Bears On The Clock

NFL Draft: Top 10 linebacker prospects

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Linebackers from this class are essentially enigmas to most evaluators this year. A shortened season, the lack of a "true" scouting combine and several players that opted out of 2020 campaign have complicated the evaluation process. Look for more outside linebackers to be taken than inside backers in this draft.

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1/10

SIZE:

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 245 lbs

UPSIDE:

Parsons' symbiotic thread of athleticism, instincts and aptitude make him a very special player. His quick twitch explosion allows him to range sideline to sideline aggressively, and deliver crushing tackles. Parsons' ability to read and react to various offensive schemes epitomizes him as an indispensable three-down linebacker. He's an imposing 6'3, 245 lbs run defender with long arms and impeccable tackling technique. Size and agility allow him to effortlessly sift through traffic, slip blockers, and zero in in on his targets to make bone jarring tackles. A day one starter and future star in the league.

DOWNSIDE:

As great as Parsons projects, he isn't a flawless player. Although extremely versatile, he may need to hone in on a specific linebacking position to help narrow his focus and streamline his instinctual play. Having opted out of the 2020 season, there's rust and some lack of game experience that he'll have to improve upon as a professional. Basically, he'll have to learn to rely less on his athleticism and more on his knowledge and learned nuances from playing at a higher level of competition.

LIKELY SCENARIO:

Parsons is a future star in this league. He just has to continue maturing his game and disciplining his mind in order to achieve greatness. Any team could use his talents, but the most likely first round candidates are...Carolina, Denver or Dallas.

COMPARISON:

Anthony Barr

2/10

SIZE:

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 215 lbs

UPSIDE:

Owusu-Koramoah is a quick twitch player who can arrive at a play in the blink of an eye and be effectively disruptive. He shows great reactive speed but needs to be more committed with his decisions in pass coverage. A lean athlete with excellent closing bursts, once his football awareness matches his athleticism, he may be a top 10 NFL outside linebacker. Utilized in the "rover" position while in college, this coiled athlete strikes with Cobra-like quickness after diagnosing plays with his equally sharp mind. A day one impact player wherever he lines up in 2021.

DOWNSIDE:

The need for added weight and some bulk are obvious when applying their importance to prolonging Koramoah's professional career. Increasing his weight five to ten pounds shouldn't rob him of his explosive attributes, if anything, it may make his tackles more impactful. Sometimes Koramoah plays at such a "breakneck" pace, he overruns his assignment areas and targets. While we're being picky, Koramoah needs to wrap up when tackling and cease believing his booming hits are enough, to stop players at the NFL level.

LIKELY SCENARIO:

Arguably the best athlete amongst the defensive players, Koramoah is scheme friendly, but may be best suited playing outside in a 3-4 defense. Teams in line for Koramoah's services begin with...Arizona, Las Vegas and Miami for starters.

COMPARISON:

Deion Jones

3/10

SIZE:

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 260 lbs

UPSIDE:

An extremely agile and fluid player for a man his size (6'4", 260 lbs), Collins' playmaking athleticism was on full display in 2020. The Tulsa linebacker picked off four passes and returned two for scores. General managers, scouts and coaches are cautiously optimistic that Collins' exploits are minimized and overlooked because they want him for themselves. His ability to blitz, play the run and secure tackles makes him an asset for any organization. His versatility is tantalizing for a defense predicated on attacking and confounding offenses with aggressively varied formations. Collins is a true "diamond in the rough" player.

DOWNSIDE:

Collins' playmaking skills hit a different level this past season, intercepting four passes and returning two for scores. Playing at Tulsa there will be detractors questioning the level of competition he faced, but considering his measurables and production Collins should make the adjustment to the pros. Like most prospects, Collins will have to expand his repertoire of pass rush moves, overall field awareness and acclimate to the speed of the pro game. Proving to himself that he can play in the NFL may be his biggest obstacle.

LIKELY SCENARIO:

Collins represents the type of player that wasn't a high school all-American, but worked hard, persevered and is on the cusp of realizing his childhood dreams. Helping him attain his goal of being drafted in the NFL might be teams like...Miami (second, 1st round pick), Tennessee or Pittsburgh.

COMPARISON:

Leighton Vander Esch

4/10

SIZE:

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 234 lbs

UPSIDE:

Davis is a long, rangy athletic defender with a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Having recorded over 100 total tackles ( 102 ) and picking off three passes ( 1 TD), Davis jumped onto the national scene with a stellar junior season. He plays with a 360 degree spatial awareness and intelligence required in today's wide open offenses. Davis may be the best coverage linebacker in this draft class and his ability to run fluidly, flip his hips while shadowing receivers is second to none. Assignment sound in run defense, Davis easily sifts through traffic and fills gaps to close down potential rush lanes. Davis is extremely competitive and may have worked himself into being a day one selection.

DOWNSIDE:

Davis needs to improve defending the run and increase his strength at the point of attack. His tackling technique isn't the best and he appears hesitant to fully engage in stopping the run. At this juncture, Davis is more of a finesse defender and his lack of physicality might be exploited by more run oriented offenses (like the Tennessee). Davis will have to learn how better to disengage from blocks at the next level, or he'll just be a third down specialist on passing downs.

LIKELY SCENARIO:

A late riser on many draft pundits' big boards, Davis flashes first round athleticism and a high ceiling skill set. Several teams needing versatile linebackers with coverage skills will be interested in Davis, so, expect squads like...Washington, New Orleans or Kansas City to draft this Wildcat from Kentucky.

COMPARISON:

Isaiah Simmons

5/10

SIZE:

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 232 lbs

UPSIDE:

Drafting Bolton insures teams they'll be acquiring a premier run stopper, who strikes ballcarriers with explosive, bone-jarring hits. Although he's not prototypically tall for an inside backer, his framing is stout and his lower torso is thick and sturdy enough to absorb larger running backs' attempts to overpower him. Bolton is an impact run defender and exactly the presence many organizations need on their second level of defense. Bolton flashes decent coverage skills when playing in a zone, displaying a knack for deflecting passes (12 passes defended in the last 22 games played).

DOWNSIDE:

Although he is more than adequate in zone coverage, Bolton is like a fish out of water when asked to cover man to man. He has good linear speed and a reflexive, straight line burst, but his lateral agility is below average. In today's game, most offenses stress the middle of the field with speedy receivers using crisscrossing routes, or athletic, pass-catching tight ends threatening the seams in defensive schemes. Bolton's questionable agility and a sub-par backpedal may hinder him from being on the field during crucial third downs.

LIKELY SCENARIO:

Bolton is a solid linebacker that has an old school, throwback approach to playing his position. Teams taking him will get a consistent tackler and leader with some coverage skills. General managers looking for an enforcer might come from organizations such as...Cincinnati, Houston or Green Bay.

COMPARISON:

Josey Jewell

6/10

SIZE:

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 225 lbs

UPSIDE:

Surratt's ability to drop into coverage, read and react to running plays and blitz are several elements that intrigue scouts. A gifted athlete, this former quarterback transitioned well into a NFL caliber linebacker flashing three down ability. Surratt is adept at rushing the quarterback and utilizing angles to navigate through traffic and subdue ball carriers. Several teams can definitely use an athletic defender who makes plays in coverage and hold his own against NFL running backs.

DOWNSIDE:

Surratt is still learning how to play more efficiently as a linebacker. Athletic though he may be, Surratt loses leverage when he over pursues his targets. Taking better angles and understanding how offenses are attacking him, are key aspects of his play that require more seasoning. Surratt won with athleticism in college, however as a future pro, he'll need to get stronger to handle bigger, more versatile NFL guards.

LIKELY SCENARIO:

Surratt has an upside that some pundits project as possible all-pro material. Teams that may be interested in his potential could be...Miami, Arizona or Cleveland.

COMPARISON:

Lavonte David

7/10

SIZE:

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 240 lbs

UPSIDE:

Browning is quickly becoming that type of do-it-all, every down linebacker teams covet in today's wide open passing game. Athletic and nimble, Browning takes away a lot of underneath routes with his ability to backpedal, or move laterally while in pass coverage. A well-toned athlete, Browning looks the part and is now exhibiting a maturity to his game. No longer allowing his explosive reactions to cause him to over pursue, Browning is becoming a more complete linebacker.

DOWNSIDE:

It’s imperative Browning improve his ability to recognize what offenses are doing on the field. He possesses elite physical gifts that suggest he should be more dominate than his college stats indicate. Scouts question if he's just a product of an Ohio State system that produces NFL prospects year after year, only to see many of them fade as professionals.

LIKELY SCENARIO:

Browning has every athletic tool at his disposal, it’s up to him to maximize his assets. These teams may want to provide the opportunity for him to excel in the NFL...Houston, Indianapolis or Kansas City.

COMPARISON:

Darius Leonard

8/10

SIZE:

Height: 6-foot-7

Weight: 240 lbs

UPSIDE:

A tall, but well proportioned, rangy athlete endowed with a "condor" like wingspan, Snowden utilizes his arm length to expand his tackling radius. He adequately displays functional strength when extending his long arms to fend off blockers, then quickly disengages from them to pursue his target. He showcases deceptive speed while chasing players from behind, stalking them like prey before he pounces. His height and imposing long limbs enable him to bat down passes and grapple ball carriers from varying angles of pursuit. Even after a season ending injury, Snowden is too talented to ignore.

DOWNSIDE:

Clearly, Snowden must convince scouts and general managers that he's improving and healthy enough to be drafted, after enduring a season ending injury in 2020. Snowden's freakish athleticism taxed many college offensive linemen, but as a pro, teams will game plan to neutralize his athletic advantages. So, Snowden's commitment to getting healthier and increasing his football I.Q. are paramount to him succeeding at the next level.

LIKELY SCENARIO:

Charles Snowden is the type of unique athlete that intrigues many general manager, and inspires defensive coordinators to be more exotic in their schemes. These defensive minded squads might want Snowden...Pittsburgh, Tennessee or Baltimore.

COMPARISON:

Kemko Turay

9/10

SIZE:

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 235 lbs

UPSIDE:

Rice is an excellent tackler with keen pursuit skills. Doing a credible job diagnosing plays and shooting the gaps, Rice continually prevents big runs from the opposition. He implements a sturdy anchor when teams run directly toward him, and he uses adequate strength shedding blocks to diffuse plays. Rice showcases just enough awareness in pass coverage to be a legitimate three down linebacker. Although he isn't as athletic as his teammate (Azeez Ojulari), Rice's isn't stiff, moving fluidly enough to evade blockers and disrupt offensive plans.

DOWNSIDE:

There are times when Rice appears to be a bystander on the field, arriving late to plays, or reacting in a delayed fashion. When facing aggressive, physical blockers with some agility, Rice reacts less confidently and at times is overwhelmed. Developing various methods to counter-act how offensive linemen attack him is essential to Rice's relevance as a pro.

LIKELY SCENARIO:

Rice will play in the NFL, however, which general manager from what team will be the one to draft him? Maybe one of these franchises will take a chance on him...Philadelphia, Carolina or CHICAGO.

COMPARISON:

Devin Bush

10/10

SIZE:

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 242 lbs

UPSIDE:

Werner is an omnipresent player who doesn't do any "one" thing spectacularly, but performs efficiently in many facets as a three down linebacker. It seems as though he's always around the ball making plays, or opening up opportunities for his teammates to finish successfully against the offense. Werner doesn't look like he weighs 242 pounds, seemingly 20 pounds lighter, he nevertheless delivers heavy blows when impacting his targets. Werner operates with elite balance and measured control and is rarely if ever fooled by advanced offenses. He is the perfect wingman for any linebacking corps.

DOWNSIDE:

Werner isn't a quick twitch player, and will struggle at times with elite, athletically skilled players. In order for him to flourish as a professional, he'll need to eliminate taking poor pursuit angles and operate better within a defensive game plan. Becoming more assertive is another aspect Werner should add to his playing persona, because his abilities are vital in any defensive scheme.

LIKELY SCENARIO:

Werner is that consistent element every squad depends on and struggles to do without. These teams will likely value Werner's reliability...Minnesota, Las Vegas or Kansas City.

COMPARISON:

Andrew Van Ginkel

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