There are difference-makers available at every position in the 2022 NFL Draft, and all 32 teams are in the process of finalizing their draft boards as we move closer to the big event in Las Vegas. One of those difference-makers is Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd, who has been one of the best players at his position over the past few years.
To borrow a basketball term, Lloyd is a stat-sheet stuffer. In 2021, he recorded a whopping 111 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four interceptions and six passes defensed. He was a Consensus All-American, the 2021 Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year and was named First Team All-Pac 12 for the second straight season. His 22 tackles for loss led the conference, and was 8.5 more than the next closest player.
Lloyd is seen as a late first-round pick by many draft experts. Four of our five CBS Sports NFL Draft experts have him being selected somewhere in the 20s. This week, Lloyd spoke with CBS Sports about himself as a prospect, his strengths and what he's focused on as he begins his new chapter in professional football.
The pre-draft madness is slowing down a bit for Lloyd, after the past month or so was filled with the NFL Scouting Combine, interviews and visits.
"It's been a whirlwind," Lloyd said. "Taking it day by day, honestly just enjoying every step of the way. Really, I've had just about everything from the combine and Pro Day as far as interviews, and then meeting with teams, doing Zooms, things of that nature. Definitely a lot of traveling and a lot of breaking the regular routine of the offseason. It's been an experience, and it's been a fun one."
Every potential draftee wants to be a first-round pick. Lloyd is seen as a first-round talent, and our No. 20 overall prospect in this class, but it's not a sure thing he will hear his name called on opening night. We asked Lloyd how important it was to him to be a first-round pick this month.
"It's definitely important as a player, it's something you strive for," Lloyd said. "You obviously want to be the best at what you do in whatever profession you're in. I've always had aspirations of going first round ever since I started playing, and so to be able to have that opportunity and be ready to put in the work to make it happen and see it come to fruition and to have that opportunity, it's just a blessing. Ultimately this is just a stepping stone to the next level, when you do get in the NFL it's all about what you do to stay there. But I've definitely wanted to be a first-round draft pick."
Lloyd is an intense player who loves to fly to the ball. He can play multiple linebacker spots, and has the potential to serve as the heart and soul of a formidable defensive unit at the next level. You can easily make a list of his strengths, but if you ask Lloyd what makes him a great player, he says it's his football IQ.
"My instincts and my ability to get to the ball," Lloyd said. "I feel like I'm somebody who plays at a high level going forward and backwards from the inside linebacker position. And really just being versatile, honestly. Having that mentality of always getting to the ball and always knowing where the ball is at."
If you had to criticize Lloyd's game, one would probably point to his work in coverage. Struggling to adjust to the next level with defending the pass is a common narrative surrounding young linebackers entering the league, and we asked Lloyd how he would respond to someone who was worried about his experience or abilities in zone or man coverage.
"I would just say, firstly, I have complete confidence in myself in zone and man coverage and if you watch the film, it's there, as far as me being able to do that," Lloyd said. "Really when it comes down to it, everyone is going to have their own opinions. I know what I'm capable of, I know what I've done and I know what I will continue to do and will continue to progress at. I feel comfortable in whatever scheme -- and NFL teams know that from talking to me that coverages by no means are any concern on my end."
The numbers speak for themselves, as Lloyd improved in coverage in 2021. He was the second-highest-graded Pac-12 linebacker in coverage, per PFF, and recorded career highs in interceptions and passes defensed. Lloyd was even one of 16 players with two defensive touchdowns in 2021.
The former Utah captain served as a leader on and off the field for the Utes, and his success has to do with how he was raised and how he believes one should conduct themselves and handle their business. Both of Lloyd's parents served in the military, and what they taught him has allowed him to reach a different kind of level of success in football. He recently teamed up with USAA to talk about this.
With the #NFLDraft next week, thank you @USAA for helping me honor the military community & my parents who served in the @USNavy. The lessons I learned from their service & sacrifice will help me achieve success in the @NFL. #SaluteToService #USAApartner pic.twitter.com/WITbuD9JiP— devin lloyd (@DevinLloyd_) April 19, 2022
"Both my parents being in the military definitely has played a huge role in my life, and also really shaped who I am," Lloyd said. "A lot of that has come from the values that my parents have learned and then taught me, instilled in me.
"It taught me a lot about doing things the right way. Doing things for the team, doing things for more than just yourself. Also, structurally, being disciplined, being on time. Our coach at Utah is always saying, 'Do all the little things right.' And I feel like the mentality of the military is just that."
Lloyd said he wants NFL GMs and coaches to know that if they select him later this month, they will be acquiring a player that's going to do everything in his power to make those around him and the team at large better. His NFL goal is the same as everyone else's.
"Whatever team drafts me is going to get somebody that's going to come in and do what I've been doing, which is just absolutely work my tail off and really just be the best player I can for myself and those around me. I'm going to come in and hold myself to the highest standard, just like I always do," Lloyd said. "Really just come in and get ready to win a Super Bowl."