The Eagles’ defensive needs are expansive, especially in the back seven. Linebacker has been a troubled spot the last few years and got so bad in 2020 that it was impossible to mask. The 2021 NFL Draft has quite a few talented linebackers and the Eagles would benefit from dipping into this group. PREVIOUSLY RANKED: Top 20 wide receivers | Top 20 cornerbacks.
1) Micah Parsons, Penn State
There is no doubt that Micah Parsons has the tools and mentality of a star linebacker. His combination of size, speed, and ability to attack the line of scrimmage is rare. He can cover, attack the run and wreak havoc as a blitzer. His aggressive style of play can hurt him as much as it can produce big plays, so tempering his mentality will go a long way in the NFL. Parsons also has some off-field history he will need to answer for, in some capacity. If teams are comfortable with his growth off the field, there is no doubt what he can do to help on it.
Pro Comparison: Mychal Kendricks
2) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
As the NFL transitions to more “positionless” football, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is no doubt an interesting chess piece for any defense at the next level. He doesn’t have the build of a typical linebacker (6’1”, 220) but his speed, instincts, and coverage ability make him a unique talent near the line of scrimmage. Every year we have a conversation about moving these types of players to safety, but the reality is that his speed is maximized close to the line of scrimmage and as a safety, he’d be playing in the box 90% of the time anyway. So the distinction is mostly aesthetic. Owusu-Koramoah will be valued for versatility and if he can improve as a run defender, he should make a big impact early on in the NFL.
Pro Comparison: Devin Bush
3) Chazz Surratt, North Carolina
A former quarterback, Chazz Surratt transitioned to playing on the other side of the ball beautifully. Surratt’s athleticism translates to being able to run with tight ends and slot receivers, while also having sideline to sideline speed against the run. There is still plenty of room for Surratt to grow physically and improve as a defender, but it’s hard not to love the potential.
Pro Comparison: Demario Davis
4) Jabril Cox, LSU
After dominating the FCS, Jabril transferred from NDSU to the SEC where he was arguably the best defender on the Tigers last year. At 6’3” and 230 pounds, Jabril Cox is built like the modern linebacker and he moves like it too. He never looked out of place athletically in the SEC and his main problems came down to the game around him moving much faster than it did when he was in North Dakota. Nonetheless, when he was on, he was absolutely fantastic. LSU had a lot of tumult in general on defense and despite his bad moments, Jabril Cox was still the star of the group. That bodes well for his transition to the NFL.
Pro Comparison: Kenneth Murray
5) Zaven Collins, Tulsa
At 6’5” and 260 pounds, Zaven Collins looks best suited to be rushing off the edge or maybe playing small forward on a basketball court. Collins was a high school quarterback before he switched to quarterbacking the Tulsa defense. His athleticism and instincts immediately made him the most dominant player on the field at all times. His speed, strength and size can be overwhelming at times and he regularly beat up on lesser competition. Consistency is a big question for Collins, which isn’t surprising given how new he is to linebacker. As he continues to get comfortable with the position and how to apply his physical gifts, he will become a difference-maker in the NFL.
Pro Comparison: Benardrick McKinney
BEST OF THE REST
6) Nick Bolton, Missouri
7) Baron Browning, Ohio State
8) Jamin Davis, Kentucky
9) Dylan Moses, Alabama
10) Tony Fields II, West Virginia