Linebacker Isaiah McDuffie 2021 NFL Draft Profile

Isaiah McDuffie ended his career at Boston College early to enter the 2021 NFL Draft. But his versatility could make him an interesting late-round sleeper.
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McDuffie started all 11 of Boston College’s games during the 2020 season. He recorded 107 tackles (54 solos), six and a half tackles for loss, four hurries, five QB hits, three sacks, one pass broken up, one interception, and one fumble recovered. According to Pro Football Focus, McDuffie finished as the 381st-highest-graded linebacker (20% snap minimum) with a Defensive grade of 39.9 (45.9 Run Defense, 72.1 Tackling, 62.3 Pass Rush, 36.4 Coverage).

McDuffie played both linebacker and running back at Bennett High School in Buffalo, New York. He was a three-year captain in high school, where he was coached by his father, Stevenson. McDuffie earned all-state honors during his junior and senior seasons; he recorded over 100 tackles and 1500 rushing yards as a senior. He earned a three-star recruiting ranking and was a consensus top-12 player in New York. McDuffie earned nine scholarship offers from schools including BC, Penn State, Washington, Pitt, Syracuse, and Wake Forest.

McDuffie eventually chose Boston College and played in all 13 games during the 2017 season, albeit primarily on special teams. However, he closed out the year with five tackles in the Pinstripe Bowl against Iowa, seeing his most action at linebacker. He significantly increased his playing time in 2018, playing in all 12 games and making six starts at linebacker. McDuffie led the Eagles defense in solo tackles with 48 and finished second in total tackles with 85.

Going into the 2019 season, McDuffie was named to the Preseason All-ACC teams by Athlon and Phil Steele. However, he missed the first nine games of the season recovering from an injury. But McDuffie returned with a vengeance; in only four games with three starts, he recorded 30 tackles (24 solos) with three and a half tackles for loss and two sacks. McDuffie built off this strong finish in 2020, as he led the team in tackles and solos tackles (fifth and t-15th in the nation, respectively). He also finished second on the team in TFLs and sacks and earned Second-Team All-ACC honors.

In the NFL, McDuffie projects as an off-ball linebacker that can contribute in nearly every scheme. He brings adequate size, solid athleticism, and great versatility. McDuffie filled many different roles during his time on the Heights; he was asked to stop the run, rush the passer, and drop into coverage from various alignments and positions. He plays very fast and very aggressively. However, this can get him into trouble sometimes, as he misses some keys sometimes and overruns his assignments. Nevertheless, McDuffie should be able to shine on special teams early in his career and eventually develop into a rotational, sub-package linebacker.

Measurements and Pro Day

At Boston College, Isaiah McDuffie was listed at 6’1” and 224 pounds. At BC’s Pro Day, he measured in at 6 feet and 1 2/8 inches (6012) and 227 pounds. McDuffie ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 and 4.61 seconds (with a 1.62 10-yard split). He ran the short shuttle in 4.39 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.26 seconds. McDuffie leapt 121 inches (10’1”) in the broad jump and 32.5 inches in the vertical. Finally, he put up 25 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. McDuffie earned a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 7.32, which ranks 573rd out of 2137 linebackers from 1987 to 2021. 

Scouting Report

Positives

· Great aggressiveness and willingness to engage blockers; brings lots of pop to the contact point, never shying away from delivering a hit on a ball-carrier; always hustles to finish the play at the ball-carrier.

· Solid tackler in space: if he’s unblocked and gets to the ball carrier, consistently tackles with good technique and power to bring ball carrier to the ground.

· Good athleticism and speed: plays extremely fast, has the range to fully roam between the numbers, fluid mover in space.

· Effective pass-rusher in limited doses: uses speed and athleticism to get OL off balance; especially effective when used in stunts/loops.

· Solid in man coverage against TEs: can line up directly across from them in Press when aligned in the slot, gets hands involved off LOS, and surprisingly sticky in coverage.

Negatives

· Struggles to hold his gap against offensive lineman, as blockers can easily displace him from his spot; frequently manhandled at the point of attack and struggles to disengage to help make the tackle.

· Mental processing and football IQ leave a lot to be desired: heavily bites on play-action and fakes and struggles to get back in the run fit; aggressiveness gets him into trouble, as he leaves assignments/gaps open to chase the ball or other players; opposite of “slow until you know”.

· Greatly struggles in pursuit: does not take good angles to the ballcarrier and struggles to maintain speed through traffic; aggressiveness gets him out of position early and struggles to adequately recover.

· Can be embarrassed by very agile/explosive ball carriers in space at the tackle point; mobile QBs gave him fits as a spy.

· Needs to improve understanding of zone coverage, drops spots, and depth; frequently attacked as the “read” defender in coverage and looks out of position.

NFL Comparison

Tanner Vallejo (Buffalo Bills 2017, Cleveland Browns 2018, Washington Football Team 2019, Arizona Cardinals 2019 - Present)