GREEN BAY, Wis. – In today’s NFL, speed is the name of the game at linebacker. Tampa Bay’s Devin White, such a terror in both games against Green Bay, ran his 40 in 4.42 seconds at the 2019 Scouting Combine. Chicago’s Roquan Smith ran his 40 in 4.51 seconds at the 2018 Combine. Arizona’s Isaiah Simmons ran his 40 in 4.39 seconds at the 2020 Combine.
All were early first-round picks.
The Green Bay Packers’ linebackers? Not so fast.
Last year’s fifth-round pick, Kamal Martin, didn’t test at last year’s Combine due to knee surgery but the Packers had him pegged as a “high 4.5, low 4.6 guy.” Undrafted rookie Krys Barnes didn’t test because the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out UCLA’s pro day but he’s likely in the mid-4.6s. Blake Martinez, one of the NFL’s top tacklers with Green Bay from 2017 through 2019, ran his 40 in 4.71 seconds at the 2016 Combine.
Enter Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who was the Packers’ pick in the latest Pro Football Focus mock draft.
“The Packers have a need at wide receiver, and some reports indicate they are going to lose Corey Linsley, the league’s most valuable center, as well,” read PFF’s synopsis. “However, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has been what the Packers have lacked on defense since before their last Super Bowl victory, a linebacker who can comfortably play all three downs in the modern NFL. The former Notre Dame star has the highest projected playmaker rate at his position.”
Owusu-Koramoah won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker in 2020, was a consensus first-team All-American and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. In 25 games the past two seasons, he had 142 tackles, 24.5 tackles for losses, one interception and an impressive five forced fumbles.
At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, he’s the size of a traditional safety, so he won’t be for everyone. However, he has elite play speed and is arguably the best pass-defending linebacker in the draft class. Plus, it’s worth noting Cory Littleton thrived with the Rams under Joe Barry, going from undrafted to the Pro Bowl in 2018. Littleton is 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds.