NFL Draft 2021: Top 5 Linebacker Prospects
With just about 2 weeks until Roger Goodell announces the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, now is as good a time as ever to discuss the top prospects at every position.
In recent years, we’ve seen young linebackers take over the league early on in their careers, so let’s take a look at some of the prospects who can make an impact on day one.
1. Micah Parsons, Penn State
Not only is Parsons the best linebacker in this class, but he’s probably the best overall defensive player as well.
In just two years starting for the Nittany Lions, Parsons totaled 191 tackles and 5 sacks. He finished his career at Penn State by being named the Defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl in 2020.
Parsons is also an elite athlete who ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and has the versatility to play off the ball or rush the passer on the edge.
The only thing currently holding him back from being a surefire top 10 pick is the character concerns revolving around a hazing scandal when Parsons was a freshman, but in terms of talent, he is arguably a top five player in the class.
2. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, or JOK, is another linebacker who could potentially hear his name called somewhere in the first 15 picks.
Owusu-Koramoah is a swiss army knife who is somewhat of a hybrid between linebacker and safety. This versatility will allow whatever defensive coordinator gets their hands on him to be creative and use multiple different looks to confuse opposing offenses.
The one concern with JOK is that he may be too undersized to be an every-down linebacker in the NFL, but his freaky athleticism and rare skillset make him worthy of a first round pick.
3. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
Ojulari is a player whose draft stock has risen significantly over the past few weeks, even being considered an option for the Giants at pick 11.
At 6’3” 249 pounds, Azeez isn’t the biggest 3-4 outside linebacker in the class, but his 35 inch arms and polished pass rushing ability make up for it.
While Ojulari is one of the more advanced pass rushers in this draft, his ability to drop back into coverage and run with tight ends and running backs is what solidifies his spot as a top five linebacker prospect.
4. Zaven Collins, Tulsa
While Zaven Collins didn’t play at a football powerhouse like the first three prospects mentioned, he shouldn’t be overlooked, as he’s been nothing but productive for the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes in his three years playing for the program.
Since becoming a starter as a true freshman in 2018, the former high school quarterback has racked up a total of 236 tackles and finished his college career with career highs in sacks (four) and interceptions (four) in a shortened 2020 season
Similarly to Micah Parsons, Zaven Collins isn’t necessarily a true Mike linebacker, but would be used best as an outside linebacker who can fly around the field making clean-up tackles and occasionally rush the passer.
5. Jamin Davis, Kentucky
Up until just a few weeks ago, nobody was talking about Jamin Davis, but now that he’s caught the eye of many credible draft analysts, the excitement around him continues to rise.
The lack of recognition is probably due to the fact that not many people are spending their Saturday’s watching Kentucky football, but his 102 tackles and 3 interceptions in just 10 games as a junior are hard stats to ignore.
The 6’4” 234 pound Wildcat ran his 40-yard dash in just 4.41 seconds and logged a 42 inch vertical jump.
With the rate Davis is rising right now, don’t be surprised if he ends up being the second linebacker selected in the first round.
Jakob Schnur is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org