What does the 2024 NFL Draft linebacker class look like off preliminary viewings? As has become a common theme with the 2024 group, there’s an abundance of depth to sift through. And the top prospects have a brand of dynamic upside that could lift them into the Round 1 range. Here’s a look at the full list.
Ranking the Top LBs in the 2024 NFL Draft
The 2023 NFL Draft ended up having a linebacker go in Round 1 in Detroit Lions selection Jack Campbell. But for most of the 2023 cycle, the LB group was notorious for having a lack of bona fide first-round prospects. Campbell’s testing and production helped him, but even he had some holes in his composite profile.
A linebacker hasn’t gone in the top 10 since 2020, and the linebacker drafted highest since then — Micah Parsons — has morphed into a full-time edge rusher at the NFL level. For years on end, it seems the LB position has been starved for blue-chip talent. Will the 2024 NFL Draft class change that? Let’s take a closer look and see for ourselves.
10) Tyreem Powell, Rutgers
At the very least, the 2024 NFL Draft LB class isn’t short on upside. That’s something you’ll see quickly with prospects like Rutgers’ Tyreem Powell. Powell put up 71 tackles, six TFLs, three sacks, and four PBUs in a standout 2022, and he’s expected to play the MIKE position more in 2023. Together, his traits and early production generate plenty of excitement.
It’s important to note that Powell is still largely a work in progress. His coverage instincts are very inconsistent, and he often drifts too far past gaps when tracking runs laterally. But at 6’5″ and 235 pounds, Powell has elite size, and he couples that size with impressive lateral twitch, burst, and fluidity. He’s already a physical form tackler who brings immense upside in all phases.
9) Curtis Jacobs, Penn State
Penn State won’t have another Micah Parsons on the NFL Draft circuit — at least not yet. But there is a linebacker prospect on the Nittany Lions’ roster to keep an eye on. Through 2021 and 2022, Curtis Jacobs produced 113 tackles, 14.5 TFLs, and seven sacks. His playstyle makes him a must-watch for evaluators, and there’s room for him to keep growing.
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Jacobs is a bit lean and undersized, and that lack of elite play strength can hinder him in certain situations. Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions defender has smooth mobility in coverage. And ultimately, his best plays come when he’s able to pin his ears back, attack downhill, and splice through gaps. He’s an absolute homing missile when seeking out ball carriers.
8) Eric Gentry, USC
The 2024 NFL Draft LB class presents a lot of variety up top, but there’s no prospect as unique as USC’s Eric Gentry. Gentry — who recorded 71 tackles, four TFLs, two sacks, three PBUs, and two forced fumbles in 2022 — has an extremely unorthodox frame at 6’6″, 205 pounds. There will be questions about how he translates, but the upside is clear.
Gentry underwent surgery for an ankle injury this offseason but should be good to go by the start of the season. He’s still in dire need of added weight. Nevertheless, Gentry’s nimble athleticism and overwhelming wingspan make him a constant threat to undercut passes at the second level, and that same length magnifies his tackling range in pursuit.
7) Luke Reimer, Nebraska
The Nebraska football program will hope for a renaissance under Matt Rhule, who was able to rebuild both the Temple and Baylor programs earlier in his coaching career. It helps that Nebraska has a strong core to carry over from 2022, especially on defense. Quinton Newsome is a standout at cornerback, and Luke Reimer is the leader of the unit.
Reimer has accumulated 194 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and 11 pass deflections over the past two seasons. That production sheds light on his speed and range at the second level, but the 6’0″, 225-pound Reimer also has the football IQ, vision, and compact frame to hold his own in run defense.
6) Jestin Jacobs, Oregon
At Georgia, Dan Lanning fueled the rise of first-round LB prospect Quay Walker and Nakobe Dean, who’s now in line to start with the Philadelphia Eagles. Lanning knows how to put talented linebackers in position to succeed. He’ll have his opportunity to do it again with Iowa transfer Jestin Jacobs, who’s coming back from a soft tissue injury suffered in 2022.
Jacobs only played two games before missing the rest of 2022 with an injury, but he has one of the most exciting ceilings in the 2024 NFL Draft class. At 6’4″, 238 pounds, he has impressive size and length, and yet, he’s very natural managing space and changing directions in coverage. Jacobs’ size and athleticism allude to vast projected versatility.
5) Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State
Tommy Eichenberg had fans as a potential early-round LB prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle after experiencing a career resurgence under defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. He racked up 120 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, a pick, and three PBUs but ultimately chose to return to school for the 2023 campaign. Now, he’s a top LB in the 2024 class.
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At 6’2″, 239 pounds, Eichenberg brings contagious energy and play pace at the second level. He’s an extremely explosive athlete, but 2022 was the first year he truly reined in his traits and learned to play with more control. He can stack and shed, as well as invade gaps and wrangle up QBs as a blitzer, and his hot motor makes him a constant threat around the ball.
4) Danny Stutsman, Oklahoma
Danny Stutsman was one of the most productive defenders in the entire nation in 2022, putting up 125 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two picks, and five pass deflections. He’s a proven playmaker in all phases, and he returns as one of the most established 2024 NFL Draft prospects at the LB position.
At 6’3″, 229 pounds, Stutsman has great size, and he plays with an unmatchable motor in pursuit. Not only does he play all the way to the final whistle, but he has the high-end speed and explosiveness to run down ball carriers with his range. His instant acceleration when triggering is awe-inspiring, and while he can refine his instincts further, all of the traits are there.
3) Omar Speights, LSU
LSU has a future star in Harold Perkins at linebacker, but it’ll be just as exciting to see Oregon State transfer Omar Speights play his first season under the SEC lights. In four years with the Beavers, Speights accumulated 304 total tackles, 25 TFLs, five sacks, three picks, and four deflections. With the Tigers, he aims to make himself known.
Speights’ ceiling might not be quite as high as other prospects on this list, but he’s a sound three-down linebacker at 6’1″, 237 pounds. He’s a sturdy tackler with good closing speed and reaction quickness, and while he doesn’t have much production in coverage, Speights does have the vision and route-recognition ability to process and respond to plays in zone.
2) Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson
One year after Clemson boasted Trenton Simpson on the NFL Draft stage, the Tigers have two more potential early-round LB prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft. Jeremiah Trotter Jr. — son of an All-Pro NFL linebacker of the same name — comes in as our second-ranked LB on our preliminary rankings. Another season of production could lock Trotter in this range.
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In 2022, Trotter put up 89 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, two picks, and five deflections. At 6’0″, 230 pounds, he’s a dense, well-leveraged linebacker over the middle of the field who offers great instincts and awareness for his age. He has a natural feel for how to combat, evade, and bend around blocks, and he’s a very reliable tackler with sturdy form and closing burst.
Who Is the Best LB in the 2024 NFL Draft?
Clemson lays claim to both of the top LB prospects on our preliminary 2024 NFL Draft positional rankings. Trotter was actually more productive than his counterpart in 2022, but looking at his traits and versatility, it’s hard to keep the top spot from Barrett Carter in the summer months.
1) Barrett Carter, Clemson
Carter is Clemson’s “Agent 0.” A former five-star recruit who was timed in the 4.5 range coming out of high school, Carter amassed 73 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions, eight deflections, and two forced fumbles in 2022. At 6’1″, 225 pounds, his versatility and attacking mentality are both nearly impossible to replicate.
Trotter might have better discipline as a traditional LB, but in a modern NFL, where versatile linebackers create a mismatch, Carter projects extremely well. He has the fluidity to drop into coverage and play the slot, but his value is highest in the box, where he has the searing explosiveness, quick trigger, and pass-rushing chops to be a down-to-down nightmare.
- Mason Cobb, USC
- Jackson Mitchell, UConn
- Francisco Mauigoa, Miami (FL)
- Justin Flowe, Arizona State
- Khari Coleman, Ole Miss
- Ty’Ron Hopper, Missouri
- Tatum Bethune, Florida State
- Deshawn Pace, Cincinnati
- Travion Brown, Arizona State
- Kam Arnold, Boston College