by Michael Stewart @golderbad
Introduction: The inside linebacker class for the upcoming 2020 NFL draft is not as deep as the outside linebacker class, but there is talent to be found. It seems that most of the inside linebackers excel best between the tackles and are your traditional type of inside linebacker.
The Giants could be in the market for an ILB with the uncertainty of Alex Ogletree’s status. Here are my top 10 inside linebackers in the 2020 NFL draft.
- Kenneth Murray (Oklahoma) 6’2/240: Murray is athletic and versatile and is still learning the inside linebacker position. Murray is more comfortable playing between the tackles and has shown an excellent reaction in pass coverage assignments. Murray is a sound tackler who rarely misses his intended target.
- Troy Dye (Oregon) 6’4/225: Dye is extremely active at the inside linebacker position and is very comfortable going sideline to sideline making plays. Dye is also very efficient in pass coverage and it’s out of comfort zone to cover a back/tight end deep down the field. Dye has the body frame to add muscle without affecting his performance.
- Jordyn Brooks (Texas Tech) 6’1/245: Brooks plays well in the open field and also inside the trenches. Brooks is currently a two-down ILB as he needs to improve his pass coverage skills. Brooks is a sound tackler and is extremely active around the ball.
- Malik Harrison (Ohio State) 6’3/245:Harrison has a quick first step and does well reading the play. Harrison fills the gaps well and can go sideline to sideline as well. Harrison is a three down ILB and can play either the 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme.
- Jacob Phillips (LSU) 6’4/230: Phillips has a high football IQ and can make plays all over the field. Phillips ability to defend the run is equal to his ability in pass coverage as he is a 3 down linebacker. Phillips draft stock could rise from now until the end of the season.
- Evan Weaver (California) 6’3/245: Weaver is a converted defensive end who has excelled at the ILB position over the last two season as he has led the nation in tackles. Weaver has great instincts and can go sideline to sideline with the best of them. Weaver would be a solid Day 3 selection for the Giants, who could be in the market to upgrade the ILB position.
- Jordan Mack (Virginia) 6’2/230: Mack plays a physical game and likes to dish out the punishment on opposing ball carriers. Mack has coverage skills on the short range areas such as in the flats and dump passes. Mack has a good burst into the gaps and reads plays well.
- Joe Bachie (Michigan State) 6’2/238: Bachie at full throttle and is relentless in pursuit of his intended target. Bachie would fit best in a 3-4 defensive scheme and is more of a between the tackles run stuffer.
- Shaq Quarterman (Miami) 6’1/240: Quarterman plays with aggression and can be effective as a pass defender in zone coverages. Quarterman is more productive between the tackles and not as a sideline to sideline playmaker. Quarterman needs to refine his game a little, but has the intangibles of becoming a quality linebacker in the NFL.
- David Woodward (Utah State) 6’2/235: Woodward is considered a tweener (linebacker/safety) at this stage based on his size. When you watch him on film, he seems to be in on every defensive play and usually plays inside linebacker for Utah State. There’s no mistaken the play making skills of Woodward at the college level, but gauging his success at the pro level will be a challenge for many NFL teams on draft day. There might be better inside linebackers at the college level than Woodward projected at the next level. However; purely based on productivity in college, Woodward is a top 10 inside linebacker.
Final Thoughts: The consensus is that roughly 12-15 inside linebackers should hear their name called throughout the draft. The NFL seems to be shifting over to talented playmakers on the defensive side of the ball being more on the outside (defensive ends, outside linebackers & cornerbacks).
NFL teams have drafted more & more for playmakers at these positions over the last few years. It’s unclear if this trend will continue moving forward, but based on the positions with the most talent in college football; it looks like it will.