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  • This linebacker class boasts a few first-rounders and several players who could prove to be extremely good value for the team that drafts them.
By Pro Football Focus
April 19, 2018

The MMQB is teaming up with Pro Football Focus for The MMQB Draft Preview Show With PFF, exclusively airing on SI TV (click here to subscribe). In the weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL draft in Dallas, these guys are going to be breaking down every position in this talented draft class.

On this episode, Pro Football Focus’s Steve Palazzolo and Sam Monson discuss the linebackers of this NFL draft. Some say that the position has been devalued, but there are some valuable three-down linebackers in this class.

Coming in at No. 5 is Iowa’s Josey Jewell—a good, solid football player but no one special, especially when compared to the top tier of this draft class. Jewell has pretty good range against the run and in coverage, but his biggest issues are revealed when he goes one-on-one in a mismatch against a top-tier athlete (he struggled against Saquon Barkley when Iowa visited Penn State).

At No. 4 is Alabama’s Rashaan Evans, a linebacker who started as an edge defender. After a few years of creating pressure off the edge Alabama shifted him to a more traditional linebacker role, but he can utilize his pass rush experience as a blitzer at the next level. Evans may not be an every-down player, but his tape shows that he can consistently get to the quarterback and the running back. He will thrive on a team that will take advantage of his versatility.

Ranking at No. 3 is Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch, a linebacker who proved that he can do it all in his breakout season in 2017. He can stay on the field for all three downs, and he can match up against any type of player. Vander Esch’s one knock is that he only had one season of productivity at Boise State—can he continue to replicate that in the NFL?

Who are the top two linebackers? What about under-the-radar players and hidden gems? Click here to watch the entire episode on SI.TV.

Don’t miss the previous episodes, featuring quarterbacks, pass catchers, running backs, offensive and defensive linemen, edge rushers and defensive backs. Which players have the versatility that NFL teams crave and who might require some coaching up in order to succeed at the next level? Learn all about that and more.

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