Pass rushers and pass defenders get more clout than linebackers. There’s a reason for that. They directly impact the pass on every down, while linebackers don’t necessarily fall into that category. With the NFL trending toward being a passing league, affecting that area is essential. Nevertheless, linebackers bring their own value. They fill the gaps and provide security. They’re the last line of defense in the box. With that in mind, which outside linebackers were selected in the 2021 NFL Draft? Can they fulfill their duties on the second level?
Which outside linebackers were drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Let’s take a look at the outside linebackers selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that the difference between inside and outside linebackers can be somewhat arbitrary and scheme-dependent. If a player you’re looking for is not listed here, check out our inside linebackers or defensive ends articles for other 3-4 outside linebackers.
Micah Parsons, Penn State | Round 1, Pick 12 | Dallas Cowboys
Most mock drafts had the Dallas Cowboys picking Jaycee Horn or Patrick Surtain II with the 10th overall pick. However, both of those players went before Dallas’ selection, causing the Cowboys to change course.
Dallas traded back and selected Micah Parsons at No. 12 overall. Parsons is reportedly learning the MIKE role for the Cowboys, but he projects best as a versatile piece on the second level. He’s an elite athlete with a searing play pace. His previous experience as an edge rusher makes him a dangerous pass-rushing threat, and his ability to shoot through gaps and convert shows up in run defense as well.
Zaven Collins, Tulsa | Round 1, Pick 16 | Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals love their hybrid players. That statement rang true in Round 1 when the Cardinals drafted Zaven Collins with the 16th pick. This selection comes just one year after Arizona picked Isaiah Simmons, a similarly versatile defensive prospect, on Day 1.
That said, while Simmons blurs the line between safety and linebacker, Collins blurs the line between linebacker and defensive end. With a frame close to 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Collins is a massive prospect. He’s intelligent, athletic, and forceful at the contact point. He gives Vance Joseph another exciting tool to work with, but it’s up to Joseph to use him correctly.
Jamin Davis, Kentucky | Round 1, Pick 19 | Washington Football Team
Jamin Davis steadily rose up the offseason linebacker rankings. Once viewed as an under-the-radar prospect, his stock skyrocketed through February and March. In April, he reached his peak, heading to the Washington Football Team with the 19th overall pick.
There’s a reason Davis ascended so quickly. He’s an elite athletic specimen with a long 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame. He shows off incredible upside in pass coverage, and he has the short-range burst to be a strong run defender. Behind Washington’s defensive front, Davis owns DROY potential.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame | Round 2, Pick 52 | Cleveland Browns
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was extremely well-respected by our team of PFN draft analysts, but he unexpectedly slipped in the 2021 NFL Draft. Viewed as a Round 1 prospect by most evaluators, Owusu-Koramoah fell to the middle of Round 2, where the Browns hastily scooped him up.
Rumors suggested that a heart issue fueled JOK’s descent, but the Browns reportedly have no concerns there. If medicals check out for JOK, he can be a standout player in Cleveland. He owns the versatility to play OLB, ILB, and slot CB. JOK is one of the most aggressive, fast-paced players in the draft pool, regardless of position.
Baron Browning, Ohio State | Round 3, Pick 105 | Denver Broncos
In time, 31 NFL teams may regret passing on Baron Browning. Entering the draft as a potential Round 1 sleeper on account of his elite athletic profile (4.56 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical at 6-foot-3, 245), Browning fell to the Broncos at the very end of Round 3.
The Broncos took a risk waiting until then to pick him. Nonetheless, the board fell in their favor, and they may soon reap the benefits. Browning has the explosiveness and density to rush the passer as a 3-4 OLB, but he also shows impressive flashes of sideline-to-sideline range and instincts as a 3-4 ILB. Browning’s potential is sky-high in Vic Fangio’s defense.
Outside linebackers selected in the 2021 NFL Draft | Rounds 4-7
6) Jabril Cox, LSU | R4-P115 | Dallas Cowboys
7) Garret Wallow, TCU | R5-P170 | Houston Texans
8) Nick Niemann, Iowa | R6-P185 | Los Angeles Chargers
9) Chris Garrett, Concordia-St. Paul | R7-P252 | Los Angeles Rams
10) Grant Stuard, Houston | R7-P259 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A mix of inside and outside linebackers occupied Day 3 rounds. These names highlight the remainder of the outside linebacker class.
Jabril Cox is the most high-profile athlete in this range. The former North Dakota State standout transferred to LSU in 2020 and was actually one of the better linebackers in college football. A terrific coverage LB, Cox has the profile to produce early with the Cowboys. Like Cox, Garret Wallow also possesses a strong coverage portfolio, being a converted safety. He could also exceed his draft position in Houston.
In Rounds 6 and 7, Nick Niemann is the name to watch. The Chargers have a stellar track record in developing linebackers, and Niemann owns a lot of raw talent to mold. Standing at 6-foot-3, 234 pounds, Niemann tested with a 4.51 40-yard dash, a 121-inch broad jump, and a 6.67 three-cone time at his pro day.
After Niemann, there’s Chris Garrett and Grant Stuard. Garrett has the skill set of a 3-4 OLB, and Stuard, while limited physically, showed off his high motor at the Senior Bowl in January and projects well on special teams.
How many outside linebackers were drafted in 2021?
This article includes a specific count regarding how many outside linebackers were selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Yet, the criteria for defining inside and outside linebackers differs from team to team. The count may be different elsewhere, and depending on where linebackers play in the NFL, it could ultimately change. If we consider most 3-4 outside linebackers as edge rushers, and thus defensive ends, then around 10 outside linebackers were selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Despite the positional ambiguity, this class has a chance to be productive early. All three first-rounders are entering opportunistic situations. Parsons and Collins can both be versatile chess pieces, while Davis projects well as a WILL linebacker in Washington.
JOK joins an ascending Browns franchise at the perfect time, while Browning’s physical upside makes him an enticing weapon in Denver. There’s a lot to watch with this linebacker class, and it begins at the top.