Can the physically gifted linebacker reach his ceiling in the pros?
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series is back! Over the course of the eight weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top prospects at each position.
This week, we dive into the linebacker position. Today, we’ll take a look at Tremaine Edmunds from Virginia Tech.
Edmunds comes from NFL bloodlines, as his father, Ferrell, was a Pro Bowl tight end with Miami in the late eighties. Hailing from Danville, VA, Edmunds decided to stay close to home for college ball and attend Virginia Tech with his brother, Terrell.
Tremaine played sparingly during his freshman season,= but became a full-time starter his sophomore year, earning second-team All-ACC honors for his play. He continued to improve in 2017, racking up 108 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks on his way to a third-team All-American and first-team All-ACC selection.
Standing in at 6’5, 253 pounds with 34.5-inch arms, Edmunds brings top-end size to the linebacker position. What makes him special is how fast he plays with such a large frame. Edmunds covers ground with tremendous quickness and can track down smaller players with ease:
In addition, he uses his elite burst and athleticism to fly through opposing offensive lines and wreak havoc in the backfield:
One aspect of Edmunds’ game that stood out on film was his ability to secure and finish tackles. Rarely would a ball carrier slip out of Edmunds’ grasp or even fall forward when hit, showing his power and tenacity at the point of contact:
Edmunds is also effective as a pass defender, using his tremendous length and lateral quickness to chase pass catchers and get his hand on the ball. Here, Edmunds does a great job of reacting and breaking on a pass, sticking his arm in at the last second to make the deflection:
Lastly, Edmunds has proven to be a useful pass rusher off the edge or up the middle whenever his man remains in the backfield. He effects the game in so many ways and getting after the quarterback is just another one of them.
Edmunds has his flaws, which all seem to be centered around the mental side of the game. At times his instincts fail him, causing him to misdiagnose a play or bite on a fake:
In the plays above, Edmunds makes the same mistake twice, and Miami capitalizes by breaking a huge touchdown. He must learn to accurately and quickly diagnose plays but remain patient when doing so.
In man coverage, Edmunds has similar issues. He can be slow to react an opposing pass catcher’s breaks in their route, allowing his man space to get open. His issues can be corrected with proper coaching, and considering Edmunds is just 19 years old, it’s no surprise he has aspects of his game that need further development.
Edmunds’ physical attributes will allow him to play in any style of defense, and he best projects as an ILB in a 3-4 or an OLB in a 4-3, although he could man the Mike spot if called upon.
Both the 49ers and Raiders make sense for Edmunds at picks 9 and 10, respectively. Reuben Foster was arrested this offseason and the 49ers must adjust knowing their blue chip first rounder from a year ago might not be reliable. The Raiders simply need an injection of talent on defense to go with Khalil Mack, and linebacker would be a great place to start.
Should he slip a little further, Edmunds would be a good fit for Green Bay at pick 14. The team’s defensive unit could certainly use more playmakers, and Edmunds’ ceiling might be too high to pass on.
When his name is called on draft night, Edmunds will become one of the youngest players drafted in NFL history, but that’s part of the reason he’s such an intriguing prospect. With incredible physical gifts, teams will salivate over what they could mold Edmunds into down the line. He’s a stud prospect already, but the upside is what has him in the top-10 conversation. Should Edmunds get a better grasp on the mental side of the game and continue to add bulk to his frame, one lucky team could have a perennial All-Pro on its hands.
Edited by Brian Kang.
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