2024 NFL Draft: 10 draft-eligible linebackers to know

2NHTTDW CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 19:Miami Hurricanes running back Jaylan Knighton (4) is tackled by Clemson Tigers linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. (54) and Clemson Tigers linebacker Barrett Carter (0) short of the first down marker on a fourth and one play, resulting in the Tigers taking possession during a college football game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Clemson Tigers on November 19, 2022, at Clemson Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

• Clemson’s Jeremiah Trotter Jr.: The rising junior is living up to his former All-Pro father's legacy.

• Clemson’s Barrett Carter: Along with Trotter, Clemson will have arguably the top two linebackers in the 2024 NFL Draft.

• Ohio State’s Tommy Eichenberg: The redshirt senior was a first-team All-American this past season and is one of the best run defenders in the country.

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While the 2023 linebacker class was notoriously weak, Iowa’s Jack Campbell was still selected 18th overall by the Detroit Lions.

In fact, the last draft where there without a first-round off-ball linebacker was in 2011. Here are 10 linebacker prospects to know in the 2024 class.

Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson

The son of a former All-Pro linebacker, Trotter has lived up to his father’s name and then some.

He excels on passing plays, as he was the only Power Five linebacker to earn 80.0-plus grades as a pass rusher and in coverage. Trotter finished second among that same group in both passer rating allowed (42.9) and open-target rate allowed (47.6%). While he’s only 6 feet tall, he’s easily the favorite to be LB1 in 2024. 

Barrett Carter, Clemson

Clemson boasts the best linebacking corps in the country heading into next season.

Carter is one of college football's most well-rounded linebackers. The junior was one of three at the position in the Power Five to post 75.0-plus grades as a run defender, a pass rusher and in coverage last season. His seven combined interceptions and forced incompletions were tied for the most among FBS linebackers, as well.

Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State

Eichenberg was a PFF first-team All-American this past season and is the most valuable returning linebacker, according to PFF’s wins above average metric

The redshirt senior is a dominant run stuffer, as his 49 run-defense stops in 2022 ranked second among all linebackers in the country, while his 20 tackles for loss or no gain were tied for third.

Cedric Gray, North Carolina

Gray flew around North Carolina’s defense this past year on his way to becoming a PFF second-team All-American.

The senior made first contact on a ball carrier 122 times, which was 15 more than the next-closest defender in college football. It was also the best single-season mark by a Power Five player in the PFF College era.

Most plays with first contact among FBS players in PFF College era (since 2014)
Name Position  School Season Plays with first contact
Rodney Butler LB New Mexico State 2016 133
Cedric Gray LB North Carolina 2022 122
Leighton Vander Esch LB Boise State 2017 121

Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Georgia

Dumas-Johnson is the next great Georgia linebacker, following in the footsteps of past Bulldogs such as Roquan Smith and Nakobe Dean.

In fact, over the past two seasons, the only SEC linebacker with a higher grade than Dumas-Johnson is Dean. The junior led the SEC this past season with a 79.9 run-defense grade. 

Jaylan Ford, Texas

Ford was an honorable mention All-American for PFF in 2022 and a turnover machine for the Longhorns.

The senior’s four interceptions led all FBS linebackers, and he tied for second in the Power Five with two fumble recoveries. His three forced fumbles were also tied for sixth in college football.

Maema Njongmeta, Wisconsin

Njongmeta is the highest-graded returning Power Five linebacker, earning an 89.9 mark this past season.

The redshirt senior is a menace when coming downhill, as he was the only Power Five linebacker who earned 85.0-plus grades as both a pass rusher and run defender. His 17 tackles for loss or no gain ranked fifth in that same group, as well.

Ty’Ron Hopper, Missouri

Hopper was a first-team All-SEC selection this past season due to his dominance on passing plays.

The Florida transfer was one of four Power Five linebackers who held top-15 grades both as a pass rusher and in coverage in 2022. Hopper also ranked second among SEC linebackers with a 51.7% open-target rate allowed.

Smael Mondon Jr., Georgia

Mondon racked up 22 pressures and 11 tackles for loss or no gain in 2022, both of which ranked sixth among SEC linebackers. He’s only 220 pounds but has impressive explosiveness and closing speed.

Junior Colson, Michigan

Colson has been starting for Michigan since his true freshman season in 2021. He took a substantial leap from his freshman year, improving his grade from a 48.5 to a 75.6 mark. If he makes another jump, he has the tools to become one of the top linebackers in the class. 

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