10 linebackers to know ahead of the 2025 NFL Draft

2WFB4WX TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 01: LSU Tigers linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. (4) pursues a play on defense during the ReliaQuest Bowl against the Wisconsin Badgers on January 1, 2024 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)


Harold Perkins is the early LB1: The LSU junior is a true defensive weapon because of his elite pass-rushing ability.

Barrett Carter has a chance to bounce back: The Clemson senior was once a top prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft before a down season forced him to return to school.

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Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes

The 2024 NFL Draft produced a historically weak linebacker class. The group didn’t include a single first-round pick, making it the first draft without a first-round off-ball linebacker since 2011.

So, who are the players that can help the position bounce back?

Here are the 10 linebackers to know as we head into summer scouting for the 2025 NFL Draft.

(Please note: This isn’t necessarily a ranking of the top-10 prospects, but rather a watch list).

Check out our other 2025 NFL Draft summer watchlists:

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | IOL | DI | EDGE 

Harold Perkins Jr., LSU

Perkins is going to be a fascinating prospect to follow in 2024. While he has elite ability as a pass-rusher, he’s too small to play edge defender full-time (6-foot-1, 220 pounds).

In 2023, as more of an off-ball linebacker, he struggled as a run defender but flashed in coverage, earning an 81.1 coverage grade.

Perkins is an elite athlete who’s scored in the 90th percentile or higher in PFF’s Game Athleticism Score in each of his first two seasons. Whichever team drafts him would be wise to utilize him as a versatile defensive chess piece rather than a true off-ball linebacker or edge defender.

Barrett Carter, Clemson

Prior to the 2023 season, PFF’s lead draft analyst Trevor Sikkema pegged Carter as the top linebacker prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft. While Carter's junior campaign didn’t quite match what he showed as a sophomore — he earned a 70.6 grade in 2023 compared to an 81.4 grade in 2022) — Carter’s body of work over the last two years should still put him among the nation's top linebacker prospects entering summer scouting.

According to PFF’s wins above average metric, no returning Power Five linebacker has been more valuable Since 2022. He’s especially dominant on passing downs, as he’s the only player at his position who has earned 80.0-plus grades as both a pass rusher and run defender in that span.

Carter is a very good athlete who can re-enter first-round conversations with a bounce-back 2024 campaign.

Danny Stutsman, Oklahoma

After living in opposing backfields, Stutsman was named a third-team AP All-American this past season. His 19 tackles for loss or no gain tied for fourth among Power Five linebackers, while his 37 run-defense stops tied for eighth among that same group of players.

He needs to improve in coverage, given that he put up just a 64.2 grade in that aspect last season. Stutsman is still an athletic player, especially downhill, and will once again be the leader of Oklahoma’s defense this coming season. 

Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Kentucky

Dumas-Johnson's 2023 season was derailed by a fractured forearm, which kept him out of Georgia’s final five games. 

He’s earned a place on this list for what he’s accomplished over the past two years. His 80.2 run-defense grade leads all SEC linebackers over the last two seasons, while he ranks fifth among that same group with a 24.2% pressure rate.

After excelling for the Bulldogs, JDJ is taking his talents to Kentucky for the 2024 season. He’s an outstanding athlete and even ranked in the 98th percentile in PFF’s GAS metric in 2023. 

Smael Mondon Jr., Georgia

Mondon’s athletic gifts pop on tape. According to our player-tracking data, he hit a top speed of 22.4 miles per hour last year, fifth among all FBS linebackers.

That speed allows him to chase down players in an open field. Since 2022, his 16 coverage stops rank first among all SEC linebackers.

Mondon needs to get stronger and has yet to earn a season-long grade above 65.0. However, he has the raw athletic traits that are worth betting on.

Jay Higgins, Iowa

Higgins was a true ironman for Iowa’s defense last season, as his 985 snaps played led all FBS defensive players. He still played at an elite level despite rarely leaving the field, finishing fifth among all linebackers in the nation in PFF grade (89.6). Higgins ended the year as the most valuable linebacker in the country, according to PFF’s wins above average metric.

He always seemed to be around the ball last year and led the nation with 108 plays where he made first contact on the ball carrier. Higgins was also one of only six Power Five linebackers who earned 80.0-plus grades both as a run defender and in coverage.

Jaishawn Barham, Michigan

Barham broke onto the scene as a true freshman in 2022, with his 83.1 coverage grade good for fifth among Power Five linebackers. He finished the season as the seventh-most valuable linebacker in the country, according to PFF’s wins above-average metric.

Barham was limited by injuries as a sophomore and posted just a 44.7 coverage grade this past season. He’ll try to rebound at a new home in 2024, as he transferred from Maryland to Michigan in December.

Jason Henderson, Old Dominion

Henderson has been one of the nation’s best linebackers at finding the football over the last couple of seasons. Since 2022, he’s seventh among FBS linebackers with 104 plays where he made first contact on the ball carrier. His 121 tackles in that span are the most in the country.

His level of competition will be a concern, as will his size (6-foot-1, 227 pounds). However, Henderson has NFL athleticism and a nose for the football.

Collin Oliver, Oklahoma State

Oliver began his career as an edge defender and immediately established himself as a formidable pass rusher. As a true freshman in 2021, he recorded an 18.2% pressure rate that ranked fifth among Power Five edge defenders. The following season, his 15.7% pressure rate trailed only Tyree Wilson — an eventual top-10 draft pick — among Big 12 edge defenders.

Oklahoma State moved him to off-ball linebacker this past year, but he remained an elite pass rusher, putting up an FBS-best 37 quarterback pressures. The junior also flashed some skills when he wasn’t attacking the quarterback, ranking third among Big 12 linebackers with a 75.0 coverage grade.

Like Harold Perkins, Oliver is still at his best when he’s allowed to rush the quarterback. But also like Perkins, Oliver is likely too small to play edge full-time in the NFL (6-foot-2, 235 pounds).

Jack Kiser, Notre Dame

While Kiser was mainly used as a rotational piece in Notre Dame’s defense last year, his 90.3 grade trailed only Edgerrin Cooper among all linebackers in the country. He and Cooper also had the distinction of being the only linebackers in America who finished with 85.0-plus grades both in coverage and against the run.

The Fighting Irish lost starting linebackers JD Bertrand and Marist Liufau to the NFL this offseason, so Kiser should become more of a household name in his sixth season. He’s an elite athlete, having scored above the 99th percentile in PFF's GAS metric in each of the last two seasons.

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