2020 NFL Draft Positional Rankings: Linebackers and Defensive Backsby Gio Damico April 22, 2020
The Scorecrow Scout Team | April 22nd, 2020
We are almost there! The 2020 NFL draft is almost here and it’s going to be a draft like no other in NFL history. However, once the draft starts and the picks start rolling, everyone will forget about how the draft is being done remotely and focus on who is being picked and what team is trading up. Here at The Scorecrow, five of our NFL draft scouts (Givanni Damico, Mason Thompson, Connor Neal, Byron Jewell, Brady Podloski) have put together a list of their top-five at each position.
In addition to listing off their top-fives, each scout will give a quick explanation for what player at the position is the most underrated and most overrated. The final part of the series is on linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties. Remember all of our scouts hate your favorite prospect and rank them too low or not at all just to annoy you. Without further ado let’s get started!
Gio – Logan Wilson, Wyoming
Wilson is an all-around stud who can fit any defense at the next level. He’s a great athlete with good coverage ability and excellent tackling technique. Wilson is extremely intelligent as well; I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a team captain five years down the road.
Mason – Logan Wilson, Wyoming
Excellent production at Wyoming. Extremely physical and willing tackler that is able to diagnose plays before they develop in front of him. Good range and athleticism and has the ability to cover some zones in coverage, albeit not as much man coverage. He will be a great special teamer.
Connor – Willie Gay Jr., Mississippi State
If not for Gay’s off the field issues, he would likely be regarded as a top-five linebacker by most. Gay can tackle and cover very well, you can’t rely on him to blitz the quarterback for you because you won’t get much success. However, watching his film I see a very similar player to that of Jaylon Smith who can develop into that tier of a player if he can clean up his off the field issues.
Byron – Logan Wilson, Wyoming
Wilson can play any linebacker spot on a roster. He posses nice zone cover ability, excellent at processing and reading plays before and after they develop, and great tackling skills. His play doesn’t quite match his combine numbers (ran a 4.6 40 yard dash) but he can play all three downs and has a high floor.
Brady – Shaquille Quarterman, Miami
A traditional middle linebacker who is a reliable tackler. Quarterman is physical and can play the run very well. He is projected to go in the fourth or fifth round and can be a solid first and second down player. He has some experience in zone coverage and is limited in man coverage due to his lack of speed. Overall, getting Quarterman in the fifth round is a steal, as a team can have him start on first and second down, while they develop his coverage skills.
Gio – Willie Gay Jr., Mississippi State
Way too many red flags for me to consider drafting him before the fourth round. I want a reliable team player, not a guy who fights the other team as well as his own teammates. He’s a good athlete, but I’m worried he may not be “coachable”.
Mason – Malik Harrison, Ohio State
I was between Harrison and Murray here. Harrison isn’t much more than a run defender who doesn’t have elite athleticism. He doesn’t have much cover ability and takes a longer time to diagnose plays than most players slated to be drafted after him.
Connor – Malik Harrison, Ohio State
Harrison isn’t a good athlete nor can he cover. He will need to improve his response time and play recognition. If Harrison can not improve his game, he will likely be a pass-rushing or run-stopping linebacker in the NFL, which is still very good. Yet, that doesn’t garner him the top five linebacker hype he gets.
Byron – Willie Gay Jr., Mississippi State
Don’t get me wrong, Gay has all the upside in the world and is gifted with a rare ability of range, hitting power, and top-notch speed. But with all that being said, he hasn’t played nearly enough snaps to really judge him. He really only had a nice sophomore season and otherwise dealt with numerous off the field issues. From cheating on tests to fighting other teams, to even fighting his own teammates, Gay is a risk a team will have to take.
Brady – Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
Murray played well in the second half of the 2019 season. He’s got great speed and range, making him a good coverage linebacker as he’s quickly able to get sideline to sideline. However, he lacks coverage experience, and when he did cover, it wasn’t good. The recognition and reaction is slow and makes him misdiagnose plays. From his misreads, he then gets out of position and struggles to shed blocks. I don’t believe he warrants the high second-round pick he’s been getting mock as.
Gio – Trajan Bandy, Miami
Bandy is a very physical corner with sharp instincts. His tackling ability is better than that of Henderson. He’s solid in both zone and man coverage, although his tape in zone stood out a bit more. Bandy talks a lot of smack to opposing receivers and just seems like a guy that I want on my team.
Mason – Amik Robertson, Louisiana Tech
Robertson is a prime candidate to be a team’s starting nickel cornerback for several years. While he may only be 5’9”, he is a willing tackler with above-average physicality for his size. He is great in both man and zone coverages and reminds me of Jaire Alexander.
Connor – Reggie Robinson III, Tulsa
Robinson has the size to play outside and the skills to develop into a very good starting corner. However, currently, Robinson is very raw and can’t be expected to play right away. He has very impressive ball skills along with being good at man coverage, press, and instincts. Robinson needs to work on his zone coverage, anticipation, and tackling.
Byron – Michael Ojemudia, Iowa
Ojemudia is a long, smooth corner prospect who I think has all the tools to really succeed at the next level. He’s physical and isn’t afraid to go downhill to make a tackle at all, in fact, he embraces it. Ojemudia is a very smart and calculates his moves and is super effective in zone coverage. His long speed was his biggest concern on tape but he helped quiet that noise as he ran a 4.45 at the combine. More of a scheme-specific player, Ojemudia has all the tools to have a successful career.
Brady – Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn
Igbinoghene has only been playing cornerback for two seasons and had some high-level play this past year. He’s inconsistent with his technique (from the lack of experience), but the length, speed, and recognition are all there. He needs to play in a limited role for the 2020 season to get a better understanding of the nuanced aspects of the position. Overall, Igbinoghene is a high upside project that needs to get better in coverage. Igbinoghene ceiling is being a top cornerback on a team (in a year or two), but his floor is very low as receivers could feast on his lack of coverage skills.
Gio – Jaylon Johnson, Utah
Johnson seems to be a strictly press corner. He didn’t see much work in zone coverage at Utah, but when he did, he looked soft. He’s physical in coverage but doesn’t care to get involved as a tackler. He almost looks lazy which is the last thing I want in a corner.
Mason – Jaylon Johnson, Utah
Johnson is purely a press corner who uses his physicality to his advantage. He doesn’t have the speed or flexibility to play well in zone coverage. While he may be physical in coverage, he doesn’t show any toughness as a tackler. Johnson is most likely to go in the late-second round, but I see that as a reach for whoever takes him.
Connor – A.J. Terrell, Clemson
Terrell is a very handsy corner, which in the NFL will bring the team a lot of flags. He can’t contribute in run defense due to his poor tackling. He also likes to bait quarterbacks which won’t work out very well for him in the pros.
Byron – Trevon Diggs, Alabama
Diggs is a prototypical press man corner, who’s best attribute might be his length. When the best part of your length is your arms, you have concerns. He’s a decent zone corner who had the blessing of playing in Nick Saban’s defense, but he’s very inconsistent and bad as a tackler and struggles mightily with tracking the ball in the air. He needs the perfect system to succeed.
Brady – Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State
Dantzler is a good all-around player but is really limited by athleticism. I like Dantzler’s ability to play man to man coverage, yet when challenged on deep routes, he lacks the speed necessary to recover. My concern is the jump from college to the pros, as NFL receivers are even faster. While Long speed is one issue, his inability to play press coverage despite being 6’1” and 185 pounds is concerning. He should have been able to dominate receivers week in and out, yet there was lots of inconsistency.
Gio – Geno Stone, Iowa
While I was watching Ojemudia’s tape, Stone stood out. He has great instincts and seems to be a ball hawk. He has good tackling ability. His zone coverage is a bit soft at times but he has good anticipation and closes the gap well. At the very least, Stone should be a successful special teamer at the next level.
Mason – Kenny Robinson, West Virginia
Robinson was dismissed from West Virginia due to academic fraud and then went on to play in the XFL. He has elite ball skills and physicality but can sometimes concede yards as a tackler. I don’t have a consistent draft range for Robinson, but a team will be getting a great player at a discount price.
Connor – Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois
Chinn, the nephew of Hall of Famer Steve Atwater, is the discounted version of Simmons. Chinn can play linebacker, nickel, and safety. All of which he can do at a high level. Chinn is an athletic freak who is a fast, hard-hitting safety with good ball skills and has a very good range. The one thing Chinn really needs to improve upon is his man coverage, as he struggles covering receivers one-on-one.
Byron – Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois
Chinn has been overlooked his whole football-related life. Just a one-star recruit coming out of high school and playing at an FCS level school, he is physically gifted and has elite athleticism that should translate well to the next level. Chinn dominated the lower level of competition, with elite ball skills, physicality, and versatility. He’s an ideal starter at the strong safety position and will look to provide a nice playmaking ability to a defense.
Brady – Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois
Chinn’s best role is when he’s in the zone and can keep his eyes on the quarterback and play in front of him. At 6’3” and 219 lbs, Chinn can be a linebacker if he really wanted to. He has the physicality, but his versatility at safety may allow him to be played similarly to Derwin James. While he isn’t James in terms of recognition and production, he has the physical tools to be a very successful safety in the league. Don’t be surprised if you see him drafted in the early second round.
Gio – Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne
I don’t honestly have a good answer here. I don’t think there’s an overrated safety in this class. Dugger has just been getting a lot of hype and I don’t know if he can live up to it. If none were an option, I’d pick it.
Mason – Grant Delpit, LSU
No real specific candidates I could’ve chosen here. Delpit is an exceptional athlete, but is inconsistent as a tackler. He is great in every other aspect of his game but his tackling is a clear weakness that could potentially drop him out of the first round.
Connor – Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne
I don’t believe there is a single safety in this class that is garnering hype that they don’t deserve. If I had to pick one though, it would have to be Dugger. He is still a very good prospect, don’t get me wrong, but he struggles in many areas of his game as well. Dugger needs to improve his tackling, strength, and mental game.
Byron – Grant Delpit, LSU
This is one of the more obvious picks. Delpit had an absolutely fantastic 2018 season that raised his draft stock all the way to the top-five range. He followed up that season with an awful year last season and didn’t even look like the same player. He’s a playmaker and has excellent range and ball skills, but he’s one of the worst tacklers I’ve seen in the class. He was inconsistent and was a weak link tackling in the open field, but is a physical player overall which is confusing. Delpit is very risky and could either be a Pro Bowl talent or just a backup depth piece.
Brady – Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota
Winfield is a solid player and has exceptional coverage skills and instincts for the position, but does not warrant the first or second round hype. The problem with his game is his speed and length (only 5’9”). He doesn’t have the long speed to play single high coverage and would have to play split field (two safeties high). He has poor versatility, as well as limited length for man to man coverage which makes me nervous against larger receivers, yet I also don’t believe he has the agility to cover smaller and quicker receivers in the NFL. Injuries are also a concern as he only played a total of eight games from 2017 to 2018.
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