Summary: It isn't that common to see a star player at a smaller school take on the challenge of transferring to a big-time college program, but that was what Cox decided to do prior to the 2020 season. At North Dakota State, Cox was an FCS All-American who helped his team win three FCS National Championships. He put together three seasons of good production for the Bison, starting in 2017 with 75 tackles, 13 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, one interception, and four passes defended. As a sophomore, he recorded 91 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, four interceptions,and seven passes defended. He then totaled 92 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, one interception and seven passes defended in 2019, which was his final FCS season. In 2020, his one season at LSU, Cox racked up 58 tackles, three interceptions and five passes defended. He hit the ground running with the Tiders and was one of the best players on their defense, which has lost a lot of talent to the 2020 NFL Draft.
In the passing-driven NFL, a linebacker with Cox's coverage skills is going to be in demand and have plenty of teams hoping to land him. Cox is an excellent zone-coverage linebacker with good instincts that lead him to glide around the field, and he does an excellent job of reading routes while spying the eyes of the quarterback to disrupt passing lanes. His tremendous career total of 23 passes broken up is no fluke, as he has phenomenal ball skills to break up passes and is a threat to pick them off. Cox shows soft hands for a linebacker and uses his size to win 50-50 passes.
Not only can Cox move around the field in space in zone coverage, picking up receivers and covering up receiving options, he has shown man-coverage ability on tight ends. His NFL team should probably give him some practice reps and coaching before putting up man-to-man against pro tight ends, but in time, he could be a phenomenal weapon to help neutralize receiving tight ends.
Cox also brings added value as a dangerous blitzer. He has a burst to eat up ground and can be a hard charger who dodges blockers while flying to the quarterback. He may not blitz a lot in the NFL because of his coverage skills, but when he does blitz, he could be effective at harassing the quarterback.
In the ground game, Cox is a solid defender. He is willing to take on blocks and is not afraid of sticking his nose in the scrum. He will need to improve at taking on and shedding blocks, but he has potential there. Cox does a good job of closing ground in pursuit and working his way through trash. He has the size and strength to be a tackler, but does have a tendency at times to go for a knockdown blow rather than to wrap up. That can be coached up at the pro level.
Cox looks like he has the versatility to play mutliple linebacker sports in the NFL. He could play on the inside of a 3-4 defense, or he could fit well in a 4-3 defense, whether it would be at Mike - middle - linebacker, at Will - weakside linebacker or Sam - strongside - linebacker.
Team sources say they expect Cox to go on the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft. They believe he could be a second-round pick and think he won't fall deep into the third round before getting snatched up.
Player Comparison: C.J. Mosley. Mosley and Cox have body types that are a little different, but Cox's coverage skills remind me of Mosley at Alabama. Mosley (6-2, 250) grew into being a well-rounded defender and grew stronger. Cox could fill out his frame in a pro strength and conditioning program to be even more similar to Mosely. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Cox looks like a potential second-round pick, and if he had played big-time football throughout his college career, he could have ended up being a first-rounder.