The top 10 linebackers of the 2023 NFL Draft:

After kicking things off with the running backs earlier this week, we’re switching over to the defensive side for the first time for these positional draft breakdowns and look at this linebacker class. Especially as we get to these positions on defense, where what you covet depends so much on what your scheme asks of players and how play-callers utilize these guys, boards will look a lot different for each team. So this is just me looking at this from a more general standpoint and ranking these prospects based on how valuable their skill-sets can be for the NFL.

It’s kind of an ambiguous group of linebackers this year I believe, because as we get to the edge defenders a couple of weeks from now, you’ll see that there’s some overlap, where a player may be defined differently depending on who you ask. Wisconsin’s Nick Herbig for example will be part of my edge rundown, rather be listed here.

I don’t think there’s a single clear-cut first-rounder, taking positional value into account, but the first four names should all go in the second round and then there’s about seven names I think have a case to go in the third. After that, there are quite a few names, who can fill a certain role and contribute on special teams, but overall there are just too many guys I think are undersized or lack a certain quality, for me to call this a strong class.

This is how I have these names stacked up:

Jack Campbell


1. Jack Campbell, Iowa

6’5”, 245 pounds; RS SR


Just a three-star recruit in 2019, Campbell saw very limited action as a true freshman, but already filled the stat sheet pretty well as a backup in year two. He exploded in 2021, when he was a second-team All-Big Ten selection, thanks to 140 total tackles, 3.5 for loss, six PBUs, two interceptions and fumble recoveries each, of which he returned one to the house respectively. This past season, he won the Butkus Award for the top LB in the nation and was named Big-10 Defensive Player of the Year, along with being named first-team All-American, with very similar numbers to the year prior.


+ Has oldschool measurements for the position and plays with a great combination of instincts and trust in film study

+ One of those guys, who just sees plays coming before they happen and he plays faster than his time speed (4.65 in the 40) would indicate – legitimately reads out plays between the tackles and sorts through the trash to great effect

+ Routinely squeezes through the crease between blockers and churns his legs to stop the momentum of ball-carriers, It almost looks like a running back trying to drive ahead as he’s in contact against those guys

+ When meeting a lead- or insert-blocker in the hole, Campbell typically stands that guy up and forces the ball-carrier to stop his feet momentarily at least

+ His hands to shed are rapid and effective, while the length allows him to be first to initiate contact and keep his frame clean mostly

+ Has some excellent lateral agility to side-step linemen working up to him and getting his hands on the guy with the ball, which putting up the top marks in the three-cone (6.74) and short-shuttle (4.24) at the combine backs up

+ This guy just finds a way to bring ball-carriers to the ground, whether it’s head-on collisions, having to twist them down from the side or dive after guys to just trip them up, And with his strength, he consistently makes sure that guy goes backwards once he arrives there

+ Won’t stop pursuing the ball and gets involved on every other tackle it seems like


+ Has great awareness and length to pop the ball up when quarterbacks try to throw crossers over his head

+ His height also makes it challenging to put the ball out in front for guys streaking down the seams when he’s carrying them

+ Active communicator in zone coverage, who points out targets he’s passing off from his area

+ Understands when he’s being high-low stretched and is ready to make tackles for minimal yardage if the ball is completed in front of him – 19 coverage stops his past season

+ Was the highest-graded LB in coverage according to PFF (92.9) last season, who continues ripping through the hands of receivers in his area to dislodge the ball

+ You’ll see him flow lateral run-fakes in order to take care of his assignments if the ball is actually handed off, but be light enough on his feet to change direction and gain depth quickly

+ So consistent with his angles in space and meeting guys at the sideline, breaking down in space and slinging guys dynamic skill players to the ground

+ Takes a very aggressive approach when matched one-on-one with the back and often doesn’t even let them get into their routes/past the line of scrimmage cleanly

+ In the screen game and when being matched up with somebody having to fight over rubs, he’s consistently the one landing his hands and working off contact

+ Tremendous at timing up his blitzes, without giving anything away typically

+ Does well to sort through the trash as an add-on rusher or green-dogs


– Doesn’t quite have that flat-out speed to run down ball-carriers from the backside as some other top LB prospects like Clemson’s Trenton Simpson for example, and you see some backs beat him towards the sideline after catching the ball out in the flats

– Not somebody who’ll just shoot through gaps and create negative plays, with only nine of his 265 combined tackles these past two seasons being for loss

– Makes plays as a coverage player in Iowa’s scheme, but if he had to actually run with receivers vertically or just match smaller bodies truly in man-coverage, with lots of space and no help, he’ll probably struggle, The NFL may find ways to isolate that aspect of his game

– When he’s mugged over the center or can’t shoot through a gap as a blitzer, too often his rush stalls, allowing blockers to square him up


It’s rare to find a linebacker like Campbell these days, with how much lighter that position has come, to counter offenses spreading them out. This guy is a true oldschool MIKE, who can consistently stack-and-shed offensive linemen and create stalemates in the hole against big backs. Campbell doesn’t have a ton of range, but his short-area burst is more than adequate and as his numbers at the combine proved, he has shocking agility for a player his size. He won’t make a ton of splash plays at the next level or be somebody who you feel great about flexing out into the slot, but he’s absolutely a three-down player, who will instantly boost your run defense and be a valuable piece in coverage, with his awareness, length and open-field tackling skills.



Drew Sanders


2. Drew Sanders, Arkansas

6’5”, 235 pounds; JR


If labelled as an actual linebacker (instead of “ATH”) in the 2020 recruiting class, Sanders would have been behind only those two Oregon guys in Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe – and he was the top overall recruit in the state of Texas. As a freshman at Alabama, he was a core special teamer and worked his way onto the field defensively in year two, taking over for the injured Christopher Allen at SAM, before suffering an injury that limited his time over the second half of the season, ultimately starting three of 12 games played and recording 24 tackles and two PBUs. He decided to transfer in-conference ahead of 2022 and became a star on Arkansas’ defense off the ball as their MIKE, as he racked up 103 total tackles, 13.5 of those for loss, 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception and five PBUs, making him a first-team All-SEC and All-American selection.


+ Has enough force in his hands to set a physical edge in the run game when lined up there, whilst being reliable with holding his contain responsibilities, And that ability to lock out also shows up when he has to keep blockers at bay who work straight up to him

+ Approaches the line of scrimmage with urgency and does not hesitate to bang into bigger bodies, to squeeze down lanes

+ There are some snaps on tape, where he meets wrap-around pullers in the hole and control them with full extension

+ Very slippery with slicing through a gap before linemen can combo off to him, in order to flash in the backfield and force cutbacks

+ Possesses plus contact balance, to stay on his feet and at times wrap up the ball-carrier, whilst blockers are engaged with him

+ Displays good patience on the backside of zone runs, to shuffle along for a potential cutback, and then has enough speed to flatten and knock guys out of bounds for four-/five-yards gains as the ball-carrier decides to bounce

+ Overall, Sanders is very active with his hands to fight off blocks and get contact on the guy with the ball, And when needed he can scrape over guys trying to pin him away from the action


+ Displays good awareness as a zone dropper, for targets curling up behind him and to pick up guys trying to work underneath him

+ When he drives down on stuff in front of him, he explodes out of his stance and will get there in a hurry

+ Light on his feet and reads the hip of scrambling quarterbacks well, to limit their yardage as a spy or just hook dropper

+ In general, his chase speed out to the perimeter is a major plus

+ His length is not only an asset when battling with blockers, but also increasing his range in coverage and to slow down ball-carriers trying to run away from him

+ Packs some pretty effective hand-swipes and can link those better with his hips than most off-ball backers, Especially slapping the hands away and sliding inside of tackles can create issues for those guys

+ Can physically overwhelm running backs tasked with picking him up as a blitzer, and if he learns how to utilize his suddenness, he will become even more dangerous, as he can side-step guys to greater effect

+ Times up the snap exceptionally well and crashes through one half of guards at full force

+ Racked up an insane 39 pressures and basically double-digit sacks on just 147 pass-rush snaps (according to PFF) last year


– Needs to get stronger and more comfortable with stacking and shedding blockers technically correct with consistency, if teams want him to be a true MIKE at the next level

– At times is too hell-bent on beating blockers to the spot on the front-side and enables backs to cut up runs inside of him

– And way too often he’s racing down on quarterbacks off bootlegs or scrambling and badly overshoots the target, as that guy stops to just slip inside of him

– Not a super forceful tackler, as ball-carriers gain a couple of extra yards as he hits them from the side quite regularly – missed an alarming 19.6% of his tackling attempts this past season (22 of 125)

– Still learning the intricacies of the position in coverage as well, where he’s caught “covering grass” on too many occasions


Unlike a few other prospects where I’d say it’s unjustified they get labelled that way, Sanders truly is a diverse play-maker. He has the size, length, flexibility and powerful hands to potentially play outside linebacker in odd- or even-fronts, as well as either stand-up spot between the tackles. The question is how you do ultimately deploy him and if he’s better suited being more locked into one spot early on, before you really tap into that versatility once he’s acclimated to the NFL. Breaking down and running his feet through tackles will be a major area of improvement for him, but what he can provide as a pressure player from different angles and alignments, combined with the tough and aggressive mindset to attack against the run, give him the potential to be the most impactful linebacker of this class.



Daiyan Henley


3. Daiyan Henley, Washington State

6’1”, 220 pounds; RS SR


A pretty unknown two-star recruit in 2017, Henley spent five years at Nevada, where for the first three, he was basically a designated special teamer. However, he saw more defensive action in 2020 and then really made noise the following season, recording 94 tackles, two for loss, four interceptions, passes deflected and fumbles recovered each. Thanks to a redshirt and the COVID exception, he got a chance to prove himself for a Power-Five program at Wazzu, where he racked up 106 total stops, 12 for loss, four sacks, one pick, three fumbles forced and two more recovered. That earned him first-team All-Pac-12 accolades.

+ Good girth throughout his frame and can stack up blockers on the move to great effect, actively engaging contact, And you see him work off contact on an angle well, to still get his hands on the ball and stop momentum

+ Shows some twitch and short-area agility to navigate around traffic and flattening after going underneath blocks

+ Packs a sudden dip of the outside shoulder when linemen or tight-ends try to block down on him, to slip around and run down the ball-carrier

+ You really like the way Henley floats down the line in the zone run game, whilst keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage

+ When trailing pulling guards, he can beat those guys to the spot and blow through their shoulder on like GT power, to funnel the ball back inside

+ His chase speed across the field or to run down fly sweeps is very impressive, You see him run down guys like Heisman trophy winner Caleb Williams in space looking at their ’22 matchup vs. USC

+ And he rarely allows opponents to pin him away from the action, using the near-arm as a window wiper, so he can’t be grabbed

+ Very strong tackler, who stuffs the momentum of ball-carriers typically when meeting them head-up, while flipping them over if he catches them on an angle

+ Will alligator-roll or lasso guys to the ground in space and rarely misses any key stops – missed a miniscule five of 111 attempts this past season


+ Arguably has the best movement skills as a coverage backer in this class, which was also apparent at the combine, where all his change-of-direction stuff was super tight, not taking any unnecessary steps or having any delay on those (along with being above-average in all the testing)

+ I thought with the Cougars, what Henley did in coverage had a lot more purpose, whether it’s acting like a quasi-spy or drifting underneath patterns, to shrink those windows for the QB

+ Does well to pick off crossers as a hook-defender and is quick to drive up on stuff in the flats or shut down backs hooking up over the middle, while being very patient, to not let that foot-fake him in one-on-one tackling situations

+ Displays some impressive mobility to redirect vs. boot action and take away lay-ups or chase down the QB

+ Had some great moments in coverage one-on-one with the running backs during Senior Bowl week, perfectly driving on, undercutting and reaching around for clean PBUs

+ Because of how easily he gains ground vertically, you can put him guy anywhere on the line of scrimmage and bail him out into those hook-to-flat areas

+ Shows real skills as a pass-rusher, being able to execute hand swipes, bend and flatten to the quarterback – he wasn’t asked to blitz a ton, but he won on 24.6% of his rushes (according to PFF)

+ Henley’s closing burst was used on some cross-dog blitzes and wide loops as part of Wazzu’s pressure packages, typically when walked down over the center


– Seemed like a very reactionary player at Nevada and I still wouldn’t describe him as somebody that methodically reads through his keys, to lead him to the football

– Gets his eyes trapped in the backfield fairly regularly and can be caught off guard by misdirection

– Not somebody you want to stack-and-shed bigger bodies and may be a pure WILL in some schemes around the league

– While the movement skills are all there seemingly to be an asse in man-coverage, we have very limited reps to evaluate him off, and he wasn’t asked to actively squeeze down windows in zone shells


After just laying my eyes on Henley initially, the first thing I was worried about was seeing that he’s like a super super-senior. Yet, when I looked at the actual age, I realized that he won’t turn 24 until mid-way through his rookie season. Once I got past that, I was wondering how he was behind a bunch of other names at the position on consensus boards, who he thankfully seems to have risen above recently. He’ll play in the 225-pound range most likely, but the way he can reduce his surface area and make impact against the run make him a great fit on the weak-side, if you have more of a thumper at MIKE. And his movement skills as a coverage defender make him a highly intriguing prospect. To me, Henley just needs to continue working on reading his keys and not zeroing in on what he sees in the backfield.



Trenton Simpson


4. Trenton Simpson, Clemson

6’3”, 225 pounds; JR


Being pretty much head-to-head with Oregon’s Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell for the title as the number one LB recruit in 2020, Simpson already flashed as a true freshman, but really impressed in year two, when he recorded 65 total tackles, 12.5 for loss, 6.5 sacks and two passes broken up in the STAR role, which guys like Dorian O’Daniel and Isaiah Simmons played prior to him under Brent Venables. This past season, he played between the tackles more regularly and while his negative plays created went down (four TFLs and 2.5 sacks), he did reach a career-high 72 tackles, three PBUs and a couple of forced fumbles.


+ His short-area explosiveness really pops off the screen, whether he can flat-out shoot through a lane before the blocker can get there or he actively back-doors zone blockers and still flattens down to the back (the 4.43 at the combine backed that up)

+ Does a nice job of moving laterally with blocks on the move and disengaging at the right moment, to get the wrap on the ball-carrier

+ With him at the tip of tight bunches, those receivers have no chance of actually keeping him from the action as blockers

+ When offenses use lead-blockers on Simpsons, he will blast into them and actually knock them backwards, even if they outweigh him by 30+ pounds

+ If tight-ends are asked to seal him on the backside, this guy will lift them off their feet momentarily or completely throw them to the side at times

+ Leaving him unblocked as an edge defender, when running the ball the other way, is a gamble, because he has that short-area burst to run people down before they get to the line of scrimmage, if they have top hesitate at all

+ So light on his feet when tracking ball-carriers out to the perimeter and keeping his shoulders square in order to not make it easy for the guy across from him to get around him (to either direction)

+ Pretty reliable tackler, who shoots his arms and chops down ball-carriers on an angle when corralling them in open space (10.5% miss rate across the past two seasons)


+ This is an incredible loose athlete, whose movement in space as a coverage asset will make him very intriguing to NFL teams

+ Has the speed to carry receivers down the seams or hashes and then can redirect to be in the vicinity for crossers, once he’s passed them on to his safeties, There are a couple of really impressive reps running with tight-ends straight down the field and raking the ball out of their hands

+ You can’t really attack this guy with running backs sliding across his alignment or releasing late, because of how quickly he closes that distance to them in man-/match-coverage

+ Even if he does get sucked up by play-action, he can rapidly gain depth and take away easy opportunities on crossers over his head

+ Very light on his toes, to not get caught in the mud as tight-ends try to break away from him

+ Understands where his leverage is, how much gain to depth in his drops and peaks out to potential receivers breaking his way

+ Greets targets coming into his area as a hook-defender, by throwing a friendly shoulder into them regularly

+ Has the quick burst to chase down scrambling QBs effectively

+ If Simpson can time the snap up properly and come in as a blitzer with a running start, he’s like a missile, And you regularly see him just run through the reach of backs in protection, while making good use of his active hands generally, to side-step them

+ Particularly being lined up over the center initially and then shooting to then through B-gap makes him highly dangerous

+ His lateral agility and how quickly he closes that space to the QB, led to him regularly being deployed as a spy and/or add-on rusher, where he tpyically elevated to take away passing lanes

+ Was blitzed off the edge on multiple occasions, where he could win with speed or then counter inside as he gets tackles to flip their hips


– Once again, with guys playing that overhang position for the Tigers in recent years, there’s no one legit spot they can plug him in right away (at least in terms on base packages)

– Had very little experience reading the run in-between the tackles prior to this season, where he seemed to be more reactionary and didn’t look very comfortable trying to take on blockers near the point of attack – more of a see-ball get-ball type of player right now

– Regularly takes the worse off contact with O-linemen in the run game and when he gets caught off balance, trying to shoot through a crease, he gets taken for a ready by some guys, And he needs to keep his outside arm free when tasked with contain responsibilities.

– While his coverage profile is highly intriguing purely from what he can do athletically, he was largely a spot-dropper in zone, and he doesn’t yet have that feel for find the right balance between reading the QB’s eyes and targets in space

– For a guy with nearly 1500 total defensive snaps in his career and appealing because of the way he can play in space, no interceptions and five PBUs is underwhelming ball-production


In contrast to Iowa’s Jack Campbell, who is your prototype middle linebacker from days past, Simpson is very much in the mold of what the NFL has been transitioning to, in order to counter 11-personnel heavy offenses and how they’ve attacked slower bodies in coverage. Simpson has legit sideline-to-sideline speed and you love the way he can move in space – gaining depth, flipping his hips and quickly erasing distance. However, I was a bit discouraged by the fact his instincts as a zone-defender, to see/feel receivers around him and still triggering as he sees the quarterback initiate his release. That combined with being a lot more impactful as a run-and-chase type of player has me thinking he actually projects for more narrow role than some people would make you think – a WILL linebacker with heavy usage in man-coverage against backs and tight-ends. On top of that, where he can still become a real asset is as a spy or add-on rusher against mobile quarterbacks in obvious passing situations.



Henry To'o To'o


5. Henry To’o To’o, Alabama

6’2”, 230 pounds; SR


A top-50 overall recruit in 2019, To’o To’o collected 140 combined tackles, 12.5 of those for loss, four passes deflected and a pick-six during his two years at Tennessee, he transferred over to Alabama ahead of the ’21 season, as his head coach Jeremy Pruitt was let go, He turned that into a second-team All-SEC season, with 111 total tackles, 7.5 for loss, four sacks and a fumble forced, Last year he improved to first-team, with 94 more stops, eight for loss and 2.5 sacks


+ Primarily played the MIKE spot for the Crimson Tide and was a key cog for that unit over the last couple of years

+ Can flow front-side with controlled steps and square shoulders, before redirecting and taking down the ball-carrier on cutbacks for limited yardage

+ Doesn’t mindlessly shoot through gaps, just because they open up in front of his him, if the back  is still behind the line of scrimmage and not aiming that way

+ With his arms being just ¼ of an inch short of the 33-mark, you see him extend effectively on angular blockers, when he has leverage on the gap

+ Light on his feet to mirror guys navigating around blocks and pairs his lateral movement simultaneously with quick hand-swipes

+ Due to seeing it early, he has adequate speed and quick hands to scrape over the top of blocks and shut down perimeter-oriented plays

+ Pursues the ball with great energy and shuts things down out to the edges more frequently than you’d expect a 4.62 guy to do

+ Shows up all over the field, constantly getting involved on tackles after turning around and chasing after completions over his head


+ While To’o To’o is an excellent run-defender, he rarely gets his eyes trapped in the backfield or get sucked in deep by play-action, not voiding his area needlessly

+ Active communicator in zone coverage, who passes off and is looking to pick up targets as the pattern progresses

+ Effectively takes away hook, stick and curl routes by floating underneath them

+ Displays great awareness for crossing routes coming in behind him and getting underneath them

+ For a longer build, he can flip his hips pretty smoothly and he adjust the angle accordingly, as he recognizes the depth of routes

+ Doesn’t shy away from crashing through one shoulder of an interior lineman and creating issues as a pressure player

+ Recognizes when he can rush because the back stays in protection or if there’s an opening for him, as the back is delayed in his release, helping out with chips

+ Was used on some green-dog blitzes and as a spy rusher, Executed some WIDE loops all the ball from the B-gap to the opposite edge


– Sometimes loses discipline on the front-side and guesses on cutbacks, reading things more like a running back

– Doesn’t shoot his hips through the hit and drive his legs as a tackler, which led to him missing 35(!) combined attempts across his two seasons with the Crimson Tide (14.6% miss rate)

– Barely played over 100 snaps outside the tackle box across these past two years and won’t be somebody you’re comfortable with matching with guys in the slot

– Has to get to a plan of how to defeat running backs sliding his way, when rushing around the edge in particular, too often stopping his feet in those situations


I feel like To’o To’o has gotten dragged too much so far by draft media. There’s nothing really sexy about his game and the amount of missed tackles is disturbing, but he’s been a very consistent every-down player in the middle of Nick Saban’s defense and I feel like there needs to be some context for those numbers – not only was he regularly one-on-one with some of the premier SEC backs, the two Texas guys (both top-10 RBs for me) and K-State lightning bug Deuce Vaughn, but he wasn’t totally reckless and leaves his teammates in tough spots or isn’t strong enough, but rather he needs to work on exploding his hips through contact more. He’s a disciplined zone defender and shows an understanding for how to attack protections when utilized as a pressure player. He may not be a three-down contributor for every team, because they would rather put an extra DB on the field, but I don’t see him be a legit weakness in passing situations.



Demarvion Overshown


6. DeMarvion Overshown, Texas

6’4”, 220 pounds; SR


Around the top-50 overall recruits in 2018, Overshown only appeared in one game as a freshman, but in 15 games of the 2019 and ’20 season combined as a starter, he totalled 78 tackles, 15 of those for loss, ten passes broken up, three sacks, interceptions and fumbles forced each. He had an even better year in ’21 however, when his stats were right in line with that, but he made several big plays to earn himself honorable mention All-Big 12 accolades. Last year that improved to first-team, as he put up career-highs in three categories (96 total tackles, 10 TFLs, four sacks) and broke up five passes (no INTs).


+ While he may give up plenty of weight to offensive linemen and even plenty of tight-ends, Overshown does not shy away from playing downhill

+ You see him on some outside-oriented run schemes, where he crashes the outside shoulder and force the ball-carrier to cut inside

+ More patient on the front-side, to stay behind combos and not give the back easy answers

+ In tight spaces, Overshown’s lack of bulk may show up at times, but when he can build up some momentum chasing the ball, he can make opposing players fly through the air

+ One of his best assets is the sudden explosiveness to flow with a play, then redirect and pursue, as a running back cuts back or the offense has a reverse drawn up, but also just stepping around guys and meeting the ball-carrier in the hole

+ Watching him open up and shut down swing screens to the back and you think he’s shot out of a cannon

+ You see him make a lot of plays on off-tackle runs from the backside, bubbling over the top of potential blockers, flattening down the line and running down guys

+ And his range to pursue from outside the screen and pop guys when he does arrive there is pretty crazy


+ Such an easy mover in space, with loose hips and light feet to cover ground

+ He rapidly gains depth on vertical drops and then can shut down flat or shallow cross routes in front of him for minimal yardage

+ Sorts well through mesh concepts and has the speed to run with the shallow crosser once he ends up matched up with them

+ His length forces quarterbacks to put extra arc on the ball when trying to throw over his head and with that wing-span it gives him a little extra room to get a hand on balls around him

+ Not somebody quarterbacks are looking to target when manned up with the back, comfortably sticking with them for the most part

+ In the screen game, you see him routinely beat linemen to the spot, where he makes them look slow as hell, and even if they do initiate contact, he’ll use his length and motor to fight off those blocks

+ When blitzing up the middle, Overshown arrives at the quarterback in a hurry and if the O-line has to figure out how to pick up games up front, they might not even be able to get a hand on him

+ Can also create issues looping around the edge, which he runs with pretty good bend, And off that, Texas had him creep and bail out routinely on passing downs, because they trust his speed to get back into his area

+ With his explosion off the ball and length, he can legitimately rush off the corner, and he can be weaponized by knifing inside off T-E twists, where all he needs is a quick swipe-down with the near-arm as he works across the face of guards

+ His closing burst when racing down as quarterbacks roll outside or comes on a delayed blitz as the back stays in protection is eye-opening

+ Spent well over 100 snaps in the slot and the edge respectively last season


– Simply doesn’t have the mass to actually take on blockers in his face as a box-defender and gets covered up by bigger bodies pretty good, Just too easily his momentum is stymied as he runs into guys who outweigh him, such as tight-ends sealing him off, who can put their frame in the way

– Has to throw himself into linemen when trying to take on blocks head-on and momentarily lose vision the ball

– A 30.4 PFF grade against the run in 2021 is why he returned for his redshirt senior season, and he may need to be projected by scheme to some degree

– Hasn’t been asked to play a lot of man-coverage, I would like to see him redirect quicker to misdirection in the play-action game, to pick up crossers behind him

– While he has improved in that regard, Overshown’s 15.8% missed tackle rate over the last two years, is still not up to par, too often diving at the ankles of ball-carriers


This has been one of the more fun players to watch on the second level for the last few years. Overshown’s speed and how ferocious his play style is, you see him show up all over the field. At the same time, he’s not a reckless player and has already taken major strides in terms of processing the game. He does feature a very slender build and there will be some limitations, but he does have great length, which he can make more of a weapon with NFL coaching. You want to see him on the ground less, but his speed and lack of fear should make him a special teams standout early on and flash in defensive packages, until his new team is comfortable with the way he continues to add strength.



Ivan Pace Jr


7. Ivan Pace Jr., Cincinnati

5’11”, 235 pounds; SR


Outside the top-3000 overall recruits in 2019 for Miami of Ohio, Pace announced himself to the nation by tying an NCAA record with six sacks in a win over Akron as a true freshman. He ended up only getting one more across the other 15 games he played through two years. In 2021, he became an every-down impact player, being named first-team All-MAC thanks to leading the conference with 125 total tackles, with 13 of those leading to negative yardage, four sacks, three PBUs, an interception and forced fumble each. Transferring over to Cincinnati for his final campaign, he put his name more in the national spotlight, as the AAC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American, thanks to 136 combined stops, 20.5 of those for loss, nine sacks, four PBUs and a couple of forced fumbles.


+ Good thickness throughout his frame and plays big, but also can just slip through traffic in an odd fashion almost

+ Does well to step to the hip and rip through the reach of offensive linemen working up to him, to protect one side, And he’s gotten stronger at working through contact, to get his hands on the ball-carrier or crash through one half of guys, to create havoc in the back-field

+ Has some shocking contact balance and flexibility to contort his body and stay upright versus much larger bodies, consistently playing with sink in his stance to maximize that low center of gravity

+ Lining up on the edge, you can’t really ask a tight-end to take care of him in the run game, especially when he can shoot the C-gap and run down plays from the backside

+ I really like the way he plays with his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage when possible, along with using his hands and working around blockers scraping from the backside

+ Plus, when he sees a wrap-around pull or insert block in his gap, he accelerates into contact at the line of scrimmage, to not allow an extra gap to be created

+ I thought when he joined the Bearcats his diagnosing skills and willingness to beat ball-carriers to the spot allowed him to create a lot more negative plays

+ Has some legit hitting power, to bounce ball-carriers on their backside at impact, There’s very little churning of legs for opponents – he bangs them to the turf from the side as he arrives on an angle


+ Does well to ID targets in space with a quick peak, while mostly having his eyes on the quarterback, And there’s no overreaction to anything that happens to him really

+ Understands when the read he’s occupied with is dead and he can redirect, to take a second option

+ Can totally disrupt receivers/tight-ends stemming down the stems by banging them off balance

+ Will quickly close down that distance to the quarterback and lay the wood on them, if they don’t get rid of the ball rapidly, on bootlegs and rollouts

+ When Pace has space to work one-on-one against a guard, his burst and timing of hand-swipes can definitely give those guys problems

+ His ability to corner his rushes and work through contact from much larger bodies is impressive

+ Was already used on some loops from the inside, as part of Miami OH’s third-down pressure packages, At Cincinnati he was just lined up on the edge a lot more, where they used him for either responsibility on T-E twists or had him bail out from that spot

+ Overall, he’s just relentless with his effort in that regard and routinely got home to the quarterback – led all off-ball linebackers with 55 total pressures last season and had nine QB hits in week five alone

+ Was a menace rushing the passer one-on-one during Senior Bowl practices – his quick-twitch was on another level, as he routinely gave the running backs a little wiggle before contact and then beating them across their face


– He’s an obvious outlier in terms of size, ranking in the 1st percentile in height (5’10” and ½) and 3rd percentile in arm length (30 ½), which will limit his ability to punch off blockers and finish tackles as consistently at the pro level

– Wider bodies can cover him up, when able to climb straight up to him

– When he actually has to open up and run with guys out to the perimeter, he’s not the quickest to stop or redirect as they do

– Wasn’t really tasked with any true man-coverage or asked to carry guys down the middle at Miami of Ohio or Cincinnati

– Officially charged with a passer rating of 140.2 allowed, being charged with two touchdowns and only forcing three incompletions


Can anybody tell me what’s wrong with Pace, other than being short? Did anybody watch Malcolm Rodriguez at Oklahoma State and then the Lions as a rookie last year? Sure, the concerns that come with his measurements will only be enhanced against all the size in the NFL and some teams not have him on their board at all because he’s below their thresholds, but this kid can freaking play. He has ways of marginalizing his lack of height/length, with the way he dips underneath blockers and defeats the hands, along with how insanely sturdy he is to hold his ground between the tackles. I do believe some of the worries about what he can provide in coverage are legitimate, because he has less margin for error, especially when getting matched up with large tight-ends, but his ridiculous win rate as a pass-rusher makes me believe he can be a major asset in that regard on passing down. I do understand that I’m significantly higher than consensus, but he’ll be a special teams demon early on, to earn his opportunities to shine on defense.



Dorian Williams


8. Dorian Williams, Tulane

6’1”, 225 pounds; SR


A three-star recruit in 2019, Williams saw action on special teams and some as a backup linebacker as a true freshman, before entering the starting lineup and being one of the more productive players at the position across the past three seasons. He recorded a total of 302 tackles, 9.5 of those for loss, two forced fumbles, two passes intercepted and 13 more broken up, going from honorable mention in 2021 to first-team All-ACC this past season.


+ Has great explosiveness and plays with a ferocious mindset, to blow ball-carriers up as they’re about to clear the line of scrimmage, as well as run them down trying to get around the corner

+ Stays balanced in his stance, with weight centered onto the ball of his feet, and is in the 90th percentile with 33 and ¾-inch arms, to keep blockers at bay, as he tracks the ball-carrier

+ On duo and other more vertically-oriented schemes, Williams can quickly cover ground as the back cuts upfield away from him, to bring that guy down for minimal yardage, even though it’s technically not his run fit

+ When he becomes the iso-player or somebody climbs up directly, he approaches blockers more actively, looking to lock out and play through contact

+ Shows some slipperiness and suddenness to navigate around traffic and get to the ball, while last season he was better at sorting through the trash when he can’t just go straight after somebody

+ Created some awesome stops in short-yardage situations, knifing through a gap to get hands on the ball-carrier in the backfield or meeting them trying to go over the top of the pile

+ Light on his feet, in order to redirect against misdirection plays, as well as very consistent and smart with his angles towards the sideline

+ When he’s on a full run and guys try to get in his way, Williams can unload and send smaller guys flying

+ Attacks low as a tackler to stop guys in their tracks and regularly flips those on their backside – missed only 8.3% of his attempts this past season (12 of 144 total)


+ I thought in 2022 Williams as a hook-dropper was more active with driving on routes breaking away from him if that was the lone threat and not surrendering easy completions – especially on stick or out routes by the tight-end

+ When widening out to the flats, he makes sure to knock the slot receiver stemming vertically off track, as he’s floating towards a hitch/curl route on the outside, etc.

+ Has the speed to run down wide receivers after seeing the ball being thrown over his head

+ Does well to keep vision on multiple targets and still floating underneath the closest route to his area

+ Will land some whacks on guys entering his area as they’re catching the ball and dislodge the football from them that way

+ Received an 87.0 coverage grade from PFF, forcing four incompletions and picking off a couple passes, compared to only touchdown surrendered (161 yards on 27 targets)

+ Displays impressive closing burst when given a lane towards the quarterback as a blitzer

+ Brings some rapid hand-swipes and can corners his rushes pretty well to be an asset as a pressure player – that’s why the Green Wave used him more regularly on the edge in designated passing situations


– Has to become quicker at IDing pullers and scraping over the top from the backside

– Once linemen or even some tight-ends get their hands inside Williams’ chest, he has a tough time getting off those – there’s room to become more prod-active in that regard

– Unfortunately fulfilled more of the role of a spot-dropper rather than matching guys in the pattern for most of his career – there are still some moments, where the ball is thrown right by him, and he didn’t show the awareness to drift underneath targets, to make an impact

– While he times up his blitzes well, too often he runs into linemen with extended arms and his rush stalls right at contact

– Even when he has plenty of time to break down and wrap guys up in space, too often Williams will leave his feet without any reason, and his miss rate will increase that way at the next level


Williams wasn’t really on my radar as a top-level prospect prior to last season, but I really enjoyed watching his play in the middle of the Green Wave D, during their 12-2 turnaround season. His 2022 tape was a lot more impressive than prior, being more aggressive with the way he approached blockers and drive on routes, plus what Tulane did with him as a pressure player from different angles and alignments. He can be almost patient to a fault and will need to add more muscle to his frame, making the transition from the AAC to the NFL, but there’s a lot to like about his game and how it should translate for a role in the middle of the defense.



Jeremy Banks


9. Jeremy Banks, Tennessee

6’1”, 230 pounds; RS SR


One of the top-500 overall recruits in 2018, Banks started his career at running back as a true freshman (52 carries for 185 yards and three touchdowns), before switching back to the defensive side of the ball, where he made himself known with two interceptions in one of the four games he saw the field. In 2020, he played in nine games as a backup, before finally becoming a starter as a redshirt junior, when he recorded 128 total tackles, 11.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks, an interception and four PBUs. His total tackles were more than cut in half missing a couple of games this past year, but he did still have 4.5 TFLs, four PBUs, a fumble forced and recovered each.


+ Plays with a quick trigger in the run game and has the suddenness to slip bigger linemen or pull them off himself

+ Yet there’s also no hesitation to crash into the outside shoulder of fullbacks before they can even get to the line of scrimmage and to create stalemates as the offense is caving in one side and he charges down

+ When offenses run GT power his way, you see Banks crash through the shoulder of the second puller before that guy can even turn up the lane a lot of sense, to set up negative plays, even though he didn’t log them on the stat sheet himself as much last year

+ Shows great lateral agility to trail runners from the backside and flatten behind blockers when he sees an opening, as well as pair quick hands and jumping sideways to get to the other side of linemen looking to pin him away from the action

+ If the tight-end has to seal the backside edge defender and the tackle scoops up the three-technique on zone runs, Banks will shoot through the C-gap and run down the ball-carrier in a hurry

+ Effective tackler, whether he can launch through his hips and get those head-on stops, twists down from the side or lassoes down the ball-carrier

+ Regularly was able track down ball-carriers bouncing out wide on tape and quickly swiped down their inside arm when they tried to stiff-arm him, to get to their frame and bring them down

+ Tennessee walked him down to the edge late quite regularly, in order to take advantage of his speed chasing down runs from the backside


+ Not somebody you can occupy with linemen when throwing swing screen towards his side, because he’ll beat the man responsible for him to the spot and potentially create a negative play

+ You don’t see Banks really allow any separation to tight-ends trying to run away from him on drag routes

+ Routinely takes away slant/glance routes by widening his drops and crowding those passing windows for the quarterback

+ Does a nice job identifying dig routes and deep crossers coming in behind him, and doesn’t typically allow himself to get picked off trailing the under route on mesh concepts

+ You see him redirect in a hurry after floating one way and then having to race down on the back catching a checkdown

+ Displays some impressive burst when driving on option routes by the backs, breaking either way, while having good enough to carry guys vertically, He was highly impressive in that regard during East-West Shrine practices

+ Times up his blitzes exceptionally well and gets to the QB coming right up the gut or looping around the corner

+ Banks charges full force into backs in blitz pick-up and slither off them, although he could bring some more diversity in his rush approach

+ You saw Tennessee line him up on the edge on quite a few obvious passing downs, where his burst around the corner and the force in his inside hand to stab at the chest of the tackle/tight-end, to create a softer corner for himself, really stood out


– NFL teams will be able to take advantage of Banks’ aggressiveness, whether it’s just the back cutting back as he overflows on lateral concepts or isolating him and hitting RPOs behind him frequently

– Is pretty overzealous in his pursuit angles and doesn’t come to balance consistently enough as a tackler – 12.7% miss rate over his two seasons as a starter

– Tends to lock into one receiver in his area rather than mid-pointing targets as a zone defender

– Never received a PFF grade of at least 60 in any year and his coverage grade of 46.7 last season in particular is underwhelming (passer rating allowed of 104.3)


I just gave a lot of love to Cincinnati’s Ivan Pace Jr., but if there’s one name in this linebacker class I’m significantly higher on than consensus, Banks is the guy. Maybe it’s because he’ll turn 24 at the start of the season already or the fact he only had one season with big production – and it went down significantly from 2021 to ’22 – but I just think he’s one of the best all-around players at the position, in a class with a bunch of guys that are small and don’t read plays particularly well. The violence he plays with, his short-area explosiveness and his awareness in coverage are all excellent, and he’s had a tremendous pre-draft process, standing out in a major way during Shrine Bowl week and backing up what I saw on tape in terms of the combine numbers (84th percentile or better in the 40, vert and broad jump). This is a starting-level NFL linebacker I believe – if given a chance, based on his draft status.



Noah Sewell


10. Noah Sewell, Oregon

6’3”, 250 pounds; RS FR


The younger brother of Lions top-ten pick and starting right tackle Penei Sewell, Noah was behind only Oregon-running mate Justin Flowe as the number two linebacker in the 2020 class and thanks to the COVID-exception, was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection as a redshirt freshman already, when he put up 114 total tackles, 8.5 of those for loss, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, an interceptions and five passes broken up. This past season, with two fewer games played, his tackling numbers were all basically cut in half, while once again having one pick and four PBUs. Because of that he went down to second-team all-conference.


+ Looks like a Greek god in his pads and makes his presence felt on the field

+ Delivers some serious thump in the hole and drives ball-carriers backwards, but also has the speed to flatten to the sideline and bang guys out of bounds for minimal gains, You see him make some tackles on toss plays away from him as the backside linebacker

+ Sewell doesn’t shy away at all from crashing into guards and creating an angle towards the ball for himself when it’s initially taken away, And he’s very active with his hands to work off those blocks

+ Regularly creates stalemates with offensive linemen and doesn’t get driven off the spot

+ Asking a tight-end to peel back on him creates a legit mismatch and he typically rocks them at contact+

+ I thought in 2022 his ability to weaponize his hands improved and you saw him work with extension through and off blocks against offensive linemen

+ He’s just so naturally strong as a tackler as well, where guys spin off the hit or seem to be able to churn for yards after contact, but Sewell can somehow twist/lasso them to the ground

+ Frequently makes sure the pile is moving backwards as he arrives there late


+ Shows plus instincts in coverage already, to layer in-between routes, take one guy away and then fall off to get hands on the ball, He had a great pick against Utah in the 2021 Pac-12 Championship game against a double-slant concept

+ You like what he can bring widening in his drops and taking away inside access for targets out of the slot, And then he can kind of stick his foot in the ground and drive down on backs releasing out late almost like a DB

+ Sending receivers down the seams against Sewell sinking, he’ll make sure they’re taken off track when he gets his hands on them

+ When asked out to pick up guys out of the backfield, Sewell typically meets them at the line of scrimmage, knocks them off balance and is fast enough to stick with them

+ Lining up on the edge, he has enough speed to peel off and not allow backs to get a step on him on swings/wheels quickly

+ You can rush this guy from different angles, where his acceleration and the force he can build up, to run through the reach of linemen sliding over late or running backs trying to sit down on him, can quickly force quarterbacks off schedule

+ Legitimately lined up on the edge and gave tackles trouble with his speed and ability turn the corner for the Ducks

+ Had an absurd win-rate of 31.2%(!) on his pass-rush reps in 2021 and he was still at a more than respectable 22.2% this in ‘22


– While part of it is being a young player, Sewell could certainly be a step quicker and pick up on keys more instantly, such as following a pulling guard

– Gets his eyes trapped in the backfield and sort of just waits until he can see the ball whilst being engaged with blockers

– You see some of the same in coverage at times, where he’s just a step late, along with locking his eyes in on the quarterback too much

– When pinned inside on toss and screen plays outside of him, he has to be a little quicker to recognize that and work over the top of those blocks, and tracking ball-carriers out wide, he tends to get his shoulders turned and occasionally overrun plays

– His lateral agility is a major question mark and it probably won’t allow his future coaches to deploy him in any sort of extended man-coverage


Sewell was a rough evaluation, after coming out of summer think he may end up being a first-round pick. I thought he lost some pep to his step in 2022, he didn’t show really signs of development in terms of reading run schemes and he was a step late in order to make an impact in coverage with more regularity. With that being said, it is rare to find a guy this large and fast at the linebacker spot and what gives me hope that NFL coaches may figure out how to use him is the tremendous productivity as a pass-rusher. He’s obviously not at that type of level in terms of athleticism, but I could see him make sort of a Micah Parsons transition, to becoming a full-time EDGE at the next level.




Just missed the cut:


Owen Pappoe


Owen Pappoe, Auburn

6’0”, 225 pounds; SR


Right up there with Brandon Smith and Nakobe Dean for the title as top linebacker in the 2019 recruiting class, Pappoe immediately got onto the field and was an impact player for Auburn, racking up 165 combined tackles, 12 of those for loss, six sacks, an interception and four PBUs through his first 29 games, before getting injured early in 2021. This past season, he collected 91 tackles, three for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, one pass intercepted and three more broken up.


+ Probably the fastest linebacker in all of college football last season (backed up with an LB-best 4.39 at the combine), That speed shows up with the way he beats blockers to the spots or at times almost runs around them before the ball-carrier has actually crossed the line of scrimmage

+ Works in pretty controlled fashion and sink in his lower body, as he’s preparing for contact, and isn’t afraid to launch his body into bigger bodies and funnel the ball towards his teammates

+ Stays pretty disciplined on the backside on zone run concepts and keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage

+ Displays impressive lateral mobility to track the ball-carrier bouncing out wide and met him off-tackle, without committing his body and overrunning that point

+ Keeps his arms extended as he’s tangled up with blockers out in space

+ You see him run down wide receivers working across the field and perimeter-oriented runs

+ Showed major improvement as a tackler this past season, with a miss rate of just 6.9% – squaring and loading up his hips, to drive through contact

+ Had an absolutely bone-crushing hit on a scrambling Sean Clifford for Penn State this past season, which knocked the ball out simultaneously


+ Has the range horizontally to crowd passing windows against in-breaking route on the field side as a hook defender

+ Comfortably sticks with tight-ends on hook and out routes, as they don’t make him commit his hips with the initial stem

+ Displays the speed and physicality to match up with those bigger bodies running down the seams

+ Not somebody who you’ll take advantage of in man-coverage on the back running some kind of swing/flat route, trying to hold him in the middle of the field with some route combination

+ His speed to pick up slide routes across his alignment is a major benefit, to not give easy completions plus YAC

+ Auburn felt comfortable walking him out wide in empty sets and having him one-on-one with Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs, Texas A&M’s Devon Achane and others

+ Was responsible for a passer rating of just 77.2, with zero touchdowns allowed

+ Will run down scrambling quarterbacks in a hurry and they better slide or go out of bounds, if they don’t want to get levelled

+ Has seen very little usage as a blitzer, but with the way he covers ground and his fondness of contact, he could be an asset


– Moves around like a DB, but unfortunately also plays more so with the strength of one at times, when it comes to condensed spaces

– Relies on his speed too heavily at times, when he should be looking to approach blockers and track the ball that way, rather than try to run around traffic

– Whether it’s in the screen or RPO game or some kind of alerts, Pappoe could be a tick earlier to redirect and affect multiple phases of the play

– Because of his lack of pure weight, there are plenty of drag tackles on film, where bigger runners churn out several yards through them

– There’s a lack of awareness later on in pass plays for targets settling around him, where he could make an impact by floating underneath those


Appropriately nicknamed “The Freak”, Pappoe brings elite speed to the second of a defense and he doesn’t shy away from launching himself full-force into contact. At his current weight, he lacks the sturdiness to consistently deal with blockers between the tackles, but his speed should make give him value in certain packages and combining that with his mindset, he should be a monster on special teams right away. I’m curious to see if his future coaches can tap into the potential he could have as a pressure player in passing situations, because he can be an asset in man-coverage versus backs and tight-ends, but his instincts as a zone defender are certainly lacking.





The next names up:

Mohamoud Diabate (Utah), Ventrell Miller (Florida), Mikel Jones (Syracuse), Yasir Abdullah (Louisville), Shaka Heyward (Duke), Cam Jones (Indiana), Dee Winters (TCU) & Marte Mapu (Sacramento State)

For in-depth breakdowns of the NFL and college football, head over to my page and my Youtube channel

Twitter: @halilsfbtalk
Instagram: @halilsrealfootballtalk


Leave a Reply

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

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s