2023 NFL Draft sleepers at LB include Jalen Graham, Jeremy Banks

Every year there are prospects who get overlooked in the NFL Draft process, only to emerge later. We’ll try to help you get ahead by taking a look at some of the best sleepers in the 2023 NFL Draft at linebacker. Who deserves more hype than what he’s getting right now?

Traverses from the 2023 NFL Draft to LB

Right now, names like Noah Sewell, Trenton Simpson, and Henry To’o To’o make up the best linebacking groups throughout the consensus. There are also talented players waiting to go out with another year – prospects like Justin Flowe, Mohamoud Diabate, Kam Arnold and Jestin Jacobs. But what about those who have already produced and are still flying under the radar? This list is dedicated to those players.

Jalen Graham, Purdue

Purdue has quietly generated a fair amount of linebacker talent in recent cycles. Two drafts ago, Derrick Barnes was selected by the Detroit Lions, where he shone as a rookie. And in the undrafted free agent frenzy of the 2022 NFL Draft, Jaylan Alexander joined the Chicago Bears. Barnes was drafted in Round 4, but the Boilermakers may have an even better prospect coming into the 2023 cycle with Jalen Graham.

A former safety, Graham is now a hybrid linebacker with a long frame of 6’3″ and 220 pounds. That old safety background no doubt helps, as Graham is one of the best covering linebackers in college football. In 2022, he recorded 64 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack, while tacking on two picks, seven pass deflections and a forced fumble.

With his length, brilliance and agility, Graham can handle space like WILL or play the overhand lunge. But Graham isn’t just a coverage specialist. He could handle adding more weight, but he’s tenacious and physical in the box. If he can get stronger, look for Graham to become an all-around point guard in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Jeremy Banks, Tennessee

Positional converts are always intrigue factories at LB. But more often than not, players convert to linebacker for safety. You don’t see other transitions as frequently, but Jeremy Banks is one of them – having moved to linebacker after running in 2020.

Prior to that point, Banks was a running back, rushing for 185 yards and three scores in 2018. But 2020 marked the next chapter in his football career, and it all went from there. That’s why he’s one of the best sleepers in the 2023 NFL Draft.

In 2021 — just his second year at LB — Banks was an unyielding force on the Tennessee defense. Although a bit undersized at 6’1″, 224 pounds, Banks blew the stat sheets with 128 tackles, 11½ tackles for loss, 5½ sacks, one interception and four deflections.

Banks has great twitch and range on the second tier, but also surprising utility in the box. As a former RB, he has an instinct to sift through congestion, run through the lanes and make plays in the backfield. 2022 could see him emerge as one of the best MIKEs in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Shaka Heyward, Duke

It can be difficult to get into Duke football. But the program quietly has NFL talent on defense. The secondary has a talent conveyor belt worth watching, and edge rusher RJ Oben is an uphill player. But the most compelling defenseman on the Blue Devils roster might be linebacker Shaka Heyward, who returns for his senior season in a redshirt.

Heyward doesn’t have nearly the same buzz as other LB prospects, likely due to Duke’s lackluster performance in ACC play in recent years. But it’s a prospect you need to know about.

Heyward sports a frame looming at 6’4″, 220 pounds, but he’s a very easy side-engine. It also shows a scorching second gear when closing games. Additionally, Heyward demonstrates legitimate passing ability as a blitzer.

With 25½ tackles for loss and 9½ sacks over the past three years, it’s a known fact that Heyward is a dangerous threat in the box. But at its maximum projection, it can be a legitimate X-factor at the second level.

Tatum Bethune, State of Florida

A slew of defenders have entered the transfer portal over the past cycle, but few transfer additions can have more impact than that of Tatum Bethune for Florida State. Bethune stood out for UCF in 2021, amassing 108 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, one deflection and one forced fumble in 12 games.

Now Bethune is heading to Tallahassee, where he will likely take on an early leadership role for the Seminoles defense. At 6’1″, 225 pounds, Bethune is a bit undersized. But he’s a physical, high-energy player whose pursuit engine never dies. He brings a lot of range to the second tier, and as a tackle, Bethune plays bigger than his frame at the point of contact.

Trey Cobb, Appalachian State

At this point, the depth of the 2023 NFL Draft LB class is questionable. But there are a few definite sleepers lurking in the Five Five ranks, one of which is Appalachia State’s LB Trey Cobb. Cobb was one of the Mountaineers’ leading tacklers last season, racking up 72 total tackles, as well as six tackles for loss, four interceptions and three passes defended.

Now a fifth-year senior and ready to be a four-year starter, Cobb will be called upon to grow as a point guard for an Appalachian State defense that has lost D’Marco Jackson, Demetrius Taylor and Shaun Jolly.

Cobb’s experience appears on film – he communicates frequently before the snap. But he is also a visibly talented player. He needs to add more weight to his 6’2″, 220-pound frame, but he has the athleticism, natural covering ability and instinct in congestion to finish on a high note with added responsibility.

About Mildred B.

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