While analytics will tell you selecting linebackers in the first round of the NFL Draft doesn’t maximize value, you can’t deny the talent. And in the 2023 class, there are a few players who could sneak into the back end of Round 1. With the 2023 NFL Draft right around the corner, let’s dive into PFN’s Consensus Big Board and revisit the top 10 linebackers.
Top 10 Linebackers in the 2023 NFL Draft
10) DeMarvion Overshown, Texas
Don’t let DeMarvion Overshown‘s abundance of white armbands distract you from his dynamic play from the second level. Overshown is fresh off his best season for the Longhorns, which coincided with his increase in snaps along the defensive line and from the slot.
At 6’3″ and 229 pounds, the Texas LB will certainly have his fair share of issues against the run as a stack defender. His length, speed, and agility are valuable, but his lack of mass and tackling inconsistencies are thorns in the side of his profile. The former safety needs time but can be a mainstay on special teams as he hones his versatility and athletic profile as a nickel/dime linebacker.
9) Mohamoud Diabate, Utah
Need a rangy linebacker to patrol the field? Mohamoud Diabate could be your man. The Florida transfer starred for Kyle Whittingham’s defense as a traditional off-ball LB just two years removed from playing a primarily DE role with the Gators.
Diabate’s still going through growing pains in coverage, shedding blocks, and when tackling in space. Nevertheless, his athletic profile and improvements year over year are promising. If he can clean up those inconsistencies to pair with his excellent burst and length, Diabate could pose a nuisance for opposing offenses.
8) Ivan Pace Jr., Cincinnati
After starring for Miami (OH) last season, Ivan Pace Jr. transferred to Cincinnati to reunite with his younger brother Deshawn and improve his draft stock. He’s had his issues in coverage and with penalties, but don’t let that distract you from his dominance in the box.
Coming downhill is where Pace thrives, blowing up linemen and wreaking havoc in the backfield. Cincinnati unleashed him as a pass rusher from the middle, allowing him to shoot through gaps and bring down the QB (10 sacks). What Pace lacks in size (6’0″, 230+), he makes up for with pure energy and aggression.
7) Henry To’oTo’o, Alabama
Like many of the linebackers in this year’s class, Henry To’oTo’o is undersized. Yet, he isn’t a high-end athlete, vastly limiting his NFL role. His raw athleticism has made up for some mental-processing deficiencies on the college state, but that won’t keep up in the league.
But it’s not all bad with To’oTo’o’s profile, hence why he’s among the top 10 linebackers in the 2023 NFL Draft. As a WILL linebacker, able to run and hit away from congestion, he brings the requisite length and discipline to provide depth as a rotational piece in a defense.
6) Daiyan Henley, Washington State
When discussing Daiyan Henley as a draft prospect, you have to begin with the fact that he’s only played linebacker since 2020. Prior to his junior year at Nevada, Henley lined up at QB, WR, EDGE, safety, and kick returner. All that tells us is he’s versatile, athletic as can be, and one heck of a team player.
Now, Henley’s inexperience at LB shows at times, and he’s a bit light at inside linebacker. But there’s no denying his sideline-to-sideline range, gap penetration, and upside in coverage. With some seasoning and NFL coaching, Henley can be a legitimate playmaker on the NFL level.
5) Dorian Williams, Tulane
If you watched the Green Wave at all last season, you likely noticed the catalyst of their defensive tsunami was Dorian Williams. With 33 3/4″ arms and 4.49 speed at 6’2″ and 230 pounds, he caused a great many headaches for offensive coordinators in college.
And while his relatively smaller frame isn’t conducive for dominating play against the run in the box, Williams is a natural coverage defender, racking up two picks and six PBUs last season. In a league where passing is king, every defense could use a linebacker with Williams’ tools.
4) Noah Sewell, Oregon
The Sewell family has already produced two NFL players, including former top-10 pick Penei. And they aren’t done yet. Noah Sewell is a well-built 6’1 1/2″ and nearly 250 pounds, but what’s more impressive is how he uses his size. He rattles ball carriers with bone-shaking hits over the middle and downhill.
Sewell’s trigger, overall athleticism, stack-and-shed ability, and instincts are plus traits. But there’s one word that describes him best: explosive. Give Sewell a lane, and he’s running whoever is foolish enough to stand in his way. A full-time position switch to edge rusher shouldn’t be ruled out.
3) Jack Campbell, Iowa
At 6’5″ and 249 pounds, Jack Campbell was a force in the middle of Iowa’s vaunted defense. He’s one of the most consistent and seasoned defenders in the 2023 NFL Draft, making his projection effortless.
Campbell has the length to wrap up tackles, shed blocks, and disrupt passing lanes. Plus, he moves like a more diminutive player in space, with the short-area quickness and read/react ability to close on the ball. There are more athletic and imposing linebackers in the class, but teams will covet Campbell’s no-nonsense skill set.
2) Trenton Simpson, Clemson
“Trenton Simpson, no matter what.” That’s what every LB-needy team should have on their big board. Even labeling Simpson as a linebacker is a disservice to the defensive weapon that he is.
The Clemson playmaker has the coverage fluidity of a safety, the speed and power of an edge rusher, and the instincts of an orthodox LB. He doesn’t quite see the game as fast as his body is able to move, but once it clicks mentally, defensive coordinators will have a chess piece to match creative offenses.
1) Drew Sanders, Arkansas
Drew Sanders transferred from Alabama to Arkansas last offseason, and he looked like a completely different player. I don’t mean physically; Sanders switched from an on-ball linebacker with the Crimson Tide to off-ball in Fayetteville.
That versatility only boosts Sanders’ stock, who has the physical tools to operate as a traditional linebacker while also generating pressure as a blitzer or occasional EDGE. But at a position predicated on experience, Sanders’ upside — although one of the highest in the class — may not be enough to sway decision-makers into taking him with a premium selection on draft night.
Other Top Linebackers in the 2023 NFL Draft
- Owen Pappoe, Auburn
- SirVocea Dennis, Pitt
- Dee Winters, TCU
- Jalen Graham, Purdue
- Drake Thomas, NC State
- Isaiah Moore, NC State
- Ben VanSumeren, Michigan State
- Jeremy Banks, Tennessee
- Anfernee Orji, Vanderbilt
- Cam Jones, Indiana
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