Who are the linebackers who’ll matter in the 2020 NFL Draft, and what’s the college perspective on all of the top prospects?
2020 NFL Draft Linebacker Rankings
It’s not the best of years for linebackers.
Many of the top ones fall into the edge rusher category, and the ones on this list are mostly tweener types who don’t necessarily fit a set role. There’s terrific value later, and a few great ones at the top, but not a whole bunch in the middle.
From the college perspective, here are the top linebackers in your 2020 NFL Draft, starting with the ones who’ll be in the mix, and then diving into the five who’ll actually matter over the next ten years of the pro football world.
15. Cameron Brown, Penn State
Size: 6-5, 233
The Good: Very tall, very long, and with an interesting skill set that doesn’t really fit a set type, he was a nice all-around producer for the Nittany Lions over his four years with 198 tackles with 4.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss and 11 broken up passes. There’s room to get bigger, but as is he’s physical and can bring the pop.
The Not-So-Good: The pass rushing production wasn’t there with just two sacks in each of the last two years. He’s not really an edge rusher for the next level, and he’s not built like a normal outside linebacker.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: Take him for the upside. Can he become a pass rusher? Can he offer a little of everything as an outside linebacker? There’s just enough to his game to make a late-round call that he’ll bring his experience and hitting ability to become a nice part of a rotation, and maybe a whole lot more.
Projected Round: Fifth
14. Darrell Taylor, Tennessee
Size: 6-4, 267
The Good: There’s a chance he could grow into an edge rusher, or he’ll be used as a big outside linebacker with the upside to become a devastating pass rusher. It took a little while, but he grew into a fantastic pass rusher making 16.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss over his last two years. The skills are all there, but …
The Not-So-Good: Considering he has the tools, he wasn’t quite as consistent or productive as he should’ve been. A true tweener, he’s likely going to be seen as a swing backup in a few spots if he doesn’t crank up the plays in the backfield right away.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: A great shot for the stars, he’ll likely fall deep into Day Three with the possibility of becoming a real, live pass rusher who can take over games. If he can finally put it all together, look out.
Projected Round: Fifth
CFN in 60: 2020 1st Overall Draft Pick Odds
13. Shaquille Quarterman, Miami
Size: 6-0, 234
The Good: A true quarterback for a linebacking corps and a defense, he got on the field right away for Miami and ended up with 356 tackles with 12 sacks and 46.5 tackles for loss in an ultra-productive career. A thumper who wraps up everything that comes his way, stick him in the inside and let him take care of everything against the run.
The Not-So-Good: Way slow and a bit smallish, he’s compact and built well, but he doesn’t have NFL speed to do anything outside of the hash marks, and there’s not going to be anything happening in pass coverage. The next-level tools aren’t there, but …
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: No, he might not have the physical traits most NFL teams will want, but he’s a football player – a coach will look for any reason to get him on the field. Blow off everything else – he’ll produce.
Projected Round: Fifth
12. Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech
Size: 6-0, 240
The Good: With good size and excellent speed, he’s got good enough tools to play in the league, and he’s got the experience and production to be ready right away. A four-year starter, he finished with 360 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 32 tackles for loss. All the abilities are there to be even better at the next level.
The Not-So-Good: Even though he can run, he’s not much in pass coverage and he doesn’t do too much was a pass rusher. He can get behind the line – 20 tackles for loss last season – but don’t expect him to be a regular at getting to the quarterback.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He’s got enough to be a big-time factor as an inside linebacker – don’t even think of throwing him on the outside and asking him to get into the backfield. The tools are terrific and the upside is there to be an outstanding get outside of the top 100. If he’s around in the fourth round, jump all over him – he’s the value starter everyone is looking for.
Projected Round: Fourth
11. Troy Dye, Oregon
Size: 6-3, 231
The Good: The type of defender everyone wants, he’ll sniff out every play, has the range to get to the ball, and will be a leader and coach on the field from the moment he gets out there. An ultra-productive four-year starter for the Ducks, he made 391 tackles with 13 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss. Fast and athletic enough to be decent in pass coverage, he always knew where the ball seemed to be going with 14 broken up passes and five picks.
The Not-So-Good: He’s not quite built for this. He’s tough, and he played 48 games in college, but he’s a tall, wiry defender and not really a thumper. It’s all optics more than anything else, but he just doesn’t look the part of a normal NFL linebacker. There’s a chance he ends up playing at around 225 if he doesn’t work to bulk up.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: A really, really tough call, he’s worth it early on Day Three mainly because of his uncanny ability to think and know the game. His biggest impact might be as a coach one day, but until then, go ahead and take the shot that he could turn into a volume tackler who ends up being too good to take off the field.
Projected Round: Third