Comparing top 2020 linebackers to recent college stars
Last week and into this week, Rivals.com is publishing a series comparing the top five players at each position with current college players or those who were selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. Today, we move on to linebackers.
1. Justin Flowe
Comparison: Devin White
Overview: Flowe is a taller version of White in almost every capacity. The LSU star and first linebacker taken in the NFL Draft finished with 256 tackles in the last two seasons playing for the Tigers. Flowe, the top-rated linebacker in the 2020 class, is a tackling machine as well, constantly around the ball and nobody in the class hits harder. Flowe is physical, fierce, determined and incredibly athletic for someone his size. They’ve taken different paths to get here, since White was ranked as a fullback in high school and Flowe is No. 3 nationally, but they have very similar attributes.
Farrell’s take: Flowe is a special linebacker and one of the most physical kids I’ve seen. He reminds me of White in college the way he hits people and is ahead of White at the same stage when it comes to athleticism and ability to cover the field. White turned out to be an elite franchise linebacker and Flowe can be the same way if he chooses the right school.
2. Mekhail Sherman
Comparison: Christian Miller
Overview: Miller did not get drafted until the fourth round because he waited his turn at linebacker in Alabama’s loaded group and then was slowed by injuries in his college career as well, but his game is very similar to Sherman’s in that both are massive outside linebackers who are excellent edge rushers. Sherman is an inch taller than Miller and should put more weight on his frame at the next level, so the physical stats should match up nicely. The Georgia commit is phenomenal off the edge, he’s a big-time hitter and Sherman is also fantastic playing in space.
Farrell’s take: Miller is an underrated linebacker and should be a great pro and I think Sherman has the same potential down the line. He’s a bit bigger at the same stage and moves well and is equally effective off the edge. Sherman is bouncing back from injury but he’s expected to be the same dominant force he was before and a big linebacker that the NFL will covet.
3. Chris Braswell
Comparison: Jabari Zuniga
Overview: Zuniga actually lost about 10 pounds at Florida, compared to where he was listed in high school, and Braswell has the frame to put on a good deal of weight when he gets to college, as he’s committed to Alabama. But the two have very similar games and Braswell not only plays more as an edge rusher, but also with his hand down a lot on his highlight tape. For someone only 225 pounds, the five-star is physical, tough to block and he has excellent speed sideline to sideline to make plays. With added weight, Braswell should be even more dominant.
Farrell’s take: I can see Braswell being a 260-pound linebacker hybrid in college and beyond because he’s such a great athlete with a good frame. Zuniga was a defensive lineman in high school who projected as a linebacker at the NFL level, so he’s obviously a great athlete as well. This was a tough comparison, but one we feel comfortable with.
4. Reggie Grimes
Comparison: Terrell Lewis
Overview: Trying to find a comparison for a 6-foot-5 linebacker/edge rusher is difficult, but Lewis makes a whole lot of sense. The former five-star who was rated as a defensive end has been ravaged by injuries during his time at Alabama, but he’s still high on NFL Draft boards based on his potential and freakish size and athletic ability. Grimes is rated as the fourth-best outside linebacker in the class and he should gain weight once he gets to college - Alabama, Tennessee and others are involved with the Crimson Tide legacy. He could be a lethal edge rusher and outside linebacker at the next level in the mold of Lewis.
Farrell’s take: I think Grimes grows into a defensive end eventually or becomes a hybrid at the college level, and he has the size and athleticism of Lewis. Lewis hasn’t done a ton at the college level, but this could be his breakout year and the NFL loves players with his size and agility. Grimes has a chance to be special.
5. Antoine Sampah
Comparison: Dylan Moses
Overview: This comparison is a heady one for Sampah, since Moses led the Crimson Tide in tackles this past season, mainly because he’s relentless, he trusts his eyes and then attacks the ball carrier all over the field. Sampah might be a little bit of a harder hitter and Moses could be a touch more athletic, but both linebackers love to hunt, they both have a great motor and both are always around the ball on almost every play. After a lot of debate, Moses ended up as a five-star prospect and that now looks the right call.
Farrell’s take: Sampah isn’t quite as athletic or versatile as Moses was out of high school, but he’s more schooled at being a linebacker at the same stage. Sampah has the natural instincts that Moses learned in his transition to linebacker in high school and is a tad longer. Both players are NFL level talents. We’ll just see how Sampah develops in college.