With the 2020 NFL Draft less than three weeks away, the Las Vegas Raiders are putting the finishing touches on their draft board. Here at the Raider Ramble, it is no different. Over the next few days, final rankings of every position group will be released, with linebackers fifth on the list.
Here are the previous four entries:
Raiders Current LB Situation
The Raiders made a strong statement in free agency when they signed two 26-year old linebackers. Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton are both every down linebackers that will be the engine of the Silver and Black’s defense for at least the next three seasons.
Raiders analysis: Turning the second level from a weakness to a strength
One of the more appealing aspects of both signings (Littleton and Kwiatkoski) is that both players are still learning.
Link: https://t.co/XtMRi3bRD8 pic.twitter.com/xf4maEYHEM
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) March 24, 2020
The upgrade to the position was long overdue, but the overhaul is not complete just yet. Currently, these are the members of the Raiders linebacker corps.
- Nick Kwiatkoski
- Marquel Lee
- Cory Littleton
- Nicholas Morrow
- Kyle Wilber
Considering that the Raider defense favors the 4-2-5 alignment in passing situations, the need for another starter at the second level is moderate. Kyle Wilber is a predominant special teamer, so realistically the team only has four proven linebackers. Marquel Lee and Nicholas Morrow will split time for the third backer role, but haven’t done enough to be considered long term solutions. Reluctantly, this year’s prospective draft class provides prospects that can make a large impact.
Related: Jeff Heath’s Impact on Safety Position
The Top 10 LB Prospects
Considering that the Raiders already invested heavily in two starting linebackers this offseason, it is unlikely that the team selects another with either of their first round draft selections given the glaring needs at other positions on the roster. With that being said, the top 10 linebackers offer a wide variety of skill sets to choose from.
Isaiah Simmons – Clemson Tigers
Simmons stands alone at the top of the position in this year’s draft class. As an elite athlete, Simmons has the ability to play any role in a multitude of defensive schemes. Labeling him strictly as a linebacker doesn’t do justice to his full arsenal.
Isaiah Simmons can do it all!pic.twitter.com/5nYVPLEDCe
— PFF (@PFF) March 4, 2020
Due to his athleticism and natural playmaking ability, it is hard to fathom him not being a top five selection in the draft. However, should he slide, Las Vegas may be tempted to trade up if the price is right. On the other hand and given other team’s needs, the Raiders will more than likely wait until the mid rounds to fill the slight void. There are three prospects that separate themselves from the rest within the latter half of this top 10 list.
Akeem Davis-Gaither – Appalachian State Mountaineers
The seventh ranked linebacker on this list hails from a small school but has a film study that is largely impressive. Davis-Gaither has the versatility to play anywhere on the second level of any defense.
Akeem Davis-Gaither (24) is lean at just 219 lbs., but how does he deal with linemen in the run game and as a pass rusher? His quick hands and athleticism make him a hard target.
When you think of athletic linebackers, think of Akeem. pic.twitter.com/8K0BjBvDPE
— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) February 18, 2020
His 220-pound weight may concern teams, but Davis-Gaither has the athleticism and football I.Q. to wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage in the run and pass game. Speaking of coverage, Akeem has a firm grasp on that too.
Akeem Davis-Gaither is very, very legit. Easily a Top 5 ILB in this class. Not many guys can do this. Clear athleticism and coverage ability. Dude has the instincts too. He's going to step in day one and be an impact player for some team. pic.twitter.com/auJOD48HX1
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) April 10, 2020
The Raiders can afford to draft him in the third round and not have to plug him as an immediate starter. As the poster child for modern day linebackers, he will not be kept off the field for long.
Jordyn Brooks – Texas Tech Red Raiders
The ninth ranked linebacker on this list ironically played for the (Red) Raiders in college. Brooks could maintain his status quo at the next level with the Silver and Black. His playing style exudes similarities to ‘old school’ defenders. It would be fitting if he played in Las Vegas his entire football career.
We Almost thereâ€¼ï¸ ðŸ˜Š pic.twitter.com/LPMeZFklsQ
— Brooks (@JordynBrooks_) February 7, 2020
The Houston, Texas native plays the game of football with a controlled aggressiveness that the Raiders front office covets.
.@TexasTechFB LB Jordyn Brooks speaking on playing with a controlled aggressiveness #NFLCombine pic.twitter.com/M5GlXwfvlO
— Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan) February 27, 2020
His athletic range and high motor make the impossible plays seem possible.
This is another fun rep from Jordyn Brooks. Brooks gets held bad the right tackle here. He works his way through it and makes the play on the scrambling quarterback getting all the way to the sideline. Not even one yard was gained out of this and that is because of Brooks. pic.twitter.com/SXoYoDLkOn
— JAKE ELLENBOGEN (@JKBOGEN) March 29, 2020
The only question in Jordyn’s game is pass coverage as he was rarely asked to do so at the collegiate level. However, he does possess the physical components of being able to at the next level. For that reason, he will be a mid round selection. Above all else, he is the ‘alpha’ type player that would fit well in Las Vegas.
Cameron Brown – Penn State Nittany Lions
The last player on this list may come as a surprise to some. Penn State’s Cameron Brown hails from a university that has had a decorated list of linebackers in the NFL.
- Lavar Arrington
- NaVorro Bowman
- Tamba Hali
- Sean Lee
- Paul Posluzny
- Cameron Wake
The line of successful NFL linebackers from the university has been relatively dormant in recent years, but Brown has the ability to change that quickly.
Penn State LB Cameron Brown is one of the more interesting defensive prospects at the Senior Bowl. Has rare length, tons of range, and plays all over the place. Easily sniffs this out for the TFL. pic.twitter.com/S7DKZihuKT
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) January 19, 2020
At 6’5″ and weighing approximately 230 pounds, Brown has an imposing presence on the football field before he even steps on it. In the play above, you can see his natural instinct for the position on display.
Hereâ€™s another look at the fumble â€”forced and recovered by Cam Brown â€” that set up Penn Stateâ€™s first TD of the night pic.twitter.com/Qlb2VQfFey
— Tyler King (@King_TylerB) September 7, 2019
In his three year collegiate career, he amassed three forced fumbles and 4.5 sacks. They aren’t eye popping numbers, but they display that he possesses the means to become an impact player at the next level with the proper coaching in the right scheme.
While we're on commercial, take a second look at the first Penn State sack of the season, courtesy of Cam Brown. pic.twitter.com/miwvwN99T8
— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) September 1, 2018
His length and coverage skills make him an intriguing prospect for the Silver and Black in the fourth or fifth round. Of course, he will need some fine tuning and he is not an immediate starter, but depth at the position is necessary.
In free agency, the Raiders front office provided two foundation pieces at the linebacker position for years to come. However, acquiring a promising young player in the draft wouldn’t hurt. Hopes of the team selecting Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray or LSU’s Patrick Queen in the first round have been all but dashed since the outcome of free agency. Isaiah Simmons remains a pipe dream, but is more than likely out of the question given his omnipresence on the football field. The team will seek to find value in the middle rounds and hope that the bargain turns into a prominent defender at the second level in Las Vegas’ near future.
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