June 14, 2021

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2021 NFL Draft Outside Linebacker Rankings

by Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)
March 22nd, 2021

1) Zaven Collins, Tulsa; Ht: 6-4 Wt: 260

If you didn’t watch any Tulsa football this season, I would encourage you to go back and watch some Zaven Collins film because he was incredible. If college football had a true “MVP” award, Collins would have been up for the running as his impact on the game often kept Tulsa in the game and on one occasion, it won them the game. Collins is casually one of the most athletic players in this draft. He passes every physical test one could give and his reading of the game, is possibly the best of any linebacker in this class. He’s a patient player who can read the quarterback well, even when dropping into coverage. Collins is always ready to spring and his anticipation of play is extremely impressive. He tackles well in open field and won’t have an issue taking any player in the NFL down on his own.

2) Chris Rumph II, Duke; Ht: 6-3 Wt: 235

Outside linebacker has almost turned into a smaller EDGE in some cases, but Chris Rumph II is a much more traditional player in the sense of the position. While I was watching his film I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what position he was best suited to play because he’s just so versatile. He has the power to bull rush tackles despite being a smaller player and the drive to get penetration regularly. His contain and identification make him a great outside linebacker and his speed in pursuit allows him to be effective against RPO offenses. His movement and the packages he was put in even had me thinking that he might be an effective blitzing inside linebacker. Rumph hits hard, closes quickly, and always ends up affecting the play. If he can become a better open field tackler he’s going to end up as one of the best players in this draft.

3) Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State; Ht: 6-4 Wt: 235

A 2020 drop in production doesn’t really concern me at all. Despite outside linebacker being a bit shallow this season, Hamilar Rashed is going to make it as an NFL player because he’s a modern player. He knows what he does well and he leans into it heavily, and that’s a valuable asset in the NFL. Rashed is the fastest outside linebacker in this class and uses that to be one of the most effective players in college football at forcing the quarterback to step up or be sacked. His agility is top notch, his speed makes him a blur coming around the outside, and he’s a fantastic pursuer of the ball. I have questions about the run stop capabilities of Rashed and if a tackle gets latched on the player can be moved around, but he’s going to be extremely effective in plenty of blitz packages.

4) Charles Snowden, Virginia; Ht: 6-7 Wt: 240

Snowden is a massive player on the edge and that makes him a very imposing player to match up with, and for the most part he is, but I want to start with a couple issues in his game. Snowden has a lot of work to do in his coverage game after, best highlighted when he was burned for a touchdown playing man from the slot. My other issue is that when you’re that big, leverage can become an issue, so I want to see Snowden get a bit stronger before facing NFL linemen. Otherwise, I love the fundamentals that Snowden displays. His physical traits don’t blow anyone away, but his footwork, hips, and fluidity make him a tough block regardless. He sheds into tackles extremely well and his reading of the quarterback makes him a very adept pass blocker. He’s a bit raw, but there’s a very good player here.

5) Grant Stuard, Houston; Ht: 6-1 Wt: 255

All of the players up to this point are guys that I believe can start for an NFL team this year. They might not be every down guys, but I believe they’re starters. Starting with Stuard, everyone else has enough developing to do that they’re rotational players to start. Stuard is not a pass rushing player like most of the guys on this list despite his size, and excels as a player who drops into coverage and plugs holes in the line. Stuard is an excellent tackler and can be moved all over the field. He’s an aggressive tackler with really nice shedding and tackling to go with good reactions and smart movement. I love his versatility.

6) DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky; Ht: 6-4 Wt: 230

Malone is another player that I was a bit concerned about because of his length and lack of size, but there isn’t too much to worry about in that sense for this player. Yes, he might struggle with bigger linemen, but that’s something that will happen to any linebacker; Malone’s size is not a liability. I loved Malone’s speed and quickness paired with his strong base. He was a good tracker, even when engaged, and made a very good effort at tracking down runners and making tackles with reliability. I do have some questions about the quality of opposition for Malone, but overall I really love his potential.

7) Derrick Barnes, Purdue; Ht: 6-1 Wt: 245

Barnes is a lot like Chris Rumph II in his versatility and the way he plays in general. He didn’t drop into coverage too often, but he covered a lot of bases for Purdue and made the defense a lot better than it would have been without him. He was able to cover running backs, spy the quarterback, rush from the edge or from a more central location, and did all of it well. He needs to get a bit faster and improve his coverage, those qualities going hand in hand, but otherwise I’m happy with where the player is at. Barnes sheds extremely well and displays effective body control. He combines his tracking abilities with his identification to blow up and contain plays early and his ability to move interior offensive linemen will make him a very tough player to mitigate.

8) Milo Eifler, Illinois; Ht: 6-2 Wt: 225

Oddly, a quality that is being taught worse and worse among the younger ranks and more underrated in accordance is wrap-up tackling. Eifler does not lack those qualities and therefore was a very effective tackler at Illinois when cleaning up the leaks. He’s going to have a tough time getting away from offensive linemen because of his size, but his speed should make up for that. He’s exceptional at finding gaps in the offensive line and exploiting them and even though he’s smaller, he stones running backs in traffic. Those qualities could see him end up as an inside linebacker, but I think his speed and decent coverage will probably keep him on the exterior.

9) Sam Williams, Mississippi; Ht: 6-4 Wt: 265

Sam Williams should be able to make a roster in the NFL but he has a lot to work on before becoming a big part of the rotation. He’s one of those players who does a lot of good things, but he isn’t great at anything. Kind of the opposite of Hamilcar Rashed Jr., in a way. Williams’ physical measurements are fine, but I would love to see him get a bit faster, though his play style doesn’t often require it. That lack of speed might make him ineffective at pursuing in RPO offenses, but his contain is good enough that he can face most looks. His strength doesn’t let him get driven very often and his strong arms and quick hands combine to make him an effective player coming off the edge. If he gets better at shedding blocks I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a regular three-point player on passing downs.

10) Baron Browning, Ohio State; Ht: 6-3 Wt: 240

I take no pleasure in ranking Ohio State players last *polygraph goes wild*, but Baron Browning is bringing up the rear despite being a decent player. At times I felt as though Browning might be better suited as a Cash, but I don’t think he has the body control for those requirements. Even though Browning is a bit clumsy, he’s a very athletic player who can be refined into a talented and effective asset. Right now I think he needs to improve on his tracking and playmaking abilities because his size isn’t good enough to take over games. I do like Browning in coverage though, as he drops well and gives really good effort that returns good results when covering outside routes. There’s a good player here, but there’s a lot of work to be done.

Other Draft Material

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Mock Draft 3.1: All Defense
Mock Draft 4.0
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