In any other year, Tremaine Edmunds would’ve most likely been the league’s top rookie linebacker. At just 20 years old, Edmunds was calling and making plays for the NFL’s second-ranked defense. However, the 2018 NFL Draft produced one of the best rookie linebacker classes the league has seen in 20 years, with four rookies having standout years at the position. So the question is, where does Tremaine Edmunds rank among those four?
Coming in at number one is Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts (pick 36). He was the x-factor of the Colts’ defense and had one of the best seasons the league has ever seen out of a rookie linebacker. He was a sideline-to-sideline player who teams had to account for in every facet of the game—recording 163 tackles, seven sacks, eight passes defended and forcing seven turnovers. Leonard was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and received All-Pro honors in the process.
The second-best rookie linebacker was Leighton Vander Esch of the Dallas Cowboys (pick 19). Having only started 11 games Vander Esch finished the season with 140 tackles, seven passes defended and two interceptions. Vander Esch came up huge in big moments for the Cowboys last year and was one half of what some consider the best linebacker duo in the league alongside Jaylon Smith.
At number three, beating out Roquan Smith of the Chicago Bears (pick 8), we have Tremaine Edmunds (pick 16). This ranking says more about the class of linebackers than it does about Edmunds. The rookie from Virginia Tech was given a tall order going into 2018 switching positions from outside linebacker—which he played in college—to inside linebacker and tasked to be the primary play caller on the Bills’ defense. He was a consistent playmaker for Buffalo and showed everyone why they moved up in the draft to select him. A sideline-to-sideline player as well as being a presence in the pass game, the rookie proved he can be a problem for teams at the pro level.
Out of the four rookies, Edmunds is probably the most prototypical linebacker with the highest ceiling, and he may very well have the best group of players around him. Going into year two it’s expected that, baring an injury, Edmunds will take that next step into elite territory—something fans haven’t seen in Buffalo at the position in quite some time.