Jets Senior Bowl Roster Overview: Linebackers

For the 2022 Jets off-season, there is arguably no bigger need for the Jets defense than LB. Year 1 for the Saleh/Ulbrich defense was nothing short of a disaster. Free agent signee Jarrad Davis was either injured or ineffective, CJ Mosley returning from his 2 year absence showed both that he lost a step and wasn't exactly a perfect fit for this defensive scheme either, constantly getting exploited in coverage to the tune of allowing 87% of targets in his coverage being completed, while also committing 4 accepted penalties - tied for the most of any LB in the NFL playing >50% of snaps.

In short, the Jets need a LB unless Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood make a miraculous turnaround in year 2 and/or if Quincy Wilson can learn to do anything more than attempt to hit-stick every ball-carrier he manages to get within 5 yards of.

As luck would have it the Jets are coaching the Senior Bowl in one of the best LB groups I have ever seen at the Senior Bowl. Georgia is coming off of a National Championship after sporting the best LB trio I've ever seen in CFB, and 2 of them (Quay Walker and Channing Tindall) will be attending this Senior Bowl along with #1 2022 LB prospect Devin Lloyd. That's before we even get into the guys like Chad Muma (best LB from the MWC), Brian Asamoah (best ILB from the Big-12), D'Marco Jackson (best ILB from the MAC). There's even a few athletic players converting to LB at the senior bowl like Sterling Weatherford and Jesse Luketa. Overall, the Jets couldn't have had a better year to coach the Senior Bowl when it comes to this LB group and I expect Joe Douglas to draft one of these guys come April.

With all of that said, let's break down all of the LBs on the Jets roster at the Senior Bowl that they will be able to get a very close look at:

Off-Ball LB

Senior Bowl LBs - Jets Squad

2021 NCAA FBS LBs - Minimum 400 snaps played. QB Rating in coverage plotted against snaps per defensive stop. Lower QB rating and lower snaps per stop = Good. Top-Right is best on this graph.

Terrel Bernard, Baylor, 6' 0.6" 222 lbs

  • Current Projection: 4th Round; Trending up
  • Tough and athletic, Bernard is the smallest LB in this group and likely smaller than Sterling Weatherford. He is probably the best athlete or at worst close to the best athlete of the bunch (based upon film). Excellent change of direction movement skills, okay in coverage and is able to avoid blocks well. Big concern is clearly size. Team captain and leader of a very good Baylor team, this guy fits the JD/Saleh mold of an athletic team Captain. Not great in coverage.
  • Key Stat: T-12th most Stops among LBs in FBS in 2021
  • Best Clip:

Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati, 6' 4.25" 255 lbs

  • Current Projection: 3rd Round; Trending flat
  • Built more like an EDGE than an ILB, used often as a pass rusher and effective at it posting a QB Hit or Sack on ~10% of pass rushes (including blitzes). Reportedly has a 39.5 inch vertical (!!) and used to play WR/S in HS. There are some comps out there to Anthony Barr. If his testing numbers are what they are reported to be, then he very much is a more explosive but slightly slower version of Anthony Barr in terms of size/athleticism. Production is another story though and Beavers is absolutely not in Barr's stratosphere in terms of production, but to his defense he is utilized more off-ball than Barr was in college. One to watch as he provides some positional versatility.
  • Key Stat: 86.1 PFF Pass Rush Grade, T-15th in 2021 of FBS LBs
  • Favorite Clip:

Mike Rose, Iowa State, 6' 3.6" 250 lbs

  • Current Projection: 4th Round; Trending flat
  • One of the best run defending LBs in this draft with ideal size but poor grading in coverage and not much to speak of in the way of pass rush ability. Despite being outmatched in man coverage against most skill position players, Rose has shown somewhat better in zone coverage and an ability to play passing lanes well over the middle. Finished the 2020 season with 5 INTs, most for a LB in FBS CFB but 0 or 1 every other year. Team captain, athletic enough for college but may struggle in the pros.
  • Key Stat: 21.7% Missed tackle rate in 2021, highest of Senior Bowl LBs
  • Favorite Clip:

Jesse Luketa, Penn State, 6' 2.4" 247 lbs

  • Current Projection: 7th Round; Trending up
  • An athletic and violent "tweener" who Penn State utilized in a versatile role. Primarily utilized as an EDGE rusher at Penn State but was the least productive pass rushing EDGE rusher I've seen. Violent hands against the run, can toss guys, good in coverage in limited coverage snaps (just 79 coverage snaps). Impressive in the weight room and has excellent size. May be underrated as a LB prospect but cannot play EDGE exclusively at the NFL level if you want consistent pass rush production. Senior bowl will be huge for him, can see him being the big winner and also the big loser of the week.
  • Key Stat: Just 12 pressures on 232 pass rush snaps, only 4 of which were hits/sacks.
  • Favorite Clip:

Devin Lloyd, Utah, 6'3" 235 lbs

  • Current Projection: 1st Round; Trending flat
  • My #1 overall LB (most have him #2 behind Nakobe Dean) in the 2022 draft class. It's always fun when you can get a #1 overall position group prospect at the Senior Bowl. Usually these top-end recruits are true juniors or they don't attend the Senior Bowl as they often have more to lose than to gain. To see Devin Lloyd attending already tells you about his competitiveness and love for football. On the field, Lloyd is athletic, long, instinctive and a disruptive pass rusher on blitzes. Lloyd is intelligent and true leader for this Utah team. In short, he is the whole package for a modern LB in my opinion, athletic enough and rangy enough to hold his own in coverage and not be a liability while strong enough to stop the run, smart enough to call the defensive plays on every down while getting people into position, and versatile enough to use as a chess piece on obvious passing downs where he can be an effective rusher or drop in coverage.
  • Key Stat: 1 of only 2 LBs in CFB with >80 PFF grades in: Coverage, Run Defense, Pass Rush and >75 in tackling. The other is Nakobe Dean.
  • Favorite Clip: This is one of the hardest ones to do because there are so many, but here is my favorite:

Chad Muma, Wyoming, 6' 2.25" 242 lbs

  • Current Projection: 3rd Round; Trending up
  • A personal favorite of mine since the CFB season kicked off in 2021, Muma is a clinician at LB out in the MWC. Excellent size, strength, balance, and range. Muma's tape can be used as teaching tape for any aspiring HS LB to show how to keep your hips square, read, react, angles to attack to the ball, shedding blocks, everything. The concerns about Muma will be athleticism and weaker competition when compared to the top of this class (Georgia LBs, Chrstian Harris, Brandon Smith, Devin Lloyd). Muma's athleticism should show through at the Senior Bowl and I expect him to be a late round-2 or early round-3 guy. May not be a superstar at the NFL but could be a Sean Lee type LB.
  • Key Stat: 12 more Stops than the next closest LB at the Senior Bowl, led CFB with 68 stops in 2021.
  • Favorite Clip:

Brian Asamoah II, Oklahoma, 6' 230 lbs

  • Current Projection: 5th Round; Trending down
  • The best LB in the Big-12, a sure tackler with plus athleticism but is undersized. Probably the least talked about LB in this class and also one of the most intrgiuing, Asamoah is almost identical size to Nakobe Dean and is similarly a leader on his team and the best LB in his conference. However this was the first year Asamoah looked like a high-end LB after two previous years of not very good play. Potential on Asamoah is fairly high due to good tape in 2021 and athleticism, but he will need to show out at the Senior Bowl to make some folks a believer.
  • Key Stat:
  • Favorite Clip:

Troy Andersen, Montana State, 6' 3.9" 235 lbs

  • Current Projection: 7th Round; Trending down
  • The most interesting man at the Senior Bowl in my opinion, Andersen was the leader of a stout FCS Montana State defense this past season that made it to the FCS championship game only to lose to FCS power house North Dakota State. Started as a true freshman for Montana State and won the Big Sky's Freshman of the Year award, however he did it primarily as a RB as well as a LB, playing both ways throughout the season, and was Montana State's first true freshman starting RB since 1990. He then evolved to the team's starting QB in his sophomore and junior seasons, becoming the most lethal dual-threat QB in the Big Sky, rushing for 21 TDs in his sophomore season including a Montana State QB record of 212 rushing yards in one game. He then earned First-Team All Big-Sky as a LB his junior season and First-Team All-FCS both as a Junior and in his final RS Senior season in 2021. He was also named Big-Sky Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. He's also an Academic All-American in the FCS if I am not mistaken. Overall, he has A LOT to gain here at the Senior Bowl and I promise he goes higher than his current 7th round projection. He could legitimately make the NFL at LB, WR, TE, and probably a few other positions. Athletic, smart, fast, and an FCS legend in my opinion. Will be a big "riser".
  • Key Stat: 7.67 Snaps per Tackle on defense is the third-best metric when compared to FBS LBs along with 67 stops is only bested by Chad Muma of this Senior Bowl group.
  • Favorite Clip: Troy Andersen making a huge stop on 4th and 1 in the redzone in the Playoff Semi-Final, tackling FCS top RB Pierre Strong Jr for a loss:

Sterling Weatherford, Miami (OH), 6' 3.9" 221 lbs

  • Current Projection: UDFA; Trending up
  • A Saleh and Jets defense specialty, attempting to convert a Safety to LB starting here with the Senior Bowl. Weatherford makes sense as someone to try out at LB given his size and hard-hitting reputation. Weatherford has been impactful in both the running game and passing game for Miami (OH), with 2 INTs and 2 PBUs this past year but had 8 PBUs (!!) in his sophomore season. A 4-year starter with solid grades across the board, I hate doing player comps typically but he reminds me a lot of Divine Deablo from last year's Safety draft class out of Virginia Tech who made a similar transition for the Raiders this season and has played well for them as a rookie LB. One to watch at the Senior Bowl.
  • Key Stat: 8 PBUs along with 20 stops as a Sophomore playing Safety
  • Favorite Clip:

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