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NFL Draft Scouting Report: Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas

NFL Draft Scouting Report: Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas

Malik Jefferson - Texas Longhorns

 

Position: Linebacker
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 236
Year: Junior
Hometown: Mesquite, TX
Experience: Jr. - 3 year starter

 

Measurables:

40yd dash: 4.52
Broad jump: 125”
Vertical: 36”
3-cone: DNP
20yd. Shuttle: DNP
Bench Press: 27 reps

 

Career Notes:

In 2014, Jefferson earned the High School Butkus Award for the nation’s top high school linebacker. The following year the Texas native was the Longhorns’ starting middle linebacker as a true freshman, finishing the year with 61 tackles--second most on the team--and a team-high six pressures.

Jefferson continued building on his strong collegiate career with a sophomore season that included 62 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks, earning the AP’s second team All-Big 12 honors. At the end of the 2016 season Jefferson put himself on the map as one of the nation’s top college linebackers, garnering him a lot of buzz as a future NFL draft prospect.

As the athletic linebacker entered his junior season, many draft analysts regarded Jefferson as one of the top linebacker prospects in the 2018 draft class. However, inconsistent play in 2017, including 13 missed tackles, exposed some of the raw aspects of Jefferson’s game. Despite some struggles, the former Longhorns standout still found defensive production on the field. He finished his last year at Texas with a team-leading 110 tackles to go along with 10 stops for a loss, four sacks, and five hurries. He also spent more time at outside linebacker than inside in Texas’ hybrid 3-4 front.

Jefferson was an integral part to Texas’ first winning season in several years. He was named the Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year and first team All-Big 12. The 21-year-old decided to forego his senior season and enter the 2018 NFL Draft early. He should be an early-round pick this April and could even get selected in the first round.

 

Injury Report:

Jefferson missed four starts in three years at Texas due to  injury. He sat out the 2017 Texas Bowl because of a turf toe injury he suffered in the season finale. Jefferson also missed some time or was limited his freshman and sophomore seasons with a sprained ankle.

 

Career Stats: https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/malik-jefferson-1.html

 

Analysis:

Athleticism: 5.0/5.0

Jefferson is a tremendous athlete and his combine testing numbers bear this out. Among linebackers, he ran the third fastest 40-yard dash time at 4.52 seconds. He also recorded the 7th highest vertical (36”) and the fourth longest broad jump (126”). He also tied for second on the bench press with 27 reps. Impressively, this was all good enough to put him in the 89th (40-yd), 68th (vertical), 88th (broad), and 85th (bench) percentiles for the linebacker position. At 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds, Jefferson is a rare athlete with speed, strength, and explosiveness, and this shows up on film. Jefferson can chase down ball carriers outside the tackle box or stick with a tight end down the seam. His change of direction ability is also very good, so scraping free to the action isn’t a problem for him. His athleticism and speed also allow him to quickly recover if he ever finds himself out of position to make a play.

Run Stop: 4.0/5.0   

Jefferson is a very solid run defender, but he could still show improvement in this area of his game. He’s far more effective making stops in pursuit than when the action is coming directly at him. At times, the former Texas backer can be slow to process and will be a step behind in reading run progressions, or he’ll bite on a play fakes or misdirection. He could do a better job keying and diagnosing plays before he breaks to the ball. However, his speed and quick acceleration enable him to recover if out of position. His mental processing should also improve at the next level with more experience. He enters the NFL Draft as a 21-year-old prospect. He could also serve to be more physical. He can be a bit of a pile inspector at times and will let up in traffic when he should be driving through a ball carrier and finishing a tackle. His motor could also be more consistent on the field. But despite these concerns, he’s still a defender that made 110 stops as a junior and was active against the run each and every week.

Pass Rush: 3.5/5.0  

Texas featured Jefferson in more of a pass rushing role as an outside linebacker in 2017 than his previous two seasons as a starter. The versatile linebacker responded with four sacks and five hurries on the season. Jefferson always flashed pass rush ability in his time with the Longhorns. He wins with speed and a quick first step on the edge. He also shows some good bend at times. However, he doesn’t demonstrate very many pass rushing moves. If he can’t win with speed, he’ll need to have a Plan B, whether that’s a rip move, bull rush, or inside move. If a team at the next level  would utilize him more as an edge player, Jefferson would really have to work on developing this part of his game.

Coverage: 4.0/5.0

Jefferson really excels playing out in space and this is evident when he drops in coverage. While he doesn’t have exceptional ball skills, Jefferson is a very reliable player in coverage because he moves so smoothly as an athlete and can stick with tight ends, backs, or slot receivers across the middle of the field or stay step-for-step with them down the seam. He’s also very effective dropping in zone coverage and then using his speed to close in on the ball once it’s released.

Impact: 3.5/5.0

The frustrating part of Jefferson’s game is he possesses elite athletic traits for a linebacker prospect, and on paper should be a lock for the first round. However, mental lapses on the field and long stretches in games where he disappear really hurt his value. The concerning part about Jefferson is he also doesn’t always show up in big games, and while he recorded solid production in college, a lot of his impact plays came against teams like Baylor or Kansas--hardly FBS juggernauts.

Summary: Jefferson is a Day One talent who could fall into the second round because of consistency concerns. He still possesses a ton of upside, and given his young age, still has plenty of room to grow. He remains one of the top linebackers in the class and a prospect with exciting athletic traits. However, teams drafting him will have to be patient and allow him time to develop before expecting any type of impact on the field. He’s definitely a high-risk/high-reward prospect. His versatility to play inside or outside and to rush the passer or drop in coverage should hold significant weight though in draft war rooms.

Overall Grade: 4.0/5.0  

 

If drafted by the Packers:

The 14th overall pick may be a bit rich for a player like Malik Jefferson, but if he slides to the middle of the second round, then the Packers may seriously consider taking the former Texas standout. Jefferson would certainly bring more athleticism and speed to the second level of Green Bay’s defense. He would give them an inside linebacker who could make plays in pursuit and hold up in coverage. They could also try utilizing his athleticism and speed by playing him out on the edge as an outside linebacker. Green Bay needs more athletes at linebacker, and although his game remains raw, Jefferson would offer them a lot of upside. He could be a potential impact player for them down the road.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (3) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Handsback's picture

He's a better prospect than Williams the Texas guard/tackle. Malik has had some good coaching, but he needs the tough love that comes from pro coaches. His strength is as stated above by Dan, he can play both inside and out. If he's there in the 2nd round....Green Bay would be smart to select him.

Bill Atkinson's picture

Too much of a risk, the Packers have too many holes to fill to risk a high pick on him. They have the first pick in the fourth round and if their main needs are already met they may take the risk then.

stockholder's picture

Good player. Would be a great addition. His versatility would be a Plus. Has size ,speed,strength and impact. But I just see the packers wanting more. Tough call between WR,LB ,and maybe CB @45.

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