Rush Nation, Mase has returned with an early look at some of his favourite eligible 2022 NFL Draft linebackers. He has scoured the realm of college football for three prospects that he believes will be in great demand in the 2022 NFL Draft. This article takes you to the Big XII and Pac-12 conferences, as well as a lesser-known gem in the FCS!
Kuony Deng, California (Junior, 6’ 6”, 245lbs)
Career Stats (17 games):
Solo (assisted) tackles: 78 (72)
Total tackles: 150
For loss: 10
Kuony Deng is a massive human being. He strikes while wrapping his opponent, and as a result is developing into an intelligent coverage linebacker with a keen ability to hit the assigned gap. The Golden Bear team captain stays in coverage, reads the quarterback, and watches the play development well. Here also lies a problem: Deng is usually the last linebacker out of his stance, although he has the best stance of any California backers. When he gets his paws on a defender, he is sure to bring them down, not with overwhelming force, but efficiency. With all of that said, he has much to work on in his game. He consistently takes himself out of the play by failing to adapt to the developing space quickly. He finds himself biting hard on the inside run of RPOs. It’s not that he lacks size or the skill set; I just would like to see a quicker reaction and less robotic approach to his game.
Deng is one of the most fundamentally sound players I’ve seen, but his late response leads to the occasional big pass play to the running back he was one-on-one with. If Deng takes a step forward this season, we could be hearing his name in the 2022 NFL Draft and then for years to come. He just needs the coaching and time. Deng is a smart cookie, and graduated this past winter with a degree in American Studies. He has never missed a game and had 10+ tackle games seven times in his 17 career games. He puts up the numbers consistently, and his overall availability is something you cannot coach. Consequently, NFL franchises will be taking a good look at his profile prior to the 2022 NFL Draft. Deng is a ginormous fundamental machine that needs to find his fire and needs coaching up at the next level.
Mike Rose, Iowa St. (Junior, 6’ 4”, 245lbs)
Career Stats in 38 games:
Solo (assisted) tackles: 134 (114)
Total tackles: 248
For loss: 29
Mike Rose is a player who shows his willingness to adapt to the game around him. His 2020 tape shows a much-evolved player from 2019. It’s not that Rose has ever looked out of place. In fact, he’s always been a spark on all of the film I’ve seen to date. His build appeared a tad “heavy” in 2019, but in 2020 he looked polished up, fitter and electric. He has become a more agile player with improved stamina, which is a testament to his work ethic. With just under forty games played in his career to date, he is a seasoned backer and a proven leader in the locker room. He is a defensive team captain for Iowa State. Rose seems to be everywhere on the field and is easy to find on film, as he rarely leaves the frame of action.
The Real Deal
His strong suits are identifying/attacking the rushing lanes, overall defensive awareness, and guarding motion out of the backfield. Rose should improve on his wrapping when tackling, although he actively attempts to strip the ball carrier if the opportunity should arise. He tends to tip off the defensive coverage when an offensive player goes into motion. This man is the real deal and will only improve with a chance to play in over 50 collegiate career games by the season’s end. He is one of the more intriguing 2022 NFL Draft linebackers. I am ecstatic to watch his talent evolve into a player we see make a difference for a team on Sundays to come.
Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey, James Madison (Senior, 5’10”, 217lbs)
Career Stats in 36 games:
Solo (assisted) tackles: 34 (55)
Total tackles: 89
For loss: 6
Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey is an aggressive playmaker. His first step is forward, and it’s an explosive move. Though Tucker-Dorsey is the smallest linebacker on the list, he nevertheless plays big on film. He is explosive off the snap, and as a result will call out the play and inform his teammates before the ball is snapped. He’s as sharp as they come and has a solid low seated stance before the snap. He has shown the ability to effectively execute the quarterback spy on an NFL-caliber quarterback.
He is not afraid to bust the offensive tackle in the chops on a designed blitz. It’s after the immediate start of the play where he needs to show much improvement. Importantly, he is rarely patient and therefore does not allow the play to develop before he bites on RPO fakes. He has trouble reading who has the ball behind the line of scrimmage. His angles are not the best, and if he feels he is away from the play, he slows down.
Though he is playing at a smaller school, Tucker-Dorsey nevertheless has shown big-time ability and an IQ to match to be effective as a role player/special teams stud at the next level. He should be a late-round gem for any team in need at the 2022 NFL Draft.
There you have it, sports fans. Mase has dropped his favourite 2022 NFL Draft linebackers. Check out more work from the 5 Yard College crew @5yardcollege on Twitter. While you’re there, ask about our Discord channel!