Luketa is very good in this regard and effective in a number of different roles. He’s got good vision and anticipation to understand opportunities to play aggressive and press the backfield. He’s got a good ability to stack and shed and he’s assertive in doing so. His range as a pursuit player is sufficient and Luketa offers good tackling in space when he’s to the playside and challenged with perimeter runs or quick-hitting screens to the outside.
Hand Power/Block Deconstruction
Hand Power/Block Deconstruction
This is an area of Luketa’s game that I think really stands out in a good way. He’s got length, he’s got heavy hands, and, just as important, he’s violent with them to stun and create excellent knock back against both skill players and offensive linemen. Luketa creates ample space for himself to scrape off of blocks and illustrates the upper-body power to snatch or yank blockers off of their platform.
Luketa has served as a team captain for multiple years at both the high school and college level, so I don’t foresee any issues with him as a high character presence in the locker room. He’s a high-energy player and does very well to charge up his teammates with enthusiasm after a big play. I appreciated his ability to step in for LB Ellis Brooks vs. Wisconsin after a targeting ejection and man the ILB spot to get Penn State through the rest of the fourth quarter and be effective with calls.
Penn State’s Jesse Luketa is a hybrid defender who has been able to forge an impact for the Nittany Lions defense as both a stack linebacker and a defensive end throughout the course of his college career. In the pro game, I would look for Luketa to play a hybrid outside linebacker role where his length and violent hands can shine at the point of attack and when engaging against blockers at the point of attack.
He’s likely an early-down option and may need to defer his passing down reps to a more refined rusher until he’s afforded the opportunity to build out his own pass-rush skill set (0.5 career sacks). However, Luketa looks as though he can be an effective base outside linebacker and appears to have enough tools in the toolbox to further level up his game. I’m impressed with his motor, too—this is a player who offers tireless effort. Born originally in Ottawa, Luketa was an accomplished prep athlete who lettered in basketball in addition to being a 4-star recruit and a top-10 recruit in the state of Pennsylvania when he left for college. His football character is highly acknowledged in the form of leadership roles. He was a three-time captain at the high school level and has served two years as a captain for the Nittany Lions.
Ideal role: Early-down hybrid linebacker
Scheme tendencies: Multiple front scheme with blitz-heavy tendencies to help manufacture free runners
Written by Kyle Crabbs
Games watched: Ohio State-2nd half (2020), Wisconsin (2021), Auburn (2021), Iowa (2021), Ohio State (2021)
Best Game Studied: Iowa (2021)
Worst Game Studied: Ohio State (2020)
Tackling: He’s gotten plenty of experience tackling in space thanks to a high workload on both defense and special teams. He’s got great length and his tackle radius is effective to wrap and finish. He’s capable of unloading forcible finishes and he’s not someone who is going to get run over in high-speed collisions. His ability to finish with power makes him someone who can consistently put down ball-carriers when unlocking himself from blocks late in the play.
Football IQ/Instincts: Luketa’s transition to the pro game will hinge on where he’s asked to play with the most consistency. I like his ability to diagnose and quickly discard blocks on the perimeter and I think he’s going to shine best as an on-the-LOS hybrid EDGE ‘backer, but that role will have to come with pass-rush reps and I just haven’t seen enough consistency there to think he can hit the ground running as a rookie. But I do think he’s got the upside to develop into an effective speed-to-power rusher.
Competitive Toughness: This is a tireless player who plays like the Energizer Bunny; he’s constantly in motion. There’s little noticeable dip in his performance throughout the game, although Penn State did intermittently rotate him out in order to keep bodies fresh in the front.
Pass Coverage Ability: This is an area where I think we’ll see a more limited version of Luketa than we saw at Penn State. He was charged with playing as a stack ‘backer at times and playing shallow zones underneath. While he’s got the length to do so again in the pros and influence throwing windows, I don’t necessarily see an athlete with the fluidity in his frame to effectively change gears and ride routes through his zones in space. I also wouldn’t condone a role that features turn-and-run coverage transitioning off the line of scrimmage, either.
Run Defending: See Above.
Block Deconstruction: See Above.
Lateral Mobility: I certainly wouldn’t put him on the backside and ask him to scrape and flow to chase. He doesn’t have that kind of dynamic juice to play away from leverage. In short spaces, he wins more often with hands that displace blockers as compared to finesse rushing and converting to dip past hands and push into a gap.
Flexibility: This isn’t an athlete with a very high level of bend and tilt to his frame, but he doesn’t play a role that requires that of him, either. He’s fairly tightly wound and you see it pop on transitions and when needing to flip and carry to space on the perimeter. He needs heavy-handed blows or an inside path to push for penetration. I don’t foresee him playing a finesse style of ball.
Leadership: See Above.
Versatility: Obviously his resume speaks for itself with reps taken as both a stack linebacker and a pass rusher on the edge. I think his off-ball resume will be watered down for the pro game, but I can see him as a SAM linebacker and I can certainly see him fulfilling a prominent role on special teams as a punt team player and someone who serves on the kickoff team.
TDN Consensus: 74.08/100 (Fourth Round Value)
Crabbs Grade: 76.00/100
Marino Grade: 73.50/100
Harris Grade: 73.00/100
Sanchez Grade: 72.50/100
Weissman Grade: 74.50/100
Parson Grade: 75.00/100