Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas
Draft Prospect Outlook:
Blazingly fast sideline-to-sideline linebacker. Needs to improve his short-area quickness and block-shedding. Not comfortable in coverage but will make many plays near the line of scrimmage because of his size, length, and natural speed.
Malik Jefferson was a 247Sports Composite five-star prospect and the No. 10 overall recruit in the country in 2015 out of Mesquite (Texas) Poteet. The most-heralded recruit Charlie Strong landed during his Texas tenure, Jefferson was an immediate starter at linebacker in his collegiate debut as a true freshman. Jefferson was a Freshman All-American, a campaign highlighted by his six-tackle, two-sack performance against Oklahoma. Jefferson missed the final game of his true freshman season against Baylor due to an injury. It was not a smooth transition from Jefferson’s first year to his second with the Longhorns. While the overall production was good (62 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks), Jefferson went through some rough patches. He was benched against Kansas State for ineffective play and suffered a concussion late in 2016 missing the second to last game.
Playing out of position at times under Strong as a true middle linebacker, Jefferson found his role as an inside linebacker under Tom Herman much more comfortable. Jefferson’s junior season, which saw him play all 12 regular season games for the first time in his career, was his finest as a Longhorn as he looked like the player he was long expected to be on a consistent basis. A second-team All-American and the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Jefferson led Texas in tackles (110) and tackles for loss (10) while tying for the team lead in sacks (four) and quarterback hurries (six). Jefferson was with the Longhorns for the team’s Texas Bowl win over Missouri, missing the game due to a turf toe injury. A semifinalist for the Butkus Award, Jefferson declared for the draft days after the Longhorns finished the 2017 season. - Jeff Howe, Horns247