodies.

*Gray is well liked within NFL circles. This is the guy that would have been a late day three pick a few years ago but could easily find himself in round three this year. I like him and this linebacker group is a little thin, so I could see him going there. Personally, I believe he is the ideal fourth rounder. He will help on special teams and could be a very good sub-package defender or average starter. Either way, he will stick around for awhile. There is a playmaker here that shows up every week. Six forced fumbles, five interceptions, and a ton of tackles with a plus-pressure rate proves he can do a lot for a defense.

5)Ty’Ron Hopper – Missouri – 6’2 / 231

Grade: 76

Fifth year senior, Three-year starter. All-SEC in 2023. Hopper spent three years at Florida, the final one (2021) leading their back seven defenders in tackles for loss. That has been the standout trait to his game including post-transfer. He finished with 30 career tackles behind the line of scrimmage, an upshot of his style and explosive play. His quick trigger and explosive closing ability brings violence. There is a bendiness to his body that helps his game. His very fluid below the hips and it helps him adjust late to shifty ball carriers. It also gives him the potential to be a factor in coverage. Hopper is a a rangy defender that can hit his points as he drops back. His read and react skills are good, but there is the occasional wrong guess, and his aggressive style will lead to some missed tackles. He does not play with tremendous power, thus his margin for error when attacking the strike point is small.

*I have been higher on Hopper than the consensus for a long time now. Thew Florida program was a mess under Dan Mullen and I’m not sure everyone truly understands how bad it was. Hopper was a drive-by victim of it. What we saw at Missouri, a true playmaker that lived behind the line of scrimmage, is more of what I expect to see in the NFL. Hopper’s lower body fluidity is encouraging for the future as well when projecting what he can do in coverage. Add in the success as a blitzer – I simply feel good about his game doing well in the NFL.

6)Jeremiah Trotter Jr. – Clemson - 6’0 / 228

Grade: 74

Junior entry. Two-year starter. First Team All-ACC and All-American in 2023. Son of Jeremiah Trotter, a 12-year NFL linebacker that made the Pro Bowl four times. Trotter Jr. delivered on his potential of a five-star recruit with pro lineage. He led the team in tackles and tackles for loss in both 2022 and 2023. His ability to disrupt the offense behind the line of scrimmage showed up in all situations. Trotter Jr. plays the game a lot like his father. He is a fiery, competitive leader that can wreck a game with his run defense and ability to make game-changing plays. The powerful pursuer and tackler needs to a better job controlling his aggression and needs to get his athletic ability to carry over in to coverage but the right role will get him in positions that will impact the game weekly. Even though there are shortcomings when he needs to move backward against the pass, Trotter Jr. had four career interceptions, including two pick sixes. The lack of arm length and mistakes that stem from it will hurt the defense on occasion, but there is no denying his potential impact as a weak side linebacker that can shift into the middle within specific looks.

*Prior to the season, I had Trotter Jr. as a potential first rounder. The deep dive into his film softened that idea and his athletic testing didn’t help. There are a lot of average scores on his grading sheet. I dig the way he plays, and I think he knows the game better than most. Trotter Jr. can play every down, and he will make game-changing plays throughout his career. What happens between those plays will determine if he can impact the game as much as his father did (in a different way) or not.

7) James Williams – Miami – 6’4 / 231

Grade: 74

Junior entry, three-year starter. All-ACC in 2021. Williams was a college safety that was the enforcer-half of a duo in the middle that flashed dominance over his career in multiple stretches. There is a presence about him that screamed Kam Chancellor. He is an alpha with excellent size and strength. While there are schemes that can keep him in the middle, the predominant belief is he will need to shift up to linebacker at the next level. He may need a specific role that a defense can plan around. As versatile as he is, he has not proven he can play a traditional safety role that relies on smooth movement and quick reactions against the pass. The second level us where he can make a case for himself to be considered a plus-athlete and true difference maker. How smooth he can transition and pick up the nuances plus techniques will determine a lot. Williams appears best suited for nickel safety or dime linebacker role that can provide better run support and pass rushing than a traditional defensive back.

*Williams has quite the story. He had a really tough upbringing, and you can almost tell by simply watching him play the game. If I had to make a list of the top three enforcers in the class, he is on it and he may be the number one guy. He had nine unnecessary roughness personal foul penalties. While you don’t want to see those flags on gameday, I can live with a few if it changes the personality of a defense. I am very intrigued by this kid and the position switch. This is the kind of guy that can match up with the freaks at tight end some teams have. This is the kind of guy that can spy the quarterback. And this is the kind of guy that has the floor of a Cam Brown special teamer type. Sign me up day three.

8)Edefuan Ulofoshio – LB / Washington – 6’0 / 236

Grade: 74

Sixth-year senior, three-year starter. Two-time All-Pac 12, first team in 2023. Former walk-on that evolved into a team captain and All-Conference performer. Ulofoshio was somewhat overlooked on the high school recruiting trail, as he lived in Alaska halfway through high school. Washington knew they had a steal on their hands early on in his career. His ascent was interrupted by season ending injuries (torn bicep and torn ACL) in back-to-back years. He came back strong in 2023 with a career year on the second-best team in college football. Ulofoshio has tremendous tools for today’s linebacker demands. He is long and fast. When he can play downhill and aggressively, he is a true difference maker that can get behind the line of scrimmage and cause disruption. Ulofoshio can hang on the field in sub packages as well. Early on he will be a weapon on special teams but tightness in his hips and lack of reaction speed laterally will need to improve before being depended on. He will likely be a career backup that can hold the fort if needed.

*If you told me this kid is going to lead his team in tackles year one, I wouldn’t be surprised. We see this happen all the time at the position. Sometimes it is more about situation than the player, but the player still deserves some credit. Anyway, Ulofoshio screams pro linebacker. He will be limited in some areas, but he knows what to do and where to be. I trust his IQ and ability to finish the plays he can get to.

9)Tommy Eichenberg – Ohio State – 6’2 / 233

Grade: 74

Three-year starter. First team All-Big Ten in both 2023 and 2022, All-American in 2022. Winner of the Butkus-Fitzgerald Award (Big Ten’s top linebacker) in 2023. Brother of Liam Eichenberg, offensive lineman with the Dolphins. Tommy is a little bit of a throwback inside linebacker that does not have a true standout trait to his game besides heady run defense that needs to be in traffic to be truly effective. He is tough and hard-nosed, plays smart, and will be assignment-savvy. On paper he looks to be an ideal fit for a starting Mike at the next level, but his tape shows plenty of movement issues that are going to be a problem. Take out the shortcomings in coverage, and I still see a lack of agility and change of direction when he is in space. The Big Ten did not fully expose that in a way the NFL can. He can be trusted as a quality backup-caliber defender and key special teamer that could be a guy if surrounded by very good talent. He can make the most of a situation like that but do not expect a high ceiling playmaker.

*I had a stretch where I thought this kid would be a first rounder. But after the deep dive on his tape and considering the coverage demands of linebackers these days, I had to keep him in this day three tier. I can see a team (especially a 3-4 front) viewing him as a starter which can land him day two. I’ve heard some mixed reviews on him character wise that gives me some pause.

10)Trevin Wallace – Kentucky – 6’1 / 237

Grade: 73

Junior entry, two-year starter. Wallace arrived to Kentucky as a prized recruit with one of the. most interesting physical profiles in this class overall. He was a two-way star on the field in high school starring at quarterback, running back , and wide receiver. He was also a state champion weightlifter and an accomplished track athlete. The 11th player on Bruce Feldman’s “Freak List” has standout traits that show up both on the field and in workouts. His production climbed all three seasons and fits in exactly with what the NFL wants out of linebackers now. His ability to unlock his hips and close in on the ball carrier in pursuit makes him a space-weapon. The speed shows up laterally. Wallace does not play with enough power or clear instincts. He is a grab and drag tackler that gets caught over-pursuing. His athleticism in coverage is inconsistent, which can rightfully bring up questions about his instincts and feel for the game. His future will likely include a starting job on the weak side early in his career. How strong he stays on his progression will determine if he can keep the job.

*For a team that wants to gamble on a linebacker that has the upside to be an athletic playmaker, Wallace is the guy. There is a good chance he goes day two. When it comes to what I want out of linebacker when it comes to run defense and instincts, especially in an era where we often see two (or one) linebackers on the field, I weigh the risk more than the potential reward. He also lacks the violence and power element that I believe is very important. Fun player to keep an eye on.

11)Michael Barrett – Michigan – 5’11 / 233

Grade: 73

Sixth-year senior, three-year starter. Two-time All-Big Ten. Left Michigan as the program’s all-time leader in games played (64). Barrett, a former offensive player that arrived to Michigan and spent two years on that side of the ball, finished his career as a team captain. He looks undersized initially, but Barrett understands how to use his disproportionate length to his advantage when taking on blockers. He is a violent, smart player that gets himself to the right spot over and over. His ability to drop back in to deep zone coverage will be a welcomed addition to teams that run a lot of cover two. He is extremely disciplined on and off the field and it shows with how well he progressed from offensive player to special teams standout to third and second leading tacklers respectively on back-to-back top-shelf defenses. While the speed and size of the league will likely muddy his projected ceiling at the next level, Barrett’s game is worth taking a shot on in the middle rounds. His game translates to a starting caliber player or sub-package defender with special teams prowess.

*Fun player to watch. Fun player to root for. The measurables knocked his grade down and even though I wanted to put him higher, I kept him where I think he presents the most value in relation to what his real upside is. Barrett does feel safe, though. He is smart and I think his ability to cover ground in coverage can get him on the field. Don’t expect a starter, maybe not even a sub-package player, but a guy you want to have on the depth chart of injuries pile up.

12)Curtis Jacobs – Penn State – 6’1 / 241

Grade: 73

Three-year starter. Two-time All-Big Ten. Jacobs arrived at Penn State as a prized five-star recruit with the perception he would be next in line for big-time NFL projection from a program that come consider to be “LB U”. While he never quite reached that ceiling, this is a kid that started 36 games with consistent production on all three levels. He is a powerful downhill mover that can create a play for the defense. Space is his friend. He looks comfortable in any role with lots of green around him and his range is a credible threat. The feel for the game can be questioned, however. Jacobs gets caught playing with high pads and struggles to see through blockers. Too often he is rendered ineffective by quality blocking and angles. He can start off as a quality special teams weapon but in time he will need to improve his mental side to maximize his physical gifts.

*Jacobs is a similar prospect to Wallace above. Gifted and brings the high ceiling. But hasn’t shown the feel for the game and often finds himself on the wrong side of blockers. He brings a bit more power to the table but for a guy coming from that program with that many starts but never got consistent with his reads makes him a gamble. I am fine with the gamble at this portion of the draft, but that’s it.

13)JD Bertrand – Notre Dame – 6’1 / 235

Grade: 72

Fifth-year senior, three-year starter. Bertrand is a two-time team captain that led the Fighting Irish in tackles each of the last three seasons. When it comes to intangibles, it does not get better than him. The former Eagle Scout and Academic All-American has a brother in pro baseball and already has the reputation as a future Head Coach or General Manager. On the field, he is a somewhat athletically limited defender but he is a ring leader-type that will raise the floor of the room he is in. He is smart, instinctive, and physical. Bertrand won the Linebacker-MVP award at the Senior Bowl (voted on by players and coaches). He siffered a foot injury during the pre-draft process which hindered his opportunity to answer a few questions about his speed that show up on tape. The safeness in him comes from the fact he will be a near-automatic special teams force and reliable backup middle linebacker. He can be more.

*Bertrand will win over coaches that value the brain and leadership qualities of a linebacker. While there are specific roles he will struggle with because he is playing with a scaled back version of NFL tools, some of weaknesses can be hidden. He was productive consistently no matter who he played against.

14)Jaylan Ford – Texas – 6’2 / 240

Grade: 71

Two-year starter. First Team All-Big 12 in both 2023 and 2022. Also a 2022 All-American. Ford went from late signee to Texas and their lowest rated recruit to an All-American and team captain. Coaches pointed to him when asked which players were most responsible for the surge into the College Football Playoffs. Ford made a name for himself with repeated game-changing plays. He intercepted six passes and forced four fumbles over his last two seasons. He was a productive tackler as well, leading the team in that department both seasons as well. Ford’s game is built on reaction speed and instincts. He shows good flow to the action with the ability to finish. Those turnovers did not happen by mistake. Even with that, Ford has a somewhat slender frame, and his athletic potential is very limited. Physically, he is average at-best. Ford will make a team as a special teamer and quality backup. He will need to prove he can play faster and be more reliable as a space defender if he wants to obtain and keep a starting job.

*If you asked me where this guy would end up last summer, I would have said closer to round one than round three. He ends up closer to round six. The splash plays were he for him and I do think it matters this guy seemed to always be at the right place at the right time. He is smart and a true self starter. But the every down breakdown of his tape was similar to a lot of guys in this day three tier. Just too many losses stacked on top of each other. While I do like the idea of getting a guy like this with their final pick if possible, it needs to be exactly that. End of draft type.

15)Steele Chambers – Ohio State – 6’1 / 226

Grade: 71

Fifth-year senior, two-year starter. All-Big Ten in 2023 and 2022. Spent his first two seasons at running back before moving to linebacker in 2021. Averaged eight yards per carry on 28 attempts. Chambers opened eyes on special teams and because of the crowded running back room topped off by the signing of star recruit Treyveon Henderson in 2020, Chambers shifted to the defensive side and impressed the staff immediately. He is a quick and slippery defender that understands how to miss contact with proper footwork while maintaining balance, likely stemming from his previous life on the other side of the ball. He intercepted four passes over his three years at linebacker and shows excellent quickness and closing speed. Chambers lacks length and power, two areas that hurt him mightily in specific situations. His contact is light, and he struggles to wrap physical downhill ball carriers. His initial impact will come on special teams but as he gains more experience on that side with hopeful strength gains, he can be a key contributor from the weak side.

*Chambers may be a bit overhyped by some. I am intrigued by him, but the truth is his size and lack of elite speed and/or power is going to make it highly unlikely for him to be more than a backup. His profile and story are worth a shot though. I like the quickness he shows in making reads for a guy that recently moved to linebacker. He was a high school teammate of JD Bertrand, listed above. Imagine that! Chambers fits in well with what I think the new scheme will demand if he can check the power presence box.

16 – 26

16)Jordan Magee – Temple – 6’1 / 228: 71
17)Darius Muasau – UCLA – 6’0 / 25: 71
18)Tyrice Knight – UTEP – 6’0 / 233: 71
19)Jackson Mitchell – Connecticut – 6’1 / 225: 71
20)Nathaniel Watson – Mississippi State – 6’2 / 233: 70
21)Winston Reid – Weber State – 6’0 / 223: 70
22)Omar Speights – LSU – 6’1 / 225: 69
23)Dallas Gant – Toledo -6’2 / 228: 70
24)Tatum Bethune – Florida State - 5’11 / 224: 69
25)Aaron Casey – Indiana – 6’1 / 230: 69
26)Maema Njongmeta – Wisconsin – 6’0 / 228: 69
27)Joe Andreessen – Buffalo – 6’0 / 140: 68
28)Jett Bush – Texas – 6’1 / 240: 68


Thankfully this front office locked in a real MIKE linebacker last offseason in Bobby Okereke. I’ve been banging the table for one for years and it does solidify the position overall even though he is just one guy. If you have a rock like Okereke, a guy that can stay on the field in all situations and perform at a high level, you can afford to go bargain shopping at the other spot and/or come up with a healthy rotation. NYG has two guys with different skill sets next to him. Micah McFadden is an ascending complement that has some home run or strikeout to his game, but he did have a ton of impact plays in 2023. I would like to see if he can take it to an even higher level in 2024. Isaiah Simmons was brought back but I’m not sure what the new scheme will view him as. There is a shot we see him as a wide-nine edge rusher. His tool set fits the role and I think we all know he is limited as a true inside linebacker.

The room is full enough with special teamers and roster hopefuls. Is there really a spot for another piece that NYG needs to use a pick on? I lean towards no. The only situation where it makes sense is where an immense value presents itself round 5, 6, or 7 (if they find themselves there after a trade). I’m not overly impressed with the group overall, as a lot of these guys are missing a key trait respectively. You can find that caliber day three in the draft, any year.

2024 NFL Draft Preview - LB (2024)


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