The Detroit Lions have a couple young linebackers in Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin they should be excited about.
Davis, the team’s first-round pick last year, led all rookies and first-year players with 96 tackles starting Day 1 at the MIKE.
Reeves-Maybin, a fourth-round selection, saw his reps steadily increase as the season progressed. He plans to hit the weight room hard this offseason to add more muscle and strength to his frame to go along with the terrific speed and instincts he possesses.
Detroit’s leading tackler last season, veteran Tahir Whitehead, is an unrestricted free agent. Whitehead has been extremely versatile over his six-year career in Detroit, playing the MIKE, WILL and SAM spots.
Veteran reserve linebackers Paul Worrilow and Nick Bellore are also free agents, which means Detroit could have a need for more talent and depth at the position depending on what transpires in free agency.
New head coach Matt Patricia said he’d like his defense to be multiple, which means there could be some 3-4 elements featured from time to time. In that scheme, having quality and depth at the linebacker position is a must.
Here’s a look at five linebackers who will be trying to impress NFL talent evaluators at the NFL Scouting Combine starting later this month:
School: Virginia Tech
View photos of the prospects participating in the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.
Ht/Wt: 6-5, 250
Best trait: Versatility. There aren’t many linebackers out there with his size and speed. He’s a tackle machine with rush skills. Edmunds has over 200 tackles, 30 tackles for loss and 10 sacks the last two seasons.
Concern: Most of the knocks on Edmunds pertain to his playing strength and the fact that there’s room for him to add more strength to his frame.
Skinny: A creative defensive coordinator can do a lot of things with Edmunds. He’s a perfect fit for a hybrid defense that plans to feature a lot of different packages.
Ht/Wt: 6-1, 225
Best trait: Speed. He is a true sideline-to-sideline defender that can chase down any runner. He amassed 137 tackles this past season with 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
Concern: He is a bit undersized at 225 pounds.
Skinny: Smith can stay on the field for all three downs because of his speed, instincts and cover skills. He's a plug-and-play player right away.
Ht/Wt: 6-3, 234
Best trait: Like Edmunds, Evans has the kind of size and speed that should allow him to play a number of different roles. He had 74 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and six sacks this past season for the national champions.
Concern: He can stand to improve his cover skills in space, which is typically the biggest adjustment for young linebackers in the NFL.
Skinny: Evans has the ability to play off the line in base and also step up and rush the quarterback. That type of linebacker is becoming more and more popular in the NFL because of all the sub packages used by teams.
LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH
School: Boise State
Ht/Wt: 6-4, 240
Best trait: Size and range. The Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year totaled 141 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, five passes defended, four forced fumbles and three interceptions starting for the first time in 2017. That's some kind of production that showed off his overall game against both the run and pass.
Concern: He has just one year of starting experience.
Skinny: He has a nose for the football, and his ceiling is rather high being that he started just one year at Boise State. He has the skillset to be an every-down linebacker in the NFL.
Ht/Wt: 6-0, 236
Best trait: Production. See ball, get ball. That’s Kiser in a nutshell. He had three straight seasons of 100-plus tackles for the Cavaliers, capped off by a 143-tackle senior campaign that also included 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Over the past three years, Kiser racked up 33.5 tackles for loss, 19 sacks and eight forced fumbles to go with 397 total tackles.
Concern: He’s a bit undersized, and doesn’t possess great speed, which might limit his range at the NFL level.
Skinny: Kiser’s an old-school throwback at the position. He’s an in-the-box linebacker who simply makes plays. He has a knack for the ball. Teams might not like some of the athletic traits, but they can’t deny the production.