JACKSONVILLE – Linebacker perhaps isn't the highest-profile position in the 2021 NFL Draft.
But it's not far off – and it's absolutely a very good position.
"I love the linebacker group, the off-the-ball linebackers," NFL Media Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "I think there's some guys that can really, really play with the way the game is right now."
Just where the top linebackers will be selected this weekend remains to be seen. The 2021 NFL Draft is considered as offense-heavy as any draft in recent memory, with many analysts projecting at least nine offensive players among the top 10.
One defensive player considered a Top 10 possibility by some: Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, with off-the-ball linebackers such as Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah of Notre Dame, Zaven Collins of Tulsa and Jamin Davis of Kentucky also considered first-round selections by many analysts.
"There are plenty of talented off-the-ball linebackers who can make plays," NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks said.
Brooks called Parsons the "headliner" of the class.
"He's an uber-talented guy – big, fast and physical," Brooks said. "He can blitz. He can run. He can cover. He's disruptive at the point of attack. He's really a tempo- and tone-setter when you put him in the mix. There are a lot of players who can come in, steady the defense and make plays.
"There are some very, very talented players in this class."
HANDICAPPING THE JAGUARS
This will be a fascinating area to watch for the Jaguars in the 2021 NFL Draft, with their approach further illustrating how the defense will look with Joe Cullen as coordinator. While Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson figure to play the standup linebacker/end positions as the Jaguars move closer to a 3-4-based scheme in base defenses, the "off-the-ball" linebackers also are important in a defense in which specific roles along the front seven often are less defined than in traditional schemes. Veteran Myles Jack – who played all three linebacker positions in the team's 4-3-based scheme in recent seasons – figures to have a dynamic, critical role at one off-the ball position. Joe Schobert, the team's starting middle linebacker last season, also figures to have a key role. But with the defense in transition, the team could see a player such as Owusu-Koramoah or Collins as good enough value and a good enough fit to address the position late in the first or early in the second round.
PROJECTED FIRST-ROUND LINEBACKERS
Micah Parsons, Penn State; Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame; Zaven Collins, Tulsa; Jamin Davis, Kentucky.
BROOKS BREAKS DOWN THE CLASS
The 2021 class features a number of decathletes at linebacker with ultra-athletic traits and impressive tools. The unit's collective speed has scouts and coaches salivating over the possibilities for the top prospects in the class. Parsons and Davis are freak athletes with sideline-to-sideline playmaking and blitz skills. Their unique games could make them stars at the next level with defensive coaches building game plans around their talents. Missouri's Nick Bolton is a tackling machine with outstanding instincts and awareness. He racks up tackles at an alarming rate, which is why teams are excited about his potential. With North Carolina's Chazz Surratt and Ohio State's Baron Browning also showing promise, the 2021 class could be one of the best linebacker classes in recent history.
Micah Parsons, Penn State. It is hard to find big, athletic linebackers with sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability and elite pass rush skills. Parsons is a unicorn at the position as a 6-feet-3, 246-pound linebacker with 4.39-second speed (forty-yard dash) and an instinctive game. He bursts through the line like a raging bull, exhibiting a combination of speed, strength, and power that overwhelms blockers. Moreover, Parson's aggressive demeanor and violent approach on pass rush attempts set the tone for a defense built on physicality and toughness. Considering how disruptive the Penn State product is at the point of attack, it is easy to envision Parsons playing at an all-star level early in his career.
Chazz Surratt, North Carolina. The former quarterback turned linebacker possesses an intriguing skill set that could enable him to flourish as a "run-and-chase" playmaker. Surratt displays outstanding instincts and awareness in coverage while flashing a burst and wiggle shooting through gaps on blitzes. Although the North Carolina product is still acclimating to the position, he needs some seasoning to blossom into an all-star at the pro level. If Surratt is given some time to develop, he could become the difference maker that some evaluators envision when assessing his traits.
POSITION RANKING: Fifth of 10.
CHANCES JAGUARS TAKE A LINEBACKER IN ROUND 1
Better than many might believe. While this at first glance perhaps doesn't appear to be a position of glaring need, the talent available could make it too tempting to pass at No. 25.
LINEBACKERS ON THE JAGUARS ROSTER
Myles Jack, Joe Schobert, Damien Wilson, Leon Jacobs, Shaquille Quarterman, Quincy Williams, Nate Evans, Dakota Allen, Joe Giles-Harris, Chapelle Russell.