We’ve already examined the 2022 NFL Draft’s top 30 cornerbacks, edge rushers, safeties, and wide receivers. It’s a week overdue, but today we’ll examine the top 30 linebackers in the upcoming class, along with a few honorable mentions and some other names to watch in the draft process.
These are fluid rankings susceptible to change week-to-week based on performances, medical data, and measurables. The number ranking isn’t as important as a prospect’s tier. Most prospects are interchangeable with other players in their tier.
All of the players that appear below are draft-eligible, but some may return to college and wait until future drafts. Height, weight, and sack data are from ESPN.
I’m only one person and can’t watch every game on Saturday. Reach out to me @Sam_Teets 33 on Twitter or leave a comment at the bottom of this post if I’ve overlooked anyone that you believe deserves a spot on the top 30.
Tier 1- First-Round Selections
1. Nakobe Dean, LB Georgia
Dean is the draft’s top linebacker and could easily win some hardware when the college season ends. Despite the significant jump in competition, the former five-star recruit is still as dominant as he was in high school. Dean is a do-it-all linebacker with sideline-to-sideline range and elite athleticism, making him a rare dominant force in coverage.
Quarterbacks have targeted Dean 25 times this season, but he’s only allowed 13 receptions for 55 yards and no touchdowns. To top it off, he has two interceptions and two passes defensed. While Dean doesn’t rush the passer often, he’s applying pressure on 23.5% of his pass rushing snaps. Part of that probably comes with playing behind Georgia’s historically talented defensive line.
The only concern with Dean is his size. He’s 6'0", 225 lbs., which could lead to issues against climbing offensive linemen, in coverage against larger tight ends, and when trying to tackle power running backs. However, those issues haven’t arisen against SEC competition this year.
2. Devin Lloyd, LB Utah
Lloyd joined Utah as a three-star recruit. Now he’s one of the nation’s best linebackers and close to a consensus first-round pick. Lloyd could play MIKE (middle linebacker) in the NFL since he possesses sideline-to-sideline range and excellent movement skills. His long 6'3", 235 lb. frame fits the mold many teams are currently looking for, making Lloyd a hot commodity.
Lloyd is a rare combination of elite physical tools and significant experience. He’ll have close to 2,000 college snaps under his belt by the year’s end, and the tape reveals excellent progression during his four years with the Utes. Lloyd is terrific at finishing tackles, and he’s taken a significant step forward in coverage this year thanks to his agility.
The California native offers upside as a pass rusher (he has two seasons with at least six sacks) and has an award-winning stat line this year. According to ESPN, he’s amassed 85 tackles, six sacks, a forced fumble, six passes defensed, and three interceptions. Sports Reference credits him with 20 tackles for loss.
Tier 2- Second Round Selections
3. Christian Harris, LB Alabama
Harris is a junior and the latest Alabama linebacker to receive first-round looks entering the draft process. I’m a little lower on Harris than the consensus, even though he’s third on these rankings. He plays weakside linebacker (WLB) for the Crimson Tide. He triggers downhill quickly and lands some of the hardest hits among any player in this class.
No one doubts Harris’ downfield physicality, but his athletic profile doesn’t translate great in coverage. He’s allowed over 50 yards in coverage four times this season, and pass catchers average over 12 yards per reception when Harris covers them. The Louisiana native also lacks the size (6'2", 232 lbs.) to provide consistent pressure as a pass rusher.
4. Brandon Smith, LB Penn St.
Smith is a junior with five-star pedigree. He could probably play any linebacker role in 4-3 schemes. Similar to other highly touted Penn State defenders in recent drafts, Smith possesses elite physical gifts that haven’t translated to first-round caliber production yet. However, the Virginia native’s combination of burst, bend, length, power, and speed are top-notch.
At 6'3", 241 lbs., Smith offers upside as an edge rusher. He’s applied pressure on about 19% of his pass rushing snaps this year. Smith has also displayed improved skills in coverage over the past two years. He could develop into the 2022 draft’s top linebacker if he continues improving in coverage and cleans up some of the missed tackles.
5. Leo Chenal, LB Wisconsin
Chenal missed some time early in the year, but he’s played like a man possessed since returning to the lineup. According to ESPN, Chenal has 62 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in six games this year. Sports Reference goes as far as crediting the junior with 81 tackles and 15 tackles for loss.
Despite his size (6'2", 261 lbs.), Wisconsin doesn’t give Chenal many pass rushing snaps. I wouldn’t be surprised if an NFL team experiments with Chenal as a 3-4 outside linebacker, given his sack production and success against the run. He has elite physicality but must prove he’s more than a two-down linebacker.
Chenal remains unproven in pass coverage.
Tier 3- Rounding out Day 2
6. Jestin Jacobs, LB Iowa
Jacobs has two more years of eligibility at Iowa if he wants them, but the former four-star recruit has high-end potential. His limited experience (under 500 snaps in college) could make NFL teams uneasy, but the tape speaks for itself. Jacobs is 6'4", 236 lbs., but he looks leaner than that.
Despite his build, Jacobs is physical in coverage and is only allowing 6.8 yards per reception. He’s an exciting mover in coverage capable of sticking with tight ends in man-to-man assignments. Even with his athleticism, Jacobs still has the power and upper body strength of a true 236 lb. linebacker.
7. Chad Muma, LB Wyoming
Muma plays MIKE for the Cowboys. Wyoming doesn’t have the best strength of schedule, but the program faced several decent schools this season, and Muma stood out in each clash. At 6'3", 242 lbs., the Colorado native packs a punch in the ground game and has always boasted good tackling form.
While Muma possesses elite block shedding and evading skills, he’s a liability in pass coverage. The fourth-year Cowboy has three interceptions this season that mask his struggles, but examining previous years reveals a player that never looks completely comfortable in coverage.
8. Jack Campbell, LB Iowa
Campbell is a true junior capable of cracking the top 100 selections. He’s a standard MIKE linebacker possessing a 6'5", 243 lb. frame. Campbell has under 900 career snaps, but he’s turned heads over the past two years. During that time, he’s developed into one of the nation’s most sure tacklers and top run defenders.
Campbell’s weakness lies in coverage, where he’s allowed about one touchdown for every 100 coverage snaps.
9. Edefuan Ulofoshio, LB Washington
Ulofoshio was a walk-on when he joined the Huskies, but the 6'1", 235 lb. Alaska native has performed at a high level on limited snaps. He has just under 750 career college snaps, but he’s an elite tackler and rarely concedes anything in coverage. Ulofoshio’s lateral mobility and ability to dodge blockers make him a unique defensive chess piece.
Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending arm injury against UCLA that required surgery.
10. Payton Wilson, LB N.C. St.
A shoulder injury Wilson suffered in N.C. State’s second game required season-ending surgery and could push the former four-star recruit to return for another year of school. However, there’s still a chance for Wilson to go on Day 2 of the draft. The 6'4", 235 lb. linebacker has excellent length and plays the running game at a high level.
11. Henry To'oTo'o, LB Alabama
To'oTo'o transferred from Tennessee to Alabama this year to attract more national attention and win some football games. He’s done both so far and is a top 50 prospect on some big boards. I’m not ready to go that far given the junior’s continued struggles in coverage and issues finishing tackles.
To'oTo'o has plenty of flash moments where he sheds blocks to make crushing tackles or carries tight ends downfield. His athleticism hints that To'oTo'o could consistently play at that “flash” level with more practice, but he’s too inconsistent right now.
Tier 4- Early Day 3 Picks
12. DeMarvion Overshown, LB Texas
At 6'4", 223 lbs., Overshown has the exact build many teams are searching for. Unfortunately, the Texas product is having an awful season. He has the athletic traits to stick with players in coverage and flow sideline-to-sideline, but he’s missing nearly 20% of his tackle attempts for the third straight year.
Overshown separated himself from other linebackers with his coverage skills in the past, but quarterbacks are completing roughly 92% of their passes when going his way this year. Throw in that his frame doesn’t hold up well in the running game, and you’ve got one of the draft’s most controversial prospects.
13. Micah McFadden, LB Indiana
McFadden is highly productive in his role with the Hoosiers, but it’s worth wondering if he’ll find similar success in the pros. The senior is 6'2" and weighs 232 lbs., but he’s a surprisingly effective pass rusher. He’s applied pressure on about 26.6% of his rushes this season and has 6.5 sacks. However, you don’t see many 230 lb. wrecking balls in the NFL.
McFadden is a high-motor linebacker that could emerge as a frequent blitzer given his ability to displace larger offensive linemen. It’s hard to imagine him not having a role in the league after watching his dominance on Saturdays, but there are always some players who can’t make the jump.
14. Amari Gainer, LB Florida St.
Gainer is a 6'3", 237 lb. linebacker for the Seminoles that has impressed from the moment he stepped into the lineup. He’s moved around quite a bit over the past few years, initially lining up along the line of scrimmage before moving to a more traditional role. Florida State also frequently deploys Gainer in the slot, which speaks to his versatility even if he isn’t an elite coverage linebacker.
15. Brian Asamoah, LB Oklahoma
Asamoah is one of the few true juniors we’ll discuss beyond this point. At 6'1", 228 lbs., he’s on the lighter side, but that fits the build many NFL teams want. Asamoah has the burst, speed, and twitch to make strides at the next level, but his physical traits haven’t translated to elite production. He’s been one of the nation’s best tacklers this year.
16. Damone Clark, LB LSU
Clark packs a punch with his 6'3", 245 lb. frame. The LSU senior wasn’t on many draft radars entering the year, but he’s having a stellar campaign. ESPN credits the Louisiana native with 119 tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles this year. Clark also experienced a bump in coverage, allowing just six yards per reception and one touchdown despite getting targeted 43 times.
Clark looks like he could play MIKE in the NFL, but teams will question his agility and explosiveness.
17. Terrel Bernard, LB Baylor
Bernard struggles in coverage, but the Bears still kick him into the slot sometimes. He’s allowed under ten yards per reception in each of the past three years and still hasn’t allowed a touchdown in coverage. Bernard makes his money in the running game, where he’s able to compensate for his lack of size (6'1", 222 lbs.) with sudden, explosive movement.
18. Mike Rose, LB Iowa St.
It doesn’t take much to pick Rose out of a lineup. He’s 6'4" and weighs 250 lbs., making him one of the largest players on these rankings. Rose has over 2,600 collegiate snaps under his belt and plays strongside linebacker for the Cyclones. Given his size, the senior is better at shedding blocks on his way to the running back than playing coverage.
Despite his questionable coverage skills, Rose intercepted five passes in 2020 while only allowing one touchdown.
19. Ventrell Miller, LB Florida
Miller hasn’t played since Florida’s second game of the season because of a torn bicep that required surgery. The true senior played under 50 defensive snaps in the 2021 season before suffering the injury. If possible, I expect Miller will return to Florida and work on improving his stock for 2023.
Miller doesn’t have great length, but he flashes good burst and elite tackling skills.
20. Jack Sanborn, LB Wisconsin
Sanborn is a true senior that’s shown significant improvement each year. He roams the middle of the field as one of Wisconsin’s inside linebackers, drawing coverage assignments and triggering downhill against the run. He’s best fit for a defense that blitzes their backers frequently on passing downs and plays zone coverage.
The Badgers began using Sanborn as a pass rusher on a higher percentage of snaps this year, leading to his most impressive campaign yet.
Tier 5- Round 6 or Lower
21. Bumper Pool, LB Arkansas
Pool is a senior having the best season of his career thanks to improved play in coverage. He’s still allowing a high completion percentage but only gives up 6.4 yards per reception. He’s also finishing over 90% of his tackles for the first time. This is all surprising improvement for a player with nearly 2,000 snaps under his belt, but better late than never.
Pool plays WLB for the Razorbacks, and he’ll likely keep that role at the next level. Teams might avoid Pool because he struggled in coverage and with missed tackles before 2021.
22. Drake Thomas, LB N.C. St.
Thomas isn’t the top Wolfpack linebacker in the 2022 class, but the third-year former three-star recruit has a nice career profile. He’s become a legitimate draft prospect after massive jumps in production across the board. Thomas is still vulnerable in coverage, but he’s made some splash plays in pass defense.
Thomas has 82 tackles, four sacks, and two interceptions this year on roughly 630 defensive snaps.
23. Malcolm Rodriguez, LB Oklahoma St.
Rodriguez is a smaller linebacker at 5'11", 225 lbs., but he’s one of this draft’s most experienced players. The fifth-year Cowboy has over 2,700 defensive snaps and 1,300 coverage snaps under his belt. He’s peaking at the right time, putting together his best season in coverage while amassing 92 tackles and three forced fumbles in ten games.
24. Darrian Beavers, LB Cincinnati
Beavers is a massive 6'4", 255 lb. fifth-year linebacker that transferred to Cincinnati from UCONN in 2019. He’s become a dominant run defending WLB for the Bearcats. Beavers has ideal length and physicality for shedding blocks, but don’t rule out NFL teams asking him to play 4-3 outside linebacker.
Beavers is an above-average off-ball college linebacker, but his size and skill set might work better along the defensive line.
25. Ellis Brooks, LB Penn St.
Brooks is a powerful MIKE linebacker for Penn State. He often gets overlooked because of Arnold Ebiketie and Brandon Smith, but the Virginia native has his own NFL aspirations. Brooks is a crucial part of Penn State’s run defense, taking on massive roles against Michigan and Iowa. He also has the size (241 lbs.) to rush the passer while holding his own in coverage.
26. Owen Pappoe, LB Auburn
Pappoe has missed a good chunk of his junior year with a leg injury and seems like a prime candidate to return to school. The 6'1", 226 lb. Georgia native has good agility and fluidity that should translate in coverage. However, this year has been nothing short of a disaster for Pappoe. He’s struggled in coverage and hasn’t finished tackles.
27. Merlin Robertson, LB Arizona St.
Robertson packs a punch at 6'3", 240 lbs., but his size also causes problems. The senior lacks sideline-to-sideline range and struggles to track quicker plays in coverage (despite intercepting three passes this year). Robertson rarely misses tackles when he gets downhill. He’ll likely play WLB or middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.
Arizona State deployed Robertson as an edge rusher more often in 2018 and 2019 with only mixed success.
28. Mike Jones Jr., LB LSU
Jones was a top 100 prospect entering the season, but something went wrong for him either early in the year or during the summer. He’s played over 50 snaps in LSU’s last two games, but he played 25 or fewer defensive snaps in six of his first eight appearances with the Tigers.
Jones made a name for himself as one of college football’s best coverage linebackers with Clemson, but he transferred to LSU hoping to play a more pro-style role and follow the Jabril Cox plan. Things backfired.
29. Grant Morgan, LB Arkansas
Morgan is a fifth-year linebacker for the Razorbacks that saw his playing time spike during the COVID-19 season. He’s played over 1,100 snaps in the past two years after seeing under 600 during his first three years at Arkansas.
Teams probably won’t be too high on Morgan because of his lack of height (5'11", 235 lbs.). However, the 2020 All-SEC First-Team selection is solid in pass coverage and has pressured quarterbacks well when asked to rush. He’s the classic ultra-productive college star that gets passed over by NFL evaluators.
30. Quay Walker, LB Georgia
Walker has seen more snaps over Georgia’s past five games, and he’s performed well for a hard-hitting 6'4", 240 lb. senior. His length is a huge plus when it comes to shedding blocks and closing running lanes. Walker allows a high completion percentage, but pass catchers have only averaged 6.4 yards per reception against him during his entire collegiate career.
31. Forrest Rhyne, LB Villanova
It’s hard to collect accurate data on Rhyne because he plays at Villanova, but we know he was a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) First-Team Defense selection in 2019 and 2020.
According to Villanova’s team website, Rhyne has 97 tackles and 2.5 sacks this season. That includes a game against Penn St. when he had 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and four pressures.
32. Nephi Sewell, LB Utah
The other star linebacker for the Utes is a fifth-year player and former Nevada transfer. Sewell is in the middle of his best season primarily because of a massive improvement in coverage. He’s allowing under six yards per reception and hasn’t surrendered a touchdown.
33. Zakoby McClain, LB Auburn
McClain bounces between middle linebacker and WLB for the Tigers. He’ll likely remain a WLB in the NFL. McClain showcases good pass rushing capabilities for a player his size (6'0", 219 lbs.), but coverage concerns could lead to him tumbling down draft boards.
34. Nate Landman, LB Colorado
Landman is a fifth-year linebacker with over 2,200 defensive reps in his career. He has ideal size at 6'3", 235 lbs. and has shown some pass rushing chops in the past. He projects best as a downhill MIKE, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he sees action as a WLB that primarily plays special teams.
35. Jake Hummel, LB Iowa St.
Hummel plays WLB for the Cyclones. He’s had a successful five-year career at Iowa St. and should hear his name called on Day 3 of the 2022 draft. Hummel is a well-rounded prospect that’s never starred in any one area of the game.
Nick Anderson, LB Tulane
Trey Baldwin, LB Louisiana Tech
Chris Bergin, LB Northwestern
Darien Butler, LB Arizona St.
Olakunle Fatukasi, LB Rutgers
Jalen Graham, LB Purdue
Isaiah Graham-Mobley, LB Boston College
Jake Hansen, LB Illinois
Aaron Hansford, LB Texas A&M
Devin Harper, LB Oklahoma St.
Lakia Henry, LB Ole Miss
Dax Hollifield, LB Virginia Tech
Riko Jeffers, LB Texas Tech
Jesse Luketa, LB/EDGE Penn St.
Luke Masterson, LB Wake Forest
Jeremiah Moon, LB Florida
Isaiah Moore, LB N.C. St.
Anfernee Orji, LB Vanderbilt
Noah Rainbow-Douglas, LB North Carolina Central
Avery Roberts, LB Oregon St.
Josh Ross, LB Michigan
JJ Russell, LB Memphis
Colin Schooler, LB Texas Tech
James Skalski, LB Clemson
Isaac Slade-Matautia, LB SMU
Baylon Spector, LB Clemson
Channing Tindall, LB Georgia
Alan Tisdale, LB Virginia Tech
David Ugwoegbu, LB Oklahoma
Tre Walker, LB Idaho
Jahad Woods, LB Washington St.
Kadofi Wright, LB Buffalo