NFL Draft Stock Report: Linebackers
The college football season is close to finished, so there's no better time to look at the NFL Draft Watch as players move up and down the board. The next item in our series is an in-depth look at the linebackers. Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell weighs in on each.
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The skinny: Matakevich was a two-star linebacker out of New Berlin (N.Y.) Milford Academy in the 2012 class. He committed to Temple over Akron.
Season overview: Matakevich nearly has double the tackles of anybody else on Temple with 118 tackles (14 for loss) and 4.5 sacks. He also has five interceptions and five pass deflections.
Farrell's take: There are certain players who always seem to be in the right position and put themselves in plays because of their anticipation. Matakevich is that guy. The former two-star out of prep school isn't the fastest guy or a quick-twitch, change-of-direction guy. He's a straight-line, take-great-angles linebacker who will hold up on the inside. We're not talking about a first-round grade here, but he's gone from off the boards to on the radar with his play.
Farrell's take: There are so many names that could be on this list it was hard to pick two, but I love McKinzy's size and the way he handles the run in traffic. The former four-star can get skinny when needed or shock and shed. Brothers is a bit vertically challenged, but he's a tackling machine and the former three-star can cover as well as he can run down plays.
The skinny: Smith was the top-rated outside linebacker and the third-best prospect in the 2013 class. The five-star was the No. 1 recruit in the Indiana state rankings out of Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers. Smith committed to Notre Dame in June before his senior year. Ohio State and USC were the other finalists, but it seemed the Irish always had a significant lead in his recruitment.
Season overview: Smith has nearly twice as many tackles as anyone else on Notre Dame's defense with 113 tackles including nine for loss and one sack. He also forced a fumble and recovered two fumbles.
Farrell's take: Smith is still the consensus top linebacker in the draft and what impresses me the most is his ability in coverage, something the former five-star showed out of high school. He's not the biggest linebacker, so he has to be an outside guy, but he's a three-down talent who can rush off the edge if needed. The only concern is he takes false steps too often, but that will improve as he adjusts to the speed of the NFL. He's living up to the status as one of the highest-ranked LBs I have ever scouted.
The skinny: The four-star prospect from Hamilton (Ga.) Harris County was rated as the sixth-best weak-side defensive end and No. 56 overall in the 2012 class. Alabama, Auburn and Florida seemed to have an edge on Georgia, but after Jenkins visited Athens in November things started to change. He picked the Bulldogs in early January.
Season overview: Jenkins is fourth on the team with 56 tackles including 10.5 for loss. He's second on the team with four sacks.
Farrell's take: Georgia has two of the top linebackers in the draft in Jenkins and Leonard Floyd, and both are very scheme versatile. Jenkins, a former four-star, is still behind Floyd overall in my opinion but is closing the gap a little bit based on his ability to make plays in the offensive backfield. He has good size and could be a key hybrid guy or a pure outside linebacker in a 3-4 set. He was ranked as a defensive end in high school and had that natural knack for getting after the quarterback.
Farrell's take: Cravens is a tough eval because he isn't the biggest linebacker and came out of high school as a five-star safety, but his ability to cover, close and willingness to come up against the run is fueled by a playmaker's natural instinct. Floyd is actually a more natural pass rusher than Jenkins because of his ability to flatten around the end, but he has struggled at times in drops inside so he's another guy who will be a hybrid in the right system. He was also a four-star out of high school like Jenkins.
The skinny: Lee was a three-star prospect and the No. 44 athlete in the 2013 class out of New Albany, Ohio. Lee's recruitment seemed easy. He camped at Ohio State twice, landed the offer from the Buckeyes and committed less than 30 minutes later. Originally from the South, Lee considered going back for college but once Ohio State offered, the issue was settled.
Season overview: Lee has 59 tackles (nine for loss) along with 2.5 sacks. He also has one interception and one forced fumble.
Farrell's take: Lee hasn't had the same huge year he did last season and Josh Perry could be emerging as the guy NFL teams covet more because of his size, but Lee is still a talent. The former three-star started off the season pretty strong, but has been spotty at times and hasn't been all over the field like we saw at the end of last year. A superior athlete out of high school, I saw a Vic Beasley rise coming for him this year but it hasn't happened.
The skinny: Wright was a two-star linebacker out of Santa Rosa (Calif.) Cardinal Newman in the 2013 class. Arizona was Wright's only offer when he committed in June before his senior year.
Season overview: Wright only played in two games this season and had eight tackles but his campaign was cut short with a foot injury.
Farrell's take: Wright was a tackling machine last season and when you watched the former two-star on film, it was because he was in excellent position almost all the time. He's a big kid, a bit sawed off but powerful, but not a quick-twitch guy who can change direction that well. Now with a couple of injuries this year, his stock can only drop in the mind of the NFL.
Farrell's take: Hard to put Jack on here because he still has a first-round grade, and he and Smith are generally the only two elite linebackers so far in this draft. His season-ending injury will obviously lead to much scrutiny and questions, so a drop to the second round wouldn't be a stunner for the former four-star. Maggitt, also a former four-star, also suffered an injury which was the second major one of his career, so he will have even more questions to answer, but is so effective when healthy he will get plenty of looks.
National Recruiting Director
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