This is my first edition for the linebacker position, I will get the rest written up early next week. I started with some of the stars of this class and began to work my way down. I really like scouting linebackers, you can never have too many good linebackers on your team. Now, I know most of you will agree the Miami Dolphins’ linebacker position is better this year then it has been in a while but continuing to add quality youth to a tough position would be wise and this year’s potential class has some really talented prospects that I believe can help from day 1. So we will start with perhaps one of the more well-known names in Malik Jefferson.
Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas - Junior
6-2 240 Lbs
I remember watching Jefferson when he was a freshman. I was scouting someone else; a game against ND if I remember correctly. Anyways, I kept noticing #46 on defense, and I was like who is this kid? I don’t have any prospects for Texas on defense? So, I looked him up and thought wow, just a freshman; he’s going to be a good player. It makes scouting easy when a player jumps out at you on film and Jefferson does just that. He’s a very instinctive LB who is athletic, quick and explosive. He’s capable of making big hits and he’s quick decision maker who bursts to the ball. He’s also comfortable in coverage too; he’s a really well rounded prospect. One of my main things I don’t like in his film is he runs around blockers a lot. You can get away with that in college and somewhat in the NFL but only to a certain extent; guys are much bigger and faster in the NFL, he won’t be able to run around everyone. I’d like to see him add bulk and take on blockers and shed them rather then run around. Shedding blocks is another area I thought needs improvement; he lets linemen latch on a lot and he gets taken out of the play. Jefferson is talented kid though, I’ve been waiting for him to be draft eligible; it’s a big year for him.
Cameron Smith, LB, USC - Junior
6-2 245 lbs
Cameron Smith burst onto the college scene as a freshman. Simply go back and watch the Utah tape; he took the game over...from the linebacker position; that’s nuts. Now, he cooled down a bit as his freshman season went on and unfortunately, torn knee ligaments against Colorado (10th game of that season and had surgery on it), but he clearly is one of the top Trojan defenders and a very pro ready prospect. I love his patience and instincts; that stands out very clearly. He’s an obvious playmaker, shows terrific burst, excellent quickness and good vision, sure tackler; he’s an excited LB prospect. He does looks stiff in coverage to me, so I’m slightly concerned for that; straight line speed is a question mark....no prospect is perfect. I really like Smith though; I like his intensity, drive, toughness. He has the potential to be a game changer on the defensive side of the ball; that means a lot to me. If he stays healthy and continues to produce I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him as a first or second round pick.
Porter Gustin, OLB, USC - Junior
6-4 260 lbs
Sticking with USC, Porter Gustin is another member of respectable LB corp. Gustin is a big guy who plays with great hand use, obvious strength, strong at the point of attack and shows good quickness/explosion off the ball. He understands his responsibilities and his tape shows that.; he clearly is a student of the game. He’s a feisty guy too; he’s got a good motor and is giving 100% all the time. I’ve seen him effective at stopping the run and rushing the passer. There was one play in particular where he demonstrated a textbook technique on a swim move + sack. My thing I left wanted more of was dominance. He’s good at a lot of things but not elite at anything. He can stop the run, but I’ve seen him get dominated one on one with a RT before. He can rush the passer, but I don’t see him use a lot of moves other then the swim. He’s athletic enough to drop into coverage but he looks a little stiff much like Smith. Gustin has potential to be a great player in the NFL; he’s got to take the next step though. I’d see him right now as probably a 3rd round pick. Also fun fact, in high school he played both QB and LB; how cool is that?
Kendall Joseph, LB, Clemson - Junior
Joseph may be my favorite LB so far. He is a small LB but plays like a grown man. He’s highly athletic, fights through traffic, sure tackler, incredibly high motor, excellent blitzer and plays mean. He can stop the run, rush the passer and is fluid in coverage. No prospect is perfect but really my main concern with him is his size, which is unfortunate because he can’t do anything about that. He’s got first round talent; if he has another year like last year I don’t care how big or small he is, I want him on my team. I’ll find a place for him.
Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa - Senior
6-1 236 lbs
Josey Jewell is another smaller linebacker who is possess very good coverage skills, quickness and has a nose for the football. First, on film he looks small; he will definitely need to add bulk in the NFL. His size also causes him to get engulfed when he comes into contact with bigger linemen too; which is why he often (like Jefferson) runs around blockers instead of taking them on and shedding them. Secondly, he reminds of Alonso’s college tape. Jewell is basically an athletic coverage LB who can tackle. He’s all over the field, shows good awareness, high motor but he struggles to disengage and once a bigger lineman gets to him its over. He needs to get stronger and meaner; but today’s NFL his current skill set will be highly coveted.
Mike McCray, LB, Michigan - Senior
6-3 240 lbs
McCray is an interesting prospect with a lot of potential. He’s got good size and good straight line speed for his size. I don’t know why he looks bigger then 6-3 to me on film. He’s a solid run defender with good football IQ and awareness. I like his motor and his play recognition. He is able to drop into coverage but he’s stiff and there’s not a lot of quickness when he changes direction. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting him in one on one coverage. He does rush the passer but he’s not elite at it; I don’t see a natural pass rusher and the aggressiveness isn’t there. Overall, I think he’s a solid run stopper who really can do a lot of different things on defense. His versatility is a huge plus because his range but this year I need to see him become a better pass rusher and be more dominant overall.
Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia - Senior
6-1 240 lbs
Kiser is a high hustle, great motor, always giving 100% type player. He’s clearly got a good understanding of the game and tries to position himself to be in the right place at the right time. He’s a solid run defender and has the capability of making big plays. He’s also had a lot of experience in coverage, although I have serious doubts about him being a 3 down linebacker in the NFL. His speed and overall athletic ability are concerns; he’s got to shed blocks better, and I’d like to see him more physical. However, he’s got intangibles that would excite any coach. He’s clearly a leader, he’s a high character guy; you know you’re getting a guy that will work hard 100% of the time, he’s a solid tackler and like I said, he seems to always be in the right place to make the tackle. I believe he made the right decision last year by not declaring and coming back for his senior season. I would peg him as a mid round type guy right now, but there’s not a doubt in my mind, he is working hard right now to improve and hard work pays off.