We are almost there. Here is the third set of defensive position rankings for the 2023 NFL draft: the linebackers. Before the season started this looked to be a weak group. Nothing has really happened this season to change that outlook.
As always, I will be listing players at their expected NFL positions. Be sure to check out my previous part detailing the edge rushers, and if you want to check out the draft database that I help update almost daily, you can find it at risendraft.
2023 NFL Draft Linebackers: The Top 5
- Trenton Simpson, Clemson: Simpson is a freak athlete at 6’3 240 with legit sub 4.5 speed. He played almost like a slot defender in 2021 and really flashed as a blitzer with 31 pressures and seven sacks. He slid over to WLB for 2022 and has shown improvement in his run fits. He is already a solid cover guy, as well. In a stronger class, he probably goes somewhere in the middle of the 1st, but he will probably go top 10ish in 2023.
- Noah Sewell, Oregon: Sewell, the brother of Penei, is a throwback type of linebacker that we have not seen in awhile. He is 6’2 250 and explosive. He is really good in a straight line. It’s when he has to move side-to-side where he has some issues. That shows up in some of his issues in coverage. He is also a very good blitzer. 48 pressures and five sacks in the last two years.
- Henry To’o To’o, Alabama: Athletic transfer from Tennessee. His play and hype didn’t match up until this season. He was pretty average his first three seasons. He is a bit undersized at 230, and doesn’t play with a lot of power — although he does try and play physical. His tackling can be inconsistent. His play in coverage has improved a lot in 2022.
- Nick Herbig, Wisconsin: Herbig has been a pass rusher for Wisconsin, but due to his size (6’2 228) he is going to have to move to off-ball. We could see him being used like Zach Baun. He can be used as a rusher on obvious passing downs like 3rd and long. He has been a good run defender despite his size. Herbig has shown a big improvement in coverage in 2022 preparing him for his move.
- Jestin Jacobs, Iowa: Jacobs is probably the Iowa linebacker with the most upside/potential. He is more athletic than Benson or Campbell. He has the size Benson lacks and the athleticism that Campbell lacks. He is still a bit raw. He has also only played two games this season due to injury. Jacobs is already a good tackler and run defender. His play in coverage is still a work in progress, but has shown flashes.
2023 NFL Draft Linebackers: Best of the Rest
6. DeMarvion Overshown, Texas: Another freak athlete that hadn’t lived up to the hype/potential. 6’3 230 pounds with 32″ arms and 4.7 speed. Explosive and able to get sideline to sideline. He is finally starting to realize some of his potential in 2022. His instincts are starting to show. Overshown has improved his run fits and his tackling. He has shown flashes in coverage as well.
7. Darius Muasau, UCLA: The 6’1 230 Hawaii transfer had a big season in 2021 with 108 tackles, seven sacks, five forced fumbles, one INT, and four PBUs. He put those numbers up playing in the Mountain West, so there were competition questions. He transferred to UCLA and was going to see a bump in talent of his opponents. There has not been much of a drop off in production. Thru nine games he has 64 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, two INTs, and two PBUs. He is a little undersized and will need to be protected by his defensive line, but he has the athleticism and instincts to be a major impact player in the NFL.
8. Jack Campbell, Iowa: Campbell has been a well-known name in draft circles since 2020. He had a bit of a break out season then and was expected to come out in the 2022 draft. He didn’t play as well in 2021 though, and that might have gone into his decision. The thing with Campbell is his flaws aren’t something that will go away. His athleticism is middling and he lacks explosion when he tries to click-and-close. Campbell’s long speed is average. His instincts are solid and he is really good in coverage. The current Hawkeye is also a solid run defender.
9. SirVocea Dennis, Pittsburgh: At 6’0 230, he is a touch on the smaller side. He flashed his potential in 2020 and 2021, but wasn’t able to be consistent with his run defense and his instincts in coverage. The current Panther has taken off in 2022. He has become an elite run defender and has finally started to play more consistent in coverage. Dennis can also be an effective blitzer with 49 pressures and 13 sacks in the last two seasons.
10. Jimmy Phillips Jr., SMU: Phillips is a bit of a sleeper when it comes to the national media. Mainly because he plays for SMU and SMU’s defense isn’t that good. At 6’1, 236 with 32 3/4″ arms and running in the 4.7 range, he has NFL size and athleticism. He has been a solid player since he stepped on campus. Known for his run defense and tackling, he is also sneaky good in coverage. The one area he hasn’t shown much is as a blitzer.