2020 NFL Draft linebacker rankings: Isaiah Simmons leads talented list of modern day NFL linebackers
The NFL is placing more emphasis on linebackers that can cover sideline to sideline
Michigan's Devin Bush and LSU's Devin White cemented themselves as the top linebacker prospects a year ago. Clemson's Isaiah Simmons has already monopolized that honor in 2020 but there is a talented group behind him. CBS Sports breaks the linebacker class into four tiers ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft.
CBS Sports updated the composite rankings recently, which means there is a big picture view of the prospects available at the linebacker position. The linebackers will be broken down into four tiers for the sake of this article. Tier 1 is Simmons. Tier 2 are the players projected to be taken in the first round or are on the edge of being taken in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Tier 3 are the Round 3-4 caliber players. Tier 4 will be those potential fifth and sixth-round picks. There are several players that would fall beyond the latter category so the remaining list of linebacker prospects can be found in the aforementioned composite rankings.
1. Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
I wrote a piece for CBS Sports stating that Simmons isbecause he can fulfill a variety of roles. He can play safety or any of the linebacker positions and he has done so with success at Clemson. In an age of near position-less football, Simmons is the blueprint. From a talent perspective, he shows burst, fluidity and elite open-field tackling ability. There is no question that he is the top linebacker prospect.
2. Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
Murray is an active, fluid linebacker who looks comfortable in coverage. He has to play more controlled because it should lead to fewer missed tackles. As a rusher, he primarily shoots open gaps and has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to using his hands and other nuanced tricks as a pass rusher.
3. Patrick Queen, LSU
Queen is the apple of many NFL draft analyst's eyes. His speed and ability to cover sideline to sideline is coveted in the league with all of these spread style offenses popping up. However, the speed and cover ability can not come at the expense of strength and tackling. Queen is a bit slight in frame, which is one reason why he could fall to the second round.
4. Zack Baun, Wisconsin
Baun has garnered first-round consideration for good reason. He reads and reacts quickly. There is no wasted movement. The Brown Deer, Wisconsin native does a great job using his hands to shed blocks. He is active and displays good speed on the edge. Baun has shown that he could play inside or outside linebacker but his upside might be best inside.
5. Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State
Davis-Gaither is an undersized player capable of playing sideline to sideline as well but not at the expense of tackling. He is a fluid mover with good agility. As an open-field tackler, he has shown to be reliable. The North Carolina native also looks strong in coverage and does a good job of using his hands to create opportunities for himself.
6. Troy Dye, Oregon
Dye is a really thin player for the linebacker position. There are flashes of brilliance but it is not consistent. He could be a really special professional if he is able to put it all together. There is no doubt that he is a fast, fluid player but he misses a lot of tackles. Dye does a great job in coverage and is going to play with maximum effort.
7. Malik Harrison, Ohio State
It seems as though every linebacker in Tier 3 has received some buzz around them during this process. That could be the sign of an unheralded and underrated class overall. None of them have been able to entrench themselves into that Tier 2 group, however. Harrison is no different. He looked a bit stiff and flat-footed in 2018 but that improved this season. The Columbus, Ohio native was more agile and never gives up on the play.
8. Logan Wilson, Wyoming
Wilson is more of the traditional inside linebacker prospect. He is strong and stout. Wyoming did not send him on blitzes often, which is why he has never recorded more than three sacks in a season. The Cowboy state native plays the game with a lot of passion and regulates his motions well.
9. Joe Bachie, Michigan State
The Big Ten suspended Bachie for a positive performance-enhancing drug test. Honestly, I need to watch more of his game but Bachie had been a very productive player in his sophomore and junior campaigns; recording over 100 tackles in each.
10. Cam Brown, Penn State
Brown is a fluid mover as well. Sack production is not where he will hang his hat. He is an aggressive player that will run through his opponent. However, he will need to add more muscle to his frame. His career will likely begin as a backup with the possibility of developing into a larger role.
11. Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech
Brooks is another stout player. He struggles to get off blocks but teams will be drawn towards him because of his mobility. The Texas native has great speed and agility, which allows him to play sideline to sideline. He was all over the field for the Red Raiders this season en route to eclipsing the 100-tackle threshold.
12. David Woodward, Utah State
Woodward is probably overvalued by me in comparison to other draft analysts. He plays with a lot of energy but is also able to get off blocks. In 2018, he would break hard on the football and burst forth when he committed. Against LSU, he looked more stiff and did not stand out. The combine will be important in determining which player he intends to be in the NFL.
LSU's Michael Divinity Jr., LSU's Jacob Phillips, Wake Forest's Justin Strnad, Purdue's Markus Bailey, California's Evan Weaver and Minnesota's Kamal Martin would also fall into this category. To see more of the linebacker class and where each of these players are rated, check out the CBS Sports composite prospect rankings.
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