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2024 NFL Draft prospect rankings: LBs

Julian Catalfo / theScore

theScore's prospect rankings series takes a position-by-position look at the top players in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Top 50
QB | RB | WR | TE | OL
ED | DL | LB | CB | SAF

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Cooper is a heat-seeking missile. The Texas A&M linebacker's athleticism tested off the charts at the NFL combine - and it's beyond evident on the field. Cooper comes downhill with violence to meet ball carriers in the hole, and his hits are even more violent as a blitzer, where he operates well. He also displays a speedy first step and a quick play recognition. Combined with his burst, that makes him a dominant tackler, and his long arms do him wonders in terms of his tackling radius. He could work on his tendency to be overaggressive, as his athleticism sometimes leaves him overshooting targets. It also leads to missed tackles, especially against more elusive runners. He's not your typical block-shedder, but he's often too quick to make it a concern. Cooper has all the right traits - all he needs to do is turn the dial back 1%, and he becomes a high-floor, high-ceiling linebacker who can thrive in the NFL.

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Wilson can move. The NC State product has sideline-to-sideline speed and pounces quickly on ball carriers in the backfield. That translates to an ability to hang in man coverage and move well in zone. Mix that with his unstoppable motor and quick play recognition ability, and you've got the high-ceiling linebacker that will attract NFL suitors. His primary downfall is an extensive injury list that includes knee and shoulder ailments. His lack of length also may be a problem at the next level if he can't freely fly to the ball. But linebackers with this kind of athleticism are easy to fall in love with. NFL teams will likely feel the same.

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Colson's portfolio boasts a good blend of traits. The Michigan linebacker should be NFL-ready because of his ability to play downhill and drop back in coverage. He's a solid tackler who can get off blockers to go where he needs to be. Colson also has the athleticism to drop in coverage and cover ground. But he struggles with processing. He's sometimes a step slower in terms of play recognition, which occasionally leads to unusual routes when the play stretches near the sideline. His resume also lacks true splash plays. Colson has the fundamentals down, which should make him a serviceable player, but he needs to address the holes in his game.

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You'd be hard-pressed to find a time when Trotter was out of position on film. The son of a legendary Philadelphia Eagles linebacker, it's easy to tell the younger Trotter has a feel for the game that could only be transferred through genetics. The Clemson linebacker processes incredibly quickly, so there's little to no time lost between his read of the play and his first step. His awareness in coverage is also a positive trait: He has four interceptions over the last two years. His work as a blitzer coming downhill also has to be applauded. The only issues with his profile revolve around his frame and tackle radius, both of which lead to a noticeable amount of missed arm tackles. His short-area lateral movement can also feel a little tight at times. That said, Trotter should be able to carve out an NFL career as a serviceable starting linebacker.

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Gray always seems to be around the football, beyond his tackles on ball carriers. He's also a serviceable blitzer, and his best trait may be his play in coverage. Gray is exceptional in zone, allowing him to jump routes, and his work in man is another strong suit. But he'll have to work on his consistency to become a trusted NFL asset. He occasionally plays too hot and sometimes seems more reactive than instinctive. But if Gray is playing alongside a veteran and more instinctive linebacker, his coverage and play speed will be valuable assets for an NFL defense.

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Eichenberg is your typical downhill-thumping linebacker. The Ohio State product works his best between the tackles, where he cleans up well. His awareness and ability to diagnose plays come quickly, and he plays with incredible strength in the tackle box. But the rest of his athletic profile leaves a lot to be desired. Eichenberg lacks the natural athleticism and range to be a three-down linebacker, and his coverage skills are also weak. Still, he comes with an elevated floor compared to others in this range, so he could carve out a career as a run-stopping two-down linebacker in the NFL.

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Whoever selects Wallace will do it more for who they believe he can be rather than who he is now. The Kentucky linebacker is an intriguing gadget that his next team will have to figure out how to maximize. He has a lot of tools in his arsenal, including athleticism - his standout feature. While his instincts and processing are below average, he can recover quickly because of his burst and quickness. He can also hang in coverage, whether that means carrying a target up the seam or dropping to the flat. There's a lot of good in Wallace - it's all about whether it all comes together.

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Ulofoshio is a freaky linebacker prospect. He tested incredibly well at the NFL combine, and all his best traits pop up on tape. The Washington linebacker explodes to the hole when he keys in on the play call, and his speed gives him quite a bit of range as he patrols the second line of defense. But he struggles to take clean routes to the ball carrier, which prevents his athleticism from shining fully. He also has only one year of good productivity under his belt - which came in 2023 - and has a history of injuries, including a previously torn ACL. Ulofoshio has the tools to carve a role as a weakside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. as that's where his athleticism will stand out and where his weaknesses will be most covered. But it's a long road to get there.

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Liufau's future suitor needs to give him a lot of space. He projects best as a developmental weakside linebacker. His play against the run can be enticing but is far too inconsistent to rely on. What's more, his play recognition leaves a lot to be desired and, while Liafau's length gives him good leverage to get off blocks, his strength to disengage is also worrying. But he naturally looks good covering ground, both downhill and laterally. Liufau will be further along in coverage than most linebackers picked in his slot - likely Day 3 - and is also a capable blitzer.

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Jacobs has the weight and athleticism that teams desire, but he's more of a collection of traits than a complete package at this point. He plays fast and shows off his range by quickly working outside when the play escapes the tackles and looks adequate in coverage. That shouldn't be discounted, but most of his selling points are sold when he has a free pathway to the ball carrier. To put it all together, Jacobs will need more polish when it comes to sifting through junk.

Other notable prospects

Jaylan Ford, Texas
Jordan Magee, Temple
Ty'Ron Hopper, Missouri
Nathaniel Watson, Mississippi State
JD Bertrand, Notre Dame

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