It's the Lord's day, which also means it's time for my scouting takeaways of the week! The theme for my film study this week was the linebacker position. As I started putting together a preseason top-100 big board for the 2020 NFL draft, there were three linebackers in particular that I found myself higher on than others. Here are those players:
Jacob Phillips - LSU
Jacob Phillips is LSU's top returning tackler and set to take over Devin White's role for the Tigers' defense. As a true junior, I truly believe he is about to have his breakout season in the SEC. At 6'4, 233 pounds, Phillips has the physical profile you look for in an off-ball linebacker. His length plays a big role, both at the point of attack against the run, as well as in coverage. He also has an excellent blend of power and range to defend all levels of the field. In my opinion, Phillips has all the tools to be an impact player at the next level, but it's all about being more consistent from snap to snap. He overruns plays and doesn't change speeds as an open-field tackler. However, he possesses talent and size that you can't teach, and I think he will assert himself as one of the 2020 NFL draft's top linebacker prospects after this season.
T.J. Brunson - South Carolina
Is T.J. Brunson undersized? Yes. Will he blow up the NFL Combine? Nope. But what I love about Brunson's game is the physical edge he brings each snap. He plays with a level of tenacity that I haven't seen in any other draft-eligible prospect so far. His ability to blend together instincts, aggressiveness, and control at the same time is what has made him one of the most productive linebackers in the SEC the last two seasons. With his natural feel for the game, he is just one of those players that I think was born to be a linebacker. You rarely ever see him out of position or making mental mistakes on the field. Quite simply, his energy, mental processing, and physicality elevates the entire defense. Brunson may not have the profile of an early-round draft pick, but I'm confident he will be an impact player at the next level.
Mohamed Barry - Nebraska
Mohamed Barry is a really interesting prospect to study. He moves like a safety, but also has the closing speed and stopping power of a freight train. Combine that with his football intelligence, and there is a reason why Barry is one of the most productive defenders returning to the Big Ten. Barry's sideline-to-sideline range is what immediately pops out on tape, but it's his quick read-and-react trigger that I highlighted in my notes. He doesn't hesitate, and while that does bite him on occasion, I love that whenever Barry sees it, he is immediately in attack mode. One thing that you will never, ever see on a Mohamed Barry scouting report is an inconsistent motor. He will go out of his way to make sure he is around the ball, even if it means coming from across the field on a dead play. Barry has the potential to be a solid three-down linebacker at the next level, and I think his immediate impact in the NFL will be on special teams.