2024 NFL Draft Rankings: Linebackers

Previous Rankings in this series:

  1. Quarterbacks
  2. Wide Receivers
  3. Tight Ends
  4. Edge Rushers

The NFL draft begins on April 25th, and fans will tune in, hoping their team drafts the player who will change the team’s trajectory. Everyone likes to speculate, but no one truly knows what will happen. That’s why I never rule out a position, and I rank them all. The linebacker position may not be a top priority for the Bears, but if they choose to go “best available,” one of these prospects could be heading to Chicago. Here are my linebacker rankings.

The Bears addressed the linebacker position in 2023 through free agency and signed two new starters: Tremaine Edmunds to a 42 million dollar contract and T.J. Edwards to a 19.5 million contract. They joined Jack Sanborn, who has started as the third linebacker in 4-3 packages since he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2022. The Bears have two depth linebackers, Noah Sewell, a 2023 draft selection, and Amen Ogbongbemiga, who signed in free agency this year. The Bears carried two backup linebackers most of last season, but if they find a prospect they like, they may choose to have three.


1. Payton Wilson North Carolina State 6’4″ 233lbs

Payton Wilson is an athletic linebacker with sideline-to-sideline speed and a motor that never quits. He’s an aggressive player who makes himself skinny and hits gaps downhill, but he sometimes gets overaggressive, over-pursuing and missing opportunities. Wilson needs to get stronger, but he’s a good-form tackler who rarely lets anyone get away. What separates Wilson from most of his fellow linebackers is his coverage ability. He has excellent vision, leaping ability, and trusty hands. Wilson is a high-IQ player who consistently puts himself in the right spot to make a play. If he can overcome his past injury woes and stay healthy, he should have a successful professional career.

2. Edgerrin Cooper Texas A&M 6’2″ 230lbs

Edgerrin Cooper has nearly everything you want in a linebacker, and he’ll be drafted by day two. He’s a good accelerator with some chase-down speed, and he pairs that with hard-hitting and solid tackling form. His zone coverage is solid, and he maintains his eyes in the backfield. When Cooper spies the quarterback, he mirrors well and closes in with intelligence and awareness. Cooper anticipates well, gets his hands into pass lanes, and flips his hips with excellent change-of-direction capability. With all that said, he needs to improve his tackling. Cooper tackles too high too often, and he doesn’t get off blocks fast enough. Cooper’s discipline also came into question as he would bite on play-action too frequently and, at times, would hit the wrong gap. However, he’s strong and gets off blocks consistently, a good baseline going into the NFL, and I look forward to following his journey.

3. Jeremiah Trotter Jr Clemson 6’0″ 228lbs

Jeremiah Trotter Jr. could be a top-two linebacker prospect if he had more size and weight, but I still rank him as a close third. With a slighter frame comes concerns around strength, but Trotter tied for the most bench press reps for participating linebackers at the combine. He’s a speedy player who explodes to the ball, though his explosive get-off can get inconsistent. Trotter has a motor that never quits and flashes violence when hitting. He’s an intelligent cover linebacker and keeps his eyes on the backfield. Trotter breaks on the ball, disrupts the pass, and is a consistent threat to pick it off. In the run game, he doesn’t seek contact or try to power through blocks but instead works around blocks, though quickly and consistently. I prefer a Mike who can do either, so I see his path to success through the Sam or Will position.


4. J.D. Bertrand Notre Dame 6’1″ 235lbs

J.D. Bertrand was so much fun to watch, and I could hardly put his film down. Bertrand is “high motor” personified and has a nose for the ball. The tape is full of plays with Bertrand ending near the ball, and coaches and GMs will be searching for recognition like that at the draft. He bursts through gaps and can lay the pine, but he needs to watch his aggressiveness. At times, Bertrand will choose a shallow angle or even over-pursue his target. With the right coaching, Bertrand will be a sleeper prospect that teams regret missing.

5. Cedric Gray North Carolina 6’1″ 234lbs

Cedric Gray is a powerhouse, and if his technique and vision catch up, he could be a force at the next level. Gray has the power to make tackles while being blocked, but if he had the hand technique to get off blocks faster, he wouldn’t need to. Gray is slightly slower, which causes some coverage difficulties. He’s consistently beaten by jab steps and sharp cuts, especially in man coverage. Gray does have enough acceleration to get in the backfield and make the play, though, and he sports a strong tackling form. He’s another player who keeps working through the whistle, and if that work translates to practice, he’ll clean up his technique in no time.

6. Junior Colson Michigan 6’3″ 247lbs

Junior Colson has a prototypical linebacker build and the vision and processing skills to match. However, I want more hunger and aggression from Colson or to see him explode with athleticism. None of that showed up on the tape, but that won’t keep teams away from him for too long. He’s constantly working and takes excellent pursuit angles to the outside. Colson will need to get more explosive to be a backfield threat, but his technique and strength stop most running backs once they reach him. When in coverage, Colson holds his own with enough speed to stay with tight ends that get vertical, and he has loose enough hips to change direction well enough. I like Colson as a prospect, but he falls just outside my top five.

7. Marist Liufau Notre Dame 6’2″ 234lbs
8. Ty’Ron Hopper Missouri 6’2″ 231lbs
9. Tommy Eicheberg Ohio State 6’2″ 233lbs
10. Jackson Sirmon Cal 6’2″ 235lbs
11. Tyrice Knight UTEP 6’0″ 233lbs
12. Nathaniel Watson Mississippi State 6’2″ 233lbs
13. Curtis Jacobs Penn State 6’1″ 241lbs
14. Jackson Mitchell UConn 6’1″ 230lbs
15. Trevin Wallace Kentucky 6’1″ 237lbs
16. Steele Chambers Ohio State 6’1″ 226lbs
17. Jordan Magee Temple 6’1″ 228lbs
18. Darius Muasau UCLA 6’0″ 225lbs
19. Aaron Casey Indiana 6’1″ 231lbs
20. Edefuan Ulofoshio Washington 6’0″ 236lbs
21. Tatum Bethune FSU 5’11” 229lbs
22. Michael Barrett Michigan 5’11 233lbs
23. Dallas Gant Toledo 6’2″ 224lbs
24. Jaylan Ford Texas 6’2″ 240lbs
25. Omar Speights LSU 6’0″ 229lbs

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