The race to be the No. 1 linebacker drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft will be on full display throughout the NFL Combine. Oregon’s Noah Sewell, Clemson’s Trenton Simpson, and Alabama’s Henry To’o To’o were among the linebackers that met with the media during Wednesday morning’s press conference gauntlet. All three prospects attempted to lay their stake to the claim.
Simpson is currently a leading favorite to become the first linebacker drafted. Simpson was electric throughout the 2022 campaign. Simpson recorded 72 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. An absolute menace at all three levels, Simpson’s versatility is going to appeal to creative defensive coordinators.
Simpson expects to weigh in at a bulked-up 235 pounds at the combine. Simpson compared his skill set to that of Micah Parsons and Isaiah Simmons while speaking at the podium. Simpson is a hybrid and positionless defender that can impact the game in a variety of ways when utilized correctly. When it comes to his on-field testing, Simpson proudly proclaimed, “I’m a 4.4 guy!.”
Trenton Simpson says he feels every team likes his versatility and that he can play on all 3 levels of the defense. Compares his game to Micah Parsons and Isaiah Simmons.#NFLCombine | #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/auwXBXd7HL
— The Draft Network (@TheDraftNetwork) March 1, 2023
Simpson will face competition from To’o To’o. To’o To’o is a smart, physical, and instinctual linebacker that showcased high-level football IQ throughout four productive campaigns (2019-22) at Tennessee and Alabama. To’o To’o understands that his pre-snap prowess helps set him apart from other linebackers in the 2023 NFL Draft. To’o To’o diagnoses and triggers downhill with rare decisiveness.
“My instincts, how smart I am, and how physical I am,” To’o To’o said when asked about why he’s the best linebacker in the 2023 draft.
To’o To’o also credited his toughness to his Polynesian background and experience playing Rugby. One of the most physical and violent organized sports, Rugby teaches terrific discipline while placing emphasis on strength and durability. To’o To’o is wholly aware of what standout traits make him a unique prospect.
Alabama LB Henry To’o To’o attributed his background in rugby to his toughness:
“Rugby is big in Polynesian culture — if you’re not tough and you’re Samoan something is wrong with you.” pic.twitter.com/5YuEPzaM8g
— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) March 1, 2023
Sewell is a throwback linebacker that doesn’t plan on being outshined by his competitors. A three-year starter at Oregon, Sewell departed the Ducks program after racking up 218 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss, nine pass breakups, and three forced fumbles. Sewell is a rocked-up 6-foot-3, 250-pound prospect that will command the middle of an NFL defense.
Sewell also happens to be an above-average athlete with underrated versatility for the position. Sewell traditionally lined up as Oregon’s MIKE linebacker, but the Ducks flashed a willingness to move Sewell all over their formation, including snaps at EDGE and in the slot in coverage. Sewell is an aggressive, thumping ‘backer that triggers downhill. Sewell will be a box linebacker with plenty of tackle production.
Oregon LB Noah Sewell said his work ethic is important for his game. He works hard to be better.
Asked about his weight currently: “I’m at 250 right now”! pic.twitter.com/S7W79IqDJI
— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) March 1, 2023
The race to become the first linebacker drafted will remain unpredictable until the official pick is announced in late April. Arkansas’ Drew Sanders is another intriguing talent that’s entered the conversation. Sewell, To’o To’o, and Simpson all impressed while speaking with the media on Wednesday. The trio will remain in contention to the very end. Following and comparing their on-field testing results will be a fruitful exercise as these fierce competitors attempt to create some distance between their pre-draft stocks.
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