Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020.
Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020.|AJ Mast | Associated Press
NFL

NFL Draft: Eckel, with the help of an NFL exec, breaks down the top 5 linebackers — thinks Evan Weaver is underrated

“The hardest thing to find as a scout is a three-down linebacker,” the personnel man said. “A three-down guy that never comes off the field, it’s just about impossible to find.”

Mark Eckel

The linebacker position in the NFL has probably changed more than any other, especially over the past there, or four, years.

Almost gone are the days of the hulking 250-260 pound monsters in the middle replaced by speedy, athletic 225-pound men who run sideline to sideline and cover running backs out of the backfield.

“When teams are throwing the ball seven times out of 10, you need players who can cover,” a long-time personnel man said as he graded the players for Thursday’s NFL Draft. “It’s either get a smaller, faster linebacker or do what a lot of teams do now and go with basically a safety turned linebacker.”

It’s made it difficult for the men trying to find those players as well.

“The hardest thing to find as a scout is a three-down linebacker,” the personnel man said. “You can find these two-downs on every street corner. A three-down guy that never comes off the field, it’s just about impossible to find.”

Here’s his list of the top linebackers in this draft.

Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

Class: Jr.

Height/Weight: 6-4, 230

40 Time: 4.39

Stats: 2019: 8 sacks, 16 TFL, 3 Ints

Quote: “They schemed everything for him at Clemson and he did a good job. Can an NFL team do that? Some team is going to fall in love with him and take him too high. I don’t know if you’re going to be able to use him the way he was used in college.”

Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

Class: Jr.

Height/Weight: 6-2, 240

40 Time: 4.52

Stats: 4 sacks, 17 TFL

Quote: “He can really run and run all day, sideline to sideline. In the championship game (against LSU) he was the only one (on OU’s defense) that played hard all night.”

Evan Weaver, California

Class: Sr.

Height/Weight: 6-2, 235

40 Time: 4.76

Stats: Career: 8.5 sacks, 23.5 TFL

Quote: “I love this guy. He should have won the Butkus Award (as the nation’s best linebacker). He just comes out and gets after you right from the go.”

Jacob Phillips, LSU

Class: Jr.

Height/Weight: 6-4, 229

40 Time: 4.66

Stats: 113 Tackles, 7.5 TFL

Quote: “He’s my guy. He’s solid at every level. He might turn out to be the best of the group, just watch.”

Patrick Queen, LSU

Class: Jr.

Height/Weight: 6-1, 229

40 Time: 4.5

Stats: 85 Tackles, 12 TFL

Quote: “I don’t see what everyone else does with this guy. He’s small. He gets beat up on blocks and he misses a lot of tackles.”

OVERRATED: Troy Dye, Oregon

UNDERRATED: Evan Weaver, Cal

SMALL SCHOOL STAR: Dante Olson, Montana

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