National

2024 NFL Draft: Top 5 LBs underscore underwhelming class that's not without potential

With the 2024 NFL Draft approaching, let's take a look at each individual position's rankings. Here are the top five linebackers.

[Nate Tice's NFL Draft top 100 big boardTop QBsTop RBsTop WRsTop OLTop EdgesTop IDLTop CBsTop Safeties]

1. Junior Colson, Michigan

It's not a great linebacker crop this year, and deciding between Colson and Texas A&M's Edgerrin Cooper is a bit of what flavor you prefer. Colson is a smart player and an OK athlete, but can hold up in coverage because of his play recognition ability. He has three-down potential and is a good tackler despite his lack of overwhelming size. Think of Colson as solid with a potentially low ceiling (although there is value in a real starting linebacker these days).

2. Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M

Cooper, on the other hand, is more of an athlete playing the position. He has real length (34-inch arm length) and speed, but lacks ideal size (only 230 pounds) and his play recognition can be up and down. Cooper can get caught playing high or a step slow against the run, but his speed allows him to recover. It will get only harder at the next level, but Cooper has a strong athletic profile and a frame to grow into. Did I mention off-ball linebackers are hard to find these days?

3. Cedric Gray, North Carolina

Gray is a run-and-hit type of linebacker, but in a weak class, he provides as good of a package as any in terms of size, length, athleticism and tackling ability. He will have to keep improving his play recognition, but Gray has plenty of traits to keep developing into a starter.

4. Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State

Eichenberg was productive against the run and pass. He shows consistent recognition of offensive plays. He is also not a net negative in coverage, although he can be overmatched against top-tier receiving tight ends and running backs.

5. Payton Wilson, North Carolina State

Wilson is a straight-line athlete who has battled injuries in his college career. He has a skinnier frame than most typical linebackers and chooses to slip under blockers rather than consistently taking them on, but plays with outstanding effort and will make some fun plays chasing down ball carriers with his speed. His medicals and lack of agility and strength keep me from making him a higher player on my board.