As a Detroit Lions fan, linebackers are an area that are extremely important to me! So I’ve been watching closely to see whom might be on the radar, as my hope is my team takes 1-2 of them in this years draft. I’m trying to look past the top names like Sewell or the edge rushers and present other options. This isn’t my complete list, or in any specific order:
2023 NFL Draft Linebackers to Watch!
Ivan Pace Jr. – Cincinnati
Pace transferred to Cincinnati after three years with Miami (OH) and more so after a massive 2021 season with Miami. Pace racked up 125 total tackles, 4 sacks, 1 interception, 3 pass deflections and a forced fumble in 2021. And already he’s exceeded his sack production in just 6 games this season, on track for double digit sacks for the Bearcats.
Pace needs some growth in pass coverage but if you’re a PFF fan, he has graded out the highest in run defense, pass rush and overall defensive grades for anyone in the 23′ class so far. My Lions seem to have a type, undersized, speedy and physical which Pace checks all those boxes but would be more pro-ready than Derrick Barnes…
Jack Campbell – Iowa
Seth Benson gets an honorable mention here, though I don’t know if teams see him as a safety or linebacker. Campbell, on the other hand is not as much an pass rusher as a good middle of the field guy. He’s solid in coverage and a guy you can trust that he won’t miss. He’s got a great athletic profile and teams in the middle of the draft will surely want to target a guy like this for their defense.
When you look at his on field play, I’d stop just short of saying he can do it all. He does a great job taking on lineman and filling up gaps, he’s solid in coverage and against the run. At his size (6’5″ 245 ish), he can be appealing to nearly every NFL team because he could be used in a variety of schemes.
Ezekiel Noa – Boise State
One of the better tacklers I’ve seen in this group, Noa is on the smaller side but does everything pretty well. If you’re a grades person, PFF has him in the 80s or above in most areas, which is a significant jump from the previous years. For me, I need to see him keep up this play, he’s broken his season high in sacks and interceptions but it didn’t take much.
Jacquez Jones – Kentucky
Jones, unlike Noa, is definitely a guy that has some room to improve in some areas. He’s got the prototypical size for a scheme like Detroit’s but he struggles in coverage. He’s good attacking behind the line of scrimmage and is a sure tackler, having a less than 10% miss rate on the season. The biggest thing I notice when watching him play is that he is great at being patient and watching the QB. Doing that, he was able to get 4 deflections last year and 1 so far this year on top of putting himself in good positions to make the play on the ball carrier.
Christian Dixon – Middle Tennessee
Ok, so Dixon is on my list because I love the play-style. He’s aggressive and physical, on the smaller side again but makes up for it when he hits opposing players. Watching some of his previous film, you see him cause fumbles with well-placed tackles and he has the speed to chase down QBs behind the line. Doesn’t grade out particularly well in any one area but his relentless motor could get teams to look at him late or as a UDFA.
Tommy Eichenberg – Ohio State
Love his athletic profile and proto-typical size at 6’2″ and around 240 lbs. He’s looked his best in 2022, able to shoot the gaps, take on the lineman and drop in coverage (though coverage needs work). Talking to an fan close to the program, he sees much of the same things as me (with a little more bias lol). The person I chatted with watched him in High School at St. Ignatius and saw the weak pass coverage from there, all the way through college. Draft wise, at this point with that deficiency, he could go anywhere from round 2 to UDFA lol.
Sione Tupou – Texas St, Amari Burney – Florida, Tyler Bird – App State, Jack Kiser – Notre Dame. I don’t include Pace with these names, as he’s much more well-rounded of a player. I wanted to post some names of backers that probably get consideration because of their edge-rushing prowess.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of NFL teams that need linebacker help. And these few guys are just a small sample of the talent in college currently but hopefully this gives you some names to track the rest of the season!
Any questions or just want to keep the conversation going, hit me up on Twitter Feel free to @ me or DM me and we can talk more about him and the rest of the 2023 NFL Draft, and don’t forget to check out our Mock Draft’s here on Draft Countdown!