Ever since the Buffalo Bills selected linebacker Preston Brown in the third round of the 214 NFL Draft, he has been a mainstay at the linebacker position. While he’s never missed a game due to injury, Brown’s play during his tenure with the team can only be described as ‘solid.’ He’s well-rounded, which is to say he doesn’t stand out in any particular area. Now with Brown poised to leave in free agency, the Bills may use the 2018 NFL Draft to try to find his replacement.
Below are some of the linebackers, primarily those who played middle linebacker in college, that the team will be looking at in the coming draft.
Roquan Smith, Georgia
Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Anyone who watched the College National Championship should know Roquan Smith’s name. That game cemented his status as a first-round prospect who excels at finding the ball carrier and taking him down. His ability to take on blocks needs some work, and in order to play middle linebacker in the NFL, he may have to add some weight. Tremaine Edmunds didn’t receive nearly as much press during the season, but he may be the most athletic linebacker in the class. He also offers great size at 6’5”, 250 pounds. Although a bit of a one-year wonder, Vander Esch’s tackling and instincts are elite. He doesn’t have much tape in coverage, but word is he has the speed for man coverage against running backs and tight ends. Probably the most pro-ready linebacker prospect, Evans spent time in 2016 as a pass rushing outside linebacker, so he offers some versatility.
Malik Jefferson, Texas
Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
Josey Jewell, Iowa
Tre Williams, Auburn
Oren Burks, Vanderbilt
Malik Jefferson is physically gifted, but his instincts are lacking. He gets by on raw athleticism. Standouts at the Senior Bowl, Darius Leonard and Tre Williams are at their best when they’re shooting gaps and delivering hits. They have trouble with speed on the edge. What Josey Jewell lacks in speed and length, he makes up for with instincts and heart. Oren Burks is the new-age linebacker. He can line up at middle linebacker, on the edge, as a safety, and in the slot. Because he’s asked to do so much, he’s raw when placed into a traditional linebacker role.
Tegray Scales, Indiana
Andre Smith, UNC
Mike McCray, Michigan
Micah Kiser, Virginia
If Tegray Scales were taller and longer, he would be in the first or second tier. As it stands, he’s too small to play middle linebacker in some schemes and coaches will need to work around that. The next three players, Smith, McCray and Kiser, all lack the coverage speed necessary to be three-down players at the next level. Against the run, they can be phenomenal, but two-down linebackers do not carry much value in the modern NFL.