Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: How 2024 NFL Draft's linebacker class stacks up in stable metrics

2TACAR9 CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 18: Clemson Tigers linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. (54) pursues a play on defense during a college football game against the North Carolina Tar Heels on November 18, 2023 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Clemson’s Jeremiah Trotter Jr. leads the way: Earning high-end marks throughout his Clemson career, Trotter has some of the best stable metrics in this year’s class.

Payton Wilson isn’t far behind: After a breakout season in 2023, the NC State product, and top-ranked linebacker on the PFF big board, posts some strong scores across all stable metric categories.

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With the NFL offseason officially underway, so is 2024 NFL Draft season. Plenty of fantasy football general managers are building out their rookie draft boards for dynasty purposes.

Looking at how each position stacks up against one another from an analytics standpoint is just one of the many tools to consider during the evaluation process. This series focuses purely on the key stable metrics that translate more often than not from college to the NFL. It's a way for dynasty managers, and fantasy managers, in general, to get familiar with this year’s rookie class.

A few notes about how this series will work:

  • Rankings are based entirely on how these players performed in PFF’s stable metrics over the past two seasons.
  • Athletic ability and size are not taken into account for this process. Again, this is just one of many evaluation tools to consider.
  • This list includes all 26 linebackers from the PFF big board but does not provide any weight to projected draft capital, competition level or their overall ranking, though that context will often be provided.


Linebackers Coverage Grade Coverage Snaps
Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson 91.8 645
Dallas Gant, Toledo 90.8 908
Payton Wilson, NC State 90.4 588
Marist Liufau, Notre Dame 90.0 443
Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington 89.4 364
Junior Colson, Michigan 85.8 725
Cedric Gray, North Carolina 85.3 822
Michael Barrett, Michigan 83.8 622
Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M 83.4 542
Jontrey Hunter, Georgia State 79.6 658

Clemson’s Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is the fourth-ranked linebacker on the PFF big board and earned high marks as a coverage defender in each of the past two seasons as a starter. Trotter faced 54 targets in coverage over that span, allowing just one touchdown and coming up with four interceptions and five pass breakups.

Dallas Gant isn’t a highly ranked linebacker on the PFF big board (16th), but after transferring from Ohio State to Toledo for the 2022 season, he was a two-year starter and earned high-end coverage grades in both seasons while totaling more than 1,800 defensive snaps.

Payton Wilson, the top-ranked linebacker on the PFF big board, also delivered in a big way as a coverage defender. Wilson had a breakout season in 2023, headlined by his 90.4 coverage grade that tied for the fifth-best mark among FBS linebackers. Wilson didn’t allow a single touchdown on 37 coverage targets this past year while coming up with three interceptions and three pass breakups.


Linebackers Box Coverage Grade Box Coverage Snaps
Dallas Gant, Toledo 91.8 794
Cedric Gray, North Carolina 90.8 697
Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson 89.7 586
Payton Wilson, NC State 86.8 469
Marist Liufau, Notre Dame 85.9 360
Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington 85.7 276
Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M 81.4 433
Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State 77.6 544
Jontrey Hunter, Georgia State 75.8 668
Steele Chambers, Ohio State 75.3 531

Toledo’s Gant appears at or near the top once again. He was targeted 47 times from a box alignment since 2022, allowing just eight first downs, which was the lowest in this class among linebackers who faced at least 30 targets.

North Carolina’s Cedric Gray is just the ninth-ranked linebacker on the PFF big board but stands out here with a very strong 90.8 coverage grade when lined up in the box over the past two seasons. Gray didn’t crack an 80.0 coverage grade in any of his four seasons with the Tar Heels but faced the second-most coverage targets (89) from this alignment and allowed the second-lowest completion rate (68.5%) in this year’s class.


Linebackers Slot Coverage Grade Slot Coverage Snaps
Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson 89.9 34
Junior Colson, Michigan 81.7 67
Curtis Jacobs, Penn State 76.6 97
Michael Barrett, Michigan 76.5 84
Payton Wilson, NC State 75.6 59
Jordan Magee, Temple 75.1 56
Nathaniel Watson, Mississippi State 74.5 60
Jontrey Hunter, Georgia State 70.6 249
Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington 69.8 64
Marist Liufau, Notre Dame 69.7 34

Trotter leads the group again, by a significant margin, but it should be noted that he tied for the second-fewest coverage snaps played out of the slot among this year’s class. He faced just two targets from that alignment since 2022, which ties for the fewest, though he ended up with a pick-six on one of them, which boosted his grade quite a bit.

Michigan’s Junior Colson ranks third among linebackers on the PFF big board and has a decent sample size of work out of the slot — though still nothing too substantial. He faced 14 targets on his 67 coverage snaps over the past two years, allowing just three first downs.


Linebackers Forced Incompletion Rate Coverage Snaps
Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M 20.5% 542
Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson 12.5% 645
JD Bertrand, Notre Dame 11.6% 519
Marist Liufau, Notre Dame 11.1% 443
Jordan Magee, Temple 10.8% 511
Ty'Ron Hopper, Missouri 10.2% 554
Payton Wilson, NC State 9.8% 588
Aaron Casey, Indiana 8.5% 610
Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State 8.5% 561
Curtis Jacobs, Penn State 8.1% 364

Texas A&M’s Edgerrin Cooper is the second-ranked linebacker on the PFF big board and excelled at breaking up passes over the past two seasons, mostly in 2022. Six of Cooper’s eight forced incompletions came in 2022 because he wasn’t asked to drop into zone as much as in 2023. It’s at least promising that he’s capable of excelling in those drop-zone coverage roles, considering it wasn’t a common part of his game in 2023.

Clemson’s Trotter ranks second in forced incompletion rate over the past two seasons on 48 coverage targets, accumulating four interceptions over that span — tied for the second most in the class.


Linebackers Run-Defense Grade Run-Defense Snaps
Dallas Gant, Toledo 85.2 841
Junior Colson, Michigan 83.9 559
Jordan Magee, Temple 83.6 596
Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State 83.4 614
Payton Wilson, NC State 81.9 483
Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson 80.7 526
Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M 80.0 567
Easton Gibbs, Wyoming 79.7 746
Jaylan Ford, Texas 78.3 619
Aaron Casey, Indiana 77.7 697

Toledo’s Gant not only has some solid coverage grades over the past two seasons but also owns the top run-defense grade of the class since 2022. Gant earned an 88.7 tackling grade, as well, this past season, thanks to his strong missed tackle rate (6.3%). He missed just four tackles when defending the run in 2023.

Michigan’s Junior Colson was also impressive in that regard, missing two tackles when defending the run in 2023 while never posting a missed tackle rate below 8.2% in any of his three college seasons.


Linebackers Run-Stop Rate Run-Defense Snaps
Payton Wilson, NC State 12.8% 483
Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State 12.4% 614
Jaylan Ford, Texas 11.7% 619
Cedric Gray, North Carolina 10.9% 843
Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M 10.8% 567
Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson 10.2% 526
Jordan Magee, Temple 10.1% 596
Aaron Casey, Indiana 10.1% 697
Nathaniel Watson, Mississippi State 10.0% 631
Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington 9.5% 293

NC State’s Wilson posted 61 run stops over the past two seasons, with 41 of them coming in 2023 — tied for the most in the class. Wilson also tied for the fourth-most tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage (25) in this class since 2022, despite playing the sixth-fewest run-defense snaps among the 26 linebackers.

Ohio State’s Tommy Eichenberg had an elite 2022 season as a run defender, earning a 90.1 run-defense grade, which was good for fifth in the FBS. However, he did suffer a drop-off in 2023, earning just a 66.6 run-defense grade. His 2022 season, which included 49 of his 75 run stops over the past two years, was still strong enough to earn him the second-best run-stop rate of the class over that span.



Clemson’s Jeremiah Trotter Jr. earned the highest marks across all stable linebacker metrics over the past two seasons, as he excelled in coverage while also posting some of the best run-defense numbers in this class. Trotter’s 2023 season wasn’t quite as strong as his 2022 campaign, but it was close enough that it still allowed him to post the best marks among his peers over that span, including coverage grades of 89.7 and 82.0, respectively. Trending toward being a Day 2 pick in this year’s draft, Trotter has the metrics and solid starting experience to make an immediate impact, depending on the landing spot.

Payton Wilson is the top-ranked linebacker on the PFF big board and earned plenty of top marks across the key stable metric categories for the past two years. Wilson finished outside of the top five in just one category (seventh in forced incompletion rate) and even generated the top run-stop rate to go along with his high-end coverage metrics. A five-year player at North Carolina State, Wilson really came on this past season, earning the third-best overall grade (89.9) and the sixth-best coverage grade (90.4) for his position.

Edgerrin Cooper posted the third-highest consensus score across the key stable metric categories. Cooper, much like Wilson, broke out in 2023 with significant improvements across the board in his PFF grades. His 90.8 overall grade led all FBS linebackers in 2023, while his run-defense (87.6) and coverage (85.5) grades were top-15 marks at his position.

Toledo’s Dallas Gant surprised with some of the best marks at his position, despite being the 16th linebacker on the PFF big board. Gant was a two-year starter with the Rockets after playing at Ohio State from 2018-2021. His role at Toledo allowed him to be a two-year starter, and he played more than 900 defensive snaps in each season, earning 80.0 and 87.0 overall grades, respectively.

Michigan’s Junior Colson is the third-ranked linebacker on the PFF big board, and his consistency as a run defender is sure to be considered one of his greatest strengths heading into the draft. Colson added strong coverage grades this past year, as well, to help balance out his profile, which is needed when being compared to other top names in this class.

Notre Dame’s Marist Liufau is another top-five linebacker on the PFF big board, although he falls just outside of the top 10 in these consensus stable metric rankings. Liufau earned his best scores as a coverage defender, including top-five marks in coverage grade (90.1), coverage grade when lined up in the box (85.9) and forced incompletion rate (11.1%). However, his run-defense marks ranked in the bottom half of this year’s class, including a 66.7 run-defense grade (19th) and just a 4.2% run-stop rate (last).


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