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2024 NFL Draft Week: A Strong Linebacker Can Complete a Defense

0422 On the 24 Linebackers

JACKSONVILLE – A longtime draft story at linebacker continues.

It's a position that largely has been redefined and devalued in the NFL Draft in recent seasons. As is the case at positions such as running back and tight end, that means it takes a special prospect to be selected early.

All of which makes 2024 a fairly typical draft for the position.

"It's not a great off-the-ball linebacker draft," NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.

That's the consensus of many draft analysts this year, and it's something of a trend at a position that remains important on the field but that tends not to be highly-value during the draft.

"I go back and forth on that," NFL Media/Jaguars analyst Bucky Brooks said of the position's importance. "On the one hand, people say it's not a premium position. But is there a good defense that doesn't have good linebackers?

"You can say it's not, but then if you say that, it's hard to say, 'Hey we're going to be an elite defense' without investing in that position.'"

In the NFL these days, personnel officials consider inside linebackers and off-the-ball outside linebackers "linebackers," with pass-rushing outside backers typically considered edge defenders. The latter is the higher-profile of the two positions, with value measured in sacks and pressures – and as such, it takes higher priority in the draft.

That doesn't make inside linebackers or off-the-ball outside linebackers unimportant. And it doesn't mean there aren't good players available there in this draft.

This is perhaps a slightly lower-profile year for linebackers than past seasons.

Clemson linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. (54) in coverage during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

While players such as Jack Campbell (Detroit) and Nolan Smith (Philadelphia) were selected late in the first round in 2023, and while the Jaguars selected inside linebacker Devin LloydNo. 27 overall in 2022, no inside or off-the-ball linebacker is projected in Round 1 in 2024.

Linebackers such as Edgerrin Cooper of Texas A&M, Jeremiah Trotter Jr. of Clemson and Payton Wilson of North Carolina State have been projected in Round 2, with Cedric Gray of North Carolina and Junior Colson of Michigan projected shortly thereafter.

"There's no linebacker that you can just close your eyes and say, 'Oh, I automatically know that this player is going to be really, really good,'" Brooks said. "There are no slam dunks, but there are players with traits there."


This figures to be a position of low interest for the Jaguars in the '24 draft, with significant draft and free-agent equity spent here in recent offseasons. The Jaguars not only signed inside linebacker Foyesade Oluokun as an unrestricted free agent in 2022, they re-signed him to an extension this offseason. The Jaguars followed that by selecting linebacker Devin LloydNo. 27 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft and linebacker Chad Muma in the third-round in the same draft. They selected Ventrell Miller in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. With that foursome, the Jaguars seemingly have the starters and depth to make a selection here relatively unlikely in 2024.

--John Oehser


Slim to none.


On the roster:

  • Foye Oluokun
  • Devin Lloyd
  • Chad Muma
  • Ventrell Miller
  • Caleb Johnson
  • Dequan Jackson


  1. Edgerrin Cooper, senior, Texas A&M
  2. Payton Wilson, senior, North Carolina State
  3. Jeremiah Trotter Jr., junior, Clemson
  4. Cedric Gray, senior, North Carolina
  5. Junior Colson, junior, Michigan



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