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2018 NFL Draft LB Rankings

By Jim Johnson
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Ranking the draftable linebacker prospects from the 2018 class, out of Southern Pigskin's coverage area.

These intial rankings are comprised of what right now are the draftable/PFA worthy prospects from our coverage area here at Southern Pigskin -- the ACC, SEC, Sun Belt, and SoCon.

These pre-combine rankings include a basic rundown of strengths and weaknesses, however, after the combine, they will be updated with round projections, player comparisons, and a more in-depth summation of my personal opinion on each respective player.

Starting with the quarterbacks, they will be released one day at a time until all of the position groups are up. After that, they will be easily found in a comprehensive database from a homepage that includes a first round mock draft.

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | IOL (OG/C) | EDGE (DE/3-4 OLB) | DL | LB | CB | S


1. Roquan Smith, Georgia: 6’1, 225

Strengths: Elite athleticism for the position. After being only an average tackler in 2016, he totally assuaged those concerns last year. One of the best run stoppers in the draft, strength to compete in the interior and speed to beat even the faster backs to the sideline. More than capable pass rusher, albeit on a small sample size. Very good in coverage. High football IQ, never makes mistakes, always in the right place.

Weaknesses: Maybe slightly undersized relative to the prototype.

2. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech: 6’5, 250

Strengths: An entirely unique physical specimen; a borderline unprecedented true linebacker with a combination of size, length, and burst, with speed to burn. One of the most gifted, imposing athletes in the class. Two years of solid all-around production. Greatly improved as a tackler last year while becoming even more of a force in the run game. Has steadily improved in coverage throughout his career and does a good job closing from zone.

Weaknesses: Relies pretty heavily on athleticism, only average feel, instincts. Still a work in progress in man coverage. Did miss a lot of tackles in 2016, although that might be fixed.

3. Rashaan Evans, Alabama: 6’3, 234

Strengths: Very athletic, sideline to sideline player. Extremely efficient as both a run stopper and pass rusher, especially in 2016, on a more limited sample size. Adapted better to playing inside last season. Striker.

Weaknesses: Has the tools to be reliable in coverage but needs work. Not very instinctual. Slower to diagnose plays. Nagging injuries are a concern. Missed more tackles than would be ideal.

4. Skai Moore, South Carolina: 6’2, 221

Strengths: Reliable tackler that led South Carolina all four years he played. Elite instincts, awareness -- always around the ball against the run. Good feel in zone. Was one of the best cover linebackers in college football last season.

Weaknesses: Subpar athleticism. Not much of a pass rusher, or at least doesn't have the reps to show it. Not fast enough to stay with backs in man coverage.

5. Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson: 6’1, 220

Strengths: Above average tackler. Elite coverage ability, even defended receivers out of the slot. Effective pass rusher when occasionally utilized. Versatile -- one of the great special teamers in recent college football history.

Weaknesses: Not especially athletic. Minus run stopper.

6. Micah Kiser, Virginia: 6’2, 240

Strengths: Was a reliable tackler until last season, but that seems like an outlier. Plus run stopper. Good pass rusher. Nice feel and instincts.

Weaknesses: Limited athleticism. Cover skills are a problem.

7. Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama: 6’0, 235

Strengths: Great tackler his whole career before last season -- trust the pedigree. Cerebral linebacker -- always in the right spot against the run, although he makes the play a little less often than that. Very good in coverage in college.

Weaknesses: Major durability concerns. Seemingly diminished athleticism from multiple surgeries. Only an average pass rusher. Lack of footspeed could hurt him in coverage against pros.

8. Matthew Thomas, Florida State: 6’3, 227

Strengths: Height, weight, speed prospect. Very effective pass rusher. Athleticism to stay with a variety of pass catchers.

Weaknesses: So many missed tackles. Below average to average against the run. Sometimes gets lost in coverage. Severe lack of feel, instincts.

9. Oren Burks, Vanderbilt: 6’3, 230

Strengths: Plus athleticism for the position. Very good in coverage relative to the position. High football IQ. Versatile.

Weaknesses: Not as reliable a takler as one would like. Won’t be much help against the run.

10. Andrew Motuapuaka, Virginia Tech: 6’0, 236

Strengths: Underrated play strength. Really reliable tackler. Sneaky decent pass rusher. One of the best cover linebackers in the entire class. Good awareness.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal speed. Won’t be very useful against the run. Doesn’t possess the sort of instincts one would want, given his physical limitations.

11. Tre’ Williams, Auburn: 6’2, 225

Strengths: Good overall athleticism. Makes plays against the run. Possesses good overall feel and awareness. Big hitter.

Weaknesses: Not a great sample size as a pass rusher. Misses far too many tackles.

12. Myles Pierce, The Citadel: 6’0, 225

Strengths: Physical, thumping run stopper. Adequate cover skills. Truly cerebral football player.

Weaknesses: Only average athleticism. Not much of a pass rusher. Undersized for the position.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP