Why the Slide?: Junior Colson, LB, Michigan

This series was created a number of years ago in response to questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For these articles, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

At the end of the 2023 college football season, a number of Michigan prospects got a boost to their draft stocks after the Wolverines won the National Championship. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy was the headliner, but linebacker Junior Colson was another Wolverine who some were projecting in the first round. In 2023, Colson totaled 95 tackles, two tackles for a loss and two passes broken up. He produced more the previous season with 101 tackles, six tackles for a loss, two sacks and one pass broken up. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder also has size, speed and athleticism for the next level. Thus, it was surprising to some when Colson slipped to the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Team sources told WalterFootball.com they felt that Colson’s game was inconsistent, and they were not as high on him as the media was. They said they believed that for the NFL, Colson would need development in taking on and shedding blocks. Colson did well in pursuit, but he also did not stand out for having above-average instincts.

The Los Angeles Chargers ended Colson’s slide in the third round, and that was a great landing spot for him. Colson will be reunited with his college coach Jim Harbaugh, and that familiarity should help ease Colson’s transition to the NFL. The Chargers also lack long-term starting linebackers. Veteran Denzel Perryman was signed, but he is not a long-term starter, and Colson could compete for the starting spot next to Perryman immediately. Even if Colson gets beaten out by the likes of Daiyan Henley or Nick Niemann, Colson could spend a year as a backup and then be the starter to replace Perryman. Colson also has the benefit of good edge-rushing talent to command attention and a difference-maker at strong safety in Derwin James, who can be effective as the eighth man in the box. Colson will have every opportunity to launch a productive NFL career with the Chargers.


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