The Eagles need to add fresh talent to their linebacker corps. The defense looked different last year without Jordan Hicks and now, with Nigel Bradham gone too, the Eagles are in desperate need to revitalize the unit. The 2020 NFL Draft class has some good players the Eagles could snag in each round. Here are the ten best linebackers. PREVIOUS DRAFT RANKINGS: Wide receiver | Cornerback | Safety | Defensive ends.
10. Evan Weaver, California
Evan Weaver was college football’s most productive linebacker last year. His 103 solo tackles was twenty more than the next most prolific tackler in the country. Weaver is a short, stout linebacker who plays like a pit bull. He is physical, aggressive but not without control. He is an unspectacular athlete, but he could still make an impact in the NFL given his football IQ and playing style.
Pro Comparison: Nick Kwiatkoski
9. David Woodward, Utah
David Woodward was playing outstanding football before an injury cut his junior season short. The 6’2” junior defender does not have any outstanding athletic traits, but he is a phenomenal defensive quarterback. He is intelligent, physical and incredibly consistent attacking downhill. Woodward’s middling athleticism can be overcome in the right scheme, but it’s hard not to see this guy make an impact as at least a mid-level contributor in the league.
Pro Comparison: Manti Te’o
8. Willie Gay Jr, Mississippi State
Willie Gay Junior’s draft stock exists somewhat in abstract. Gay was held out of a majority of the 2019 season due to NCAA violations, but flashed big time when he did see the field in 2019 and 2018. Willie Gay Junior captured the hearts and minds of NFL teams when he destroyed the NFL combine. Gay’s athleticism and flashes of dominance should be enough to get him drafted pretty highly.
Pro Comparison: Daryl Washington
7. Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State
Akeem Davis-Gaither was massively productive for the Mountaineers. He is a smaller defender at 6’1” and less than 230 pounds, but he makes up for it with great playing speed. Davis-Gaither is the perfect type of defender for the new-age NFL.
Pro Comparison: Wesley Woodyard
6. Markus Bailey, Purdue
Markus Bailey’s career has been somewhat frustrating in that he is incredibly productive when he’s on the field but has been hampered by injury for much of his time in college. Bailey’s combination of speed and instincts make him a true every-down defender. If he can stay healthy in the NFL, he will make a defensive coordinator very happy with his versatility.
Pro Comparison: Jayon Brown
5. Malik Harrison, Ohio State
Ohio State had NFL starters at every level of their defense last year and Malik Harrison was a relatively unsung star given the big names he played with. Harrison is not only impressively built, but he is a phenomenal athlete. Harrison plays an extremely aggressive brand of football that leads to highlight plays against the run and as a pass defender. He is the type of tackler who will tattoo ball carriers a few times a game. Harrison’s aggression is a double-edged sword that can also hurt him from time to time. If a team can temper Harrison’s playing style, they have a star on their hands.
Pro Comparison: KJ Wright
4. Troy Dye, Oregon
A personal favorite. Troy Dye was an outstanding presence on the Oregon defense. Dye is a smart, physical player who isn’t afraid to fight through traffic to make plays. Dye’s toughness was crucial for Oregon and teams will love the sort of leadership dynamic he could bring to an NFL defense.
Pro Comparison: Zach Cunningham
3. Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
A combination of athleticism, coverage skills and big play mentality make Kenneth Murray a potential first round pick. Murray is an every down defender with blitzing capability. His aggressiveness and lack of consistency as a block shedder can get him into trouble, but his plus traits are too hard to overlook. Murray will be a longtime playmaker in the NFL.
Pro Comparison: Lawrence Timmons
2. Patrick Queen, LSU
After sending Kwon Alexander, Deion Jones and Devin White to the NFL, Patrick Queen is the next big name for LSU linebackers to make the pro-jump. Queen only started for one full year, but played a pivotal role in the Tigers national championship push towards the end of the season. Queen is a smaller defender at six foot and nearly 230 pounds, but his explosiveness and playing speed are impossible to ignore. If he can continue his rate of improvement in the NFL, he will be a star.
Pro Comparison: Eric Kendricks
1. Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
One of a few elite players in this class. Simmons is a generational athlete who translated it into week-in, week-out dominance for the Tigers. Simmons played several defensive positions and somehow dominated all of them. He can defend the run, rush the passer, cover the slot and shut down the middle of the field. Simmons improvement to 2018 to 2019 also is notable when projecting the kind of game changing defender he can be in the NFL. Conventional wisdom suggests spending high picks on linebackers is not practical unless they are once in a decade talents and Simmons is exactly the type of player who crosses that threshold.
Pro Comparison: Patrick Willis but somehow taller