Packers: An early look at the 2018 NFL Draft class

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 28: Teammates Christian Wilkins
CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 28: Teammates Christian Wilkins /
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1. Malik Jefferson, Texas (6-3, 240)

2. Jerome Baker, Ohio State (6-1, 225)

3. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech (6-5, 250)

4. Josey Jewell, Iowa (6-2, 236)

5. Uchenna Nwosu, USC (6-2, 240)

Other Notable LBs: Cameron Smith (USC), Azeem Victor (Washington), Keishawn Bierrera (Washington), Rashaan Evans (Alabama), Shaun Dion Hamilton (Alabama), Mike McCray (Michigan), Micah Kiser (Virginia), TJ Edwards (Wisconsin), Chris Worley (Ohio State), Tegray Scales (Indiana), Roquan Smith (Georgia)

Position outlook: For the second year in a row, the off-ball linebacker position is deep and filled with a variety of athletes to feature in the middle of a defense.

Jefferson is a special player who can excel in each phase of the game.

He’s a tough downhill run defender, but he also has the speed and athleticism to drop in coverage and make plays in space. His ability to rush the passer also separates him from the rest of the pack. He’s already recorded four sacks and four hurries this season.

Baker, on the other hand, is a smaller, athletic linebacker who excels when he can run sideline-to-sideline and chase down ball carriers. His best fit is on the weakside in a 4-3 front.

Edmunds is the other potential early-round inside backer. He has size, strength, and smooth change of direction for a player of his size. He swallows up ball carriers and utilizes his length well to shed blocks.

Jewell is a smart, instinctive linebacker who can make plays in coverage and is tough on the inside. He leads the Big Ten in stops with 81 for good reason.

USC has two highly talented backers in Smith and Nwosu. However, Nwosu is a special two-tool athlete who can rush the passer off the edge (4.5 sacks, 7 hurries) or who can drop and make plays in coverage (10 passes defensed).

Packers need: Blake Martinez has made huge strides in year two and seems to be the future at inside linebacker.

However, Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas have been inconsistent in their availability, given injuries. Depending on how much Josh Jones develops over the remainder of the season in Green Bay’s Nitro look, the Packers could use another young inside linebacker on their roster next season.

It might not hurt for them to take advantage of the depth of the inside linebacker class and bring in an athletic prospect who can make big plays in the middle of their defense.