This is the seventh installment of my 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings series, following quarterbacks, running backs, a two-parter on wide receivers (WR1-9 here, WR10-50 here), tight ends, offensive tackles, interior OL, interior DL and EDGE.
1. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame) | 6’1/221
Comp: Lavonte David
Owusu-Koramoah, a two-year starter, functioned as the Rover position in Clark Lea’s defense, shifting between linebacker responsibilities and slot responsibilities. As a junior in 2020, “Wu” was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and awarded the Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker). A first-team AP All-American, Owusu-Koramoah was also a finalist for the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy.
It’s true that Owusu-Koramoah doesn’t have the frame of a traditional off-ball linebacker, but thinking of him as an off-ball linebacker is as instructive as thinking of Kyle Pitts as a tight end. Wu is this draft’s premier defensive chesspiece, a LB/S/slot hybrid.
Owusu-Koramoah has 33-inch arms — the exact same length as OT Rashawn Slater, and longer than 6-foot-4, 305-pound teammate Robert Hainsey — along with a 78 1/8” wingspan (the same length as 6-foot-3 WR Terrace Marshall Jr. and one-eighth of an inch shorter than 6-foot-6 QB Trevor Lawrence).
Wu plays like Sonic the Hedgehog with long arms, full-bore at breakneck-speed. Always. Supremely comfortable in the box despite his frame, Owusu-Koramoah can reach any ball-carrier headed outside the tackles before they get any fancy ideas of punching the gas pedal upfield.
When he reaches his target, they become a crash-test dummy, Owusu-Koramoah transferring speed-to-power like a thermo-reactor through the target’s midsection. Wu forced five fumbles over the last two years, recovering four.
The Athletic’s Pete Sampson was so taken by the quick-twitch violence of Wu’s “head-snapping hits” that Sampson posed a half-joke/half-solicitation in a column seeking a physics professor to explain how he was doing it.
Incredibly (or predictably, depending on how you look at it), Sampson quickly received a detailed response from a physics professor at the United States Naval Academy that had graduated from Notre Dame, PJ Moran, as Sampson retold in a column entitled, “Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame’s physics marvel, and the science of hitting.” Moran’s three components of tackling: size, speed and fearlessness/impulse.
Moran defined fearlessness as “knowing the technique to launch into a tackle, and having the guts to do it”, transferring as much force as effectively possible. When Wu hits the “truck stick” — as Owusu-Koramoah himself describes it — he doesn’t hesitate nor slow down. Wu says he speeds up pre-collision when he sees his opponent’s eyes.
Moran’s equation: force x time = mass (velocity pre-hit – velocity post-hit)
“Because he is so fast and has significant mass, he brings enormous momentum into the collision, resulting in a big change in momentum for the poor RB,” Moran wrote. “But he also delivers his tackles unbelievably quickly, faster than any guy I’ve ever seen. If we solve for force in that equation, we see that … the more quickly the hit is delivered, the greater the force applied.”
Hilariously, Owusu-Koramoah was asked about Moran’s equation. He responded: “I didn’t really understand the equation, but it’s all good, I know it ended with me hitting someone else.” How can you not love this kid? (See below video for an ESPN College GameDay feature on Sampson’s story and Moran’s equation).
Owusu-Koramoah can get taken out of plays when linemen engage, but he has a few tools to prevent that once they’re on the doorstep — the agility to evade in short quarters and the length to create space before shedding. He never offers a flush target for linemen to hit.
This quick-trigger style frequently gets him out of early-play trouble and to his spot, but there are instances of Wu eliminating himself from a play by charging upfield too quickly or opening up cut-back lanes by taking the long road around a blocker.
Owusu-Koramoah is most impressive in coverage. Not many hybrid players in this vein legitimately cover tight ends or slot receivers like a defensive back — Wu does.
Frequently deployed out of the slot in South Bend, Wu allowed an NFL passer rating of only 77.3 last fall over 34 targets. He had as many interceptions and defensive touchdowns (one apiece) as touchdown receptions allowed (also one) over his career.
Owusu-Koramoah is a pest in coverage, because he can’t be shaken, he isn’t affected by contact, and his length is a weapon at the catch point, using those long arms to poke at the ball. Wu is both heady and responsible in zone coverage and proficient dropping the blanket in man.
But that’s not all, folks! On passing downs where Wu isn’t dropping into coverage, he’s making the quarterback’s life hell on the blitz. Wu breaches the line of scrimmage so quickly because of his short-area explosion and itchy trigger finger. He posted seven sacks and 24.5 TFL over the last two seasons.
Owusu-Koramoah doesn’t fit traditional linebacker thresholds. But he can do it all, and he’s proven he can do it all from a variety of spots on the field. He’s the premier defensive chesspiece in the class.
2. Micah Parsons (Penn State) | 6’3/246
Comp: Jaylon Smith
Parsons, a top-10 overall recruit coming out of Harrisburg, Penn., elected to stay home and sign with the Nittany Lions. He wore No. 11 in honor of PSU legend LaVar Arrington (following NaVorro Bowman and Brandon Bell, who donned No. 11 in Happy Valley for the same reason).
Parsons made an immediate impact as a rotational player in 2018, leading the team in tackles and earning Freshman All-American honors despite starting only one game. In 2019, as a true sophomore, Parsons moved into the starting lineup and dominated, earning first-team AP All-American honors and winning the Big 10’s Linebacker of the Year award. Parsons opted-out in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.
At his pro day, Parsons ran a 4.39 40-yard dash time at 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds. If he had run that at the NFL Scouting Combine, he would have come within one-tenth of a second of Shaquem Griffin‘s LB record (4.38) set in 2018. (Griffin was measured three inches shorter and 19 pounds lighter than Parsons when he made that run). Parsons added an 86th-percentile size-adjusted 3-cone (6.96) and 95th-percentile broad jump (10’6). His Speed Score was an insane 136.15.
The tests offered proof of concept of what we saw in 2019 on the field: Parsons is a ridiculously explosive north/south athlete at 245-plus pounds that also happens to be extremely agile for that size, providing legitimate sideline-to-sideline range, generally arriving on time and under control to explode through the ballcarrier’s body while taking great care to wrap-up.
Parsons is an extremely reliable tackler — he finished No. 3 in the country in PFF tackling grade (90.0) in 2019 as a true sophomore. He’s of course an elite run defender in general, ending that campaign with the second-highest PFF run-defense grade in the history of its database (94.8).
The former five-star recruit has a wrestling and basketball background, and he was a two-way high school gridiron star that also dominated as a running back. You see elements of each background in his play.
Parsons knows how to use his hands when engaging with blockers, ala his wrestling days, his footwork and comfortability defending with the ball in the air evoke his basketball days, and his fluid side-to-side movement and quick north/south explosion are nods to his days as a freakish running back.
Those above elite traits and skills, in conjunction, flesh out Parsons’ game beyond the traditional utility of an off-ball linebacker. He is, for instance, a menace on the blitz, locating and knifing through gaps with dizzying speed and descending upon the quarterback in a flash.
Penn State would sometimes sic Parsons on quarterbacks off the edge. Parsons’ NFL team will want to consider doing the same on third downs. Parsons isn’t very long, but he’s so difficult for offensive tackles to deal with because of his lightning-quick first step, ability to convert speed-to-power, agility, hand-fighting, and electric acceleration to the quarterback.
On the field, he has very few areas of concern. Parsons’ eyes and instincts notably improved in 2019 — continued improvement in that area is likely coming. If so, that would cut down on instances seen on tape of Parsons triggering his explosive descent towards the line of scrimmage prematurely. Parsons’ sideline-to-sideline ability is so good that we don’t want him erasing himself from a play unnecessarily.
Because Parsons was only a full-time starter for one year, he lacks coverage experience. In 2019, Penn State mostly had Parsons manning assigned zones in coverage. Per PFF, Parsons took only 64 man-coverage snaps that season.
Parsons is difficult to shake in space, but he remains raw and will need to improve his balls skills to become a factor in this phase (zero interceptions at PSU and only four career pass-breakups).
Parsons put himself in a position to intercept multiple balls in college, but he either dropped the ball or didn’t make a legitimate play on it when he could have. In the 2019 Cotton Bowl against Memphis alone, Parsons should have picked off Brady White at least twice. Those two balls clanging off his hands accounted for half his career pass-breakups (four).
Parsons additionally finished that game with 14 tackles, two sacks, three TFL, two forced fumbles and multiple quarterback hurries, including one in the third-quarter that hurried White into a Garrett Taylor interception that was returned for a TD.
After the game, as reported by The Athletic, Parsons was crestfallen that he hadn’t intercepted his first career ball. “It’s not the JUGS (machine), it’s the live action,” Parsons said. RB Journey Brown, standing nearby, quipped “You need something.” In the interview room, QB Sean Clifford joined in the razzing, raising his voice so Parsons could hear him: “Should’ve had a pick, too. Huge PBU guy. Huge. Should’ve been six points, too, buddy.”
Parsons has spent the draft process answering questions about hazing allegations at Penn State. In 2018, Parsons instigated a fight by pouring water on teammate Isaiah Humphries as he was napping, damaging Humphries’ electronics. Humphries alleged that Parsons wouldn’t stop punching and choking him until Humphries brandished a knife. Parsons was also allegedly among a small group that allegedly bullied underclassmen in other hazing routines, including simulating sexual assault.
Parsons has perennial All-Pro upside, boasting 96th-percentile size-adjusted athleticism and one of the best seasons of tape (2019) that’s been produced by any collegiate linebacker over the last decade. If he slides on the last Thursday of this month, you’ll know the NFL is concerned about his off-field profile.
3. Zaven Collins (Tulsa) | 6’5/259
Comp: Dont’a Hightower
A two-way quarterback/first-team all-state defender (linebacker and safety) in high school that led his team to a state title his senior year, Collins turned into a three-year starter at Tulsa. This after he was mostly ignored during his recruiting process.
He was a low-end, 6-foot-3, 220-pound three-star “athlete” from a small Oklahoman town of less than 4,000 (Hominy) that ranked No. 2,142 overall on the 247Sports composite board. Collins’ only FBS offer was from Tulsa. Think Oklahoma and Oklahoma State regret that scouting miss?
Collins was overlooked in part because he came from a small town and played in Oklahoma’s lowest division prep division, and in part due to confusion about where he’d end up fitting best on the collegiate gridiron. During a redshirt campaign his first year at Tulsa, Collins played tight end on the scout team.
Opportunity and fate convened the next year, when a rash of linebacker injuries convinced Tulsa coaches to press Collins into action at his new/old post quicker than they otherwise may have. Collins flashed immediately, earning Freshman All-American honors. As a sophomore, Collins started to draw the eyes of NFL scouts with a 100-plus tackle season and second-team All-AAC honors.
It was in 2020 that Collins made the leap to collegiate superstardom (11.5 TFL, four sacks, four interceptions, two returned for TD, two pass breakups and a blocked kick in eight starts). He won the Nagurski and Bednarik Awards (nation’s top defender), the AAC Defensive Player of the Year award, and was also a first-team AP All-American.
Collins showed off his mutant size/speed combination at his pro day workout. He tested as an 87th-percentile size-adjusted RAS athlete, running a 4.66 40-yard dash with a 10’02″ broad-jump at 259 pounds.
Incredible lateral agility in a jumbo package. You don’t see college linebackers this size making far-sideline tackles near the line of scrimmage. Collins is a ravenous hunter that does not quit on a play.
Though he has the length, strength and fluidity to keep blockers out of his pads, Collins doesn’t show as much power as you’d think taking on blocks. See below for an instance where he’s a little late to his spot and doesn’t bring the thunder to his assignment, facilitating a little extra yardage for the back.
Collins produced 235 tackles over three years (170 solo), but also missed 37 attempts. He’s inconsistent in approach angle and stability of base pre-collision, so you see a few more off-angle shots and arm-tackle attempts than you’d prefer.
Collins improved consistently in coverage in college, to the point that he was the class’ highest-graded coverage linebacker in 2020. Clever and instinctive in zone coverage, Collins uses his length to effect throwing lanes. Closes on the catch point in a flash, tackles anything completed in front of him.
Collins is also dangerous when sent on the blitz from his off-ball post. He closes very quickly when once he breaches the line of scrimmage.
Collins offers three-area versatility (run, pass rush, coverage) and plus-plus athleticism in a jumbo package. If he improves his tackling consistency and leverages his size/athleticism/length combination more emphatically in interactions with blockers, Collins will be a perennial Pro-Bowler.
4. Jamin Davis (Kentucky) | 6’3/234
Comp: KJ Wright
A one-year starter with only 11 collegiate starts, Davis arrives in the NFL as he arrived at Kentucky: An under-the-radar* athletic specimen with endless upside. (To be fair, Davis is becoming less under-the-radar by the day as we close in on the last Thursday of the month).
Kentucky fended off four other P5 programs for the raw three-star linebacker ranked No. 915 overall on the 2017 247Composite board, mostly based on his eye-opening prep athletic testing numbers.
The Wildcats’ investment paid off in 2020 — following a redshirt year and two seasons spent as a rotational player — when Davis led the Wildcats with 102 tackles in 10 games. He added four TFL, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a blocked kick. But as is his custom, Davis was overlooked for All-SEC consideration (despite outplaying first-teamer Dylan Moses, listed below, in arguably every aspect of the game).
At his pro day workout, Davis finished with the No. 2 vertical (42”) and No. 13 broad jump (11’) at the linebacker position since 1987 in the RAS system. Davis’ composite athletic RAS score ranked top-15 all-time at linebacker.
In Davis’ only year as starter, he showed a preternatural ability to hunt running backs. Davis is flash-bang quick downhill with a nose for sniffing out and knifing through gaps. Davis moves laterally with ease, and when it’s time to accelerate, he simply pushes a button on the jetpack attached to his back.
A long-levered athlete with a tapered frame, Davis wraps up through contact. His 7.3% career missed tackle rate was superb, flubbing a mere 11 on 150 career attempts.
Davis lacks coverage experience, but he’s shown a ton of potential when he’s been on the field. In 295 coverage snaps last season, Davis had three interceptions (including one pick-six) while allowing a mere 240 yards allowed on 40 targets. Davis’ length and field vision are as big of weapons in this phase as his athleticism.
Over 406 career coverage snaps, Davis picked off five balls with an NFL passer rating allowed of 55.8. Most of those snaps came in zone, however. According to PFF, Davis had only 26 snaps in man coverage last year.
In his small sample of blitzes, Davis showed promise as a pass-rusher, finishing last season with a higher PFF grade in that area than Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Zaven Collins, Nick Bolton, Jabril Cox and Baron Browning.
Davis’ explosive initial steps, ability to find slivers of space to shimmy through, and ability to keep his feet when engaged and shed led to a high pressure rate last year in SEC play.
Davis is an ascending mid-floor, high-ceiling prospect. He likely won’t have to wait long to hear Roger Goodell call his name on the last Friday night of this month.
5. Jabril Cox (LSU) | 6’3/232
Comp: Cory Littleton
Cox was a three-year starter at North Dakota State (FCS All-American in 2018 and 2019) and one-year starter at LSU who finished as a Butkus Award semifinalist in 2020.
A long, sleek linebacker with 48-game starting collegiate experience, Cox is arguably the class’ most accomplished cover linebacker. In his three years at NDSU, Cox picked off six passes and deflected 18. He added three interceptions and five deflections last season at LSU, including a pick-six, his second career defensive touchdown.
Over the last three years, Cox finished with a PFF coverage grade of 83.0 each season. Rare ball production and game-to-game consistency in that phase for a true off-ball linebacker. Cox dabbled at both corner and safety in high school, and he clearly brought the coverage skills with him to campus.
Cox has proven it time and time again in this phase — lining up at SAM, WILL and in the slot, in both the FCS and FBS, in zone coverage and man, and covering RB, WR and TE of all sizes. Cox is a very fluid mover, combining high-end straight line speed for a linebacker with a slashing RB’s agility.
Those traits give him incredible range against the run of course as well. Like a Gold Glove shortstop that gets to balls that are easy singles against any other team, Cox’s tackle chart is a Jackson Pollack abstraction, with blots all over the place. Sideline-to-sideline.
But Cox doesn’t show the natural ease in this area that he does in coverage. You’ll notice, that, in zone coverage, he’s a whip-smart anticipator that can wreak havoc by bating quarterbacks into balls he can make plays on. But Cox doesn’t process run-game machinations in the same way.
There are reps when he’s a beat late to trigger, others where he bites on eye-candy and charges upfield into a sprung trap. He’s a speed-and-space player that doesn’t want to engage with offensive linemen and lacks the play strength to hold up even if he did. Invites linemen into his pads when he forgets his hands, wasting his length.
Cox isn’t the slobberknocker gap-filling linebacker some prefer, but he could quickly develop into one of the NFL’s best coverage linebackers while providing outstanding range and reliable tackling against the run.
6. Nick Bolton (Missouri) | 5’11/237
Comp: Eric Kendricks
Bolton was a two-year starter at Missouri, earning all-SEC accommodations both seasons. In 2020, Bolton was a Butkus Award finalist and a second-team SP All-American. A Hoover vacuum tackling machine, Bolton averaged 9.2 tackles per game in his two years as starter.
Bolton is a sawed-off, throwback linebacker, a high-volume, reliable tackler with an enforcer presence. Bolton was in on 231 tackles in college, and only missed 31 (11.8% missed tackle percentage).
Bolton diagnoses very quickly and thunders downhill with supreme conviction, unafraid of engaging with offensive linemen and always on a clear path to his target when he isn’t. Coming downhill with his target in sight, Bolton may be the best in the class.
Bolton isn’t as strong in space, and he doesn’t come with sideline-to-sideline range. Labored lateral mover. His feet get stuck in mud when he cuts to change direction.
Bolton’s testing confirmed the athletic profile seen on tape, with 80th-plus-percentile 40-yard dash (4.60 seconds) and bench (24) showings, but average jumps, and sub-30th-percentile showings in the agility tests, short shuttle (4.5) and 3-cone (7.4). Bolton is a sub-6-footer with sub-32-inch arms, meaning he’ll be at a length and athletic disadvantage at the next levels in most interactions he finds himself in.
Bolton’s brains — not only a fabulous process of the field, he is also vocal calling out keys for his teammates pre-snap — motor and technique will absolutely, to some degree, allow him to continue to mitigate his physical disadvantages.
At Missouri, Bolton proved to be a clever, instinctive presence in zone coverage, finishing No. 2 in the country with eight forced incompletions, per PFF. But no amount of brains or know-how will save him in NFL man coverage. Bolton got roasted in coverage last season, with his PFF coverage grade dropping from 90.4 to 60.5 and his NFL passer rating on targets jumping from 71.0 to 94.5.
Bolton is going to start in the NFL for a long time, and he’s going to immediately improve a team’s run defense. But I’m concerned he’s always going to need to be hidden in zone coverage to hang as a three-down linebacker. And with where the league’s going, I prefer the coverage prowess of Davis or Cox to Bolton’s contributions in the run game.
7. Baron Browning (Ohio State) | 6’3/245
Comp: Oren Burks
Browning was a long-time member of Ohio State’s linebacker rotation after signing as a ballyhooed five-star recruit. He started 10 of the 43 games he appeared in, culminating in third-team All-Big Ten honors last year during the Buckeyes’ run to the national title game.
The book on Browning remains the same: Linebacker body sculpted by God and incredible athlete for a 245-pounder, but doesn’t process on-field action as quickly as he runs. Because of that, he remains an assignment-specific player with theoretical ability to become a lot more.
When Browning doesn’t have to think, when he’s freed to fly downhill and attack, as is the case on the blitz and straight-forward run-game assignments, he dazzles (there are many examples of this, but my favorite is his strip-sack of Mac Jones in the natty).
But Browning sees offensive flow on tape-delay. There’s a noticeable lack of anticipatory quality on his tape. And it can go further than that, with Browning needing to see the ball headed in a specific direction before triggering. In those reps, his athletic gifts wither on the vine, a big, fast guy helplessly chasing from behind.
At his pro day, Browning tested as the fifth-most athletic linebacker to enter the NFL since 1987, per the RAS system. He had 93rd-or-better-percentile showings in the 40 (4.56), 3-cone (6.78), vertical (40″) and broad (10’10”). Browning also took part in defensive line drills that day, which was an interesting development.
Because of Browning’s strengths at getting after the quarterback and struggles in coverage, and because he plays much faster coming forward at the snap without the burden of diagnosing, it wouldn’t be crazy for an NFL team to experiment with shifting him to an edge-rushing role.
It’s deeply concerning that Browning was so bad in coverage at Ohio State. In 539 career coverage snaps, per PFF, Browning surrendered a 123.9 NFL quarterback rating on targets. He intercepted zero passes, and, incredibly, he had as many coverage touchdowns allowed (three) as passes defensed (three).
Browning made nominal gains in this area last season, and produced some impressive reps on tape blanketing speed in space, but he has way more reps of getting taken advantage of in, for instance, simple zone coverage. In my opinion it’s a logical leap to believe he’ll become an above-average NFL coverage linebacker, physical tools and all.
8. Pete Werner (Ohio State) | 6’3/238
Comp: Jordan Evans
Werner was a three-year starter at Ohio State that spent time at all three linebacker positions. A first-team All-Big Ten honoree in 2020, Werner went on to have an incredible pro day workout, with a 4.62 40-yard dash and showings in the vertical (39.5”) and 3-cone (6.9) that were both above the 90th-percentile for his position, per RAS.
Werner is a smooth, heady player that is rarely caught out of position. He’s learned to weaponize his athleticism in coverage, showing improvement in that area all four seasons on campus. Over his career, Werner allowed a solid 78.5 NFL passer rating on 108 coverage targets. And while he didn’t intercept a pass, he broke up seven and allowed only one career coverage touchdown.
Against the run, Werner diagnoses and triggers very quickly. He adapts in-play seamlessly because of his brains and chain-of-direction ability, capable of wrangling slashers in space or corral scrambling dual-threat quarterbacks in the open field. With a chicken-leg lower half, Werner’s momentum and balance are effected by contact, and when an offensive linemen gets him squared, he’s usually out of the rep.
Werner is a high-floor, mid-ceiling prospect that offers versatility, consistency and special teams ability while not taking anything off the table against the run or the pass (he also was efficient on blitzes in 2020 for the first time in his career).
9. Chazz Surratt (North Carolina) | 6’2/229
Comp: Telvin Smith
Surratt was two-year starter that ended up piling up 206 tackles over 22 starts at linebacker after transition to defense prior to his junior season from quarterback. In his swan song in 2020, Surratt earned first-team All-ACC honors and was runner-up for ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
The brother of Wake Forest WR Sage Surratt (also in this draft class), Chazz took to the physicality of his new post, the rare player who accelerates into and through contact — when he whiffs, it’s because of this kamikaze style, not having a base beneath him before he leaves his feet.
Surratt weighed into his pro day workout at sub-230 pounds and had a poor vertical (31st percentile) before skipping the broad jump, probably a good decision.
Everything else checked out, with a blazing 4.59 40-yard-dash, 25 reps on the bench and a 4.18 short shuttle that were all 85th-percentile-plus showings. Surratt lacks length to an extreme degree (30” arms), and he’s not only skinny for a linebacker, but lacking in play strength.
He’s a smart player that plays full-throttle, but Surratt’s newness to the linebacker position shows through. He’s usually a beat late to trigger against the run, putting him in more danger of getting squared up by an offensive linemen. He flashes in coverage, but also got burned more often than a former quarterback with his athleticism should have.
Surratt picked off two balls and defended five over the past two years, but also coughed up three TD and 10.3 YPA on an 81.8% catch percentage. He allowed a 104.8 NFL passer rating on 55 career targets. Surratt is a more finished product as a pass-rusher, showing good timing instincts and a very quick closing burst. Surratt finished with 13 sacks over 22 starts.
Surratt will provide situational pass-rushing ability early, and he’s going to be a special teams standout. I just have too many questions about his run defense and man coverage translation to rank him higher. Surratt is already 24, one of the oldest players in the class, and I wonder how much development he has left to go.
10. Monty Rice (Georgia) | 6’0/238
Comp: Elandon Roberts
A two-and-a-half starter after signing as a four-star recruit, Rice valiantly battled through a foot injury in 2020 to finish as finalist for the Butkus Award and earn first-team All-SEC recognition. An instinctive, physical thumper, Rice was a team leader at Georgia that played through injuries more than once.
Rice lacks length, but he’s an explosive athlete with chase-down speed, as he showed during his pro day with an 83rd-percentile RAS broad jump (10’01) and 91st-percentile 40 (4.58). Rice is an extremely active defender, piling up steps on his FitBit, typically finding himself around the ball.
Rice is physical at the contact point and reliably drops his man. He incredibly missed only three tackles in 2020, finishing his college with a sub-10% missed tackle rate, extremely impressive for anyone, particularly an SEC off-ball linebacker.
Rice’s worst showing at his pro day was in the 3-cone (7.34), which isn’t a big surprise. Rice lacks the ability to quickly change directions without losing momentum. In coverage, he’s always been serviceable, nothing more. Rice gives up his fair share of catches and rarely makes plays on the ball (three career breakups, no interceptions), but he rarely finds himself out of position and reliably drops his man immediately post-catch.
I love the fearless way Rice comes downhill, fights through congestion, closes on the ball-carrier and makes almost every tackle he attempts. He shouldn’t be isolated with either elite athletes or tall tight ends in man coverage, but will be reliable in zone and less-challenging man assignments. Rice offers a mid-tier NFL starter ceiling, and will provide fabulous special teams contributions in the meantime.
11. Dylan Moses (Alabama) | 6’2/235
Comp: Mack Wilson
A ludicrously-hyped five-star prospect that was offered a scholarship by LSU as an eighth-grader and appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine the next year, Moses ended up as two-year starter at Alabama.
He was a second-team All-SEC selection and Butkus Award finalist in 2018. A season-ending ACL in August wiped out his 2019 season, but Moses returned to earn third-team AP All-American and first-team All-SEC honors for the national champs.
Moses retains the frame, theoretical athleticism and balls-to-the-wall style that made him a prep sensation. But he never made his star-turn in Tuscaloosa, and he was flattered by the hardware he received last season.
Moses struggled in his return from knee injury, with less range and explosiveness against the run. And troublingly, while he was an extremely reliable tackler in 2018, Moses’ missed tackle percentage more than doubled in 2020 (to 9.4%, which is still a strong number). He did finish his career with a sterling 6.8% missed tackle percentage (13 on 192 career attempts).
Moses remains mediocre in coverage, and it’s starting to look like he may just need to be hidden in a zone. He allowed three coverage touchdowns and was penalized in coverage seven times over his two starting seasons (when he can’t stay with you, he’ll grab you), while he broke up only two balls and intercepted one.
When the other team is passing, you probably just want Moses rushing the passer, an area he excelled in back in 2018, even sent off the edge. But Moses’ athleticism wasn’t all the way back in 2020, and he ended having two less sacks and seven less hurries in two less pass-rushing opportunities.
I don’t like the way Moses sees the field, and I’m concerned about his coverage limitations. Still, if his full athletic package returns, he’s going to be a very reliable run defender that can get after the quarterback on the blitz.
Best of the rest…
12. Charles Snowden (Virginia) | 6’7/240
13. Cameron McGrone (Michigan) | 6’2/232
14. Ernest Jones (South Carolina) | 6’2/230
15. Justin Hilliard (Ohio State) | 6’0/229
16. K.J. Britt (Auburn) | 6’0/235
17. Derrick Barnes (Purdue) | 6’0/238
18. Isaiah McDuffie (Boston College) | 6’1/224
19. Garret Wallow (TCU) | 6’2 /230
20. Tuf Borland (Ohio State) | 6’0/229
21. Tony Fields II (West Virginia) | 6’0/220
22. Riley Cole (South Alabama) | 6’3/240
23. Erroll Thompson (Mississippi State) | 6’1/250
24. Paddy Fisher (Northwestern) | 6’3/240
25. Anthony Hines (Texas A&M) | 6’3/226
26. Buddy Johnson (Texas A&M) | 6’2/228
27. Grant Stuard (Houston) | 6’1/210
28. Amen Ogbongbemiga (Oklahoma State) | 6’1/231
29. Chris Garrett (Concordia St. Paul) | 6’3/230
30. Milo Eifler (Illinois) | 6’2/230
Check out the rest of our 2021 NFL Draft breakdowns here: