GREEN BAY, Wis. – Now that you know who might not be a consideration and why the Green Bay Packers have a need, here is a look at the 2021 NFL Draft class of linebackers.
Micah Parsons, Penn State (6-3 1/8, 246 pounds; 31 1/2 arms; 4.36 40; 4.40 shuttle): Micah Parsons’ football career began with the Harrisburg (Pa.) Packers at age 5. There is practically a 0 percent chance his NFL career will begin with the Green Bay Packers. Simply put, from a tools perspective, Parsons is one of the great linebacker prospects in years.
“I just feel I’m the most versatile player in this class,” he said at Penn State’s pro day. “I can play middle linebacker, I can play outside and I can pass rush. There’s no place I can’t play and utilize my skills. I’m going to make plays at the next level just like I did at Penn State.”
Parsons is, indeed, the total package. At 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds, he has prototypical size. With 4.36 speed in the 40, he’ll be one of the fastest players on the field, regardless of position. An All-American in high school and in college, he’s got killer credentials. Scouts worry about some off-the-field issues, so he could fall but almost certainly not to 29.
A starter in 2019, Parsons was a consensus first-team All-American and the Big Ten’s linebacker of the year after piling up 109 tackles, five sacks, 14 tackles for losses, five passes defensed and four forced fumbles. He missed only five tackles for a missed-tackle rate of just 4 percent, according to Sports Info Solutions while recording 12 percent of the team’s tackles. In coverage, he gave up 5.4 yards per target, according to SIS. He opted out of the 2020 season.
Draft Bible says: The Pennsylvania native shows great change of direction, fluid agility and flies to fill the gap while swarming to the football. He likes to play chess with opposing quarterbacks by giving them different looks and lots of pre-snap gyrations. Parsons possesses excellent speed and quickness when dropping back in coverage. Before opting out, the Penn State staff had discussed utilizing him on the edge in 2020, as he owns some pass-rush skills during his time at defensive end/running back in high school. Parsons is a generational type of talent that could arguably play any position, but forecasts as a true MIKE linebacker with his comfort level breaking down the huddle, making the calls on the field and leading his men into battle.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame (6-1 1/2, 221; 33 arms; DNP 40; 4.15 shuttle): Owusu-Koramoah played rover at Notre Dame. He’s listed as a linebacker ahead of the NFL Draft. He might as well be a Swiss Army knife with his ability to contribute all over the field.
At Notre Dame, the rover plays here, there and everywhere. According to Pro Football Focus, that meant 331 snaps as a slot corner, 212 snaps as an in-the-box linebacker and 88 snaps on the defensive line in 2020.
“With me playing a lot of man coverage this year that helped me out I think in my transition to the league as the NFL has become more of a pass-happy league,” Owusu-Koramoah said at Notre Dame’s pro day. “More teams are running 70 percent, 80 percent sub-packages. That kind of duality I think is what NFL teams are looking for as the league progresses to more of a pass league.”
In 2020, he won the Butkus Award and was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American after tallying 62 tackles, 11 TFLs and four passes defensed.
According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed 12 tackles for a missed-tackle rate of 17 percent. He coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 50 percent and 5.2 yards per target. He recorded 9 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: As a former safety, his short-area quickness and overall range were displayed at the position. He plays a lot as an overhang over the No. 2 receiver, flashing big-time potential in run support off the edge. Owusu-Koramoah actually does some nice work in man-to-man coverage, quickly closing to make plays on the football. No matter where the ball is, he always seems to be involved. He is a tweener who is a bit of an odd fit schematically. Without the power profile to be a fulltime linebacker in the box and coverage variance to be a safety, Owusu-Koramoah is a positionless player who some teams will value more than others. For creative defensive coordinators, he will be a chess piece to use in a variety of ways.
Zaven Collins, Tulsa (6-4 7/8, 259; 33 5/8 arms; 4.65 40; 4.36 shuttle): In Hominy, Okla., Collins was the big fish in a really small pond. He quarterbacked his high school team to a state championship by accounting for 50 touchdowns. He excelled in anything he did, from gymnastics as a boy to academically, with his 4.0 GPA.
No major colleges wanted the two-star recruit, though. During the summer between his junior and senior years of high school, Collins and his single mom drove to camps here, there and everywhere to hopefully get him noticed by recruiters. It didn’t work. All he had on the table was a partial scholarship to a Division II school. At that point, a career in the oilfields seemed infinitely more likely than a chance to be an NFL first-round pick.
“It’s because I’m from a small town,” Collins said before Tulsa’s pro day. “They told me that I had all the tangibles. I had all the tangibles. I was valedictorian, I had a great act score, all my grades were right, I had no off-field issues. everything was perfect, I played well enough, they just said that my school was too small and my level of competition was not high enough to translate over to the D-I level and they didn’t want to take a chance on a guy like me. So, yeah, I told some of those people to piss off.”
Tulsa invited him to a camp and found a gem. A three-year starter, Collins was the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and a unanimous All-American with a banner 2020 campaign of 53 tackles, four sacks, 11.5 TFLs, four interceptions, six passes defensed and two defensive touchdowns in merely eight games.
According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed 10 tackles for a missed-tackle rate of 16 percent. He coverage, he was targeted seven times. That produced three completions and four interceptions. He recorded 9 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: He projects as a SAM linebacker with versatility to both work as a strong-side run defender as well as provide a favorable matchup as a pass defender. His athleticism stands out in the run game, shooting gaps and accelerating laterally to catch ball-carriers at or behind the line of scrimmage. Though he has proven to be effective as a pass rusher, he proves to be more valuable in space working shallow zones. Littered through his tape are instances where he sits in short zones by the line of scrimmage and has the size and athleticism to disrupt throwing lanes from a couple yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Jamin Davis, Kentucky (6-3 1/2, 234; 33 arms; 4.47 40; DNP shuttle/quad): Davis is one of the top prospects due to his outrageous athleticism. He ranks 12th in the entire draft class, and second among linebackers, in Relative Athletic Score. With a 4.47 clocking in the 40-yard dash and a 42-inch vertical, Davis has cornerback-style testing numbers.
Davis’ need for speed goes beyond the stopwatch and playing field, though. He’s a big-time NASCAR fan and wouldn’t mind giving that sport a shot once his football career is over. “I feel like if I had some training I would be able to do it one day,” Davis told Kentucky.com. “I know it’s pretty hard to get into, but if I had the right connections and whatnot, I would definitely go for it.”
When a teammate suffered a stroke, the door was open for Davis to move into the starting lineup. He tallied 102 tackles, three interceptions, five passes defensed and one forced fumble.
According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed five tackles for a missed-tackle rate of only 4 percent. He coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 64 percent and 8.5 yards per target. He recorded 14 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: He has great spatial awareness in zone coverage, locating routes behind and crowding throwing lanes with his length. Active feet allow him to be a capable man-coverage defender against underneath routes. Davis gets sideline-to-sideline when he turns on the jets, displaying sufficient range to defend laterally. He is a very patient run defender who does not play well downhill. Taking on blocks is not a strong suit as he does not show the ability to stack and shed. He is not a physical player and gets run over by ball-carriers in the hole.
Quality Continues with Day 2 Prospects
Jabril Cox, LSU (6-3 1/4, 232; 32 3/8 arms; DNP workout/hamstring): A big fish in the small pond of FCS football at powerhouse North Dakota State, Cox jumped into the ocean by transferring to LSU for his final season.
“I just felt I had to prove myself coming from a smaller school and going into the SEC,” Cox said before the season. “It’s a different ballgame. They’re going to be a lot of doubters, a lot of people saying ‘He’s not ready.’”
He was ready. In starting all 10 games, he had 58 tackles, including one sack and 6.5 for losses. He intercepted three passes and tallied eight passes defensed.
At Raytown (Mo.) South High School, Cox was a star quarterback who was gaining traction among recruiters. Then came a torn ACL that ended his junior season and chased the big schools away. He wasn’t even among the top 3,000 recruits in 2016, according to 247 Sports. He redshirted in 2016, moved into the starting lineup in 2017 and was a first-team All-American in 2018 and 2019.
“Family-wise, this is a dream come true,” Cox said of getting a shot at LSU. “All the late nights my mom and dad took us to practice. The gassers and games we went through. Seeing (LSU) come on board and having this chance to play for the Tigers, I’m just so grateful for this opportunity. Right now, with everything I have gone through, all glory to God.”
According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed 10 tackles for a missed-tackle rate of 15 percent. Even at North Dakota State and the lesser competition, he missed 14 tackles (13 percent). In coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 46 percent and 3.4 yards per target. He recorded 9 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: With the impact he showed at LSU, his traits were shown to be able to transcend any competition level. He is a dominant sideline-to-sideline linebacker who can also rush the passer. Cox has outstanding coverage ability, in both man and zone. He was one of the best players in the FCS during his tenure at NDSU, and quickly became one of the more talented defenders in all of college football in 2020. With the competition question marks put to rest and a nice showing at the Senior Bowl, expect to hear Cox’s name somewhere on Day 2 with the type of talent to become one of the better coverage linebackers in the entire league.
Pete Werner, Ohio State (6-2 7/8, 238; 4.59 40; 33 1/4 arms; 4.38 shuttle): Werner started 35 games in his final three seasons. As a senior, he started all eight games and recorded 54 tackles, one sack, 1.5 TFLs and two forced fumbles. A high school defensive back, seven of his 11 career passes defensed came as a sophomore.
“A lot of my determination comes from my family,” Werner, whose GPA in high school topped 4.0, told the Columbus Dispatch. “I was kind of born with that edge to me. It all starts with my dad, but I just learned a lot going to a great high school and learning what it meant to have a great work ethic.”
Werner’s father, Greg, played for the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles.
“He's a man,” coach Ryan Day said before the Big Ten title game, played in Werner’s hometown of Indianapolis. “Maybe didn't come in here that way, but he's leaving a man. The way he handles himself, when he speaks, people listen. He's very, very well thought out. We’re going to miss his leadership next year. We're going to miss his production. And we’ll miss him as a person. He's a special young man on the field and off.”
According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed nine tackles for a missed-tackle rate of 14 percent. He coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 50 percent and 3.9 yards per target. He recorded 11 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: Werner possesses the type of all-around skill set that could offer him the opportunity to occupy a variety of roles in an NFL defense. Playing SAM ‘backer for the Buckeyes as a junior, Werner was pressed with a lot of responsibilities in pass coverage. He was often tasked with playing overhang and out on slot receivers, seeing both man and zone reps. There is also a clear transition for Werner as a tight-end eraser on the next level with his ability to match up appropriately with his combination of size and athleticism. Ohio State trusted him to drop into deep zones with some regularity, adding to his amount of versatility in the pass game. Werner transitioned to WILL ‘backer in 2020, showcasing his ability to play more inside and further accentuate his versatile skill sets. The flashes are all there for Werner to develop into a potential three-down linebacker down the road.
Nick Bolton, Missouri (5-11 1/8, 237; 31 7/8 arms; 4.59 40; 4.50 shuttle): Bolton’s path to the NFL has been paved by his family. His father, Carlos, played linebacker at Louisiana Tech. Starting in first grade, Nick and his father would watch game film. From an early age, Nick showed tremendous instincts. Those instincts are his calling card today as a top linebacker prospect.
His mom tackled breast cancer. His sister had a brain tumor, which left her with vision problems and robbed her of her own college athletics career.
“It gives you perspective on everything you do,” Bolton told The Athletic. “Most people take for granted driving, and she can’t drive anymore. So living her dreams through me is a blessing.”
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Bolton was first-team all-SEC in each of his final two seasons, including capturing second-team All-American honors in 2020. In 10 starts, he had 95 tackles, including two sacks and 7.5 for losses, plus five passes defensed. Both career interceptions came in 2019 and he oddly for someone with his violent style never forced a fumble.
According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed an unsightly 18 tackles for a missed-tackle rate of 16 percent. He coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 53 percent and a measly 2.9 yards per target. Despite the misses, he recorded a superb 16 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: Just how good is Bolton? Imagine Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan with more thump. Bolton is a super physical WILL linebacker who is surprisingly physical for a man his size and length. He fills like a tank, meeting offensive linemen at the point of attack, stacking and shedding with a high success rate. When he’s able to square up ball-carriers, Bolton is a vicious hitter, putting together a highlight reel of massive shots. Bolton has great feel in the passing game, quickly locating zones and working with urgency. His instincts are fantastic. Bolton always seems to be around the football. The huge downfall for Bolton’s game is a lack of length that can cause some shortcomings as a tackler and in coverage.
Baron Browning, Ohio State (6-2 3/4, 245; 33 1/2 arms; 4.55 40; 4.22 shuttle): A five-star recruit and the No. 1 linebacker prospect coming out of Kennedale (Texas) High School, Browning started merely nine games in four seasons. For his career, he recorded 110 tackles, seven sacks, 18 tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and three passes defensed.
“Toward the end, I feel like I came into my own, but not at the beginning,” Browning, a third-team all-Big Ten choice in 2020, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I don’t think I had the career I wanted to have. I still had a pretty good career. I am looking forward to building off my last two years at Ohio State and continue to build off that in the NFL.”
Despite the recruiting stars, it wasn’t an easy time. The only constant on defense was change, with new coordinators and new positions. His father, former Stanford defensive back Barry Browning, was there through it all. “That three-letter word [NFL], we never talk about it,” Barry Browning told Cleveland.com in 2019. “You have to look at what’s in front of you right now or you might miss something. If it’s meant to be, it will happen. We’ll talk about it when we get there. Otherwise, that adds unwanted pressure you put on yourself.”
At pro day, he said most teams mentioned him as a 3-4 inside linebacker. “I was just kind of guy who had to come in and go through the storm and weather it,” Browning said. “So I’m grateful. I wouldn’t change anything about my journey. It made me the man I am today and the player.”
According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed five tackles for a missed-tackle rate of 14 percent. He coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 71 percent and 8.8 yards per target. He recorded 7 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: An explosive athlete for the position, Browning is just starting to tap into his potential. With limited opportunity during his Buckeyes career, he has certainly flashed in his limited chances. Browning explodes downhill in a hurry from his trigger step, shooting gaps in a flash without much ability to stall his momentum. He has been blessed with a dynamite frame to stack and shed effectively at the point of attack. Browning can make some eye-popping plays, working gap-to-gap while transitioning laterally. The inexperience is apparent throughout Browning’s film. For every incredible play he makes, he guesses wrong and completely takes himself out of the play.
Chazz Surratt, North Carolina (6-2 1/8, 229; 30 1/4 arms; 4.59 40; 4.18 shuttle): A Parade All-American quarterback, Surratt started seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2017. After barely playing in 2018 due to injury and an NCAA suspension for selling school-issued shoes, Surratt returned in 2019 with a new position and a “pissed-off” mentality. In 13 games at linebacker, he piled up 115 tackles, including 6.5 for sacks and 15 TFLs. In 2020, he had 91 tackles, including six sacks and 7.5 TFLs. He added one interception and four passes defensed in each season.
On his own, Surratt asked for the position change in hopes of bolstering his NFL chances. After eating six meals per day to bulk up and working on linebacker drills all offseason, Surratt showed up to the first team meeting under new coach Mack Brown. “We come to the first meeting and quarterbacks have their own spot in the room, and I didn't even really know where to sit," Surratt told NFL.com. "Nobody had told me I was good to go at linebacker. I didn't know if I was still playing quarterback. So, I said, 'I'll just sit with the linebackers and see how it goes.”
It went pretty well. In 2019, he was voted runner-up for ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
His brother, Sage, played receiver at Wake Forest and is part of this draft class. “I’m going to try to lay him out,” Chazz said before a 2019 game.
According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed 10 tackles for a missed-tackle rate of 10 percent, practically infinite improvement over 23 misses (17 percent) in 2019. He coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 65 percent and 8.4 yards per target. He recorded 13 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: Surratt is a notable athlete for the position, possessing an outstanding blend of range and short-area quickness. He has shown the ability to pursue well to the perimeter, quickly gaining ground on opposing ball-carriers. There is a slipperiness to Surratt, squeezing through gaps to make a large portion of plays in the backfield. In the pass game, Surratt has loose hips to transition quickly in zone coverage. He has not been pressed into too much man coverage responsibilities, but has the necessary length and athleticism to match up accordingly. With substantial upside, Surratt has the makings of a playmaker, disrupting the football at a high volume. The instincts and physicality Surratt plays with near the line of scrimmage are surprising for a player of his limited experience.
Big Ten, SEC Prospects Top Day 3
Derrick Barnes, Purdue (6-0 3/8, 238; 33 3/8 arms; 4.57 40; 4.32 shuttle): Barnes was a three-year starter. He had a career-high 92 tackles in 2018, a team-high 7.5 sacks in 2019 and a team-high 54 tackles in six games in 2020. Along with 225 tackles, he added 10.5 sacks, 25 tackles for losses, four passes defensed, one forced fumble and one interception in his career. He started his career at linebacker, moved to defensive end, then shifted back to linebacker.
“Speaking with all 32 teams at the Senior Bowl, some of them see me as an inside linebacker and others see me as an outside linebacker,” he told The Draft Network. “If I had the freedom to choose, I would say inside linebacker because of my physicality. I have the potential to reach the ball-carrier and to drop in coverage. I’m one of those guys that can go sideline-to-sideline and make plays in the backfield.”
A high school running back, former Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander is a cousin. At first, he wore 73 – the opposite of Alexander’s 37.
According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed six tackles for a missed-tackle rate of 10 percent. He coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 50 percent (just 5-of-10) and 2.4 yards per target. He recorded 14 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: Barnes can contribute both as a stack linebacker and edge rusher, which will help his chances of somebody taking a flier on him late in the draft. When he does play on the edge, Barnes compensates for his lack of size with his aggressive style of play and knack for attacking the football. He is a solid athlete with a solid blend of strength and quickness, to go along with a non-stop motor. He does have experience playing special teams in college, which is where he will need to stand out early in the NFL in order to make a roster.
Cameron McGrone, Michigan (6-0 7/8, 234; 32 1/8 arms; DNP workout/knee): McGrone suffered a torn ACL in high school and another that ended his final season at Michigan after five games. In 19 career games (15 starts), he had 91 tackles, four sacks and 11 TFLs.
“Even though the season didn’t really go how any of us wanted it to, I was really ready to become a professional,” McGrone told MLive.com after deciding to enter the draft. “What better chance than now?”
He arrived at Michigan as a five-star prospect and five-star student, thanks to his parents. "There were times where I'd fall off here or there, but I never let football really take over my life," he told the Detroit Free Press in 2018. "I couldn't play football without getting the proper grades. I just always valued those more."
According to Sports Info Solutions, he didn’t miss a single tackle in 2020 after missing nine (12 percent) in 2019. He coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 75 percent and 6.3 yards per target. He recorded 6 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: He is a gifted athlete with light feet that allows him to be an easy mover in space. His speed provides the ability to flow with lateral runs and get sideline-to-sideline. McGrone covers tight ends and finds the football in the air to knock it loose. He possesses the athleticism to play man or zone, but has to become more confident. When getting blocked by fullbacks or tight ends, he shows surprising ability to absorb contact for his lack of size. While he triggers quickly, his play recognition is often off, slowing him down or resulting in him being in the wrong gap.
Buddy Johnson, Texas A&M (6-0 1/2, 229; 31 1/2 arms; 4.57 40; 4.07 shuttle): Johnson started 32 games in his career, including all 23 during his final two seasons. In 10 games in 2020, he led the team with 86 tackles and added career highs of four sacks, eight tackles for losses, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
A three-star recruit who played linebacker and quarterback in high school in Dallas, he arrived on campus weighing all of 200 pounds. “Over the years I’ve matured,” Johnson said at pro day. “I understand [that] sometimes coaches see things in you that you don’t, and coaches seeing [certain things] in me, [that] I was able to step up to the task when the draft comes and I hear my name. There’s [going to be] no feeling like [it].”
He was selected a team captain in 2020. “His off-field leadership and direction to kids and keeping guys contained and reminding them to stay quarantined or you know, out of the melee of people and be disciplined,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He did an outstanding job in our offseason and what he’s doing. Our kids have tremendous respect for him.”
According to Pro Football Focus, he missed seven tackles for a missed-tackle rate of 7.5 percent. He coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 75.0 percent.
Draft Bible says: A rough and tough old-school linebacker who showcases great processing quickness and the power in his hits to get the job done, Johnson makes up for his average athleticism when he hits the field. He does a great job of taking on blockers and working his way through them to find the ball and he isn’t fazed when he has to go head-to-head against more physical offensive linemen. His positioning is usually on the money, taking excellent angles working downhill and to the perimeter. Johnson isn’t going to be for every team, as he’s already maxed out physically. His coverage ability will simply be sufficient, but will never be a strength.
Dylan Moses, Alabama (6-1 1/2, 225; DNP workout/knee): Moses was second-team all-SEC in 2018 with his team-high 86 tackles and he was first-team all-SEC in 2020 with his team-high 80 tackles. In between, he suffered a torn ACL that cost him the 2019 season. The stats and accolades notwithstanding, the comeback from that injury and an early-season meniscus tear severely impacted his play.
“It happened, I believe, in the third game of the season,” Moses, who had surgery Feb. 9, said at pro day. “That’s when I really started feeling it. It was said it was a bone bruise but it kept bothering me throughout the year and I just never really spoke up about it. I’m the type of person that, if I’m in pain or something, I never want to leave the field so I just didn’t say anything about it.”
Unbelievably, the Baton Rouge, La., native was offered a scholarship by LSU while he was in seventh grade and by Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban as an eighth-grader. “When he said he was offering Dylan a scholarship, we asked a lot of questions just to make sure we knew exactly what he meant,” his dad told AL.com in February 2013. “Coach Saban said the Alabama staff believes Dylan has a chance to be the best player in the country in the Class of 2017 and they were ready to offer him a scholarship. That's when the fireworks started going off in our heads.”
According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed seven tackles for a missed-tackle rate of only 8 percent. He coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 57 percent and 4.6 yards per target. He recorded 10 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: Prior to suffering a torn ACL during training camp in 2019, many scouts had Moses pegged as a first-round pick and he gave the thought of entering the draft early a good, hard look despite the injury. One of the team leaders on the Crimson Tide, Moses is responsible for calling the plays at his MIKE position. Moses owns a true nose for the football, along with top-shelf sideline-to-sideline speed. In addition, his change-of-direction skills and fluid hips are two of his best attributes. The problem is Moses looked like a shell of himself in 2020. Moses seemed to have a slow trigger and even worse eye discipline.
Garret Wallow, TCU (6-1 5/8, 220; 30 7/8 arms; 4.64 40; 4.12 shuttle): Wallow successfully transitioned from safety to linebacker. In 2019, he collected a conference-leading 125 tackles, which included 3.5 sacks and 18 TFLs. In 10 games in 2020, he had three sacks, nine TFLs, 90 total tackles and the first three forced fumbles of his career. He earned first-team all-Big 12 both seasons.
“I’m definitely an aggressive and physical player,” he said at pro day. “But wherever a team needs me and sees me as the biggest fit, I’m willing to play that position. I definitely do see myself playing linebacker. I feel comfortable at linebacker. My instincts are really good at linebacker. That’s definitely where I see myself going forward.”
His mother, a former high school track athlete who did her best as a single mom, and former TCU linebacker Kenny Cain, his youth track coach. “It’s crazy,” Wallow told the Star-Telegram. “It was just the other day, I remember coming in as a freshman and looking up to the seniors and seeing them play and being the face of TCU. I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ That was what gave me my drive. It was one of those things where I dreamed of the day it was me out there making those plays and everybody cheering for me and our team. It was a dream but also had a lot of hard work behind it. No dreams become reality without hard work.”
According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed 15 tackles for a missed-tackle rate of 14 percent. In three years as a starter, he missed 46 (14 percent). He coverage, he gave up a completion rate of 73 percent and 11.3 yards per target. A tackling machine, he recorded 16 percent of the team’s tackles.
Draft Bible says: Wallow has been able to retain his athletic profile while he has added a substantial amount of weight to his frame. Moving sideline-to-sideline, he has shown the ability to make plays all over the field. For a slightly undersized off-ball linebacker, he does a more than commendable job at the point of attack. He makes strong informal contact, showing urgent hand fighting to get off blocks. Wallow is able to sort through trash effectively while locating ball-carriers. In pass coverage, he has a clear understanding of spacing with some urgent and smooth drops.
Nick Niemann, Iowa (6-3, 234; 32 5/8 arms; 4.48 40; 4.23 shuttle): A part-time starter in 2018 and 2019, he got the call in seven of eight games in 2020 and led the team with 77 tackles. The team captain was third-team all-Big Ten. He had only one interception, one pass defensed and two career sacks but the testing numbers are intriguing.
He comes from a football family. His father, a former defensive coordinator at Rutgers, joined Iowa’s staff in 2019 as assistant defensive line coach. “I can’t even put a value on it,” Jay Niemann told Hawk Central of being around his son. “A lot of the pleasure I get out of it is just having the day-to-day interaction, even if it’s just short little couple minutes here, couple minutes there. In the locker room, at the training table or if he swings by the office.” A brother, Nick, also played linebacker at Iowa and started five times last season for the Chiefs. “They’ve always been extremely competitive,” said Lou Ann Niemann, Nick Niemann’s mother, told The Daily Iowan. “I think the fact that Ben was a three-year starter at Iowa was fairly motivating for Nick.”
Sports Info Solutions didn’t have any analytical stats. Pro Football Focus charged him with two missed tackles, a 77 percent completion rate and 5.4 yards per target.
NFL.com says: Long, rangy linebacker with excellent speed and quickness but might need to pack on more muscle for the NFL game. Niemann plays stronger than he looks and with good core power. He understands how to use his hands and angle to improve his chances against climbing offensive linemen. He has the range and agility to flow from sideline to sideline but needs more reps to fine-tune his feel for blocking schemes and misdirection. He was a little disappointing in coverage and might not have much passing down value. Niemann has the talent to play in the league and should be a core special teams performer.