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Draft Diamonds Hidden Gems 2020 NFL Draft Sleepers | Linebackers Edition

Matt Anzio of NFL Draft Diamonds is super impressed with Kalaii Griffin II from UTEP, find out what other linebackers also impress Anzio!

Hidden Gems 2020 NFL Draft Sleepers by Matt Anzio

Linebacker Edition Vol. 1

This Year looks like another deep class of Linebackers.

I wanted to feature some utility type players that can not only attack the run or hunt QB’s but cover & be vital pieces to a special teams unit for the 2020 NFL draft. Versatility & athleticism is a definitive trait all these players share.

Enjoy…      

  • LB : Kalaii Griffin
  • UTEP
  • Height : 6’2
  • Weight : 215 lbs

Griffin is poised for an All Conference Performance this coming Year.

A force in the pass rush game hard to contain a good mix of power, size & speed to win his battles get to the QB. Good at avoiding get hung up on blocks strong rip arm with a good lean balance. Keeps his eyes on the ball good vision & instincts strong tackler. Takes good angles to the ball carrier or to cut off a players route.

Had 5 tackles, 1 TFL & a FF vs Southern Miss this past season.  Had 5 tackles vs Mid Tenn while adding 3 tackles against UAB in 2018.

Making a point to feature athletic LB’s that are very popular in the NFL right now. Every team needs these guys to disguise blitz packages or to drop someone unsuspected into coverage Not to mention ST where he has experience. Although his stats are nothing to write home about. This year he will get a full opportunity to be a starter full time. Sometimes you just get an instinct that a player is poised for a breakout year. Especially when you flash like Griffin has flashed in limited time on the field. Some things don’t show up on a stat sheet like just being around the ball. He has the athleticism toughness & size to make a name for himself.

Be following Griffin close this upcoming season as he proves to be a vital asset against the run, pass & on special teams.

  • LB: Sam Franklin
  • Temple
  • Height : 6’3     
  • Weight: 210 lbs

Rangy player and former nickel back turned LB who is turning some heads.

The combination of his speed & size made him an ideal fit for outside LB. Has extreme burst on a blitz or attacking the run. Strong hands power to get off blocks even against much larger OT’s can fight his way around find the ball carrier. On the blitz get their fast tackles with intensity & toughness. Plays hard has a nonstop motor & plays with a little nasty.   

Smooth body movement transitioning into coverage with a flick of the hips he can change direction to cover.  Not your average LB in coverage because not only can he cover the short intermediate has proven he can cover some pretty quick wideouts deep. Because he started the year as the starting Nickelback. Franklin’s coverage skills are something that stands out about the talented baller.

2018 AAC Madness Player of the Week vs Navy & #The Standard Player of The Game 7 times last season against Tulsa, ECU, Navy, Cincy, USF, Houston UConn.  Had 10 tackles vs Navy was the only D player at Temple last year to complete the “ Defensive Cycle” meaning having a tackle, sack, INT, TFL, FF & FR in the 2018 season.

Obviously didn’t take Long for Franklin to get his footing as an LB for the Owls.

This year he is set to take another step towards his NFL dreams. If he adds upon his already impressive resume think that can be a reality.

Temple knows how to use him & in this system with some time at his new position under his belt. Think his name will get a little more respect once they hit the gridiron this fall.  

Just another D stud in a long line of talented prospects from the Temple Owls.

  • LB Marcel Spears
  • Iowa State
  • Height: 6’ 1    
  • Weight: 215 lbs  

Spears has good production every year he has strapped on a helmet.

Has played all 3 LB positions both against the run as well as in coverages.

Against the run finding the back & closing space are my favorite attributes of Spears game. Doesn’t get hung up on the way to the ball carrier. Strong tackler able to take down guys much bigger than himself by attacking low taking the feet out from under his opponent.  He plays with the intensity of a jackal in a meatpacking facility. Always going after the ball grabbing tearing clawing his way for a turnover.

Gets hung up at times in pass rush but that is something that is just technique & hitting the weight room. Really moves well with a lucid change of direction & an eye to dissect the play. Solid lateral movement ability that’s always around the ball.  Reads the screen well exploding into the backfield dropping the back for a loss.

His Senior season could move him to day 2 or higher. If he comes out this season with 80 plus tackles leads his team again in takeaways. He very well could get himself a  Shrine game invite. Which hopefully leads to the NFL Combine.

Had 69 tackles, 8 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 INT & lead the team (tie) in takeaways with 3. Had 7 tackles vs TCU & 9 tackles including 1.5 TFL in The Alamo Bowl Vs Wash State. Earning the below mentioned Sportsmanship Award.

Started all 13 games last season :

  • Awards & Honors include All-Big 12  ( 2018)
  • Alamo Bowl Sportsmanship Award  (2018)
  • Honorable Mention All-Big 12   (2018)
  • Liberty Bowl Defensive Player of The Game (2017)
  • Al & Dean Knudson Outstanding D Player Skill (2017)  
  • LB Robbie Wallace  
  • Wingate University
  • Height 6’ 0”  
  • Weight: 235 lbs

Wingate is producing some impressive LB’s lately & Wallace adds to the lineage.

A tackling beastly machine that just explodes to the QB or stops backs dead in their tracks.

Dynamite from the start not easily fooled with eyes fixated on his target Wallace attacks like a cheetah attacks an antelope. Hits like a ton of bricks rocking even the biggest players to the dirt. Getting behind the line upending RB’s like a Tornado upends a sapling.

Stout strong but still really quick could fit many fronts as a pro.  Instinctual space eater that closes down opening in a heartbeat. Like his skillset athleticism in pass coverage short intermediate. Looks good running laterally or shadowing RB’s or TEs in the short pass game. Has the timing quick hands good extension to disrupt passes.

On ST’s kick return coverage, he gets down the field fast maintains his lane taking good angles to the return man & securing the tackle.

Career Stats thus far :  229 tackles, 21.5 TFL, 3.5 Sacks, 3 INT, 8 PBU, 3 FF, 2 FR & 5 QBH.

One thing is apparent is Wallace is always in the vicinity of the football.  At some point, the NFL needs to take notice of the LB’s coming out of Wingate. Just featured 2019 UDFA Rawlings on my XFL report & now we got Wallace &  the other LB Washington is yet another worth diving into in the near future.

Wallace looks to help fill the void left by All American star LB Rawlings this season.  Expect big things out of Wallace this season plays with a relentless motor & is willing to help his team in any way possible.  Hard not to like an LB that plays with the intensity that the Wingate star possesses.

  • LB  Darnell Harris
  • Mckendree University (IL)    
  • Height: 6’ 2     
  • Weight: 210 lbs

Harris is like a Swiss Army  Knife of LB’s.

With experience playing linebacker, special teams & even some time in the secondary. It is safe to say Harris brings a lot to the table.  At only 210 have seen him have the upper body power to move OT’s out the way in pursuit of the ball carrier or QB. Was used in a Marriott of different ways so far in his college career. Standing up hand in the dirt nickel CB or ST’s he shows great reaction ball skills. Vision to elusiveness to avoid trash see past clutter & pounce on his prey.

A huge fan of the LB of the Southern Bowl Champ’s coverage skills. Much like some of the above mentioned he has secondary experience & it shows. Going from run blitz to backpedaling into coverage in the blink of an eye. Follows & plays the ball well in the passing game.   Lateral ability to go sideline to sideline like an old vet just overall impressed with his fluid movement skills.

In 2018 Harris had  34 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 4  sacks, 28 assists, 2 PBU & 2 FF. Stats don’t tell Harris’s full story as he follows his assignments, cover RB’s out the backfield & his efforts on ST’s.  To really get an appreciation of his work you must throw on the tape. This coming year should be huge for Harris so remember the name Darnell  Harris from McKendree U.

Hopefully getting his name out in the media early & often will help get player personnel people to take notice.   My experience dealing with players can tell that Harris is hungry & determined to take his game to the next level.  High character high effort player that isn’t going to give up without a fight.

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at nfldraftdiamonds@gmail.com

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