2016 NFL Draft Position Review: Outside Linebackers

Charlie lays out an overview at the top players from each position for the 2016 NFL Draft. For further information, check out our in-depth analysis of 2016 NFL Draft Prospects by Position.

By Charlie Campbell.
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This page was last updated April 9, 2016. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

Position Review: Outside Linebackers

Center Class
Early-round talent: A
Mid-round: B
Late-round: B
Overall grade: B+

2016 prospects vs 2015
Myles Jack
Dante Fowler
Vic Beasley
Leonard Floyd
Darron Lee
Shane Ray
Shaq Thompson
Kamalei Correa
Hau’Oli Kikaha
Randy Gregory
Yannick Ngakoue
Eli Harold
Lorenzo Mauldin
Kyler Fackrell
Deion Jones
Dadi Nicolas

These classes are pretty comparable. Last year’s draft had four first-round picks, two in the second round, and a couple more in the third. The 2016 NFL Draft’s class doesn’t have first-round talents, but it could have more outside linebackers drafted on Day 2.

If you were to merge the players together, there is a fair amount of parity. Jack is the best prospect in either class, although he might go a spot or two lower than Fowler. Leonard Floyd and Darron Lee cold be top-20 picks ahead of Shane Ray. Correa is comparable to Kikaha. Ngakoue is a similar prospect to 2015 third-rounders Eli Harold and Lorenzo Mauldin. Fackrell and Jones could also go on Day 2, and Nicolas is last as he may slip to the third day of the 2016 NFL Draft.



Safest Pick: Myles Jack, UCLA
Even with his knee injury, I think that Jack is the safest outside linebacker in the 2016 NFL Draft. The reason is that Jack is such a rare and amazing athlete. His pass-coverage skills are truly phenomenal as very rarely do 240-pound linebackers have the ability to play nickel corner. He also is a good run defender with sideline-to-sideline speed and tackling ability. I think Jack is going to be one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL as long as he can stay healthy.

Kendricks had a solid rookie season, and Mack is a star in Oakland. Brown has been a huge disappointment and is on his way to being a bust.

2015 Pick: Eric Kendricks
2014 Pick: Khalil Mack
2013 Pick: Arthur Brown

Biggest Bust Potential: Kamalei Correa, Boise State
Correa could go in the second round, and there have been some in the media pushing him as a late first-rounder. I think Correa is a good edge rusher who gives real effort and plays with intensity. However, he is weak against the run and isn’t very physical. Sources have agreed with those flaws as well. When you add in that Correa (6-2, 243) is a bit undersized, I think there is some bust potential with him. Kyle Van Noy was a similar prospect and hasn’t panned out thus far for Detroit.

Ford showed progress in Year 2, but the jury is still out on him. With his off-the-field issues already landing him a suspension not even a year after being drafted, Gregory is on his way to being a bust.

2015 Pick: Randy Gregory
2014 Pick: Dee Ford
2013 Pick: Chase Thomas



Outside Linebacker Rankings by Attributes


Pass Coverage:
NFL prototype: Lavonte David, Buccaneers
  1. Myles Jack
  2. Darron Lee
  3. Deion Jones
  4. Kyler Fackrell
  5. Kamalei Correa
  6. Leonard Floyd
  7. Yannick Ngakoue
  8. Dadi Nicolas


Recap: The NFL is all about the passing offense, so linebackers must be be an asset at defending the aerial attack. Defensive coordinators want linebackers who function well in space and cover a lot of ground. They have to have good instincts and anticipate the routes that are coming their direction.

Linebackers also need to function well in zone and have the ability to quickly get deep in their drops. Those who can play man coverage on running backs and tight ends are in serious demand.

Jack is the best in the class, and it isn’t even close. He lined up as a slot cornerback and prevented receivers from getting separation. It was astounding, and sources have said that Jack practiced with the cornerbacks at UCLA. For the NFL, he could be a phenomenal weapon for going man-to-man and shutting down good receiving tight ends and running backs, and defending receivers in the middle of the field. Jack is also very good in zone coverage and picks up receivers well along with chasing down check-downs in the flat. In his just over two seasons of playing time, while also having to play some running back, Jack totaled four interceptions and 19 passes broken up. Those are good numbers for a cornerback or safety. Jack truly is a once-in-a-decade-type coverage linebacker. He could be the best NFL has seen since Derrick Brooks in his prime with Tampa Bay.

Lee and Jones are also good in coverage. They are fast athletes who have the ability to defend tight ends and running backs, and cover a lot of ground in zone. Immediately, both should see playing time in the nickel defense and be assets in coverage.

Fackrell dropped into pass coverage some and functioned well in college. He has three-down ability for the NFL. Fackrell is behind the others because isn’t as fast or athletic as them.

Correa, Floyd, Ngakoue and Nicolas were all pass-rushers in college who rarely dropped into coverage. Correa and Floyd did some dropping into coverage, and both were better than you would expect. They both seemed natural in space despite mostly being used as edge rushers. These four prospects are going to need development in this regard for the NFL, but whatever teams drafts them is doing with so with the plan of them rushing the quarterback.

Pass Rush:
NFL prototype: Von Miller, Broncos
  1. Leonard Floyd
  2. Yannick Ngakoue
  3. Kamalei Correa
  4. Dadi Nicolas
  5. Darron Lee
  6. Kyler Fackrell
  7. Deion Jones
  8. Myles Jack


Recap: This is a strong group of rushers off the edge. Floyd is among the best pure pass-rushers in the 2016 NFL Draft, and that isn’t just my opinion as I’ve heard the same thing from scouts and general managers. Floyd has dangerous speed off the edge, an insane ability to bend, and closing speed. He can hunt the quarterback for four quarters, and he set up a lot of sacks for his teammates at Georgia. Over the past three years, Floyd was one of the best and steadiest pass-rushers in the SEC.

I have Ngakoue second because I think he has a better physical skill set to translate to the NFL than Correa does. At 6-foot-2, 252 pounds, Ngakoue has more power, longer arms, and a better ability to fight off blockers than Correa. Ngakoue was phenomenal against Brandon Scherff in 2014 and also played well in his matchups against Jack Conklin and Taylor Decker. Even though Ngakoue had 13.5 sacks last year, he could be one of the steals of the 2016 NFL Draft because he probably won’t go until the second or third round.

Correa was a consistent pass-rusher in college. He is a dangerous off the edge with relentless nature and has a nose for the quarterback. The reason I have Correa lower is because he played in the 240s and is smaller than the top two.

Nicolas is a talented edge rusher. He has a fast get-off and the ability to turn the corner. Nicolas is going to need to transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in the NFL and probably is just a situational pass-rusher early on in his career.

Lee had 4.5 and 7.5 sacks over the past two seasons. He is a good blitzer and has a knack for getting to the quarterback. Fackrell and Jones were both quality blitzers in college. Jack was so good in coverage he rarely blitzed, but he did pretty well when called upon. Lee might produce some sacks, but overall the four members of this group are going to be used in coverage more than rushing the quarterback.



Run Defense:
NFL prototype: Lavonte David, Buccaneers
  1. Myles Jack
  2. Darron Lee
  3. Kyler Fackrell
  4. Deion Jones
  5. Leonard Floyd
  6. Yannick Ngakoue
  7. Kamalei Correa
  8. Dadi Nicolas


Recap: The best run defender is Jack and he should be even better in the NFL. Jack has sideline-to-sideline speed, great instincts and is a sure tackler. He handles big backs and speed backs. Jack (6-1, 245) should be an asset quickly in run defense.

Lee had 81 tackles as a sophomore and 66 as a junior. He is fast and covers a ton of ground. At 6-foot-1, 232 pounds, Lee could have some issues getting off blocks in the NFL, thus he’s rated behind Jack.

Fackrell is solid against the run, but he isn’t as fast or athletic as the top two. Still, he was a good run defender in college with 82 tackles in each of his last two complete seasons.

Jones is very fast and plays around the field to make tackles. He had 100 last year; however, he does have issues when runs come straight at him. Jones (6-1, 219) is very undersized though, and teams have told me that his weakness in base sets could make him only a nickel linebacker early on his career. If he could add significant weight while maintaining his speed, he could be a special run defender.

Floyd was a weak run defender at Georgia in 2013 and 2014, but he showed improvement last year. His tackle total went from the 50s in the previous year to 75. Floyd still has a ways to go, but his recent weight gain while maintaining his speed is a good sign.

Ngakoue, Correa and Nicolas aren’t good run defenders for the NFL at this time. Ngakoue should have produced more tackles than he did in college as he had less than 40 during the past two seasons. Correa is undersized, needs more strength, and isn’t physical in the ground game. Nicolas needs to get stronger to defend the run in the NFL.

Read & React:
NFL prototype: Sean Lee, Cowboys
  1. Myles Jack
  2. Darron Lee
  3. Deion Jones
  4. Kyler Fackrell
  5. Kamalei Correa
  6. Leonard Floyd
  7. Yannick Ngakoue
  8. Dadi Nicolas


Recap: Jack, Lee and Jones all did well with reading and reacting. The three of them of them have good awareness and anticipate what the offense is trying to do. Jack and Lee are exceptional.

Fackrell flashes read-and-react skills, but he isn’t as quick to explode into the play as the top three. Correa read plays pretty well and wasn’t one to get caught out of position.

Floyd, Ngakoue and Nicolas are a tough projection in this category. All of them were predominantly defensive ends or standing up over a tackle. Floyd played some inside linebacker in the early portion of his final season, and he did better than expected at it. For the NFL though, Floyd will need more work to transition as an outside linebacker who lines up a few years behind the line of scrimmage on the edge. Ngakoue and Nicolas are works in progress on this front.



Tackling:
NFL prototype: NaVarro Bowman, 49ers
  1. Myles Jack
  2. Darron Lee
  3. Kyler Fackrell
  4. Deion Jones
  5. Kamalei Correa
  6. Leonard Floyd
  7. Yannick Ngakoue
  8. Dadi Nicolas


Recap: Jack is the best tackler in the class, while Lee is a close second behind him. Jack is extremely reliable in taking ball-carriers to the ground when he gets a hold of them. He handled fast runners and power backs with good technique. Lee also was reliable and you rarely ever saw him miss a tackle.

Fackrell and Jones were quality tacklers in college. Jones badly needs more strength for the power backs of the NFL though.

Correa was generally reliable for Boise State, but he needs to improve his run defense and play more physically.



Floyd had some ugly plays in his earlier years and really struggled against Florida in 2014, but he showed improvement last season. Ngakoue and Nicolas have to improve. Both are solid tacklers when it comes to the quarterback, but need to get better for taking down NFL running backs.

Shedding Blocks:
NFL prototype: K.J. Wright, Seahawks
  1. Myles Jack
  2. Leonard Floyd
  3. Yannick Ngakoue
  4. Kamalei Correa
  5. Darron Lee
  6. Kyler Fackrell
  7. Deion Jones
  8. Dadi Nicolas


Recap: Jack is skilled at shedding blocks. His athleticism, tenacity and hand usage get him free from blockers. He also has some natural strength to knock their hands off of him and then can use his speed to bolt by them.

Floyd, Ngakoue and Correa are good at getting off blocks when it comes to rushing the passer. However, they all need to get better at shedding blocks in the ground game for the NFL.

Lee is skilled at getting free of blockers in the tackle box when he is in pursuit. Lee doesn’t shy away from taking on contact and has the ability to disengage, but he needs refinement and should get better when blockers come at him downhill.

Ditto for Fackrell and Jones. Getting off blocks could be a big problem for Jones in the NFL considering his lack of weight and strength. Nicolas has to better at getting off blocks. He can be in trouble when he doesn’t win quickly with speed.

Splash Plays:
NFL prototype: Von Miller, Broncos
  1. Myles Jack
  2. Darron Lee
  3. Leonard Floyd
  4. Deion Jones
  5. Kyler Fackrell
  6. Kamalei Correa
  7. Yannick Ngakoue
  8. Dadi Nicolas


Recap: NFL coaches love players who can take the ball away. Turnovers are the great equalizer against high-powered offenses and directly lead to victories.

Jack is instinctive about creating turnovers. He had four interceptions in basically two seasons of playing time. Jack uses his instincts and has excellent ball skills as a pass defender.

Lee is similar. He had spells where he would have splash plays in bunches. Lee notched three interceptions and two forced fumbles over the past two seasons.

Floyd had five forced fumbles over his 2014 and 2013 seasons. He has room for improvement in getting strip-sacks, but he has a decent starting point. Jones had two interceptions last year, while Fackrell had some splash plays in 2015 and 2013 – 2014 was lost to injury. Jones could be better than most linebackers in the NFL for producing picks.

Considering that Correa, Ngakoue and Nicolas all produced good sack numbers in college, it is surprising that each one had poor forced fumble production. They all need to work on the art of the strip-sack.




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