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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: LB Jake Hansen

  • The Draft Network
  • February 4, 2021
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Jake Hansen leaves the Illinois program as one of the more accomplished defenders in recent history. With 10 forced fumbles, Hansen sits tied for third on the all-time list and his 26.0 tackles for loss is a testament to his slipperiness in shooting gaps. Hansen offers adequate size to play on the B-level in the NFL, but his projection won’t be as filled with the opportunities he’s been afforded with the Illini. Hansen isn’t a power player but his mobility in space leaves room for missed assignments and his athleticism will test his ability to fill an every-down role. Hansen is at his best working scrape exchanges along the perimeter and twisting into inside gaps and shooting to the mesh point, so a stack linebacker role is more favorable if he’s not charged with playing in the middle and tasking him with filtering through blocks and trash climbing into his lap. Hansen should have a viable chance to stick on special teams but his ceiling as a defender feels like a rotational player. He also missed all of 2017 with a significant knee injury and missed the final 4 games in 2019 with another injury, so durability will be a question that needs to be answered. 

Ideal Role: Rotational linebacker with core special teams opportunities.

Scheme Fit: 4-3 WILL LB.


Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Wisconsin (2020), Purdue (2020), Nebraska (2020), Penn State (2020)

Best Game Studied: Purdue (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Wisconsin (2020)

Tackling: Hansen has shown to be an impressive tackler from a consistency perspective—he was credited with only three missed tackles in 2020. He showcases a strong awareness of attacking the football and creating turnover opportunities as well. He’s not the most stout frame and bigger bodies or ball-carriers with momentum can press him at contact and gain some hidden yardage. 

Football IQ/Instincts: Hansen does plenty from a processing perspective to work gap exchanges with his end and play mesh point or outside runs with successful challenges working to the line of scrimmage. He has some tendencies in pass coverage to overcommit to the first color to flash and he generally doesn’t offer a lot of appeal as an instinctive defender in space when projecting to the pros. 

Competitive Toughness: Functional strength is adequate and he has enough mass on his frame to apply plenty of force into his challenges. But with that in mind, climbing OL will pose significant challenges and his ability to play off of contact or subsequently challenge ball carriers while engaged with blockers is not a strength by any stretch of the imagination; he needs to be clean to successfully challenge and finish plays. 

Pass Coverage Ability: He showed some short zone appeal, but his agility and fluidity in coverage don’t appear to project favorably to the pros. He’s done well to ROBOT and hunt up crossers working behind him, but he can be equally suckered into taking aggressive drive on the first arriving route into his vicinity and can be manipulated by hi-lo reads. 

Run Defending: Hansen has plenty of production on this front and had a strong final season to set career high in tackles for loss in 2020—run blitz opportunities get him into gaps quickly and he’ll beat blockers out of their stances. Scrape and flow from the second level is adequate but his ability to drive back across his momentum to counter a steep cut from the back doesn’t afford him a clean transition or successful come to balance. 

Block Deconstruction: Hansen is more successful playing off of blocks by ripping through hands than he is punching, extending, and shedding with upper-body power. Putting him in a phone booth will be problematic, but he’s swift enough to duck under blocks and get skinny to uncover in the gap. Climbing double teams and OL will pose challenges on flat-footed reads. 

Lateral Mobility: He has adequate range to scrape from the backside and play in pursuit. His initial quickness when stepping into the LOS is where he’s most effective to finesse and dip around blocks before coming to balance. His scrape and trace abilities are suitable, but if he needs to double back, he runs the risk of failing to re-establish his base and his ability to play stout at contact is compromised as a result. 

Flexibility: Hansen did appear to struggle with steep angles and rotational range of motion—his deep drops to carry 3-strong up the field were labored and late to get started when pressed vertically. When needing to plant and drive against his momentum, his feet constantly slipped and he didn’t show good force in his plant foot, suggesting he’s a little tight in the hips and does not play with a dynamic base. 

Leadership: Hansen was an active communicator for the Illini defense and his senior leadership led to him being voted a permanent team captain for the 2020 season by his teammates and coaches. 

Versatility: There isn’t a lot of appeal to playing Hansen in consistent rush situations and I don’t foresee a favorable outcome to playing MIKE linebacker—making him a “first off” candidate in subpackage defenses.


TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Kyle Crabbs: 67.5/100

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