by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics.
As this year comes to a close, Draft 412 will take a look at the 2023 and 2024 draft classes by position. The following is a current “Best Of” list for both offense and defense, taking a look back at the top players from last year’s draft party and ahead to the coming NFL selection process in April.
From Draft 412 to you… Happy Holidays and get your mock drafts ready!!
The outside linebacker is a confusing position to say the least. Many outside linebackers and called edge rushers and vice versa. Last year, the #3 overall pick, Will Anderson Jr., is categorized as an edge rusher, as is Pittsburgh Steelers star T.J. Watt. Depending on schemes and nomenclature, these positions are similar but can also be confused. But what isn’t confusing is their value to teams.
The 2023 NFL Draft had 12 total outside linebackers/edge rushers selected and here are the best of last year’s picks:
1- Houston - Will Anderson Jr.
Anderson has proven that the Texans trade up to select him was a pick well justified. He has 5 sacks and 42 tackles and is always in the backfield for Houston. His 19 quarterback hits lead all rookies, and he looks as though he is going to be a future pro bowler. Anderson was listed as our #3 edge rusher, but is listed as an outside linebacker in depth charts.
2. Arizona- B.J. Ojulari
The second round pick of the Arizona Cardinals has played in all 15 games and has performed well in a rotational role. He has 30 tackles and 4 sacks for the Cardinals. Ojulari was a playmaker at LSU and is showing the ability to put up double digit sack numbers in the NFL.
As we move from the 2023 draft to the 2024 NFL Draft, here is Draft 412’s Top Outside Linebacker prospects:
1- Edgerrin Cooper - Texas A&M
No other prospect has helped himself as much as Edgerrin Cooper has this season. He started the season as a mid-late round prospect who has had one of the best seasons in the country at outside linebacker. He is now being brought up as a day 2 prospect and with a big combine could possibly slide into the first round.
2. Payton Wilson - N.C. State
Payton Wilson had a huge season in 2023 for N.C. State, collecting 138 tackles, 6 sacks and 3 interceptions. The knock on him is his strength and injury history but he will be a player that will be hard not to give a long look to if looking at drafting a linebacker.
3- Ty’Ron Hopper - Missouri
Hopper is what many call a “tweener” as his height and weight are in between a normal linebacker and safety’s measurements. He has the sideline to sideline speed to possibly make the switch to a hybrid type position in the right defensive scheme. A name to look for in the middle draft who put in the right situation can flourish.
4- Curtis Jacobs - Penn State
Jacobs is another athletic linebacker who has a good initial burst and excels in chasing down backs. He has problems playing in traffic and he is undersized. He can be a player who improves his stock at the combine. Jacobs has yet to commit to the NFL or coming back to school as of the publication of this article.
5. Marist Liufau- Notre Dame
Liufau has excellent instincts and rarely is caught going for a fake or a misdirection. He plays with a high intensity and never quits on a play. He has been steadily moving up draft boards and will be a player to watch at the combine.
6- Collin Oliver - Oklahoma State
Collin Oliver had a breakout season for Oklahoma State and shot up draft boards after collecting 71 tackles and 6 sacks. He has the pass rush technique to possibly be moved to an edge position if he can add some strength. He may have trouble adjusting to the speed and strength of the NFL.