Background: Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Nakobe Dean (17) celebrates with the trophy after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas
This Just In:
Could Steve Keim be thinking of drafting another first round inside linebacker?
You know —- Deone Bucannon (2014) , Haason Reddick (2017) , Isaiah Simmons (2020) and Zaven Collins (2021) —- which would thereby mean that in his 10th NFL Draft as the Cardinals’ GM, Steve Keim would have spent half of his 1st round picks on players he projected as 34 inside linebackers.
This reminds me of the years when the Detroit Lions kept drafting WRs in the 1st round. Finally, they hit the jackpot in 2007 with Calvin Johnson.
If the Cardinals are going to continue to employ a base 34 defense, getting the four linebacker positions correct is of paramount importance. As I have written and spoke of on Red Rain a number of times, none of the four linebackers in last year’s starting lineup of SOLB Markus Golden, MILB Jordan Hicks, WILB Isaiah Simmons and WOLB Chandler Jones was ideally suited to play their respective positions.
As crazy as this might sound, were the Cardinals to draft Devin Lloyd (6-3, 235, Utah) or Nakobe Dean (5-11, 229, Georgia), they could finally lock down 3 of the 4 LB spots in the 34, by moving Isaiah Simmons to SAM OLB, starting Zaven Collins at MIKE ILB and either Devin Lloyd or Nakobe Dean at WILB (the position that no Keim draft pick has yet to nail down).
Devin Lloyd:per nfl.com Lance Zierlein:
Highly productive and highly physical, Lloyd could create interesting discussions in draft rooms as teams work through his process versus production. Lloyd can be a little inconsistent with early diagnosis and fit recognition and unorthodox in how he flows to the football. With that said, he has a stat sheet full of production in every major category, including 43 tackles for loss over the last three seasons. He plays with the willful demeanor of an NFL alpha linebacker and is sneaky talented as a rusher either blitzing or aligning off the edge. Lloyd will make plenty of plays and should become a good starter as an inside or strong-side linebacker, but inconsistent process could limit his consistency.
Player Comp: Willie Gay
Per Mel Kiper:
Lloyd had a fantastic season for the Utes, with 111 total tackles, eight sacks, 20 tackles for loss, four interceptions (two pick-sixes, including one in the Pac-12 title game) and a forced fumble. He blows by linemen at the snap, but Utah also uses him often in coverage, showing off his range as an off-ball defender. Lloyd was used more as a pass-rusher in 2019, racking up 6.5 sacks. He had 16.5 for his career. The versatility stands out as a major plus. I’ve compared him to former top-five pick Devin White, though he doesn’t have the same straight-line speed (he ran an underwhelming 4.66-second 40-yard dash at the combine).
Mel’s Big Board Ranking: #16
Nakobe Dean per nfl.com Lance Zierlein:
Explosive, three-down linebacker with the demeanor and quickness to become a volume tackler while holding down third-down duties at a high level. Dean’s play recognition is a work in progress, which limits reaction time and forces him to deal with more blockers than he’ll see as he gains more experience. Quick feet and plus agility will bring him to ball-carriers at a high rate but a lack of size and length means he’ll need to fine-tune his approach as a tackler to make sure he finishes what he starts. He might lack measurables, but he has the toughness and technique to see a boost in his performance once his play becomes more proactive.
“You know who he is? He’s (former Falcons Pro Bowl LB) Jessie Tuggle. Same size and quickness and talent to go get the ball.” — Executive for NFC team
Player Comp: Devin Bush
NFL.com Grade: 6.40
Mel Kiper on Nakobe Dean:
Denver could be a great spot for the draft’s best off-ball linebacker, Dean, who was the leader of the spectacular Georgia defense. He makes tackle after tackle and can run sideline to sideline to make plays, and he has three-down potential because of his ability to cover tight ends and running backs. He’ll also help as a blitzer — he had six sacks in 2021. The Broncos have the Rams’ second- and third-round picks from the Von Miller trade, so general manager George Paton has a real chance to get this team back to the playoffs if he can nail a few early selections, as he did with Pat Surtain II and Javonte Williams last year.
- Mel Kiper: Devin Lloyd #19 PHI; Nakobe Dean: #29 MIA
- Daniel Jeremiah: Lloyd: #21 NE; Dean: #24 DAL
- Todd McShay: Lloyd #9 DEN; Dean: #15 PHI
Both Devin Lloyd and Nakobe Dean are 1st round talents as classic “in vogue” 3 down ILBs. Both Llyod and Dean have the versatility to be downhill tacklers and sticky cover men. At Utah and Georgia, Lloyd and Dean were able to profit from playing behind two of the more stout defensive lines in the USA. If the Cardinals are able to sign a run stuffing DT like Calais Campbell, then that would make Lloyd and Dean’s transition into the NFL a good deal easier.
I think that if the Cardinals are going to address needs on defense in the 1st round for the third year in a row, in my opinion, the #23 pick should be a DT, edge rusher or sticky press man to man cover CB.
DT: Jordan Davis, GA; Devonte Wyatt, GA
EDGE: Travon Walker, GA; Jermaine Johnson, FSU
CB: Trent McDuffie, WAS; Roger McCreary; AUB, Kyler Gordon; WAS
I am excited to think that the coaches are going to move Isaiah Simmons to OLB in the 34 base. The combo of Tanner Vallejo and Nick Vigil at WILB would allow the Cardinals to move Simmons and to use a draft pick on Day 2 or Day 3 on a potential WILBOF.
If Leo Chenal of Wisconsin is available, his versatility to play inside and edge is a huge plus, Chenal ran an impressive 4.53 and jumped a 40.5” vertical at 6-2, 260. At his pro day he put put up 34 reps at 225. Also, a superb 6.84 3 cone.
Per The Athletic: According to Pro Football Focus, Chenal was the highest-graded run defender in college football last season (94.1). His pass rush grade of 91.8 ranked second among FBS linebackers, as did his overall defensive grade of 91.5.
Actually, now that I have watched Chenal’s tapes again, I would strongly consider him at #23, that is, if Travon Walker and Jermaine Johnson are off the board. Chenal reminds me of T.J. Watt. Plus, the Wisconsin connection to J.J. Watt would cause quite a buzz.
Hmmm...came on here to talk about the best two inside linebackers in the draft in Devin Lloyd and Nakobe Dean and wound up feeling incredibly psyched about the possibility of drafting Leo Chenal. Chenal could play WILB and/or either OLB spot, he is that versatile. The Cardinals could play him at WILB in the base and rush him from the DE spot in sub packages. Or —- they could commit to him at Chandler Jones’ OLB spot, right from the get-go.
6-4, 252 —- 4.69 40 —- 37” VJ —- 6.79 3 cone —- 21 reps —-
6’2, 260 —- 4.53 40 —- 40.5” VJ —- 6.84 3 cone —- 34 reps
6-1 1/2, 237 —- 4.52 40 —- 36.5” VJ —- 7.01 3 cone —- 23 reps
6-4, 266 —- 4.79 40 —- 33.5” VJ —- 7.10 3 cone —- 29 reps
6-5, 266 —- 4.77 40 —- 35” VJ —- 7.07 3 cone —- 22 reps
Career College Stats:
- Chenal —- 178
- Jones —- 174
- Reddick —- 149
- Bosa —- 77
- Watt —- 70
Tackles for Loss:
- Reddick —- 47.0
- Bosa —- 29.0
- Jones —- 27.0
- Chenal —- 25.5
- Watt —- 17.0
- Reddick —- 17.5
- Bosa —- 17.5
- Watt —- 11.5
- Chenal —- 11.0
- Jones —- 10
Stats Perspective —- Leo Chenal played mostly at ILB. The others played mostly on the edge,
My goodness —- maybe the Cardinals are hyping up Devin Lloyd and Nakobe Dean to keep teams’ eyes away from Leo Chenal!
Some might say that the Cardinals should be able to take Leo Chenal at #55 —- but the PFF Simulator player rankings are not very accurate at all, imo. Chenal’s game tapes and measurables are too good to ignore. My guess is he goes anywhere from picks 22-40. T.J. Watt went at pick #29.
Shhh —- let’s keep LB Leo Chenal to the Cardinals as ours and J.J. Watt’s little secret.