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Top Five Linebackers In The 2024 NFL Draft

Like the defensive linemen, linebackers need to be more athletic and versatile than ever. Skill players on offense dominate the game, and having the linebackers prevent extra yards and significant gains is crucial to any team looking to contend for a title.

The Chief's defense was led by Nick Bolton, one of the most explosive linebackers in the NFL, who was able to help lead them to another Superbowl victory. The 49ers similarly had Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw lead the way for their unit, mainly being able to stifle opponents' run games and limit short passing gains.

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If teams are looking to build that core through this year's draft, here are the leading players NFL teams should be looking for. 

5) Chris Braswell, Alabama

Braswell acts a lot as an edge but is primarily used as a traditional linebacker for the Crimson Tide. Braswell is unique, weighing at 257 pounds, while still having a 4.50 40-yard dash and near 81-inch wingspan to help wrap up opponents. With this size and speed, he is excellent at covering tight ends, often excelling when dropping into zone coverage.

Braswell is also electric on his feet and a spring waiting to pop whenever he is on defense. On the downside, Braswell is stiff with his movements and can react slowly to split-second changes. Braswell is a versatile linebacker who shifts from zone to blitzing but is wary, given his limited snap count and ability to be beaten by shiftier opponents.

4) Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M

Cooper is the opposite of Braswell, weighing only 227 pounds. However, This light figure enables him to excel in zone coverage against tight ends and running backs. Cooper is much more suited to the modern definition of a linebacker, being explosive and quick on his feet with a somewhat smaller demeanor.

Cooper can struggle with completing tackles, however. While he excels at getting there and stopping the opponent for at least a few seconds, Cooper has struggled with fully wrapping up his opponents and bringing them down. With a bit of work and improvement to his strength, Cooper will be a threat in coverage for whoever drafts him. 

3) Payton Wilson, NC State

The 2023 Chuck Bednarik and 2023 Dick Butkus Awards winners deserve to be high on this list. Despite not popping onto the page due to his physicals, Wilson's work ethic and intelligence for the game allowed him to dominate CFB and be crowned the best linebacker in college football.

Wilson views the field incredibly well, taking the best and quickest route to the tackle often and getting there before most others. Wilson also has the motor of a Cheetah, fighting after the initial contact to secure the tackle against strong and quick opponents. Wilson can need help with strength and size, though, coming in at only 234 pounds. Wilson should be a great addition to whichever team drafts him if he puts on some weight and strength. 

2) Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson

Trotter's best trait is easily his mind. At only 6'0 and 230 pounds, Trotter is small for any version of an NFL linebacker. He is an excellent coverage linebacker, constantly showing traits similar to Fred Warner, often able to cover the middle of the field by himself. Mixed with an outstanding ability to blitz and fake out the line, Trotter is incredibly versatile. Trotter can struggle in run coverage due to his size and not excelling in strength. He plays very similarly to another Clemson alumni, Isaiah Simmons, with his ability to cover and play all over the field. 

1) Dallas Turner, Alabama

Turner is the consensus number-one linebacker in this year's draft. Turner comes into the NFL at 6'4 and 242 pounds while still somehow being able to run a 4.45 40-yard dash. Turner's fluidity is extraordinary, changing from a blitz to covering in moments.

Turner also has an explosive first step that allows him to play as an edge if the formation calls for it. Turner somewhat struggles with gaining leverage and in-run coverage, but outside of that, Turner is about as good of a prospect as you will find. Sharing the field with Will Anderson Jr. taught him skills to get to the quarterback quickly, but with his hip movement, he could shift and cover far beyond what Anderson was ever capable of. 

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