The Eagles have issues when it comes to LB, despite mostly playing nickel coverages that replace the third linebacker with an extra DB. Occasionally, and mostly in short down situations and goalline, they go back to traditional 4-3 defense to add some weight.
Last year, the rotation was mostly between Bradham, Gerry, and Kamu Grugier-Hill. KGH and Bradham are no longer here, and Gerry was among the worst tacklers in the league. TJ Edwards, who was the team’s best linebacker by far when he was on the field, looks to solidify the MIKE spot, but much more help is needed at WILL and in terms of depth.
Here are mytop 15 LBs in the 2020 NFL draft:
1. Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
For: Out of this world athlete. Phenomenal speed in pass rush, reaches edge quickly, good timing and bend. Consistent open-field tackler who breaks down well and engages relevantly. Absurd range in coverage. Plays man and zone to a high level, has the speed to recover when burnt initially. Can deliver big hits after the catch.
Against: Limited physicality and nastiness in run game. Gets pushed around. Doesn’t squeeze gaps. Gets dominated by OL’s if they reach him. Avoids contact between tackles when possible.
Draft: Versatile, but probably first best as safety or out-the-box LB. Top-10
2. Patrick Queen, LSU
For: Only really played 1 season, and what he showed was incredibly impressive. Identifies pullers fast and reacts well. Impressive blitzer, always has a move and has active hands-on block sheds in blitz. Good flow pursuit against the run. Good speed, can play sideline to sideline, cover any RB, and hits edge fast in blitz. Turns 21 just before the season. Good balance, takes good angles usually. Natural hip turns in zone.
Against: A bit small. Sometimes gets caught on outside runs because he gets too close to the line of scrimmage. Needs consistent discipline to track near hip on tackles. Needs to break down consistently when getting to QB. Sometimes needs physicality against OL blocks between tackles.
Draft: 1st round.
3. Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
For: Extremely good tracking and play speed. Explosion for days. Above-average coverage ability, has mobility for zone and speed for man. Great acceleration on triggers, good change of direction. Tackles are often secure and hard.
Against: Average against blocks, especially in between tackles. Needs more physicality to squeeze gaps. Not asked to do a lot of coverage, so sample is smaller there. Play processing a bit slow before midway in 2019, improved a lot from there.
Draft: 2nd round.
4. Willie Gay Jr., Mississipi State
For: Arguably fastest play speed in the LB class (on par with Simmons). Incredible coverage abilities and potential. Accelerates well, can read the QBs eyes in zone, has speed to follow anyone. Incredibly athletic and mobile. Flashes plays with good tracking and hard hits. Tremendous effort. Allowed 25.8 passer rating when targeted, rarely misses tackles.
Against: Gets out of balance too often. False steps a lot. Gets caught in bad angles between the tackles. Reads pulls consistently but also slow relative to speed, compensated in college with speed. Doesn’t get off blocks well regularly. Backpedal looks robotic, takes time to gaindepth. Off-field concerns, although maybe a tad overblown.
Draft: Late 2nd round pick.
5. Akeem Davis-Gaither, App State
For: Super athletic bend off the edge. Probably the best pass rusher in this LB draft class. He can line up as a standup rush LB and not miss a beat. Rare good coordination in pass rush moves for a LB, makes some edge rushers in the class look bad. Comes up nicely in run support when lined up outside box. Good hip mobility in coverage. Displays good acceleration and speed when triggering. Sheds blocks well with speed and moves between the tackles.
Against: Played against inferior competition, risking rough translation to NFL talent. Occasional problems with getting of WR blocks. Needs to use physicality more when squeezing gaps.
Draft: Late 2nd, start 3rd round.
6. Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech
For: Surprisingly fast for size. Decent acceleration and top speed. Strong block sheds. Good flow vs run. Incredible tackler, will stop RBs on the spot.
Against: Can get out of balance when taking on blocks. Lacks change of direction speed and explosion. Stiff hips, exploited in coverage. Traditional MIKE, questions regarding 3 down ability.
Draft: 3rd round.
7. Troy Dye, Oregon
For: Smooth mover, hip turn on point, good speed and change of direction. Takes on blocks OK, even between tackles, especially well for tall and thin. Uses long arms to keep blockers away and disengage. Really good in coverage, recovers nicely, plays the ball well in air. Has moves in blitz, doesn’t stall often. Can deliver a “pop”.
Against: Build more like a safety. Size not ideal for the NFL. Misses a ton of tackles, doesn’t shoot gaps and is too patient in the run game. Once OL gets hands on him he’s in trouble.
Draft: Late 3rd, early 4th
8. Logan Wilson, Wyoming
For: Rare amount of experience, consistently production and progressive. Good hips and top speed for size. Understands gap responsibility well and shoots accordingly. Has really good moves in pass rush, always a move ready, explosive. Usually shed blocks well. Productive in coverage.
Against: Plays a bit high. Lacks athletic abilities at times. I haven’t seen him play a lot of man coverage. Balance troubles when shooting gaps hard. Needs to consistently break down before tackling more.
Draft: Late 3rd, early 4th
9. Chris Orr, Wisconsin
For: Incredible blitzer. Patient for gap openings, changes direction well as long as he isn’t in full speed, incredibly strong, and has good moves in the pass rush. Usually takes OK angles when tackling. Can deliver a blow, but doesn’t “pop” too much in hips. Active eyes in zone, reads crossers well while reading the QB. Decent flow against run, shoots gaps well.
Against: Top speed is lacking. Speed towards sideline is lacking. Must break down more consistently when making tackles against shifty RBs. Despite very athletic pro day (4.65 forty and 6.99 3-cone), he does look athletically limited in his speed situations.
Draft: 4th round.
10. Davion Taylor, Colorado
For: Really fast play speed. Gigantic arrow pointing upwards on acceleration, ability to break down, and get to the flat. OK tackler. Has speed to destroy blockers in open space, understands to utilize that. Very new to the position and already possesses good traits. Good hip mobility to gain ground.
Against: Takes on blocks poorly. Doesn’t proces the offense well, often makes wrong reads and false steps. More build like safety than LB. Likely steep transition to NFL.
Draft: 4th round
11. Malik Harrison, Ohio State
For: Decent blitzer, very productive in terms of pressure. Has moves against initial blockers. Has good size and length to shed blocks from OL. Improved in coverage in 2019. Played against high level of competition.
Against: Plays high. Zero lateral ability. Limited in coverage and limited use can be suspected to coaches trying to hide him. No explosion, no pop in hips. Limited mobility.
Draft: 5th round.
12. Cam Brown, Penn State
For: Ideal size. Good mobility, can block shed even with athletic dip and rip moves. Takes on blockers well in general, uses long arms to his advantage. Good tackle ability, stays square and usually breaks down well. Plays low for a 6’5″ linebacker.
Against: False steps a ton. Processing and reaction to what he sees are slow, put him in many “guess” situations and ends up playing cautiously instead of going full speed. Misses too many tackles, takes poor angles. Projects ball placement and catch point horribly.
Draft: 5th round.
13. Markus Bailey
For: Plays well against the run. Has solid build size to play between tackles. Takes on blockers extremely well, unlike a lot of LBs in this draft he looks to enjoy playing and tackling through blockers. Eat up space in the gap. Terrific production when blitzing.
Against: Missed every 5th tackle. ACL tear in 2019. Will be 23 on draft day. Struggles in coverage on vertical routes, exposes limited hip mobility and doesn’t cover much ground quickly. Average change of direction at best.
Draft: 6th round.
14. Joe Bachie, Michigan State
For: Decent mobility in hips, allows him to open up and drop in zones fairly. OK tackler, nothing spectacular although he doesn’t straight up miss a tackle often. Usually takes good angles in pursuit and tracks inside hip.
Against: Would never trust him in man coverage, often loses. Too often gets caught at alignment. Doesn’t react to what he sees against run. Hesitant against blockers and gets caught, lacks active hands and a counter move.
Draft: 6th round.
15. Justin Strnad, Wake Forest
For: Usually plays fairly decent in coverage. Has good change of direction, hip mobility is OK. Picks up receivers entering his zone well. Plays with a lot of control, feet rarely get tangled up or cross.
Against: Small and lacks explosiveness big time. Doesn’t want to take on blockers, will rather play around and leave huge gaps. Worthless as a blitzer, stops on slightest contact. Gets dragged on tackles, no “pop”. Missed too many tackles. Injuries caused half a season missed in 2019. Will be 24 as rookie.
Draft: 7th round.
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports