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NFL Draft: Comparing top LBs with current recruits

The NFL Draft begins on Thursday, so today we continue our final look at the top players by position, moving to linebacker, along with a comparison to a class of 2020 or 2021 prospect.

NFL DRAFT: Comparing top QBs with current recruits | RBs | WRs | TEs | OL | DTs | DEs

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2022: Top 100

1. ISAIAH SIMMONS, Clemson

Isaiah Simmons
Isaiah Simmons (AP Images)

Recruiting: Arkansas was considered the dream school but the Razorbacks never offered. Michigan and Nebraska got more involved but coaches weren’t sure if he was better on offense or defense. After a bunch of Clemson defensive backs left for the NFL, the Tigers got more involved and landed him.

College stats: Simmons totaled 238 tackles (28.5 for loss) and 11 sacks in his four-year career but mainly over three seasons. He also added four interceptions and six forced fumbles.

Projection: Simmons is expected to be an early first-round pick and could go in the top five.

Comparison: Phillip Webb, 2020

Farrell’s take: This is an impossible comparison as Simmons was a long, lean safety prospect out of high school and Webb is much more filled out. But Webb plays a similar game and arrives at the football the same way. He could be a star.

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2. PATRICK QUEEN, LSU

Patrick Queen
Patrick Queen (AP Images)

Recruiting: When Queen visited LSU for its junior day and landed an offer from the Tigers, the four-star linebacker committed on the spot. He was also a standout running back at the high school level.

College stats: In 29 games, Queen had 131 tackles (17.5 for loss) with four sacks. He also had an interception and a fumble recovery. Queen finished with 85 tackles this past season while helping LSU to the national championship.

Projection: Queen is expected to be taken late in the first round.

Comparison: Derek Wingo, 2020

Farrell’s take: Queen was an elite athlete with great speed and Wingo has the same traits. They can each run down plays you don’t expect and are surprisingly good in coverage.

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3. KENNETH MURRAY, Oklahoma

Kenneth Murray
Kenneth Murray (AP Images)

Recruiting: Murray committed to Oklahoma over Texas and Texas A&M in the summer before his senior season. He grew up a fan of the Longhorns.

College stats: In three seasons at Oklahoma, Murray had 325 tackles (36.5 for loss) along with 9.5 sacks. He recovered two fumbles and forced one. As a sophomore, Murray finished with 155 tackles.

Projection: Murray is expected to be a late first-round draft pick.

Comparison: Cody Simon, 2020

Farrell’s take: Simon is more filled out at the same stage but each arrives at the ball with aggression and can make plays in the backfield.

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4. ZACK BAUN, Wisconsin

Zack Baun
Zack Baun (AP Images)

Recruiting: Rated as a three-star athlete, Baun committed to Wisconsin a few weeks before National Signing Day over his only other offer, South Dakota State.

College stats: Playing in only 34 games over three seasons, Baun totaled 152 tackles (30.5 for loss) including 15 sacks. He added three forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Projection: Baun is considered a fringe first-round draft pick.

Comparison: Trenton Simpson, 2020

Farrell’s take: Baum was a tall, raw athlete coming out of high school who grew into a linebacker while Simpson is a five-star. Why the comparison? Because Simpson is still raw as well believe it or not and both have elite closing speed.

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5. WILLIE GAY, Mississippi State

Willie Gay
Willie Gay (AP Images)

Recruiting: Gay is from Starkville, Miss., but he was not a lock to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs, LSU and Michigan were his frontrunners all the way up close to signing day. There were rumors that he was a silent commit to LSU for some time before he finally picked Mississippi State.

College stats: Gay finished with 99 tackles (11 for loss) and six sacks and he added three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries over a three-year stretch in Starkville.

Projection: Gay is a wild card heading into the draft as he could go in the second round but could possibly fall to the third or fourth round.

Comparison: Terrence Lewis, 2021

Farrell’s take: Gay was an exceptional athlete coming out of high school with length and excellent sideline to sideline ability. Lewis plays the same way.