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2020 NFL Combine Preview Scouting – LBs (ILB/OLB)

Air Date:
February 24, 2020

My Combine previews of each prospect attending the event is me taking 20-40 minutes and reviewing some game tape and going over career numbers/output and some background info – just trying to get a quick feel for the player and reporting out a few sentences on what I see. So we can watch/look at the Combine results aided with more info going in.

Some of the players I’ve previewed in 2019 and/or at the 2020 East-West Shrine or 2020 Senior Bowl weeks as well. The QBs have been scouted deeper and run through our scouting models already. Overall, it’s my best ‘flash’ opinion without going deeper with the tape or having the true measurables for the prospects.

Once we have the measurables, we’re off to the races with deeper studies and bigger reports up to and through the NFL Draft – but for now, here’s my quicker take…subject to change/being wrong once I get deeper into the studies with them:

 

 

ILB Daniel Bituli, Tennessee, 6’2”/250 (Grade: F)

Does not look fluid in movement at all. Looks very, very slow. Misses too many tackles not wrapping up. Not a fan of anything I saw here.

 

ILB Cale Garrett, Missouri, 6’3”/230 (Grade: D-)

A lot of heart and toughness, but the speed just doesn’t seem to be there at all. North-South he’s OK-ish but east-west movements do not look good…jarring how laboring he looks moving around sometimes.

 

OLB Jordan Mack, Virginia, 6’2”/230 (Grade: D-)

Not fast/big/imposing enough for an interior linebacker, not high end fast enough to be an exciting NFL OLB prospect. Not a pass rusher or great tackler, more a blitzer and chaser…not a big playmaker on his own.

 

OLB Carter Coughlin, Minnesota, 6’3”/245 (Grade: D-)

From my Senior Bowl Preview…

Not impressed. Looks like a safety trying to be an edge rusher. It’s weird. Has nice straight-line speed and might run in the 4.6s, but terrible agility (looks like an old man running side-to-side). He has some NFL size-speed potential, but he plays like he’s afraid to touch other people. Hard to describe. I didn’t see a bloodthirsty pass rush monster, more a slightly thin-framed, quick off the edge guy. More an OLB, but I just don’t know that I saw a ‘football player’. Might have been bad tape I watched. We’ll see.

 

ILB De’Jon ‘Scoota’ Harris, Arkansas, 6’0”/245 (Grade: D)

A try-hard, solid tackling linebacker who is college-good but not all that exciting or obvious a translation for the NFL. He could hang on an NFL roster as a depth linebacker and special teamer. He could effort his way to hanging in the league for a bit.

 

OLB Kamal Martin, Minnesota, 6’3”/245 (Grade: D)

Played ILB for Minnesota but moved and looked more like an OLB, not an edge rushing one but a chase and cover OLB. He has a lot of heart and effort but the quickness sideline to sideline isn’t evident. Good college player. Team Captain. Suspect NFL prospect.

 

ILB Chapelle Russell, Temple, 6’1”/230 (Grade: D)

Heart and tackle skills of an NFL starting linebacker. Speed-agility of a CFL interior linebacker…in my first impression. Good college ILB, but not sure he has the juice for the NFL.

 

ILB Michael Divinity, LSU, 6’2”/241 (Grade: D)

From my Senior Bowl Preview…

I don’t see it. Last two seasons (17 games), 0-2 solo tackles in 13 of those 17 games. Just 3 or more solo tackles in a game 4 times in 17 games. No thanks. Not a real NFL prospect in my book. Just kinda drifts around and makes a run blitz, sneak attack pass rush and gets a sack/TFL now and then but he’s not a legit patroller of the middle that will help an NFL team. Left the team mid-2019 season due to grades. Did get his grades back up and graduated and rejoined the team for the CFB title game. Nice story, weak NFL prospect.

OLB Markus Bailey, Purdue, 6’1”/240 (Grade: D)

Has decent (listed) size but looks more like a 4-3 OLB or big safety more than an interior linebacker. The issue being he might not have the speed the NFL needs for his projected position. Hard worker, good effort, might not have enough juice to hang in the league or become a starter.

 

OLB Shaun Bradley, Temple, 6’1”/230 (Grade: D+)

High effort, nice form tackler. He’s not a bad college LB but not sure he’s ready for the NFL right away. Adding some bulk/muscle and projecting as a 4-3 OLB, he might find his way at some point and can play special teams otherwise. He doesn’t jump out, but he does give me the feeling he’s going to make it to the league and stick around on sheer determination.

 

OLB Willie Gay Jr., Mississippi State. 6’2”/230 (Grade: D+)

Very fast, quick outside linebacker and makes so neat plays with his quickness, but mostly he’s running around without great purpose or running past plays or getting blocked out of plays because he’s got a smaller/thinner upper body. Played some interior linebacker but that’s not his NFL path. He could be a decent LB/SAF hybrid, good for covering and chasing. He has tools to work with but his college numbers foreshadow a speedy guy who doesn’t have good linebacker/tackler/playmaking instincts.

 

OLB Cameron Brown, Penn State, 6’5”/233 (Grade: D+)

From my Senior Bowl previews…

Unusual looking prospect. Tall, lanky, but looks very clunky/unathletic. Doesn’t work as a 4-3 DE. Has the look for a 3-4 OLB but just seems to have no burst or pop in step off the snap. He just looks like he’s lost and choppy on the field. His body and raw potential keeps him from being an ‘F’ prospect.

 

OLB Francis Bernard, Utah, 6’0”/235 (Grade: D+)

From my Senior Bowl previews…

Not much here for the pros. Might be able to scrap his way onto a practice squad, low-end roster spot. Doesn’t have high-end anything. Doesn’t fully look like an ILB but isn’t athletic enough for OLB work either. I think he’s a solid college ILB and we leave it at that…not a top NFL prospect. Going to get outshined by all the other talent here this week.

 

OLB Khaleke Hudson, Michigan, 6’0”/220 (Grade: D+)

From my Senior Bowl previews…

Was brought over from the East-West Shrine group, that’s worth a small bump in grade. I still am not sure I see an NFL starter, but he definitely has the size/thickness for it.

My E-W preview commentary:  Was given the license to be a SAF/OLB who got to line up all over and rush the backfield and make plays…which worked some in college, but he doesn’t appear to have serious skills for the next level. He’s not bad. He might have some versatility usefulness in the NFL, but I didn’t see a solid NFL prospect here…more of a nice, gambling college defender.

 

OLB Troy Dye, Oregon, 6’3”/226 (Grade: D+)

Smaller, but tough and smart college middle linebacker but would be an OLB projection for the NFL but may be better suited as a big safety. If his Combine numbers come in better than I perceive, he moves up to a ‘C’ prospect. He’s a football player just unsure how he fits best and how much upside he has.

 

OLB Jacob Phillips, LSU, 6’3”/233 (Grade: D+/C-)

Played more interior linebacker in 2019, but looks better suited as a chasing, blitzing, and cover outside linebacker. His game is using speed to get to the action, and he gets too easily neutralized getting caught trying to pick through the line of scrimmage. Has NFL feet. There’s a place for him in the league, but I didn’t see any flashes of a future star prospect.

 

ILB Dante Olson, Montana, 6’3”/241 (Grade: D+/C-)

From my East-West previews…

2019 FCS Defensive Player of the Year…179 tackles in 14 games. He’s an old school, try-hard middle linebacker. He form-tackles well. He plays dialed up to ‘10’ all the time. But he isn’t anything special as an athlete. His 179 tackles were a little fluffy…103 of them were assisted tackles, favorable stat scoring (potentially). He’s good and might have an NFL career in him but I want to see how he does here in the East-West game. I don’t think he can hang with the elevated competition to be a high draft prospect.

 

OLB Mykal Walker, Fresno State, 6’3”/230 (Grade: C-)

From my East-West Shrine previews…

Looks like a prototypical 4-3 OLB body…lean/muscular with reach. Nice pursuit skills. Aggressive tackler. A real NFL prospect at outside linebacker and special teams. Not sure that he has star attributes, but we’ll see at the Combine/Pro Days.

 

ILB Joe Bachie, Michigan State, 6’2”/234 (Grade: C-)

Not a bad interior linebacker – picks through holes/congestion and finds the ballcarrier pretty well. Has solid speed/agility to get after ballcarriers or float out into coverage. Tough enough, solid tackler. His negative is his size – he needs 5-10 pounds more muscle to be a better interior prospect. We’ll see if he added it in prep for the Combine.

 

OLB Michael Pinckney, Miami, 6’1”/226 (Grade: C-)

From my East-West previews…

Good instincts. Real nice reach/long arms to make some plays that others cannot. There was some promise here on tape. Aggressive. Decent burst to chase down ball carriers or drop into coverage. I liked what I saw here, but statistically he was erratic…not consistent or dominant in his play purely by the numbers. There’s some upside/hope here.

 

ILB David Woodward, Utah State, 6’1”/235 (Grade: C-)

Played OLB in the tape I watched but shifted some to edge and some to ILB…I like his build and movements more for ILB, just add 5+ pounds of muscle. Smart player who picks through traffic and makes plays well. The downside…not a lot of pop in his legs, not a great burst to the action. When he gets going he’s not bad but in short space I’m worried, but I may be wrong.

 

OLB Josh Uche, Michigan, 6’2”/250 (Grade: C-/C)

From my Senior Bowl previews…

UPDATE: He kinda stuck out all week…I’d see him/his jersey near plays and chasing around a lot. He didn’t make a ton of plays, but he seemed to be reading plays properly and giving a good effort. Maybe a middle linebacker lurks here?

Org. Comments: Nice power-speed pass rusher, but a touch undersized and didn’t appear to offer much besides ‘try to blow the blocker backwards’ as a pass rush move. He has NFL tools to work with and with some technique enhancement, he might end up on an NFL roster making some noise.

 

OLB Patrick Queen, LSU, 6’1”/227 (Grade: C)

Played interior linebacker in 2019, and was a smart, active…but a bit undersized – bigger ballcarriers just ran through him too often. Would be a better 4-3 OLB who was a coverage, movement type linebacker. He has NFL ability, but he’d have to add 10+ pounds of muscle to work the interior.

 

OLB Casey Toohill, Stanford, 6’4”/247 (Grade: C)

From my East-West Shrine previews…

A future New England Patriot… He’s listed as an OLB, but I saw him playing mostly 4-3, hand-in-the-dirt DE. Looks like a pass rusher…quick, tall, reach, but he also moves around well to play the run or drop into coverage. He’s got NFL tools and could be a starter in the right system, if his measurables come in as good/well as I think they might. He might not be a star, but just a great piece of the puzzle player who can play multiple positions.

 

OLB Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State, 6’1”/215 (Grade: C+)

From my Senior Bowl Preview…

Could be a 4-3 OLB or a strong safety, or a SAF/LB hybrid. Very quick player with long arms. Plays high-speed most plays. Can burst into the backfield or drop into coverage. A really nice football asset for an NFL team, even if just on special teams.

 

OLB Malik Harrison, Ohio State, 6’3”/240 (Grade: C+)

From my Senior Bowl preview…

UPDATE: Had some moments where he really stood out, but mostly he was just ‘OK’/good this week.

Org. Comments: He’s listed an ILB, but I don’t know. Looks like a 4-3 OLB to me. I didn’t see the heart/desire of an interior linebacker. He likes to drift back into coverage (which he’s at his nice at his size in coverage) and he likes to use his NFL burst/speed to race blindly into the backfield. He’s not a sit and wait and read/react LB…he’s a chaser/mover, and he’s good at that, has the tools for that.

 

ILB Logan Wilson, Wyoming, 6’2”/250 (Grade: C+)

From my Senior Bowl previews…

UPDATE: Overlooked the whole week/game and somewhat blended into the background and didn’t standout/seize the day. He did not help his draft stock this week.

Org. Comments: Throwback/classic middle linebacker. Reads and reacts in the interior. Moves around well/like an NFL linebacker. Sheds blockers and makes tackles. Does fine dropping into coverage. He’s not going to explode off the tape, but he is quietly a very solid linebacker who will work well in the NFL (assuming the Combine numbers backup the speed/agility I think I see on tape).

 

OLB Zack Baun, Wisconsin, 6’2”/235 (Grade: C+)

From my Senior Bowl previews…

UPDATE: Transitioning to more of a pure OLB and some ILB work, moving away from being an edge rusher (which he is too small for, and why I graded him lower initially).

The scouts in Mobile were talking up Baun before he hit the field and I think they just stuck with that narrative…I didn’t see Baun dominating anything. He’s good, NFL-legit but not a ‘wow’ prospect for me yet. But there is hope for him as a top 100 prospect because of the ILB possibilities, but I warn everyone…remember that Hasson Reddick struggled with that transition. Great college undersized edge rusher does not instantly mean awesome NFL ILB prospect.

Org. Comments: Has the speed for the NFL, but I don’t see an aggressive pursuer/hitter. He tries to out-speed everything, somewhat because he can in college, but I don’t see much more to his game nor do I see a high-end athlete. He looks like a better ILB prospect, but I don’t think he has the inner motor for that. Braun has a decent profile, but I think he’ll get lost at the next level, in my first look here.

 

ILB Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech, 6’1”/240 (Grade: C+/B-)

I like this linebacker. Reminds me a bit of 2019 West Virginia LB prospect David Long (now of the Titans). Some players just have a knack for finding holes in the line of scrimmage and darting through them to disrupt plays…and that’s Brooks. Very tough, aggressive interior linebacker with a good sense of reading situations. He’s a future NFL starter at ILB or OLB.

 

OLB Davion Taylor, Colorado, 6’1”/225 (Grade: B-)

From my Senior Bowl previews…

UPDATE: Did OK at the Senior Bowl, but not anything that grabbed a lot of attention. Had a solid game on Saturday but there are so many other small LB/big safety prospects here that grabbed attention…while Taylor did not push his stock a ton higher. I still like what I see, but a small hit for losing ground against his peers by not showing to be the clear ‘best in class’ here.

Org. Comments: Very nice speed-burst ability. He can chase after, chase down anything…looks like he’s shot out of a cannon. He also plays at max effort on every play. He’s a very promising, raw 4-3 OLB prospect. Like the possibilities here.

 

ILB Shaquille Quarterman, Miami, 6’1”/241 (Grade: B-)

From my East-West previews…

I’ve been a big fan since previewing him this summer. I see great instincts and athleticism moving towards ballcarriers. And he’s a good-great tackler – when he hits RBs they tend to stop or go backwards. Most prospect tapes on any defenders here, they get to ballcarriers and ride them down. Quarterman stops runners cold…a gift that not many prospects have. 107 tackles, 15.5 TFLs, 5 PDs in 13 games in 2019 season. In the argument for the best defensive (and overall) prospect in this game.

  

ILB Justin Strnad (Stra-Nad), Wake Forest, 6’3”/235 (Grade: B)

I really enjoyed this tape. Classic middle linebacker with NFL athleticism it appears to me – nice tackler, NFL burst/movement to the ball, can drop into coverage adeptly. Was averaging just shy of 10.0 tackles per game in 2019 season but a bicep injury cut his season short after 7 games. Would have had nice numbers/won awards, potentially, with a full season played…and thus have a better draft stock today.

 

ILB Evan Weaver, California, 6’2”/235 (Grade: B+)

From my Senior Bowl previews…

UPDATE: Every coach’s darling of the week…he’s the kinda high effort/grinder the coaches love. He’s very smart/cerebral. Motor always running. Clean tackler. Can be the coach for a defense. He’ll not be rated a top prospect due to athleticism concerns but every coach here will secretly want him, and I bet he goes top 100 as a surprise…and I bet it is to his Senior Bowl coached team – the Detroit Lions.

Org. Comments: 2019 PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Looks a little like Leighton Vander Esch. Really nice feet, high energy, and is looking to hit people…but is very comfortable, adept at dropping into coverage as well. An all-around solid NFL ILB prospect. Will be an NFL starter.

 

ILB Clay Johnston, Baylor, 6’1”/232 (Grade: B+)

Excellent middle linebacker, who might warrant an ‘A’ grade. Very quick to the ball. Tough enough to shed blockers and make plays in traffic. Great form tackler and a hard hitter. His Combine numbers could push him to ‘A’ grade. He won’t fall below ‘B’ for me if the Combine numbers are just ‘OK’. I’ll bet Matt Rhule wants Johnston in Carolina for sure…his Luke Kuechly may be sitting there available Day three of the draft.  

 

OLB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson, 6’4”/230 (Grade: A-)

A freak prospect, and everyone is on board with him. Has the size, speed, ability of an instant starter in the NFL. Plays mostly an OLB/joker role…roaming around – could be in coverage one play and rushing off the edge the next. Could work as a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme OLB. Very versatile and athletic. He’s as advertised.

 

ILB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma, 6’2”/234 (Grade: A)

He’s a top-rated ILB for many, and he deserves it. Excellent ability to read the play, read blocking, with the athleticism and instincts to go make plays. He seems like he’s all over the field watching him on tape. He might have been the best ILB in last year’s draft class, for some comparison. Really gifted player. 



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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics. 

Learn more about RC and the College Football Metrics system >>