Detroit Lions 2021 roster needs / NFL Draft strategy (Part 3 - Linebackers)
In part 3 of this series, we take a look at the linebacker depth in this NFL draft.
This series is focused on what prospects are available at each pick position for Detroit.
The Lions have several linebackers on the team:
Jamie Collins (starting MLB/OLB)
Alex Anzalone (currently starting MLB, ideally rotational)
Jahlani Tavai (former 2nd round pick, possible cut candidate)
Jalen Reeves-Maybin (core ST player, rotational option at a pinch)
Shaun Dion Hamilton (probably ST player if he makes the roster)
Anthony Pittman (2019 UDFA, appeared in one game in 2019).
From the above, the players realistically that could start are Collins and Anzalone, and even then Anzalone is ideally rotational only. Clearly, another 2 or 3 players in the position are required.
Let's have a look at who will be available at each Detroit pick:
7, 41, 72, 101, 112, 153.
There's only one pick available here, and that is:
Micah Parsons, Penn State. A 2020 opt-out, Micah has elite size and athleticism, standing at 6'2, 245. He ran in the 4.3s for the 40-yard dash in his pro day. He'll be an elite blitzer from day 1 and is very instinctual, but is also quite raw and will have a steep learning curve in NFL coverages.
Available if Detroit trade down:
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame. Affectionally known as JOK, Jeremiah stands at 6'2, 216. He's a big impact player who has a unique skill set. He projects as a 4-3 WILL linebacker who can also play box safety, but his skill set is limited and won't play the traditional stack role or MIKE to a high standard. He should be available in the mid-late first round.
Zaven Collins, Tulsa. Zaven is a uniquely tall and big LB, at 6'4, 260. A converted QB, he won the Bronko Nagurski trophy awarded to college football's best defensive player. He can do it all, run defense, coverage and blitzing. He should be available as a late day 1, early day 2 pick.
Jabril Cox, LSU. Jabril is another ideally sized linebacker, at 6'3, 233. A fairly unheralded 2 star recruit out of high school, he spent 3 seasons out North Dakota State before transferring to LSU for his final year in a step up in competition, which speaks to his character, and he thrived. Ideal in man and zone with a great motor.
Jamin Davis, Kentucky. Jamin is a long, rangy and explosive linebacker at 6'4, 224. He's a one-season wonder thus far, with a fantastic 2020 season. He still needs a little time to develop his decision making which will seem him take a developmental role in year one.
Baron Browning, Ohio State. Once playing second fiddle to the other Ohio State LB Pete Werner in the rankings, Baron (6'3, 241) is a former 5 star recruit out of high school and has incredible athleticism, even when compared with the other names above him on this list. He could well be shifted into a 3-4 OLB role as an edge rusher to let his athletic traits sign. He could threaten round 1 after his pro-day, running a 4.58 40-yard dash, 6.78 3-cone, a 40" vertical leap and 10'10 broad jump, for a 9.98 RAS score.
Pete Werner, Ohio State. 6'3, 242. He's a pro-ready, every-down linebacker, who ideally projects as a 4-3 SAM. He's athletic, with good size and hand power.
Dylan Moses, Alabama. 6'3, 235. An experienced linebacker at all three spots, he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in 2019 which may give teams some pause. Athletic, with good instincts, he likes to put the hit on his opposition. He can lack technique at times. He projects as the starting SAM or WILL linebackers.
Cameron McGrone, Michigan. 6'1, 232. McGrone has a terrifically small sample size (19 games) but shone in 2019 as Michigan's starting MIKE. He didn't play quite as well in 2020, but has three-down value and excellent athleticism which should alleviate some concerns teams may have. He may have to slide a little to be available here.
Monty Rice, Georgia. 6'0, 238. Rice plays with a good level of athleticism and agility although he lacks a little length. He has good closing speed. Likely projects as a backup with special teams upside.
Chazz Surratt, North Carolina. 6'1.5, 227. A converted QB, his first season at linebacker was 2019 after a season-ending injury to his wrist in 2018. He's got all the traits you would want at OLB but just needs more experience in the role.
Ernest Jones, South Carolina. 6'2, 230. A team captain and leader of the SC defense, he projects as a backup WILL linebacker with special teams upside. This is due to a lack of processing skills and functional strength for the MIKE and SAM roles.
Justin Hilliard, Ohio State. 6'0.5, 227. Justin is one of the harder evaluations. He could go in late day two, or late day three depending on who you listen to. He was the LB4 at Ohio State and projects as a rotational SAM linebacker and core special teamer.
So, that's your potential linebackers for the 2021 NFL draft class for the Detroit Lions. Who have you got your eyes on?
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