2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Malik Jefferson
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: As a freshman in 2015, Jefferson made his way onto the field and totaled 61 tackles with seven for a loss, 2.5 sacks, three passes broken up, and one forced fumble. He was a bigger presence than the numbers illustrate. Jefferson then recorded 59 tackles with 5.5 sacks and three passes broken up in 2016.
After the coaching change at Texas, Jefferson looked more comfortable and decisive as a junior. He totaled 110 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss and four sacks in 2017. The junior played hard for Texas and turned in his best season.
There is no doubt that Jefferson has a NFL skill set. He is a fast linebacker who covers a ton of ground. Jefferson also has instincts and shows skill to read his keys to get in position to make plays. Additionally, he possesses a developed body with the size and strength to play at the next level.
As a run defender, Jefferson is at his best when he can use his speed to hunt down ball-carriers. He is fast to shoot gaps and fire into the backfield or the flat. Jefferson tackles well in the open field, is a physical hitter, and generally takes good angles. He has the skill set to produce more with the potential to be an impactful run defender. Jefferson is at his best being a pursuit linebacker when running free and using his instincts to make plays. Holding up against downhill runs coming at him and taking on blocks is a weakness for him. He is not physical with offensive linemen and can get covered up in the ground game.
Jefferson is decent in zone coverage against the pass. He reads plays quickly and picks up receivers who come into his area. He is not a linebacker who showed man-coverage skills on tight ends or backs even though he has the athletic skill set to do that. Jefferson is a good blitzer, using his speed to fly into the backfield to get pressure, but in the NFL, Jefferson needs development for pass coverage.
Sources have said that teams heard that Jefferson didn't show a deep love for football. That was illustrated in him not producing up to his great skill set early on in his collegiate career and in his work ethic during offseason training, according to league contacts. Jefferson supposedly was unhappy with his role in the former staff's scheme, but as a worker, he improved under the new coaching staff at Texas. In speaking to team sources, they have Jefferson as a likely second-day pick.
Player Comparison: Stephone Anthony. I had a feeling that Anthony would be a bust, and that is what he was in New Orleans. Anthony (6-3, 245) had a great skill set, but didn't have the steady play to live up to his athletic ability. I think Jefferson could be a better pro than Anthony, but I wouldn't be surprised if Jefferson is a disappointment as well.
NFL Matches: Dallas, Detroit, Buffalo, Tennessee, New Orleans, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, New England, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Oakland and Miami
There are a lot of teams that could be a fit for Jefferson in the 2018 NFL Draft. Dallas could use more linebacker talent, and Jefferson could give the team a long-term complement to go with Jaylon Smith. The Lions could target Jefferson as a linebacker to go with Jarrad Davis, but Detroit probably has bigger needs to address on Day 2.
Among the playoff teams, Jefferson has a number of potential fits. Buffalo lost Preston Brown in free agency and is desperate at linebacker. Jefferson could be a fit for the Bills on Day 2.
An inside linebacker is a need for the Titans, and Jefferson would be a good fit for Mike Vrabel. Minnesota could use a linebacker to go with Erik Kendricks and Anthony Barr.
Linebacker is one of the biggest needs for the Saints. Jefferson would be a great fit in the New Orleans defense as he could be a perfect Will - weak side - linebacker next to Alex Anzalone in the middle.
Pittsburgh has a big hole at inside linebacker in the wake of Ryan Shazier's injury. Even if Shazier comes back in 2019, the Steelers could use an upgrade next to him. The Patriots could stand to improve their linebacker talent next to Dont'a Hightower. New England has multiple second-round picks, so grabbing a linebacker is very possible for the organization. If the Eagles trade back from the first round and add more second-day picks, they could consider Jefferson. Going back to college at Texas, Jordan Hicks has been a good player when healthy but has dealt with a steady string of injuries.
Indianapolis badly needs to improve its linebacking corps, and Jefferson could give the team a long-term defensive building block. The Colts have three second-round picks and a high third-round pick,so Jefferson could definitely be in play for them.
The 49ers could consider taking Jefferson. Given all the problems that Reuben Foster has had off the field along with dealing a lot of injuries, Jefferson could interest John Lynch as the long-term linebacker to build the San Francisco defense around. Even if Foster returns to the field, Jefferson could be a tough middle linebacker with Foster serving as the Will.
The Raiders have to improve the middle of their defense and the front seven. Jefferson would be an upgrade to their rush defense and linebacking corps.
The Dolphins released Lawrence Timmons and need to improve their linebackers desperately. If Miami doesn't take a linebacker in the first round, Jefferson could be in play for the team on Day 2.
2018 NFL Mock Draft: Charlie's | Walt's
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