There’s no consensus top player in the 2022 NFL Draft‘s linebacker class. But did Utah LB Devin Lloyd take advantage of his opportunity in 2021, complete his NFL Draft scouting report, and rise above Nakobe Dean to claim the LB1 mantle? He always had the traits to pull it off, and now, he may have delivered on those traits. Should Lloyd be considered the consensus LB1 in the 2022 NFL Draft? And if so, why?
Devin Lloyd NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Linebacker
- School: Utah
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’2 3/4″
- Weight: 237 pounds
- Wingspan: 80 1/4″
- Length: 33″
- Hand: 9 1/2″
Lloyd’s Combine/pro day results
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.66
- Bench Press: 25
- Broad Jump: 10’6″
- Vertical Jump: 35″
Devin Lloyd Scouting Report
Early on in 2020, there were two linebackers commonly mocked in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft along with Micah Parsons — Alabama’s Dylan Moses and Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. When the draft finally rolled around in April, two linebackers did indeed join Parsons in Round 1. However, they were Tulsa’s Zaven Collins and Kentucky’s Jamin Davis.
The draft is unpredictable at every position — linebacker is no exception. And when there’s no established pecking order or hierarchy, that unpredictability only festers. This year, however, two linebackers beat the matrix and played their way into surefire first-round territory: Lloyd and Georgia’s Nakobe Dean. For Lloyd in particular, what makes the Utah LB worth Round 1 capital?
Lloyd’s athletic profile
Recently, long and athletic linebackers have earned the eye of NFL scouts. Lloyd most definitely fits this criteria. He stands around 6’2 3/4″, 237 pounds, and sports a long, fairly compact frame, which helps to maximize his range in various situations. He has the size to linger closer to the line as an extra edge defender and the length and explosiveness to knock linemen off-balance when engaging.
Beyond his size, Lloyd has promising movement ability. The Utah LB possesses exceptional lateral explosion and twitch, with solid closing speed when honing in on the catch point. He undoubtedly possesses a degree of sideline-to-sideline range. With his high-end explosiveness and solid long speed, he can be a tackling threat wherever the ball ends up.
Together, Lloyd’s athleticism and length make for a dangerous combination, especially when he uses his length effectively. The Utes product can shed blocks and surge ahead to seal off running lanes. He actively extends his arms to disrupt passes in coverage and as a tackler. Moreover, the Utah LB uses his length and closing burst to wrap up regularly.
Lloyd squares up defenders well in neutral situations. Yet, his physical traits allow him to work at a disadvantage and make up lost ground.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Lloyd’s solid athletic foundation is an important part of his NFL Draft scouting report. Moreover, his execution and football IQ make him unique from other linebackers. Lloyd’s not only physically capable, but he’s also a smart, instinctive player whose game IQ regularly proves to be a tier above most prospects.
Lloyd is a stellar communicator pre-snap, and he’s proactive in seeking out mismatches, changing the alignment at times. At one point against Washington in 2020, Lloyd recognized a numbers mismatch in the trenches and rotated to the edge position, telling a lineman to move inside. When the ball was snapped, Lloyd exploded off the edge as a free rusher and tackled the ball carrier for a loss.
Beyond his pre-snap play recognition, Lloyd also adapts mid-play as the situation changes shape. His reaction quickness shines, not only allowing him to adapt but also to generate turnovers in vital moments. While Lloyd is smart, he’s an exceptional teammate and competitor as well. The Utah LB is a high-effort player who always plays at full speed in pursuit. Lloyd is willing to encumber blockers to free up defenders, and he will lower his shoulder and throw his mass into opposing players.
Among other things, Lloyd has shown to employ varying stride lengths when reading and reacting to plays. Additionally, he’s versatile. He can line up at MIKE, OLB, rush off the edge as a blitzer, or even as a big slot on occasion. He has the ball skills to make plays in coverage.
Areas for improvement
Lloyd’s NFL Draft scouting report checks two very crucial boxes — mental and physical. However, as strong as his foundation is, there are areas he can seek to improve.
Lloyd can strive for better efficiency of motion in space. His direction changes aren’t always sudden or smooth, and he doesn’t always keep his balance through these direction changes. While he does keep active feet, his footwork can be a bit choppy in space. Additionally, Lloyd can be somewhat tentative when clamping down on gaps, allowing space to remain. While he has the length to stack and shed blocks, he can get locked up at times and flushed out of plays. Furthermore, he can get stronger when dismantling blocks.
Like other linebackers, the redshirt senior does at times overshoot tackling angles. This isn’t a function of his long speed, however. His long speed, while solid, is not quite top-tier. Furthermore, Lloyd can be looked off of receivers by quarterbacks who use their eyes, forcing him to play at a disadvantage on occasion. He’s a strong processor, but Dean is slightly above him in that department.
Finally, Lloyd can also refine his skill set as a pass rusher. With his explosiveness, he no doubt has potential. Nevertheless, he can use that downfield explosiveness more freely as a blitzer. Additionally, tackles can handle his frame relatively easily on pass-rushing reps. Thus, some added weight might be beneficial for him.
Lloyd’s NFL Draft scouting report overview
Lloyd has been one of the Pac-12’s top producers on defense for the past three seasons, and that’s no accident. He has an impressive blend of athletic and mental traits at his disposal. He’s a great athlete, with the requisite short-range explosiveness and twitch to be a constant, rangy threat in the box. Furthermore, Lloyd has enough long speed to supplement his range, even if he’s not quite elite in that regard.
What truly completes Lloyd’s profile is his mental makeup. He’s an intelligent defender who can read, react, and adapt better than most other linebackers in his NFL Draft class. There is still room for improvement, particularly in run defense. But as it stands, Lloyd’s supreme closing burst — combined with his length and football intelligence — makes him an exciting prospect.
Lloyd is already a high-level coverage player, with the projected versatility to be a difference-maker for a defense on Day 1. He can be a 3-4 ILB or a WILL linebacker in 4-3 alignments. Lloyd will turn 24 in his rookie year, but age isn’t as much of an issue when he’s expected to make an impact right away. And with his high-floor/high-ceiling traits, he makes a compelling case for LB1.
Lloyd’s Player Profile
Lloyd wasn’t recruited highly at a national level, and some high-profile programs may be kicking themselves for that. From an early age, Lloyd was a promising player. As a senior at Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista, California, Lloyd already stood around 6’3″ and 215 pounds. He played receiver and safety, but it was clear his future was on defense. In that final year alone, he generated 8 interceptions.
As a top producer and team captain, Lloyd might have expected more widespread interest. Yet, the West Coast product was only a three-star recruit on ESPN’s board and the 89th-ranked athlete in the nation. He received only one Power Five scholarship offer amidst a hail of inquiries from lesser teams like Colorado State, San Jose State, Utah State, and UNLV.
That lone Power Five offer was from Utah, and Lloyd enrolled with the Utes in 2017.
Lloyd’s career at Utah
Lloyd’s Utah career would go on to be exceptionally productive, but that greatness precipitated from a quieter start. He redshirted the 2017 season and was primarily a special-teams contributor as a redshirt freshman in 2018. However, he did gain a bit of experience on defense that year, and that experience prepared him for a rise into a starting role the following year.
Lloyd became a starting linebacker in 2019 and used that opportunity to explode onto the college football stage. The Utah LB started all 14 games for the Utes, amassing 91 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 1 interception, 2 pass deflections, and a defensive touchdown. Lloyd earned honorable mention Pac-12 honors for his performance, and that was enough to encourage an encore.
In 2020, the Utes only played five games due to COVID, but Lloyd still put up massive numbers. He nearly matched his tackle-for-loss total in nine fewer games, accumulating 48 tackles, 10 stops behind the line, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. As a result, Lloyd earned first-team All-Pac-12 selection. He was also a finalist for the Butkus Award, which ultimately went to Owusu-Koramoah.
His 2021 campaign
As good as Lloyd’s production was in 2019 and 2020, the Utah LB had his unequivocal best season in 2021. In 14 games, Lloyd amassed 111 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 4 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and 2 defensive touchdowns.
It’s not a stretch to say that Lloyd’s 2021 season was the most dominant season by a collegiate linebacker in recent history. It was almost expected when Lloyd took home the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year Award in the Pac-12. Entering the year as a potential early-round prospect, Lloyd stamped his name onto the first-round conversation with authority.
Lloyd’s NFL Draft ascension
Lloyd could have gone to the 2021 NFL Draft. He had the requisite production and tape to do so. But Lloyd — who was made a team captain ahead of the 2020 campaign — chose to exhaust his college eligibility and delay the NFL dream for one simple reason.
“More than anything, I want to win,” Lloyd said via The Salt Lake Tribune. “I want to leave with a championship, with a nice little ring on my finger. Hopefully, a couple of rings. I want to bring guys along with me, too — I love helping others. I’ve said that before. I know this team wants to be great. I know I’m not the only one on the team that wants to be great.”
In a sport where individual achievements can become the primary focus, Lloyd’s unyielding belief in his team provides a stark contrast. Lloyd was only going to make the leap to the NFL when his work at Utah was done. That kind of commitment and resolve should only make him more appealing in the eyes of NFL scouts. And in the end, he got what he wanted: Utah won the Pac-12 Championship. A lot of the credit goes to Lloyd.
With his business now finished in Utah, Lloyd will take his talents to the NFL Draft. He’s almost locked himself in as a first-round prospect. The question is, will he be the first linebacker off the board? He has the traits to warrant such a rise.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Devin Lloyd
Positives: Polished, three-down linebacker who draws a variety of opinions in the scouting community. Instinctive, quickly diagnoses plays, and stays with assignments. Breaks down well, plays off blocks, and immediately gets to the action. Smooth, covers a lot of area on the field, and gets depth on pass drops.
Easily changes direction, displays speed in lateral pursuit, and is fast to the flanks. Catches ball handlers from the back side and has a closing burst. Shows himself to be a forceful pass rusher and gets vertical to knock the ball away when he cannot get to the quarterback. Resilient and stays with the action.
Negatives: Not smooth transitioning into coverage. Haphazard in his movement and can be all over the place. Inefficient on occasion.
Analysis: Lloyd was a terrific linebacker the past three seasons as a run stuffer, pass rusher, and coverage defender. He’s underrated in my opinion, as I believe Lloyd offers scheme versatility and will quickly break into a starting lineup at the next level.