Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
There is a lot to like about Malik Jefferson’s game. He is a versatile linebacker who can do a lot of different things. He checks the box as a run defender. He can make open field tackles and can wrap-up when the ballcarrier is in his zone. His instincts are something to highlight. He can read the play well and be moving toward the ball before his fellow Longhorn defenders can pick up the play. The other thing to really be impressed with in Jefferson’s game is his blitzing. He was asked to blitz a lot and he was able to pursue with speed and agility. He has a way of being shifty in his pursuit that makes him hard to block. He also plays at full speed.
The downside to his instincts and play speed is that he can get caught over-pursuing. He will guess on certain reads which helps him make splash plays but also puts him out of position to make a play. His play speed can sometimes be so fast that he is unable to maintain the necessary body control to make the tackle. However, he is able to make the majority of plays under control.
Jefferson looks like a better linebacker prospect than anyone in the previous draft with the exception of Hassan Reddick. Reddick was also a different type of player. Jefferson plays more of a middle linebacker role in the Texas defense but is versatile enough that they ask him to do things you would ask an outside linebacker to do. He is able to blitz; so, teams will want to mix him into edge rushing situations. He is also a good run defender and can play the BUCK or middle linebacker role and be asked to be the first to stop the ballcarrier.