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2021 NFL Draft: A look at the Inside Linebackers

Will the Rams select one (or more) of these players?

Tulane v Houston Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

This year could present many challenges in evaluating how the 2021 NFL Draft will fall, making it even more difficult to predict than usual. And it is much harder to predict than many expert mock drafters would claim.

Those challenges are only compounded when evaluating the inside linebackers, as rankings and organization can be difficult when looking at these players who may fill several different roles, depending on what type of defense they are playing in. College’s outside linebacker could be the NFL’s inside linebacker, and vice versa. If not even going so far as to convert safeties to linebackers or vice versa.

So forgive the “order” that follows because it is not really an order at all. I am posting 12 names from WalterFootball’s website and supplementing that with six more names to consider from around the internet.

Here are 18 potential inside linebackers for the LA Rams to look at as the draft approaches and only a couple of them are being projected at this point to go well ahead of the Rams’ first pick in the second round.

Walter Football’s Top 12 Inside Linebackers

Micah Parsons, Penn State

6’3, 245 lbs

Parsons collected 109 tackles with five sacks, four forced fumbles and five passes defended in 2019. He was always around the ball and produced some splash plays for Penn State. Parsons broke into the starting lineup as a true freshman and showed a lot of upside to develop into an intriguing player. For 2018, he totaled 83 tackles with five for a loss, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Penn State v Memphis Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Zaven Collins, Tulsa

6’4, 256 lbs

After some skepticism from NFL scouts at the start of the fall, they were raving about Collins by the end of the season. They feel he could be a 4-3 Sam linebacker or Mike - middle - linebacker while also being a great fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Collins has showed explosive speed, athleticism, an ability to cover, and play in space. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Collins should go no lower than the second round.

Tulsa v South Florida Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Chazz Surratt, North Carolina

6’1, 227 lbs

For the NFL, Surratt has a good skill set with size, speed, strength and athleticism. He is raw and needs development. Surratt has issues with missed tackles, and his instincts can be streaky. In time, he could be a good pro linebacker, but improving his instincts, tackling, and reading his keys will be imperative to develop into a good NFL player.

9/5/20: Surratt broke out at linebacker for the Tar Heels in 2019, totaling 115 tackles with 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble, three passes defended and an interception. He has had an interesting college career, having served as North Carolina’s starting quarterback for seven games in 2017, where he completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,342 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions.

Dylan Moses, Alabama

6’3, 233 lbs

The 2020 season was underwhelming overall for Moses. While Moses showed some coverage skills and tackling ability, his instincts were just average at best according to team sources. Reading his keys faster and showing more anticipation are points of development for Moses.

9/5/20: Alabama has been a factory for linebacker talent, and Moses will keep that tradition alive for the 2021 NFL Draft, provided he can stay healthy. Team sources were really excited about seeing him in 2019, but a torn ACL in training camp ended his season before it started.

Baron Browning, Ohio State

6’3, 240 lbs

Browning was quiet in the early going before finishing the 2020 season well. He made some nice plays in the playoff against Clemson and Alabama. Browning has a quality skill set and some upside to develop.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 30 Senior Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pete Werner, Ohio State

6’3, 239 lbs

Werner came on strong late in the season for Ohio State. He was a tough run defender who came up with some clutch stops for the Buckeyes.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 11 CFP National Championship - Alabama v Ohio State Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tony Fields II, West Virginia

6’1, 222 lbs

Fields (6-1, 220) was a productive tackler over the past four seasons at Arizona and West Virginia, with his steady play earning him a spot at the Senior Bowl. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder has some speed and athleticism to chase down ball-carriers and is a solid tackler. Fields totaled 88 tackles, an interception, a sack and two passes defended in 2020.

Paddy Fisher, Northwestern

6’4, 241 lbs

Fisher kept up his relentless tackling in 2020, but he has pass-coverage and athletic limitations for the NFL. Fisher has quality instincts and is a solid defender with a knack for forcing the ball loose, as he has nine forced fumbles in his career. Fisher may not have the speed, athleticism, and cover skills to be a three-down starter in the NFL.

Grant Stuard, Houston

6’1, 225 lbs

Houston had a quirky 2020 schedule because of the virus, but Stuard stayed consistent, producing quality tackle totals. He recorded 61 stops and a sack on the year. As a junior, he had 97 tackles with one sack and four passes broken up. Stuard could stand to add some weight for the NFL, but his steady play earned him an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he had a decent week. He has special teams potential for the NFL.

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

K.J. Britt, Auburn

6’, 236 lbs

Britt was a solid run defender for Auburn in 2020. He didn’t show significantly improved pass-coverage ability, but he had a solid week at the Senior Bowl.

Dorian Etheridge, Louisville

6’3, 230 lbs

Etheridge played well in 2020. He is fine a respectable job with his tackle totals and run defense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 Virginia at Louisville Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tuf Borland, Ohio State

6’1, 232 lbs

Borland was solid for Ohio State. He is a dependable run defender, but he looks like a backup quality linebacker and special teams contributor for the NFL due to limitations in pass coverage.

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Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin

6’1, 232 lbs

The Draft Network:

He offers sufficient lateral mobility and range and can fill the MIKE role at the NFL level comfortably from an athletic perspective. Showed good effectiveness to punch, stun and shed blocks from interior OL climbing to influence his scrape.

There’s a bit of tightness ot his hips and he’s not the most fluid in his coverage drops — not certain how well he’ll hold up in man to man coverage against NFL TEs that implement a lot of pressure looks and isolate their backers in coverage.

Erroll Thompson, Mississippi State

6’1, 250 lbs

The Draft Network:

Erroll Thompson is a top-heavy, old-school, thumper type of MIKE (middle) linebacker. Thompson loves physicality and would stick his head in barbed wire if that was the case to get to the ball. Fearless with sticking his head in the action, he brings lots of physicality to ball-carriers and it’s often that they are knocked cleanly backward when experiencing hits from him.

The inappropriately-named DraftBlaster.com top 9 ILB

Micah Parsons, Penn State

Nick Bolton, Missouri

6’, 232 lbs

From Big Blue View:

Bolton projects as an off-ball WILL linebacker at the NFL level.

He should be a reliable contributor on defense, but whether he has starting upside will depend on the defense he lands in. Bolton will need to be in a defense in which the defensive line eats blocks and allows the linebackers to rally to the ball in run defense, as well as a zone-heavy pass coverage. While he is a solid athlete and has plenty of power when it comes to tackling, he doesn’t appear to have the ability to hold up in man coverage at the NFL, nor does he take on blockers well.

Chazz Surratt, UNC

Jabril Cox, LSU

6’3, 229 lbs

From ProFootballNetwork:

Cox has the tools to fill in at both weak and strong-side linebacker situationally. He could also play linebacker in a 3-4 alignment, where his ability as a blitzer could be magnified. Versatility is the name of the game for Cox. With his athleticism, he can do a lot of things that other linebackers can’t. In an NFL where that mix-and-match capability is so important, that’s a big point of emphasis for the LSU linebacker.

Teams like the Washington Football Team, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, and Atlanta Falcons, would benefit greatly from Cox’s dynamic ability. He also fits the locker room culture that these teams are trying to establish as they look to take the next step. There are, of course, other teams that could also use Cox’s talents. On Day 2, he offers a ton of value with his physical potential. He’ll be 23 by the NFL Draft, but his ability to quickly adapt to his surroundings bodes well for him, both for his impending transition and for his quest to become a starter.

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Baron Browning, Ohio State

Tony Fields, West Virginia

Dylan Moses, Alabama

Cameron McGrone, Michigan

6’1, 232 lbs

The Draft Network:

Cameron McGrone projects as a starting MIKE linebacker at the professional level. McGrone is just a redshirt sophomore who enters the NFL draft process with just 19 games and 15 starts at Michigan under his belt—a significantly small sample size that will leave teams needing a little extra clarity in order to decipher his ceiling within their respective defensive systems.

Mohamed Sanogo, Mississippi

From The Grove Report:

Sanogo missed a good bit of the 2019 season after suffering a season-ending ankle injury during the second game of the season. As a sophomore in 2018, Sanogo finished third in the SEC in tackles per game with 9.3, becoming just the second Rebel of the past twelve years to record over 100 tackles in a season.