Linebackers have been such an up-and-down position group regarding rookie production. We’ve seen aging vets have career resurgences late in their careers and we’ve seen teams use less 3 linebacker looks, opting to have more defensive backs on the field to take on high-powered passing attacks.
With all that being said, the need for quality linebackers is still there. On average, we see around 4 linebackers taken in round 1 alone (thanks to Sports Reference for history), now that includes both interior and outside linebackers, so do with that as you will.
I’m going to look more specifically at my top 10 (probably) interior linebackers, if you want to see my EDGE defenders, click here.
2024 NFL Draft Linebacker Rankings!
1. Jeremiah Trotter Jr – Clemson
His dad was awesome during his playing days in the NFL, and I tend to lean on trusting NFL pedigrees for player potential. Will the son be as good as the father? Maybe, and I’d take my chances on him being one of the higher-drafted linebackers in this draft.
He may need some time to develop but brings a great combination of size/speed that I think teams will fall in love with. He’s got solid vision, reads, and reacts well against the run and pass, with the closing speed to bring down mobile quarterbacks.
If you follow our friends over at the NFL Mock Draft Database, most mocks have him going in the 20s or 30s at this point, and probably the only interior linebacker that will go in round 1.
2. Tommy Eichenberg – Ohio State
I love his attitude, willing to go at bigger offensive linemen, with the strength to shake them and get into the backfield. Has good size/speed to be able to drop into zones or rush the passer, if you told me a team drafts him to be an edge rusher, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. Probably an early day 2 draft pick, I could see him being intriguing in any scheme, 4-3 or 3-4, though I think he’ll need some development, at times he could be more aggressive than he is currently.
3. Smael Mondon – Georgia
I could see Mondon have one of the best, if not the best 40 of a linebacker at the combine. At 6’3”, around 230 lbs, teams that need a linebacker to drop back in coverage will keep an eye on him. Coming from that vaunted Georgia Bulldogs defense, he not only has the size/speed to help in the back end but also the awareness to make a play on the ball when targets come his way. He may seem to be a bit undersized, and maybe not the best-run defender, but I think he has a ton of upside that could draw a team to target him on day two this year.
4. Jaylan Ford – Texas
A big, strong, downhill run defender who will need time to develop in pass coverage. Ford has shown enough to get a team to call his name during the draft (probably). Unfortunately, speed kills and I think that might be one of the areas of concern for teams, but if you need any early down run stopper at linebacker, I think Ford is one of the better ones in this class for that.
5. Cedric Gray – North Carolina
I put Gray just behind Ford because I see so many similarities in how they play. Both are stronger against the run than the pass Gray is bigger but may not show the speed teams want but have enough skills and awareness to be targeted during the draft.
6. James Dumas-Johnson – Georgia
If you see playing time early in your career, amid a team dominating college football AND on a defense that has had a ton of elite players enter the league recently, teams will be keeping an eye on you. Now JDJ may not be as elite as some of the players drafted in recent years. But he’s no slouch either. Strong against the run with solid speed to pursue and help in coverage. By the time the draft rolls around, he may have moved up ahead of the guys I see as more specialized run defenders.
7. Junior Colson – Michigan
I don’t see a major deficiency in his game. Colson is solid against the run or pass. My biggest concern is that he can be overly aggressive at times. He’s got solid awareness and is coachable, so NFL teams will get that cleaned up.
8. Curtis Jacobs – Penn State
Quick with a solid athletic profile, I think he will need time to develop. It seems like his processing just needs to speed up some. At his size, he probably is depth in the middle to start One of those situations where a team wants him to come in and be a special teams guy early in his career.
9. Edgerrin Cooper – Texas A&M
Cooper could be a sneaky prospect, as we get deep into draft season. He does well in coverage. I would think he could be developed into a nice player at the next level. There are plenty of pros and cons. However, I believe there’s enough there to get a team to draft him this year.
10. Payton Wilson – NC State
Wilson’s a really interesting prospect in that, I could easily see a team wants to use his size/speed/leverage ability to be a pass-rushing specialist off the edge. He’s been mentioned on Bruce Feldman’s “freak” listing, this dude could be a force at the next level!