The NFL Comparison for Top 10 LB Recruits from Class of 2015
Comparing recruits to NFL players allows people to see specifically which type of player the recruit is. NFL players are seen by millions of fans on Sundays, while college football recruits are mainly only read about.
As the series continues, the position of linebacker is the subject of this piece. The 2015 class has a solid crop of 'backers, and many of them figure to be cornerstones in college.
The nation's best linebacker compares to a player on the Tennessee Titans, while a 4-star linebacker was awfully tough to find a professional comparison for. Also, a linebacker on the Dallas Cowboys has a similar skill set to a recruit from Los Angeles.
Jahvoni Simmons is a 4-star linebacker from Virginia who excels against the run. Although he isn't the biggest linebacker at 6'1" and 225 pounds, he plays like a giant at the point of attack.
He has excellent vision and instincts in the box, plus he is quick to fill gaps inside. He has good short-area quickness and range from the middle of the second level, and he is capable of being adequate in coverage.
He is a lot like Jon Beason of the New York Giants.
From Utah, Osa Masina is a versatile recruit who can also play running back, fullback, tight end and defensive end.
However, the 6'4", 218-pounder projects best as a linebacker in college. He is a solid athlete who has great straight-line speed. He plays with solid strength and toughness, plus he can attack the ball hard off the edge.
Although the 4-star prospect has a lot to learn about playing in coverage, Masina has a chance to develop into a well-rounded linebacker. He compares to Jamie Collins of the New England Patriots.
It's easy to initially mistake Roquan Smith as a safety on the hoof. The 6'2", 205-pounder isn't big or thick, and he doesn't appear to be strong.
However, when you see him run around and make plays as a linebacker, you know he's right at home. Speed is the sole foundation of his game. The 4-star prospect beats offensive linemen to spots on the field by taking sharp angles, and he uses explosive short-area quickness.
He fits best as a weak-side or middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. Smith is a younger version of Wesley Woodyard of the Tennessee Titans.
The Mississippi native is an athletic second-level defender who is 6'3" and 225 pounds. He has outstanding quickness and range, which allows him to chase ball-carriers sideline to sideline across the box. Lewis can strike blockers with an adequate thump at the point of attack, plus he plays with solid instincts.
His size and athleticism make him a similar linebacker to Derrick Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs.
At 6'2.5" and 255 pounds, Ricky DeBerry is one of the biggest linebackers in recent memory. He has the size and strength to challenge and shed blockers with strength at the point of attack.
However, he also is an above-average athlete who can work in space. He has the first-step quickness to shoot through trash laterally to attack ball-carriers early in a play. The Virginia native is also capable of jamming tight ends at the line before running with them downfield.
DeBerry looks like Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict on tape.
Jerome Baker is listed as an athlete, but he very well could end up as an outside linebacker in college. At 6'1" and 205 pounds, the 4-star Cleveland native lacks intimidating size for a 'backer.
Yet, he has terrific lateral quickness and athleticism to be a terror on the second level. Baker can weave around bigger offensive linemen to get to running backs, and he has the range to run across the box to make stops.
With his speed and athletic ability being his best assets, Baker's NFL comparison is Alec Ogletree of the St. Louis Rams.
It took awhile to find a comfortable comparison for 4-star linebacker Jeffery Holland. The Florida native's ability to play any linebacker position in any scheme is what made things difficult.
Right now, he works mostly as a 3-4 linebacker for Trinity Christian Academy. He's a 6'2", 230-pounder with smooth acceleration and great athleticism. He can crash hard off the edge at the snap, and he has an excellent burst to finish plays.
He also has enough strength and instincts to play inside, yet his speed and quickness will likely be used as a pass-rusher in college. For now, Holland compares to Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs.
John Houston is a 5-star linebacker who is one of the top players in California. He can slash across the second level in a 4-3 defense due to his athleticism and short-area burst.
The 6'3", 211-pounder has the quickness to attack the line of scrimmage immediately after reading his keys. He finds the ball well through traffic, and he can slip blocks with quickness. Houston isn't a powerful thumper at the point of attack, but he does have loose hips to change direction easily in space.
He can fluidly buzz into coverage, flip his hips and get his hands on balls in coverage. Sean Lee of the Dallas Cowboys is Houston's NFL comparison.
Adam Gorney of Rivals.com (subscription required) wrote on March 31: "Houston looks as good as any linebacker in the country."
From Cincinnati, Justin Hilliard is a talented 5-star outside linebacker. His agility and speed will allow him to play on all three downs in college.
At 6'2" and 230 pounds, he has great vision to immediately plug gaps from the outside. He's comfortable working in space, as he is fluid coming out of transition. He can generate good force at the point of attack to hit like a ton of bricks, plus he can stick with running backs and tight ends in coverage.
Lavonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is Hilliard's NFL comparison.
Malik Jefferson is a remarkable athlete who happens to play linebacker. Yet, he also possesses excellent awareness and instincts.
The Texas native can do just about everything at 6'2" and 225 pounds. He can stand up on the edges to rush the quarterback with explosiveness and power, and he also has the strength to work inside as a run-stuffer.
He needs to improve his anticipation in coverage, but Jefferson has the athletic ability and speed to develop into an asset for a defense versus passing plays. The 5-star defender compares well to Akeem Ayers of the Tennessee Titans.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns.