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Senior Bowl preview: Linebackers to watch for the Falcons

Next up in our Senior Bowl preview is linebacker, where the Falcons have significant question marks going into the 2022 offseason. Luckily, there’s a strong class competing in Mobile, headlined by arguably the top LB in the draft: Utah’s Devin Lloyd.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 Utah at USC Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s officially Draft Season here at The Falcoholic, with the Atlanta Falcons locked into the 8th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Based on the results of the NFL’s divisional round of the playoffs, we also know that the Falcons will have the 58th pick as a result of the Julio Jones trade with the Titans. That gives the team three top-60 picks—and there’s the potential to add more with a few other player trades, if Atlanta is interested in making additional moves.

The next event on the offseason calendar is the Reese’s Senior Bowl—a showcase of the top draft-eligible seniors (or players who graduated early) that takes place in Mobile right around the first week of February. To get everyone ready for the week to come, I’ll be breaking down the top players to watch for the Falcons and the league at large. In case you missed any of the previous entries, you can find them here:

DL | LB | DB | WR | RB & TE | OL | QB

Next up is linebacker, where the Falcons have a lot of question marks heading into the 2022 offseason.

LB

One of the stronger position groups in the draft class, linebacker is a sneaky-big need for the Falcons this offseason. With Foye Oluokun a free agent and Deion Jones’ status up-in-the-air due to his cap hit, Atlanta could be in desperate need of reinforcements at the position this offseason. Thankfully, this is a good class for it: The Draft Network has 11 linebackers in the top-100 and another 12 in the top-200. There’s talent at the top and quality depth to be had on Day 3. I’d recommend keeping a close eye on this group.

Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s Brian Asamoah is an athletic, versatile linebacker prospect who brings sideline-to-sideline range, short-area quickness, and high-level coverage ability to the position. While Asamoah is a bit small in stature at 6’0, 230, he doesn’t appear to lack length and has little trouble matching up with TEs or making tackles. Asamoah is physical and has made significant strides in his two years as a starter. Coverage is his biggest strength, and I’m interested to see how he matches up with the TEs and RBs in Mobile.

Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati

A former safety in high school, Cincinnati’s Darrian Beavers transitioned to linebacker early in his college career and has been one of the best players on the Bearcats defense ever since. At 6’4, 255, Beavers has the build of a more traditional NFL LB and brings excellent strength, physicality, and block-shedding ability to the position. He’s also played a versatile role, including snaps as a 3-4 OLB. Beavers is solid in zone coverage but lacks the high-end athleticism to succeed in man at the next level. I’m interested to see how he matches up with the strong TE class at the Senior Bowl.

Damone Clark, LSU

One of the most productive tacklers in all of college football, LSU’s Damone Clark is always around the football. After struggling to hold on to his starting job in 2020, Clark had a resurgent 2021 season that saw him post an eye-popping 135 total tackles, 15.0 TFL, and 5.5 sacks in just 12 games. He’s a terrific athlete with good size at 6’3, 245—though, based on my viewing, I’d probably peg him closer to 6’2, 235. Clark is still a little slow to process due to his limited starting experience, but he’s got all the tools to be an impact player at the NFL level and his coverage skills are very encouraging.

JoJo Domann, Nebraska

Perhaps the best coverage linebacker in the draft, Nebraska’s JoJo Domann is an electric playmaker with plenty of high-end traits. At 6’1, 230, Domann has solid size and pairs it with quality long speed and very good lateral mobility. Domann is a good tackler who is best as a run-and-chase defender. He’s not going to do well if asked to shed blocks or take on opponents with a head of steam. Domann is exactly the type of prospect who should excel in one-on-one drills, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he turns a lot of heads in Mobile.

Devin Lloyd, Utah

The top linebacker prospect in the draft—in my opinion and according to TDN—Utah’s Devin Lloyd is a player I’ll be watching closely as a potential pick for the Falcons. Lloyd actually split reps at both MIKE and as a stand-up edge rusher, and was a very good player at both spots. He’s a ferocious competitor with good size at 6’3, 235. As a run defender, pass rusher, and coverage player—particularly in man—Lloyd has the looks of a high-end, instant-impact starter at the NFL level. If Atlanta were to trade down, Lloyd could be an intriguing fit as a prospect who contributes in multiple roles for the Falcons.

Quay Walker, Georgia

One of two Georgia linebackers attending the Senior Bowl, Quay Walker has a lot to gain from a strong performance next week. Walker was a bit of a late bloomer, but put together an excellent 2021 season that culminated in a great effort in the CFP Championship. Walker reminds me a bit of De’Vondre Campbell: exceptionally long and big at 6’3, 240, with very good athleticism to match. He’s still learning the finer points of the position and will need to process faster and attack gaps more aggressively as a run defender. Walker has a very high ceiling due to his frame and athletic traits, and a good week in Mobile could vault him into early Day 2 consideration.

Other players to watch:

Chad Muma, Wyoming
Jesse Luketa, Penn State
Channing Tindall, Georgia
Terrel Bernard, Baylor
Troy Andersen, Montana State

I hope you’re enjoying our Senior Bowl preview series! I’ll be in Mobile to cover the Senior Bowl for The Falcoholic from Tuesday, February 4 through Thursday, February 6. Stay tuned tomorrow for our next position preview: defensive back.