2024 IDP Football Top 10 Rookie Linebacker Rankings

by Steve Hungarter (IDPHunter)
2024 IDP Football Top 10 Rookie Linebacker Rankings

Welcome to the Linebacker installment of my 2024 Positional IDP Football Top 10 Rookie Rankings.

With the Shrine Bowl, Senior Bowl and Super Bowl behind us and NFL Draft buzz heating up, these rankings will change as we get closer to the 2024 NFL Draft and then again once we find out player's landing spots.

This year's LB Draft class has a few EDGE players who are promising five-star recruits and should go early as first-round selections. You will see something called Box LB below. The Senior Bowl website defines a Box LB like this - are the defenders that play off of the line of scrimmage -- behind the defensive line -- and are required to cover ground against both the run and the pass.

But what about the true linebacker position? Is there anyone worth taking early? I say No. Outside of EDGE, with the current state of the NFL, this position is being disregarded.

History has shown us, however, that it would not surprise me that some NFL teams will try and reach.

Speaking of which, check out our latest 2024 NFL Draft Big Board and Mock Draft!

I know that sounds negative but look at recent history when taking into account these facts. Look at the premium value of these guys, Jack Campbell wasn't even a starter in 2022. We are still waiting for the full potential of Quay Walker from 2021.

Looking at this position even deeper showcases injuries or busted potential with Troy Anderson a second-round pick in 2021, Zaven Collins in '20, and again in 2019, Isaiah Simmons.

With this draft class being exceptional at wide receiver and quarterback I don't see many teams willing to invest with early draft picks.

2024 IDP Football Top 10 Rookie Linebacker Rankings

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No. 10: Curtis Jacobs, LB, Penn State

We start this ranking list off with a bang, and depending on how or when you might remember Jacobs your instincts will tell you that this ranking is either too high or too low.  With hindsight always being 20/20 let's review the profile of this player when trying to correctly forecast the future.

Jacobs was highly regarded at one point as the best linebacker in the country. A 5-star on 24/7 sports, Jacobs's 6'1 238 build with a blazing 4.5 speed started his career with high praise coming out of high school. However, he failed to separate himself in a relatively weak draft class.

He does profile as a coverage linebacker and will excel in shuttle drills at the combine.

No. 9: Ty'ron Hopper, LB, Missouri

I feel that number nine on our list is a good time as any to call our shots. Hopper was named one of five finalists for the Butkus Award, which honors the top linebacker in the country. He made the national spotlight when he had a 10-tackle game against Georgia. He's just a blip on most people's radars but should excel at the Combine and showcase his athletic abilities.

No. 8: Jaylan Ford, LB, Texas

Ford is often compared to NFL's Pete Werner and I believe that is a good comp. Ford gives you a decent stat line but not much more than that, In 2023- his 63 tackles, on 45 stops is great, but he doesn't make any big-impact plays. He shadows slot receivers well.

Possibly a hybrid S/LB at the next level and what he lacks in straight-line speed he makes up with size and power.

I’m keeping an eye on this as I am not sure if teams will view him as a Will or Mike linebacker. Some team is going to take a shot here in later rounds of the draft.

Eichenberg is getting a lot of buzz and has some of the best tape. His 2023 season of 80 tackles, 40 being solos and another 40 being assists showed really nice consistency to go with his 2022 stats of 120 tackles. Yes, you read that right that's 200 tackles in two seasons!

He plays the inside linebacker role like a man on fire and excels in tackle-for-loss plays, Looks like a linebacker built tough from the old days of Football. There’s a high floor here. Not the flashiest but makes up for it with a high IQ.

So I know what you are thinking if I like him so much why such a low ranking? Read on.

He gets ranked lower because I have questions, despite some rankers having him in their top 4. He's too slow and will have to come off the field or possibly adapt to a change of position. I'm not taking a chance here. Being slower is okay if you could carve a role but pass coverage and pass rusher isn't it.

He failed to record a sack in two out of four seasons with only one this year and just 3.5 in his career. I am much more comfortable letting my league mates take a chance because he is a big name and go a different direction.

Likely a Day 2 selection, possibly Day 3 in the NFL Draft and I'm bringing him down my ranks as I just don't see guys like this being three down players anymore in the NFL.

No. 6: Cedric Gray, LB, UNC

 Cedric Gray is a 6'3 235lbs tackling machine.  His stats will tell you all you need to know. In 2022 he recorded a massive 146 tackles. He then followed that up with 121 tackles on 880 snaps - 80 solo tackles, 31 assists, and 54 stops. In his collegiate career, he racked up 368 tackles and 8.5 sacks. He is the best tackler in class I have profiled by far but like most on this list has concerns.

Gray is slower than you want for a linebacker at 4.73. Look for him as a Day 2 prospect impact playmaker.

No. 5: Junior Colson, LB, Michigan

Colson is one of the best off-ball linebackers you could find in regards to tackling. Not only did he lead Michigan with 95 tackles but he missed less than 4.6% of his tackles. He gets bumped down on this list because he doesn't make big-impact plays. He will be more of a true real-life player over IDP's big play value.

No. 4: Payton Wilson, LB, NC State

Payton Wilson looks to be more likely to be the sleeper of this draft class. With a 6’4 238lbs frame, he still manages to run 4.5 speed. This 4-star recruit easily draws player comparisons to Troy Anderson.

He has had a few medical issues but it's trivial (knees and shoulder in 2021), and should be a top linebacker if medical clears out.

Wilson's production is incredible. In 2023, he had 92 tackles, over 200 in the last two seasons, Playing on 716 snaps he had 67 stops with only six missed tackles. He is a threat to blitz as well with 22 pressures and eight QB Hits. He is quickly going to be some team's green dot defender in the NFL.

No. 3: Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M

Edgerrin Cooper stands at 6'5 230 pounds and is PFF's highest-graded player in all of football. Just looking at his stats it shows. He had 10 sacks last season (7 sacks in 10 games) with 51 stops, When he wasn't blitzing he was in coverage, also played the slot. The reason I have him lower is it was just one season and I wonder why it didn't translate before his senior season.

Why he gets ranked a little lower is he is not a crazy big stat tackler. He’s a heavy hitter but he misses plenty of tackles.  Wrapping up and finishing plays will be a topic of discussion when evaluating this player.

No. 2: Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Box LB, Clemson

Jeremiah Trotter Jr., whose father was a linebacker for the Eagles, just might get the chance to play for the same team. In NFL Drafts,  this class at linebackers is expected to be Days 2 selections, but in our IDP leagues where scoring has Linebackers still king you could draft him here.

A little background on Trotter - he is only one of 14 FBS players over the last 20 seasons to record four interceptions, 10 or more sacks and force three fumbles, resulting in multiple All-American selections.

He is shorter and smaller but should not be a concern for what the league is asking for out of this position, so he fits that mold.  It will be interesting to see how the league will value him but has been drawing player comparisons to Ivan Pace Jr.

No. 1: Dallas Turner LB/Edge, Alabama

This undisputed 5-star recruit stands at  6'4 242lbs and runs 4.45 speed. Not only was Turner a top prospect out of high school but an All-American honors and an All-SEC Freshman Team selection in college, his skill set as a pass rusher has kept him in the spotlight as an NFL prospect. He is an elite EDGE prospect, who collected 9 sacks this season but 21.5 over three seasons I am expecting Turner, Latu, and possibly Verse to be the only IDP selected with the first top ten picks in this NFL Draft Class.

Honorable mentions

Check out more 2024 NFL Draft content

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