Linebackers in the NFL are rapidly becoming among the better all-around athletes on an NFL roster. Your off-ball linebacker can no longer just be a downhill thumper who stuffs the run. With the proliferation of pass-catching tight ends, running backs involved in the passing game, etc., linebackers must have the skills to be stout enough to take on double-teams and cover down the field.
Cincinnati’s Ivan Pace Jr. is on the cusp of hearing his name called during the NFL Draft, but could just as likely end up a priority free agent. Here’s a look at Pace’s scouting report to help determine where he could end up.
Ivan Pace Jr. NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Linebacker
- School: Cincinnati
- Year: Senior
Pace attended Cincinnati Colerain High School. While he ended up staying in town to play his college ball, Pace actually spent his first three years at Miami (OH). Pace starred there for three seasons before making the decision to go to the hometown college of Cincinnati. By doing so, he was reunited with his younger brother, Deshawn Pace.
At Miami (OH), Ivan Pace collected Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year accolades in 2021 and first-team All-MAC honors after leading the league and ranking 10th in the nation with 125 tackles.
More impressive was his one season at UC. Pace had the greatest defensive season ever by a Bearcat. In 2022, he became the first Bearcat ever to earn unanimous All-America accolades. All five NCAA-recognized organizations (Walter Camp, Sporting News, FWAA, AFCA, AP) recognized him for the honor. In 2022, he totaled 137 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and three forced fumbles.
Those states ranked Pace sixth nationally in tackles, third in TFLs, and 10th in sacks. This also earned him AAC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-league selection. Additionally, he was a finalist for the Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker) and Bednarik Award (nation’s top defensive player).
To further put an exclamation point on his stellar senior season, Pace capped his career with a season-high 17 tackles in addition to two TFLs, one forced fumble, and a sack against Louisville in the 2022 Wasabi Fenway Bowl.
Despite an accomplished career, there are questions about Pace’s athleticism. According to the Relative Athletic Score, he scored a 5.64 out of 10. Which ranks him as simply “ok.” Pace is the 1,104th-ranked linebacker out of 2,526 linebackers measured since 1987.
Where Pace struggles most is his size and short-area burst. At 5’10” and 231 pounds, he’s relatively undersized for an inside linebacker. Playing inside, working in small areas and traffic to find ball carriers, requires quick burst and short-area speed.
Although Pace’s 40-yard dash was considered good, his 10-yard split was quite poor. And for an inside LB, the 10-yard split is much more valuable than the full 40, as it demonstrates explosiveness.
Ivan Pace Jr. Scouting Report
Strengths: Explosive run-and-chase linebacker who began his career at Miami (Ohio). Instinctive, remains disciplined with assignments, and quickly locates the ball handler. Fires up the field making plays, sells out on the blitz, and quickly closes to the action.
Flows well laterally, displays speed in pursuit, and makes the tackle in space. Breaks down well and uses his hands to protect himself. Rarely off his feet. Quick flipping his hips to transition into coverage.
Weaknesses: Must be more disciplined pedaling in reverse. Undersized and gets caught up in the trash. Average ball skills.
Overall: Pace comes off a tremendously productive season that included 137 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks. He’s a fiery and intense LB who flies around the field working to make plays, but he has limitations. Pace lacks great height and is better moving forward and laterally than in reverse. He’s more of a two-down defender, with enough ability to have an impact on the inside of a 3-4 alignment.
Ivan Pace Jr. Combine Measurements and Results
The NFL Scouting Combine gives us a great opportunity to see how players stack up in various testing environments. Luckily PFN has full databases of both NFL Combine measurements and NFL Combine results. Below is everything you need to know from Pace’s Combine performance.
- Height: 5104
- Weight: 231
- Arm: 31 ¼”
- Hand: 9.5”
- Bench Press: 22
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.62
Ivan Pace Jr. Current Draft Projection
According to Tony Pauline’s Big Board, Pace is projected to be taken in the sixth round. His 3.31 score from Pauline places him just above the line for the seventh round. Within the ranks of all available ILBs, Pace is the 14th-best available, according to Tony, and the 226th overall prospect.
Again, the limits in Pace’s size and explosiveness may outweigh his college résumé for some teams. However, for some, the résumé may be too good to ignore, especially if they feel Pace’s instincts outweigh his athletic testing numbers.
In the last Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator run-through I did, Pace was drafted 78th overall by the Green Bay Packers. Given how he’s been graded, going in Round 3 would be a delight for Pace. The Packers are looking at a complete roster rebuild within the next year or two as the Aaron Rodgers era comes to a close. Pace is a leader and could bring much-needed production to that defense.
Another good fit for Pace is the Washington Commanders. Washington has a need at linebacker, and depending on how the board falls, he could be there at pick 118. The Commanders have been a troubled franchise on and off the field for the entirety of the Dan Snyder ownership era. That era may be ending, and Pace could be a welcomed culture change for a franchise and defense that loves playmaking linebackers.
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