It’s time to move on from the late-round secondary prospects now and move on to another position on defense. A position that Eagles fans are dying for investment in – linebacker. Right now, the Eagles linebacker core is very interesting. It’s youthful, largely inexperienced, and lacking in depth. But if Howie decides to follow recent trends and draft a linebacker late, there’s are names that may interest the team.
Mykal Walker, Fresno State
Walker is an exciting project prospect for the Eagles who only has two years of college ball experience under his belt, but impressed me a lot during those two years. He has some great foundations to build upon and has experience playing in multiple roles at linebacker. With that experience, Mykal could develop really well into a hybrid defender in the NFL and be a real asset to any roster, his speed is really impressive and his overall athleticism is a really rare trait to find in linebackers this far down the draft.
The main issue I have with Walker is that due to his lack of experience, he’s still fairly raw fundamentally. But if the Eagles gave him a year or so to really focus on developing his block-shedding and coverage, yhey could have a really nice project piece for a really cheap draft pick.
Markus Bailey, Purdue
Markus Bailey may be the best value pick of all the prospects I’ll highlight in this piece. He’s a quality football player but his stock was really hurt with a 2019 knee injury. Bailey’s football IQ is phenomenal and you can tell how smart he is when you watch his tape. He constantly knows where the ball is going and sticks to his role perfectly. The Purdue prospect has the making of a quality early-down linebacker in the NFL.
Standing at 6-foot-1 and weighing 240 pounds, Bailey’s main issue is his athleticism, he doesn’t hold quality speed or fluidity so he may be able to read the play, he just has to hope he can get there in time to make a true impact on that play. One other thing he struggles with is block shedding. He doesn’t hit with another speed or power to push blockers off him.
Bailey had a fantastic stat line during his college career until the injury in 2019 came along. In 2018 he had 115 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 1 interception, with each year before that looking pretty similar.
Justin Strnad, Wake Forest
Another defensive Wake Forest makes the list within this series and this time it’s a friend of PSN, linebacker Justin Strnad. 2019 was a real standout season for Justin and he took multiple steps forward with his game during the season. His tackling is immense and he has an incredible motor that never seems to stop running. Athletically, Justin excels, his speed, fluidity, and footwork is brilliant and it truly makes him a dynamic linebacker that really excites me. You also realize how good of a guy he is after listening to his appearance on our Flipping The Birds podcast, if the Eagles don’t draft him, I think everyone at PSN may shed a tear or two.
Whilst it seems I can’t see anything wrong with Justin, there are a few things about his game that bug me. Sometimes he can be a little too confident in his tackles and this causes him to miss as he doesn’t square up to the ball carrier as much as he should. Another thing is his block shedding, he’s great when he has space to burst around the blocker but if the blocker has him at the line of scrimmage, he isn’t going to offer a lot.
David Woodward, Utah State
I absolutely love this prospect, I really do, and here’s why. Woodward is a hard-hitting, physical linebacker with an extremely high football IQ and that helps with his exceptional tackling and physical abilities. He’s constantly the first to the football, never stops running and is a typical, old fashioned linebacker who’s about brute force and strength over speed and burst.
Woodward has multiple injuries to his name and had his 2019 season cut short due to one. He’s had several concussions and has fractured his vertebrae in the past. One other thing that Woodward struggles with is blocks, but with some added bulk that will come in time. He is a great fit for the Eagles.
T.J Brunson, South Carolina
Brunson, in my opinion, maybe one of the most underrated linebackers in this year’s draft class. Very much like Woodward, Brunson is just a tough guy who has immense stopping power. There are times where he grabs a hold of running backs at their top speed and halts them instantly.
Brunson has confidence in his instincts and is hardly ever out of position. The South Carolina prospect had a very productive college career, having tackle totals of 88, 106, and 77 in 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively. Watching his tape, you could also see that Brunson was a leader on the field and his team fed off his energy. With the Eagles linebacker group lacking a player with that quality, Brunson could be a quality addition.
Brunson does have his downsides though. Athletically he isn’t the best. Standing at 6-foot-1, he does lack some size and length which could hurt the way he plays, especially at a higher level of competition. Man coverage against tight ends and running backs is pretty much out of the question due to a lack of real speed and it seems he’d only benefit from playing early downs rather than late downs in drives.
Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports