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Looking for the next Ray Lewis? This year’s linebacker class features a blue-chip prospect who may just follow in the Baltimore Ravens legend’s footsteps. While Micah Parsons stands an excellent chance of becoming a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, a few other prospects also remain in the mix to get selected Thursday night.

So if your team needs help at linebacker, here are some of the top names to keep an eye on once the draft begins.

Micah Parsons is in a class of his own

From Saquon Barkley to Mike Gesicki, Penn State has produced some incredibly athletic prospects in recent years. But Parsons could be even more physically gifted than anyone who previously donned a Nittany Lions uniform.

At 6-foot-3, 246 pounds, he has a muscular frame that allows him to make a serious impact upon contact. Plus, his 4.39 wheels give him the ability to go sideline-to-sideline with relative ease.

Parsons put himself on the map by putting together a sensational sophomore season that included 109 tackles (14 for loss), five sacks, five passes defended, and four forced fumbles. However, the 2019 All-American did not play in 2020, so he doesn’t have any recent game film.

Still, his explosive speed and competitive nature make Parsons a lock to be the first linebacker taken in the 2021 NFL draft. In fact, he may even be the first defensive player selected. And if Parsons can harness all his physical tools, he should quickly become a perennial Pro Bowler.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Zaven Collins should also become first-round picks

Two more linebackers should go in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. And they couldn’t be more stylistically different.

Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah lacks the prototypical size teams look for at the position. But even though he weighs just 221 pounds, it’s hard not to get excited about his potential to become a top-level NFL linebacker. Fast, fluid, and agile, he moves like a running back or a safety.

Owusu-Koramoah only played 25 games at the college level. However, he managed to make quite an impact for the Fighting Irish. The rangy defender earned the Butkus Award last season after totaling 62 tackles (11.5 for loss), 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and one interception. NFL teams do face a challenge in determining where he fits best at the next level given his small stature.

On the other hand, Zaven Collins doesn’t require much projection. The 6-foot-5, 259-pound outside linebacker stuffed the stat sheet as a three-year starter at Tulsa. Capable of dropping into coverage, rushing the passer, and setting the edge in the run game, it’s easy to see why Collins took home both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award in 2020.

The redshirt junior’s rare combination of size and athleticism should intrigue defensive coaches about his pro potential. If Collins slips to the second round, don’t be surprised if a team trades up to secure his services.

Who are some other linebackers to keep an eye on in the 2021 NFL draft?

As for the other top linebacker prospects in the 2021 NFL draft? Don’t sleep on Missouri’s Nick Bolton. Though undersized, his instincts and ability to find the football made him a star in the SEC. If a defensive coordinator can find the right spot to maximize Bolton’s skills, he should rarely come off the field.

Kentucky’s Jamin Davis also looks like a player destined to go in the first two rounds. He makes up for a lack of experience with elite athleticism and a non-stop motor. It may take some time for Davis to find his footing in the NFL, but his upside may be too great for a team to pass on.

The same goes for North Carolina’s Chazz Surratt, who went from playing quarterback to tackling opposing ones. Relatively new to the position, he seems destined to begin his career on special teams. In a few years from now, though, don’t be surprised if Surratt is a full-time starter for whatever team takes a chance on him in the 2021 NFL draft.

All statistics courtesy of Sports Reference.


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