Georgia set a school record with three first-round picks in the 2018 draft—LB Roquan Smith, T Isaiah Wynn and RB Sony Michel. Fast forward to this year, and the Bulldogs have three locks to go in the first round on their defensive line alone, with Travon Walker, Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt all top-15 picks in my most recent mock draft.
While the second level of their defense doesn’t get as much attention, no school has a more talented trio of draft-eligible linebackers than the Bulldogs.
Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean won the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best college linebacker. Not only is he likely to go in the first round, but he has a chance to be the first linebacker off the board next month. Dean’s teammate Quay Walker has a chance to sneak into the back of the first round, despite being a one-year starter, and Channing Tindall should be a Day 2 pick as well.
In other words, there is a good chance the Bulldogs will break their school record of three first-round picks in a draft class and they should have three linebackers selected in the top 100.
With that said, here are my linebacker rankings for the 2022 draft.
1. Devin Lloyd, Utah (rSR, 6'3", 237 pounds)
Lloyd is a do-it-all linebacker who can play all three LB positions and impact the game in a variety of ways. He stuffed the stat sheet last season with 110 tackles, 22 TFLs, eight sacks and four interceptions (including two returned for scores). The rangy former high school safety is instinctive when dropping in coverage, with the size and length (33" arms) to match up with tight ends, and has outstanding ball skills. While he plays faster than his timed 40-yard dash (4.66), he will have an opportunity to improve at Utah’s pro day on March 24.
2. Nakobe Dean, Georgia (JR, 5'11", 229 pounds)
The leader of the best defense in the country, Dean is a modern-day three-down linebacker. His football IQ, instincts and speed allow him to play fast, and he’s always around the ball. His quickness and athleticism allow him to excel in coverage against running backs, but a lack of ideal size and length could create some challenges matching up with tight ends. The Butkus Award winner finished 2021 with a team-high 10.5 TFLs and had 72 tackles, six sacks, 28 QB hurries, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
3. Christian Harris, Alabama (JR, 6'1", 226 pounds)
Harris was a three-year starter at Alabama with a versatile three-down skill set. He’s a physical tone-setter as a run defender with the speed (4.44 40-yard dash) to get there in a hurry. His athleticism and fluid movement skills allow him to match up well in coverage. Harris finished 2021 with 79 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
4. Quay Walker, Georgia (SR, 6'4", 241 pounds)
Walker finally became a full-time starter on Georgia’s loaded defense in 2021. The former four-star recruit has outstanding speed (4.52 40-yard dash) and changes directions well for a linebacker his size. Although he can be overaggressive at times, he’s a reliable tackler with the traits to be disruptive in coverage or as a blitzer.
5. Chad Muma, Wyoming (SR, 6'3", 239 pounds)
Using his combination of size, athleticism and instincts, Muma was a tackling machine for Wyoming. HE ranked second nationally in tackles (142) and was fourth on a per-game basis (10.9) in 2021 after averaging 11.8 per game in a COVID-19-shortened season in ’20. His father (Ty) played safety for Wyoming, and Chad was a former (high school) safety himself. At his best in coverage, Muma had three interceptions, including two returned for scores in ’21. He finished top four in both jumps—40" vertical and 10'9" broad—among linebackers at the combine.
6. Damone Clark, LSU (SR, 6’3”, 239 pounds)
Clark has an ideal blend of leadership, production and athleticism. The Tigers give their No. 18 jersey to the player who best represents the school both on and off the field, and Clark is the only player to earn that honor twice since the tradition started in 2003. Clark was also a two-time member of Bruce Feldman’s annual Freaks List. While better as a run defender than in coverage at this point in his development, Clark ranked third in the nation in tackles (135) with 15.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception last year.
7. Troy Andersen, Montana State (SR, 6'4", 243 pounds)
There isn’t a more versatile prospect in the country (regardless of position) than Andersen. A former First-Team Big Sky QB who rushed for 1,412 yards and 21 touchdowns in ’18, he was the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year in ’21 with 147 tackles and 14 TFLs. Despite making the jump from FCS to the NFL at a relatively new position, Andersen has more than shown that he belongs with a strong week at the Senior Bowl and performance at the combine. The 243-pound linebacker led his position group with a 4.42 40-yard dash.
8. Leo Chenal, Wisconsin (JR, 6'3", 250 pounds)
While the trend is for linebackers to be lighter, Chenal is a throwback weight-wise with freakish strength. His 34 bench press reps at Wisconsin’s pro day would have led all participants who benched in Indianapolis, but Chenal also ran a 4.53 40-yard dash to go along with explosive jumps (40.5" vertical and 10'8" broad) at the combine. Chenal had 115 tackles, 18.5 TFLs and eight sacks in 2021.
9. Channing Tindall, Georgia (SR, 6'2", 230 pounds)
10. Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma (rJR, 6'0", 226 pounds)
11. Brandon Smith, Penn State (JR, 6'4", 250 pounds)
12. Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati (rSR, 6'4", 237 pounds)
13. JoJo Domann, Nebraska (rSR, 6'1", 228 pounds)
14. Terrel Bernard, Baylor (rSR, 6'1", 224 pounds)
15. D'Marco Jackson, Appalachian State (rSR, 6'1", 233 pounds)
16. Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State (rSR, 5'11", 227 pounds)
17. Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin (SR, 6'2", 234 pounds)
18. Chance Campbell, Mississippi (SR, 6'2", 232 pounds)
19. Josh Ross, Michigan (SR, 6'0", 227 pounds)
20. Darien Butler, Arizona State (SR, 5'10", 221 pounds)
Kevin Hanson is contributing mock drafts and position rankings to The MMQB during the 2022 NFL draft season. His mock drafts have been graded as the seventh-most accurate (tied) over the past five years, per The Huddle Report. His ’15 NFL mock draft was graded as the most accurate.
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