We are almost to the end of the pre-season 2024 NFL draft rankings, this time we are looking at the linebackers. This group is overall better than the 2023 class. The top three guys are probably better than any of the top guys from the last class. There are some questions on the depth of the class, but the top is really strong.
There is no elite top-10 type talent in the group, but any or all of the top three could go top 15-20. I also feel you could put the three in any order and no one would disagree.
2024 NFL Draft Linebackers: Top Five
- Barrett Carter – Clemson: Carter was a five-star recruit coming out of high schoool, but because of depth ahead of him didn’t play a lot as a true freshman. He became a starter in 2022 and was all over the stat sheet. 68 total tackles, 27 pressures, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, and five pass breakups. Carter is a little undersized at 6’1 225, but is fast, quick, and instinctive. He can blitz or play in coverage. He still needs to add a few pounds.
- Tommy Eichenberg – Ohio State: Similar to Carter, Eichenberg didn’t become a full-time starter until 2022 due to depth ahead of him. He showed flashes in 2021, but seemed to put it together in 2022. He had 120 tackles, 23 pressures, four sacks, one interception, and three pass break-ups. Due to being almost 240 pounds, he is probably the sturdiest of the top guys, but is not as good in coverage, although he isn’t terrible; he’s just okay.
- Jeremiah Trotter Jr. – Clemson: Trotter is obviously the son of former Eagle/Washington linebacker of the same name. While he is a middle linebacker like his dad, he’s not the same hulking figure. He is just 230 pounds, and more made for the current NFL with his speed and athleticism. Last season he had 83 tackles, 23 pressures, six sacks, one forced fumble, two interceptions, and three pass break-ups. Trotter does need to improve as a tackler, having missed 12 tackles last season.
- Curtis Jacobs – Penn State: Jacobs is entering his third season as the starter at weakside linebacker. He has been inconsistent in his play so far, but has the size (6’2 236), and speed (4.6 40-yard dash). He can also make plays in coverage, allowing a passer rating of just 61. His run fits need to be better. He can also blitz, putting up five sacks last season.
- Jestin Jacobs – Oregon: The former Iowa Hawkeye showed some potential as first year starter in 2021, but was only able to play two games in 2022. At 6’4 240 pounds, he has ideal size for a weakside linebacker. His play against the run has been good. He isn’t much of a blitzer and has been just okay in coverage, but has shown he has upside to be better.
2024 NFL Draft Linebackers: The Best Of The Rest
6. Payton Wilson – NC State: Wilson is another linebacker with ideal size at 6’4 240 pounds and solid speed at 4.75 40-yard dash, but his arms are a little short at just under 31″. He seems to compensate well for his short arms, though. 2023 will be his third as a starter. Wilson is a solid all-around player, but not elite at anything. He will also be a 24-year-old rookie. Medicals will be important for him.
7. Marlowe Wax Jr. – Syracuse: Wax is a former running back recruit that converted. He has the “traditional” linebacker build at a thick 6’0 240 pounds. Wax has also played middle, weakside, and strong side, but will be better off in the middle in the NFL. He is a very good blitzer and tackler with 11 sacks over the last two seasons. Coverage has never been a strong suit of his. He is a pretty average athlete.
8. Junior Colson – Michigan: Colson started seven games as a true freshman, but didn’t play all that well. He made a big leap in his play in 2022 and started every game. Colson played well against the run and missed just seven tackles on the year. He needs work on coverage, but has shown upside. If he could take a step there and play a little more consistent, he could really move up.
9. Omar Speights – LSU: Speights is entering his fourth year as a starter. He was a pretty average linebacker over his first three seasons, but showed there was still some upside to him in 2022. The former Beaver has a sawed off build at 6’0 (rumored to be 5’11), 235 pounds. He played pretty well against the run and had some good moments in coverage. Speights is moving from Oregon State to LSU and is expected to continue improving
10. Aaron Beasley – Tennessee: Beasley is a 6’1 225 pound linebacker whose role slowly grew each season. He is entering his third season as a starter. His play can still be a little inconsistent. He doesn’t have a large frame, but looks like he could — and should — add 5-10 pounds. Beasley has shown he knows how to get in the backfield and get running backs or put pressure on the QB. His cover skills needs work. May never be more than average in coverage, due to average speed and agility.