2021 Senior Bowl Scouting Previews: Linebackers (ILB and OLB)
Each year, before the players arrive in Mobile, I spend 20-30+ minutes or so in a small scouting session (looking at tape and output data) and then type out an instant reaction preview and grade.
This is a very early, limited study on each player…just to get a feel, just to start the process. I’ll observe the Senior Bowl week and game and then adjust the grades for a post-week analysis. We’ll do it all over again for the NFL Combine process and grade them there as well. Eventually, with most top 100+ prospects, we’ll do a deeper dive, individual study and full scouting report. For now, just a quick preview to get ready for the Senior Bowl.
ILB Grant Stuard, Houston (Preview grade = B+)
6’1”/230, Team Captain
How this guy is not in scouting services top 400-500 rankings is shocking to me. If there’s a better ILB prospect at this Senior Bowl, I don’t see it. Has all the speed, instincts, acceleration, block evasion and perfect tackle technique you could want – plus heart, smarts, and character. One of my favorite prospects I’ve watched so far in my Senior Bowl previews…and I don’t see him listed in the top 300-400-500+ for almost any scouting sites.
When Stuard adds another 5+ pounds of lean muscle, he’s going to be an NFL starting linebacker of note.
2020 = 61 tackles, 5.0 TFLs, 1 def. TD (7 games)
OLB Chazz Surratt, UNC (Preview grade = B-)
From my summer of 2020 preview: The unusual QB-to-ILB conversion in college. Played a lot of games/started some for UNC as a freshman/2017 at QB, and then got hurt and lost most of his 2018 season and then converted to ILB in 2019 and was 2nd in the ACC in total tackles…two years prior he was 7th in the ACC in passer efficiency.
Surratt is a legit NFL LB prospect, but probably more as an OLB. He’s not the greatest tackler but makes up for that with higher speed/agility, an ability to get to plays or rush the backfield at a high level but doesn’t always make sure tackles that I see…he’s a grab up high and wrestle to the ground kinda tackler not a clean waist hit and take them out pure hitter. He can improve upon that.
Reminds me of: Myles Jack.
Chazz is usually ranked as a top 100 overall prospect for most scouting services in January.
2019: 115 total tackles, 15.0 TFLs, 6.5 sacks (13g)
ILB Garret Wallow, TCU (Preview grade = B/B-)
Speed of an OLB, heart and play of an ILB. Led the Big 12 in solo tackles in 2019 (3rd in all the NCAA that season). 27.0 TFLs in the past two seasons (22 games).
Very impressive instincts. Great acceleration/burst to the ball and is a quality hitter/tackler. Very impressive player who could be something with an offseason of adding muscle at the pro level.
Rating services don’t seem to be into him…not usually listed in the January top 200-250 overall. That will change after the Senior Bowl week.
2019 = 125 total tackles, 18.0 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT (13 games)
ILB Derrick Barnes, Purdue (Preview grade = C-/D+)
Solid enough LB prospect for the NFL. Have to see his NFL Combine measurables to get a better idea. He doesn’t look like he has great NFL speed, but I want a stopwatch to confirm or deny it. Looks like a classic big/blocky interior linebacker. Good tackler. Good effort. Speed/quickness for the pros is the question.
Not among the top 300-350 overall prospect rankings for scouting sites in January.
2019 = 63 tackles, 11.0 TFLs 7.5 sacks, 2 PDs (12 games)
ILB Paddy Fisher, Northwestern (Preview grade = D+)
Smart player, throwback-ish ILB, good length and reach. Led the Big Ten in solo tackles in 2020 season. Highly productive college career. Seems to lack any real burst/power/speed combinations to be an impact NFL linebacker. I watched him blocked out of plays a lot and most of the tackles I saw of his was him wrestling ballcarriers to the ground not dropping them with impunity.
Not a top 200 prospect for most scouting sites, more of a UDFA lean…but has a few top 200 listings.
2018 = 116 total tackles, 5.0 TFLs, 4 FF (14 games)
ILB Tuf Borland, Ohio State (Preview grade = D+)
Smart, savvy linebacker with decent athleticism…moves to the ball well. Picks through traffic nicely to make plays. He’s more instinct than physical prowess. I’m not sure the Senior Bowl will showcase his gifts. Might be more special teamer for the NFL.
Top 300 overall prospect for most scouting sites in January.
2020 = 48 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 1 INT, 1 PD (7 games)
ILB Riley Cole, So. Alabama (Preview grade = D+)
Good feet. Good effort. Bad tackler. Solid college ILB but needs a lot of work to be an NFL linebacker.
There are raw tools to work with and a willingness, but I’m not sure he has the body or aggression as a hitter to ever stand out and become an NFL player. His size and feet make him a prospect worth taking a UDFA look at and putting on a practice squad and seeing if it turns into anything.
Not seeing him among the top 300 ranked prospects on scouting sites in January.
2020 = 96 total tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 2 FF/FR (10 games)
ILB K.J. Britt, Auburn (Preview grade = D)
Solid college ILB, but suspect for the pros. The movement skills are just not there…very slow in pursuit. If something comes his way in the interior scrum he’s solid, but if he has to chase…he just doesn’t have the fluid athleticism/speed to get after it on an NFL level.
I see him listed as a top 150-200 prospect for some (because he played at Auburn) and not listed top 300 in others.
OLB Aaron Hansford, Texas A&M (Preview grade = B/C)
A former WR converted to OLB, and started to play more in 2020 after not doing much his first three seasons at A&M. His tape was wobbly, like an experienced or timid defender…but his athleticism and build looked fantastic. There are some raw physical tools to look at for sure.
When I saw him trying to rush off the EDGE, OTs destroyed him like he was a gnat.
When I saw him as a 4-3 OLB floating around and working coverage on passing plays…he looked like an NFL body in motion.
He’s not getting much January pre-Draft love, but they may change when people see his body/quickness at the Senior Bowl…or he dies off as ‘not a defender’s mindset’. He’s the most intriguing prospect I think I’ve seen so far (halfway through the previews) – not the best player, just the most curious…most titillating potential…maybe.
2020 = 49 tackles, 7.0 TFLs, 3.0 sacks (9 games)
OLB Jabril Cox, LSU (Preview grade = B-/C+)
Summer of 2020 I previewed Cox with the following commentary: A raw, FCS linebacking talent. Was a star high school QB. Went to NDSU as a skinny OLB prospect in 2017 and turned into a thicker ILB performer in 2018. Shows some NFL size and athleticism. Has good moments, and then bad. Tends to misread plays and directions and is out of the play. Could be groomed into a better more complete ILB, but could default to an athletic 4-3 OLB in the pros.
2021 preview: He’s an OLB at heart and is very good/great in coverage – 3 picks and a pick six for LSU in 2020, transferring from North Dakota State. Six picks and 18 PDs at NDSU (3 years) in 45 games.
A top 100 prospect for most scouting sites in January.
2020 = 58 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 3 INTs, 1 pick-six, 5 PDs
OLB Charles Snowden, Virginia (Preview grade = C-/D+)
Tall, lanky athlete that looks more like an EDGE rusher at first glance and was a 4-3 DE in the tape I watched – but he plays more like a 3-4 OLB. Snowden wasn’t a ‘wow’ pass rusher, and his thin frame is easily blocked out of plays/pass rushes.
However, he has good feet and can dodge blockers and get to running plays…and also drops back into coverage pretty well – looks like an EDGE rusher but has the heart/play style more of an outside linebacker.
Questionable straight-line speed. Better agility. His grade is more based on what you might be able to mold his long, lanky body into. He’s a top 150-200 prospect for most scouting sites in January.
2020 = 44 tackles, 10.0 TFLs, 6.0 sacks, 3 PDs (8 games)
OLB Baron Browning, Ohio State (Preview grade = C-/D+)
Hard to get a read on prospect…
His tape says he’s a very intriguing, fast-footed upside OLB/ILB.
His production/output says he’s a forgettable backup/special teamer.
Very nice burst/acceleration to things, but rarely makes plays…but also dropped into coverage a lot as a 4-3 OLB. He’s a developmental/upside gamble prospect.
Most rating services have him into the top 200 in January rankings.
2019 = 43 tackles, 11.0 TFLs, 5.0 sacks (11 games)
OLB Monty Rice, Georgia (Preview grade = D+)
Looks like an NFL body/starter but doesn’t play like one. Great movement skills, nice athlete but poor instincts and weak tackler – he can hit people, but he usually gets faked out too much. I think, personally, because his heart is not fully in it – or he just has little feel for the game.
He’s a top 150 overall prospect for many scouting sites because ‘Georgia’.
2020 = 49 tackles, 4.0 TFLs, 1 PD (9 games)
OLB Tony Fields, West Va. (Preview grade = D+)
Body of an OLB/safety but played mostly ILB at West Va. (on the tape I watched). Good enough speed, but undersized for the NFL as an interior linebacker. Not sure he has enough juice to be an OLB in the pros, but maybe. Might have a better NFL shot at things moving to safety.
Feels like a ‘good for college’ linebacker, but ‘never-is’ an NFL linebacker.
Is ranked some as a top 300-350 overall prospect on a few scouting sites.
2020 = 88 tackles, 4.0 TFLs, 1 INT, 2 PDs (9 games)
OLB Hamilcar Rashed, Oregon State (Preview grade = D)
Played a kinda joker/pass rusher off the edge role for Oregon State, on the tape that I watched – thus the #1 in the NCAA 22.5 TFLs in 2019. He followed that season up with a complete dud in 2020…7 games, 23 tackles, 2.0 TFLs.
I think he’s a function of his role in 2019. Not the fastest OLB, nor did he seem all too aggressive…just a guy trying to speed/slither into the backfield and chasing down activity. I didn’t see much of him dominating blocking or blowing up ballcarriers as much as him sneak blitzing and chasing the action. He’s not a good enough athlete to do that/play that role in the pros.
I see him ranked top 150 for most scouting sites in January, likely off the strength of that 2019 pop in TFL numbers.
2019 = 62 tackles, 22.5 TFLs, 14.0 sacks (11 games)
2020 = 23 tackles, 2.0 TFLs, 0.0 sacks (7 games)
Weird collapse in his numbers. We’ll find out which one is true, maybe, at the Senior Bowl week.