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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: LB Isaiah McDuffie

  • The Draft Network
  • January 31, 2021
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A high school running back and linebacker, Isaiah McDuffie initially played safety at Boston College before transitioning and settling into the linebacker position where he started for 2.5 seasons. McDuffie’s best year came in 2018 and he never built on that season. When studying McDuffie on film, it’s easy to notice his functional athleticism, quickness, fluidity, and urgency. He’s a good athlete that is hard-charging in pursuit and plays with the game with great enthusiasm. McDuffie is an excellent tackler that aims low, wraps, and rarely comes up empty. From a physical traits perspective, he has the ability to play in space and coverage. With that said, McDuffie has to become a better processor. While he makes quick reads, they are often incorrect. Compounding matters is that he often plays the game through a straw and struggles to get off blocks. McDuffie has many of the characteristics of a matchup linebacker in a 4-3 defense where he can cover, play in space, and pursue, but he has a long way to go in terms of play diagnosing and processing. McDuffie was a steady presence on special teams at Boston College and that is probably his best chance of sticking at the next level to give him a chance to develop as a linebacker. 

Ideal Role: Developmental WILL linebacker, special teams contributor. 

Scheme Fit: 4-3.


Written by: Joe Marino 

Games watched: Duke (2020), North Carolina (2020), Clemson (2020), Notre Dame (2020. 

Best Game Studied: Duke (2020), North Carolina (2020) for blitz reps

Worst Game Studied: Clemson (2020) 

Tackling: McDuffie is an excellent tackler. He arrives aggressively and is intentional about wrapping, grabbing cloth, and getting the ball-carrier on the ground. He’s flexible and capable of finishing outside of his frame. 

Football IQ: McDuffie flies around the field but his ability to correctly diagnose plays is highly inconsistent. He often plays the game through a straw and has poor spatial awareness. He makes full speed mistakes and is regularly out of position. He has to become more disciplined with his eyes, focus on his keys, and learn how to correctly interpret them. 

Competitive Toughness: McDuffie is an urgent and aggressive football player. Despite being a touch undersized, he is willing to be physical and explode into contact. He consistently has outstanding enthusiasm in pursuit.  

Pass Coverage Ability: McDuffie has ideal physical traits to be effective in coverage. He is springy in all directions, fluid in his pedal, and he has the speed to stay in phase with running backs and tight ends. With that said, he has to develop more feel for layering zone coverage and anticipating routes to be more consistent. 

Run Defending: McDuffie is a below-average run defender. His incorrect processing tendencies are a major issue, but so are his angels and ability to defeat blocks. If he can be kept clean and actually diagnose the play correctly, he can be effective. He’s mostly a “see and chase” run defender that needs a clear path to the football. 

Block Deconstruction: McDuffie has some flashy moments stacking and shedding blocks and I’ve seen him utilize a push-pull technique. He also has some quality reps cornering blocks and using his hands like an edge rusher to soften angles and get around blockers. With that said, his awareness of blocks is often lacking and he gets blasted on his way to the football.  

Lateral Mobility: McDuffie has easy movement skills in all directions. He flows quickly and smoothly in lateral pursuit and can cover plenty of ground. He does a good job cutting off running backs out of the backfield on flare routes. 

Flexibility: McDuffie has good flexibility throughout his frame. As a blitzer off the edge, he showcases the ability to bend, corner, and explode to the quarterback. He’s fluid with his change of direction ability and easily flips his hips to turn and run.  

Leadership: McDuffie was a three-year captain in high school. He made the move from safety to linebacker, embraced the transition, and developed into an All-ACC defender. He’s been a steady presence on special teams at Boston College. 

Versatility: McDuffie has the traits needed to be an effective space player that thrives in coverage. He’s had some impressive reps as a blitzer and gap shooter. With that said, his processing skills limit the positions he can play and he’s likely only a pursuit-style weakside linebacker in a 4-3. 

Prospect Comparison: Duke Riley (2017 NFL Draft, Atlanta Falcons) 


TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Joe Marino: 72.50/100

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