This is my second edition of the potential linebacker class for next year’s NFL Draft. I was expecting to be done with this a lot earlier but some of this game film really took a lot longer then I thought. The Dolphins should always be looking for LB help. It’s such a critical position but in my opinion, the Dolphins LB corp is good but not great and depth at least, should be upgraded. So, lets dive into this..
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech - Junior
6-4 236 lbs
Edmunds is a very athletic linebacker with great size. He’s impressive in coverage; reads the QB’s eyes and can diagnose plays quickly. He does a great job of fighting through traffic, shedding blocks and keeping his eyes on the ball carrier. He’s a solid tackler that rarely misses. Edmunds is a really good linebacker, he’s well-rounded. My concerns would be his man coverage skills (he’s decent in zone); against quicker WRs and backs he will struggle really because he’s 6-4 236 lbs. He can rush the passer but he’s not elite; it doesn’t wow me. He will also allow bigger lineman to latch onto him and that causes him to struggle to get free. All in all though, I really like Edmunds, his tape is impressive. There’s no doubt he would be an asset to Miami.
Marquise Haynes, DE/OLB, Ole Miss - Senior
6-2 225 lbs
Haynes is a pass rushing specialist. In fact, I really thought about putting him in the DE group (which is the next on my list). He’s not that big, and it shows on film; he looks small compared to all the other linemen. However, he’s extremely athletic and what excites me the most about Haynes is the improvement I saw when I watched 2015 film compared to 2016. He improved so much in one year; I believe we haven’t seen the best this young man can be yet. I’ve seen him make some big hits, super quick, great twitch and I love his drive. This year coming up, he needs to step up and be more of a run stopper and show that he’s not just a pass rusher.
Shaun Dion Hamilton, LB, Alabama - Senior
6-0 233 lbs
Hamilton is a smart, instinctive and very solid LB. He’s a tough backer who diagnoses plays very quickly and flies to the ball. He’s also such a solid tackler, can fight through traffic, keeps his eyes on the ball carrier; there’s really a lot to like about him. My real only hesitation is his overall athletic ability. He’s a quick guy, especially for his size but I am not sure how fast he really is; there may be some coverage concerns at the next level. He’s also coming off a knee injury from the national championship game but he should be close to 100% early this season.
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama - Senior
6-2 234 lbs
Evans is yet another good linebacker that will come out of Alabama. He, like Hamilton, is such a good tackler. He plays smart, flies to the ball, and again like Hamilton, can diagnose plays fast. I think Hamilton is the better run stopper, but Evans I think is better in coverage and he can rush the passer better. His pass rushing skills are exciting and the thing is, he can get better. He’s got a natural skill to rush the passer (I’ve seen him dip his shoulder and get around a RT, it was beautiful). What also really stuck out to me is when he diagnoses a play and recognizes where it’s going, his quickness is phenomenal; and his closing speed is deadly. He’s a fantastically athletic guy for his size (again like many of these LB’s, I wish he was bigger but for his size, the kids is athletic). Both Evans and Hamilton were stuck in a super talented LB corp last year, so this year will give them both an opportunity to make names for themselves.
Azeem Victor, LB, Washington - Senior
6-2 222 lbs
Victor may be the complete opposite to Hamilton. Victor is a fast, ultra-athletic coverage LB that is almost, pretty much a safety playing LB. He’s got natural footwork, fluid hips, quick burst and shows good play recognition. My issues that I don’t like are I don’t see an aggressiveness in his play. He can hit; I’ve seen him do it, but it’s few and far between. His tackling is average, he’s undersized, struggles to shed blocks, I wouldn’t fear him as a blitzer. Victor has a unique skillset; he clearly belongs in the NFL but he will need to be used the right way.
Keishawn Bierria, LB, Washington - Senior
6-1 220 lbs
Bierria is extremely similar to Victor. He’s another undersized, super-athletic DB playing LB. He’s very quick, great acceleration, reads the QB’s eyes, and hustles to the ball. I do see an aggressiveness in Bierria though that I don’t in Victor. Bierria is a better tackler and uses his hands a little bit better I think. However, like Victor, he struggles to shed blocks, needs to add some bulk and doesn’t diagnose plays as fast as Victor. In the end, these LB’s are picked and taught to cover the field sideline to sideline; and in today’s NFL they will both find homes.
Kenny Young, LB, UCLA - Senior
6-1 235 lbs
I only had a little bit of film on Young, so I will only be able to give a brief description from what I’ve seen on him. He’s got a good motor, is a solid tackler, has a good nose for the ball, decent quickness/burst, and can rush the passer. He’s pretty athletic but he does look stiff on coverage at times. I really like how he flies to the ball, although he sometimes gets himself into trouble and over-pursues/picks the wrong gap. I really need to get some more film on Young, but he’s definitely one to watch this year.
Tegray Scales, LB, Indiana - Senior
6-0 230 lbs
Scales in another undersized LB (I know I sound like a broken record) in this class, but he stands out though on film. He’s got good hand use, able to fight through blocks (he is a little inconsistent; like a lot of other smaller LBs, they struggle against bigger linemen), textbook tackler and has good play recognition. In fact, his vision to see where the play is going in quite impressive. He also shows a great burst when he anticipates when the ball is going. He’s similar to Young in this aspect, because he often anticipates wrong or he over-pursues....but I like the aggressiveness! Right now I would peg him around the middle of the pack in this LB class but he’s got potential and if he shows improvement this year his stock will surely rise.
Jack Cichy, LB, Wisconsin - Senior
6-1 233 lbs
Cichy, who had 3 straight sacks against USC in the Holiday Bowl in 2015 which earned him the nickname 3 sack jack, is an energetic, tough instinctive LB that anchors down the Bager defense. His size is a concern and he’s definitely not the most athletic LB I’ve seen so I really don’t know if he’s a 2 or a 3 down backer at the next level. He does fight through traffic well, shed blocks consistently, can diagnose and explode to the ball carrier and tackles really well. He’s a clear leader on the field and his motor is second to none. In short, he’s a fantastic run stopper who has elite instincts but I question if he will be a big liability in coverage. Also, despite getting 3 sacks in a row, he’s really not much of a pass rusher. He’s also coming off a torn pectoral muscle from back in October. If Cichy returns to 100% he could really improve his draft stock.
For the sake of time I didn’t get enough film study on these guys belong here. They belong on our radar though and I will certainly be watching them throughout the year. So, I added them in this article, in no particular order, so we can keep our eyes open for who’s going to step up and help the Dolphins next season.
Dante Booker, Ohio St.
T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
Andre Smith, North Carolina
Mathew Thomas, Florida St. - possible high draft pick
Skai Moore, South Carolina - possible high draft pick
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
Chris Worley, Ohio St.