NFL Analysis


8 min read

2024 NFL Draft: Ranking Top 9 Linebackers Prospects

Michigan Wolverines linebacker Junior Colson
Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) is chased by Michigan Wolverines linebacker Junior Colson (25) in the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the changing nature of the linebacker position, off-ball linebackers continue to helm some of the most dangerous defenses in the NFL. Does the 2024 NFL Draft feature any prospects capable of filling that role?

Here are our top 9 linebackers.



9. Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson

Big Board Rank: 165

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 228 pounds

Jeremiah Trotter Jr. projects as a backup Mike linebacker in a 4-3 defense at the next level. While he doesn’t have the big-time stoutness one would expect of a downhill linebacker, he can stack-and-shed, navigate the trash and run alleys sufficiently.

As a tackler, he can deliver a thump on contact, but he slips off too many attempts. Trotter is a liability in man coverage. If he just needs to cover a curl or flat, he should be fine, but if he needs to cross the formation or carry down the field, he will get beaten more times than not.

He’s an adequate zone defender, especially in the middle of the field, and can even create turnovers if the ball is thrown his way. On third downs, he’s better off as a spy, rat or blitzer. He should be a good special teamer, likely making his money there early on.

>>READ MORE: Trotter's Full Scouting Report

8. Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State

Big Board Rank: 163

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 233 pounds

Tommy Eichenberg projects to be a top-level backup as a Mike linebacker who excels due to his coverage ability. His playing speed, athleticism and tempo in coverage are solid, and he has fluid hips to turn and run playing the pass. His man coverage ability is sufficient, and he can stay attached to running backs and tight ends.

When playing the run, Eichenberg shows solid instincts and can successfully run and navigate through trash to locate and bring down ball carriers. His playing strength and stoutness against the run is an area of concern. He plays somewhat hesitantly, taking on blocks, and can easily get controlled at the POA.

His body control is shaky, too, as he can find himself on the ground even with the slightest touch. He can carve himself a role on third downs with his coverage ability, and his competitiveness will allow him to play on special teams, as well.

>>READ MORE: Eichenberg's Full Scouting Report

7. Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington

Big Board Rank: 161

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 236 pounds

Edefuan Ulofoshio projects as a backup Will linebacker who fits best in a 3-4 defensive scheme. He has a compact frame with great length and speed. He can track down ball carriers all over the field and has the closing speed and tackling form to limit the yards.

He began to make his impact felt behind the line of scrimmage during the 2023 season, but there is room for growth. He lacks stoutness in the box and struggles to shed blocks from offensive linemen. Ulofoshio offers coverage upside with the speed to stick with receivers down the field and the long arms to disrupt the catch point.

His football intelligence and play recognition are still a work in progress — he can be a step late reacting to route and run concepts. He shows flashes of impact as a blitzer but lacks the pass-rushing moves to consistently win. He should be a core special teams player.

>>READ MORE: Ulofoshio's Full Scouting Report

6. Jaylan Ford, Texas

Big Board Rank: 159

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 240 pounds

Jaylan Ford projects best as a top backup Mike linebacker in a defense that allows him to use his range and athleticism to make plays. In the passing game, he struggles with the feel needed to pick up backs quickly or to recognize what’s coming or going behind him in zone. However, he spot drops quickly and can step in passing lanes if given the opportunity.

In the run game, although he doesn’t stack and shed incredibly well, he shows sufficient stoutness and isn’t afraid to take on bigger blockers. He does a solid job working through the trash to make tackles all over the field but fails to finish too often.

On third downs, allowing him to blitz occasionally and placing him in hook zones will help him be at his best. Where he’ll affect a team early is special teams due to his athleticism, speed and toughness.

>>READ MORE: Ford's Full Scouting Report

5. Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M

Big Board Rank: 153

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 230 pounds

Edgerrin Cooper projects as a top backup Will linebacker with his good speed and sufficient instincts. He has a long, wiry frame that is likely close to being maxed out and is an explosive, straight-line athlete.

Against the pass, he demonstrates sufficient awareness and communication in zone. He is mediocre in man coverage and lacks the change of direction and hip flexibility to mirror breaks. He shows very good burst as a blitzer to create pressure quickly. In the run game, Cooper demonstrates sufficient ability to read his keys and make his fit. He has good range to beat climbing offensive linemen and rally to the ball.

He has mediocre stoutness and lower-body strength to take on blocks at the point of attack. On third downs, he is best suited in a role attacking downhill as a blitzer. With his explosive bust and range, he can play a role on special teams.

>>READ MORE: Cooper's Full Scouting Report

4. Trevin Wallace, Kentucky

Big Board Rank: 62

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 237 pounds

Trevin Wallace is listed as Kentucky’s Will linebacker, but has also rotated through Mike responsibilities in the nickel defense. He played in 36 games during his three seasons in Lexington. However, he’s still relatively new to the linebacker position.

In high school, he saw time at running back, receiver, quarterback, edge rusher and off-ball linebacker and as a punt and kick returner. He played in only four games his junior season due to injury and only played linebacker during his senior season.

Wallace has a solid frame with very good athleticism. That’s evidenced by his ability to play multiple positions in high school but also by him competing in the 100- and 200-meter events, 110-meter hurdles, high jump, long jump and shot put. He also won the state weightlifting championship in the power clean. It’s clear he competes, but his motor will run hot and cold at times.

>>READ MORE: Wallace's Full Scouting Report

3. Payton Wilson, North Carolina State

Big Board Rank: 40

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 233 pounds

Payton Wilson was the Will linebacker in NC State’s base-3-3-5 defense where he also dropped down as a true edge rusher a fair amount. While Wilson played in more than 45 games throughout his career, he has an extensive injury history that has cut multiple seasons short.

He suffered an ACL tear in high school that forced him to miss spring drills as a freshman. Then, he suffered another ACL injury over the summer that wiped out his 2018 season. He also suffered a shoulder injury in 2021 that caused him to miss the final 10 games and the following spring. Additionally, he missed a game in 2019, played and finished a game in 2020 with both shoulders dislocated, had surgery on both shoulders that forced him out of 2021 spring practices, and then missed a game in 2022.

An exceptional high school athlete with that athleticism translating to the college football field, Wilson played football and lacrosse and wrestled. He also has some bloodlines, as his brother, Bryse, is an MLB pitcher.

Wilson has a long, narrow frame and could stand to put on more muscle tone, especially in his lower half. In terms of motor and competitiveness, Wilson’s are off the charts. His “get knocked down, get back up” mentality is apparent after having had to go through so many rehabs and still getting back on the field to play at a high level.

>>READ MORE: Wilson's Full Scouting Report

2. Cedric Gray, North Carolina North Carolina Tar Heels logo

Big Board Rank: 38

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 234 pounds

Cedric Gray was the starting Mike linebacker in North Carolina's base nickel defense while playing some Will, as well. Gray has the needed height and weight for the position while possessing long arms and solid strength throughout. He has good speed that is enhanced by his impressive reaction time.

His acceleration is better moving forward than laterally, and there is a slight hitch when he makes the transition out of a backpedal. He is a true competitor who is willing to step up against bigger linemen or sprint all over the field to make a play. He seems to always be around the ball and makes big plays when his team needs them.

>>READ MORE: Gray's Full Scouting Report

1. Junior Colson, Michigan

Big Board Rank: 36

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 238 pounds

Junior Colson lined up as an off-ball linebacker for the national-champion Michigan defense. He played Mike and Will spots in a primarily even-front Nickel defense. He is only a third-year player but started every game each of the last two seasons.

He was born in Haiti before he was adopted and moved to the United States in 2012. He was a soccer player before picking up football. He has battled through some injuries over the past two years; in 2022, he was playing through a lower-leg injury but didn’t miss any game time.

Early in the 2023 season, he was nursing a right-hand injury and wearing a small cast while continuing to play, but then he suffered a broken left hand and wore a club during games over the rest of the season.

Colson has a rock-solid frame with some length, as well. He has good athleticism at his size and is a comfortable mover in space. His toughness didn’t go unnoticed this year — he was voted Michigan’s toughest player in 2023.

>>READ MORE: Colson's Full Scouting Report