Steelers Should Look For Buck, Not Mack Linebacker This Offseason

This is a longer article than I’d prefer because (1) I love my ILB’s, (2) the Mack vs Buck distinction needs to be explained, (3) the current roster in Pittsburgh could be in flux due to Schobert’s contract, (4) the existing depth offers a lot of unknowns, and (5) A mysterious zoo affliction seems to have snaked its way into my writing.

I have come out against a D-Line pick even though that unit’s failure caused the great majority of 2021 defensive problems. This is because the DL suffered from injuries rather than lack of either talent or depth. The same level of failure would beset any other unit with that level of injury. Lose four of the top five Corners and you’ll be the worst pass defense in the league; six of your top eight OL’s and your QB will get killed; etc. But last year’s cascade of DL injuries is actually good news from a draft perspective, because it means the 2022 DL roster looks quite solid without a single change in personnel. The ILB’s are more of a puzzle.

Yes, the primary starter (Bush) was severely handicapped for the year by his ACL recovery, and should be whole for 2022. That’s a decent parallel. But he is just one player. The ILB depth is nothing close to what we see on the D-Line, and there doesn’t seem to be a real Buck ILB in the entire room.

Hmm. It may be best to start with a precis on what the term “Inside Linebacker” really means for the modern Pittsburgh defense. It’s actually two positions with very different requirements from the roster building perspective.


Your Mack ILB is the indispensable run, chase, and cover guy who never comes off the field. Speed and agility, physical and mental, lies at the heart of what he does. Typically in the 225-235 lb. range, Macks aren’t designed or intended to take on blockers. It’s a actually a loss – distinct loss – when they have to meet a blocker in the hole. Macks try to predict and avoid those blockers instead, and then shoot through the hole untouched for those flashy TFL’s and other highlight reel displays. Mack ILB’s get more media attention than they deserve because they are the barb at the end of the whip, which means they can put up gaudy numbers with eye catching plays. Their opportunities come as a result of their teammates, who don’t get the credit. Which is not to say they are anything less than the core of your modern 3-4 defense!

It starts with being a true 3-down player who must cover as well as he tackles. That’s a big ask, but it’s right there in the job description. Your Mack ILB also needs to instantly read and react in a way that will sent him to either coverage or run support duties, while staying flexible enough to respond if the offense does something tricky. The position demands an elite football IQ. His position in the middle of a defense also makes him the natural play caller, which requires both leadership and communication skills; front to back, back to front, and side to side. The ideal Mack ILB strikes a perfect balance between being a lineman, a defensive back, and an on-the-field coach – a true football impresario combined with hair trigger, edge-of-humanity reaction time and the explosive burst of a leopard who stalks his prey and then pounces across the field.

Yikes. Talk about a job description! That’s why the best ones go in the Top 10 nowadays. They really are the closest thing to a Quarterback for the defense. Just to make it tougher, you cannot beat the system by playing two Mack ILB’s at the same time any more than you can two QB’s. Remember that every Mack ILB requires a full complement of friends to keep him free for those flashy TFL’s and the like. Using two removes the support network, and essentially creates something more like a Big Nickel sub package (60% pass, 40% run) than a base 3-4 defense. Building that base 3-4 (the evenly balanced 50/50 formation) requires a whole different critter; the wolverine inside who goes for your guts, as a complement to the leopard you can’t escape.

Buck ILB’s. Can you tell that I admire these guys? Those bears on the offensive line dream of a chance to get their claws on one of the leopards. “I may get scratched, but wait ’til you see what I do to him!” The wolverines? “Oh, I’ll win,” says the proud old bear. “You can bet on that. But do I really need to prove it? Those [bleep]ers are nasty.”

Buck ILB’s are the 245-255 lb., downhill box players who do the mean, dirty, invisible support tasks that rarely make a highlight reel. Macks range a few yards behind the D-Line, waiting to pounce; Bucks play a DL support role. They play a step or two closer, hoping  to get in close quarters as soon as they can identify the weak spot as a play develops. See problem beginning to happen; and then bolt in to blow it up before there is an actual hole. They win when the RB has to back up, pause, and create; which is exactly the half a beat our fleet footed Mack needs to flash on by. Fullbacks and pulling behemoths are the gristly meat on a Buck ILB gets fed at every meal. They are all guts, no glory, goons for hire, as Vince Williams put it. And he ought to know.

But the Buck ILB skill set comes at a cost. Wolverines can ruin your day when you head in their direction, but they sort of suck at tracking you down. Again, just ask Vince Williams. Okay, let’s be a little more fair. VW and his peers don’t actually “suck” at coverage, and they aren’t exactly “slow.” It’s just that the heft required to bang inside usually comes at the expense of the speed and agility to match up equally well in space.

The NFL game of inches often depends on the tiniest gap in a defensive net. Buck ILB’s offer a potential mismatch, and QB’s have learned to target them by audibling away from runs in favor of passes to shifty RB’s, slot WR’s, and ultra-athletic TE’s. Yes, defenses have some counters. Particularly if the Buck ILB can “audible” in response by blitzing instead of doing run support duties. OTOH, the QB knows that too, and can respond… You get into the great chess match.

In the end it boils down to this: Back in Dick LeBeau’s glory days, Pittsburgh fielded a full time NT, a full time Buck ILB, and kept a Nickel CB on the roster for weird situations. Today’s offenses force that Nickel CB into as many snaps as either the NT or the Buck, and maybe a little more. Three different players for the number of snaps that used to assigned to two.

And it’s even worse than just the inefficiency of needing 12 “starting” defenders when only 11 can take the field at once. Offenses actively design their game plans to force the weakest of those three defenders onto the field, while forcing the strongest one to sit on the bench. See a defense with a low caliber NT and a good slot Corner? Expect to see a heavy formations that will win by dominating the trenches, pushing the CB off the field, and exposing that meddlesome Mack ILB to free blockers. Field a defense that’s weak at the Buck ILB position? All those snazzy OL blocking schemes will operate unencumbered, forcing the Mack ILB to punch out of his weight class, and the Nickel CB to take on RB’s headed downhill. Do we even need to mention what happens when the CB-3 is your weakness? Super Bowl runs have centered on short passes to players that specialize in yardage after the catch.

Defenses are simply stuck, which is why people say it’s become an offense-oriented league. At the same time, there are only so many draft picks to go around, and you simply cannot spend the really premium ones on part time defenders an offense can remove when they start to play too well. Which brings us full circle to the Buck ILB position. Old fashioned ILB thumpers still get picked because you can’t do without them, but they go a few rounds later than they used to. Genius being the exception, of course. The dream of a true, 3-down Buck ILB who can bang and cover with equal facility keeps draftniks like me up at night. A lion to pair with our leopard? He’d give us a personnel package the offense could never out-scheme…! [Sigh]


Pittsburgh has invested heavily in the Mack ILB position, but it’s still a little up in the air:

  • Mack 1: Devin Bush. 5’11”, 233 lbs.
  • Mack 2: Joe Schobert. 6’1”, 244 lbs. [Costly as heck; see below]
  • Mack 3: Robert Spillane. 6’1”, 230 lbs. [Restricted Free Agent]
  • Mack 4a: Ulysees Gilbert III. 6’1”, 230 lbs.
  • Mack 4b: Tegray Scales. 6’0”, 227 lbs. [Free Agent]
  • Mack 4c: Buddy Johnson. Steelers list him at 6’2″, 240 lbs. but the Combine measurements were 6-1/2″, 229 lbs. That’s a big difference!
  • Mack 6a/SS/Teams: Marcus Allen. 6’2”, 216 [Restricted Free Agent]
  • Mack 6b/SS/Teams: Miles Killebrew. 6’2”, 217 lbs. [Free Agent]

The Steelers are a lot thinner when it comes to the Buck ILB’s:

  • Buck 1: [Crickets]
  • Buck 2: Joe Schobert. Sorta kinda? Maybe? Plus he’s way too expensive.
  • Buck 3: Robert Spillane. Right attitude; wrong body.
  • Buck 4: Buddy Johnson. Who knows? He may even be too small if you go by the Combine numbers.

Devin Bush is the elephant in the room, of course. The Steelers traded up to pick him at #10 overall in the 2019 draft, which created monstrous expectations that we’d finally have a post-Shazier leopard to roam the middle of the defense. His rookie year went well, with high end flashes reminded people of unicorns like the original Shazier and Troy Polamalu. Heady expectations for 2020! And things looked awfully good too for five whole games… at which point he tore his ACL and lost the rest of his season.

Enter Year 3, which became the debacle of 2021. It began well enough. Bush returned to the field far sooner than anyone expected. The “book” on ACL tears basically says, “one full year before seeing the field, and another before the player is capital-R Right again.” Following those guidelines, Devin Bush shouldn’t have even practiced until November, and should have been only a meh version of himself until 2022. Actually starting in September? It was a pretty astonishing feat if you step back and look at it.

Alas, but Steeler Nation was in no mood to extend “attaboys” for just showing up, because the meh part of that prediction proved to be dead on point. Devin Bush just didn’t look the same. Then the D-Line fell off a collective cliff, there were no Buck ILB’s on hand to even try and help, and… screwby dooby doo! The Macks lost their cover; the OL bears got free rein to swat them around at will; and that was the end of that. The collective run defense spent the year vacillating between “embarrassing shambles” and “almost worth hope” in direct proportion to how the DL (and T.J.) injury situations fluctuated from week to week.

Devin Bush, the supposed unicorn, received a lot of the blame. Right up there with the F.O., the coaches, and probably the Holy Ghost as well. “He’s a bust! Get us a new ILB!” That blame is simply unfair. Devin Bush got totally [you know whatted] by the injuries to Pittsburgh’s defensive line, and we had no right to expect more than a meh version to begin with. He deserves, and will get, at least another season or two as the Steelers starting Mack ILB. Which is not the same thing as saying he’s fully arrived. Injuries are real. We get that. But Devin Bush also “needs to get better and he knows it.” We’ll see in 2022 if he can.

Joe Schobert has built a good NFL career as a 4-3 Mike (middle linebacker) who plays a smart, multipurpose game. Pittsburgh brought him in early on in 2021 as a stopgap after Vince Williams retired and it became clear that Bush really wasn’t going to defy modern medicine with a capital-R Right season. 4-3 Mikes sort of straddle the light- and heavy roles played by the Mack and Buck in a Steelers scheme. Schobert turned out to be a player who leans more toward the Mack side of the equation. When the D-Line fell apart, his game suffered almost as much as Devin Bush’s. Almost.

Still, I’d love to keep Schobert as a solid Mack #2 if the price is right. Alas, but his price couldn’t be more wrong. Schobert came over from Jacksonville after signing a long term, 5-year deal for around $10 Million per year. The Jags quickly regretted that signing for their own reasons, but seemed to be stuck. They dug out by sending Schobert to the Steelers in exchange for our Round 6 pick in the upcoming draft, and then eating so much money that Schobert only cost the Steelers $1.74 Million in 2021. But the contract is still in place, which means it will cost Pittsburgh $8.75 Million to keep him in 2022. And $10.25 Million in each of the years after that. By contrast, cutting Schobert will cost only $1.88 Million in dead money.

Sorry folks, but that writing is on the wall. No backup, even at Mack ILB, should be costing his team that kind of lettuce. He can get more somewhere else, and probably have a chance at starting, which he won’t be able to do if Bush returns at full strength. Take out the hankies and wave goodbye.

Robert Spillane is a football player who happens to play linebacker. I love those guys, and root for them hard, but 2021 showed his limitations. He’d be a great Buck if he was built with an extra 15-20 lbs. of quality heft, but he isn’t. Two or three steps faster and he’d be a fine Mack. But at this point he’s stuck in the middle; the Isaac Redman of ILB’s. Wonderful depth, and ideal as a special teamer and teammate, but not a full time starter.

UG-3 and Tegray Scales are tremendous athletes who possess the rare physical gifts required to play Mack ILB, but neither has demonstrated the mental quickness that’s even more vital. At least so far as we can tell, since neither has stayed healthy either. Call them question marks if you want to be scrupulously fair.

Marcus Allen and Miles Killebrew were both drafted as physical Box Safeties; proved to be a step too slow to succeed in that role; and have since morphed (on the books) into undersized Mack ILB’s. In reality, both are far more valuable for their talents on special teams. Football players first, defenders second, just like Spillane. (See also Henry Mondeaux on the D-Line).

Buddy Johnson starts this evaluation with a big advantage: he was on my final 2021 mock. I look good if he succeeds, so I expect all of Steelers Nation to root extra hard! But what can I really say? 2021 really turned out to be more of a redshirt year than anything else. I can’t even nail down his actual position because of the conflicting reports about his size. Maybe a swing guy to serve as depth for both positions? We simply cannot say at this point in time. Fingers remain crossed.


Not a Mack #1. Everything points strongly away from that. The Rooneys have spent decades building their reputation as good employers. They are not going to spoil that with a no-class move like spending an early pick on a premier Mack ILB to challenge Devin Bush. If news comes out that the knee is permanently impaired? Maybe then, but not in the absence of something at that level.

Maybe a Mack #2. Devin Bush will be the #1, but who will be the #2 once Joe Schobert departs for the financial reasons outlined above? The team needs that depth, but Spillane is a step slow, Buddy Johnson is unproven, and both UG-3 and Tegray are question marks at best. I read this as a coaches’ call. Too much depends on factors we cannot know. A Day 3 pick on some likely athlete could definitely be on the table. Georgia’s Channing Tindall could be a Round 3 version because he lacks only the sheer size to be an effective Buck as well. Can a violent 230 pounder do that job and survive?

Buck ILB #1. I have yearned after a large, super-athletic Buck ILB for at least ten years, and I’m not about to stop. I want my Vince Williams with the ability to hold up in coverage! The guy who could be both a Buck #1 and a Mack #2! I can still feel the sting of watching Leighton Vander-Esch, Tremaine Edmunds, and last year’s Zaven Collins slip away. Waaah.

This year does not offer that kind of Round 1 athletic genius at the Buck ILB position. So that ain’t gonna happen, even if the team would prioritize it over something like the offensive line. [As if.] But there are several prospects who might become a 3-down Buck if things go right, and more who’d excel at the limited thumper role. Cincinnati’s Darrian Beavers could be a target at 2:20. My fingers are officially crossed. Round 3 is in play too, because that is where we’ve placed the brilliant athletes who will definitely require a few years to master the upstairs part of the game. Round 3 also features a “fearsome enforcer/midfield dominator” named Leo Chenal who looks ready to step into Vince Williams’ old cleats right away.

After that? My research hasn’t progressed far enough. I only know that something needs to happen. Non-genius Buck ILB’s may have been reduced to the point where they play no more than 400-500 snaps per year, but those are important snaps just like the ones for Nose Tackles. The current roster has a big, fat goose egg at the position. I really don’t want to see another year of makeshift, schematic adjustments to compensate for missing the right kind of player to do this specialized job.

Looking at the prospects.

I’m still just beginning the work of compiling this year’s Big Board, but I have done enough to get a pretty good idea of the prospects who might fit that description. Here are my early summaries. I have put the pure Mack ILB prospects in gray to show that they are less likely targets. The Buck ILB and 4-3 multipurpose types are both in normal text.

Don’t scream at me if that list of Mack-only players includes some of your personal favorites. They still have their designated initial grade despite my impulse to lower it significantly, because I think that should wait for your feedback. How big a discount should be applied to someone who the team actually hopes will be a bench-rider behind the healed-up Devin Bush? [Remember: none of these Mack prospects would be able to play alongside Bush except in oddball sub packages. One of the pair would have to sit.]

1:25 MACK ILB Devin Lloyd, Utah. (RS Senior). 6’3”, 235 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. A bigger but less explosive version of Devin Bush, who’s probably limited to the Mack ILB role in Pittsburgh’s system. This January scouting profile from Bleacher Report lists mano-a-mano physicality as the primary shortcoming.
2:01 MACK ILB Nakobe Dean, Georgia. (Junior). 6’0”, 225 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. I’m ready to give Devin Bush another year or two to iron out the kinks, but if you’re not, look at Nakobe Dean. This year’s Butkus Award winner is a similar player who lacks ideal size but can play well above his weight class if he’s allowed to run and chase. Like every player in this category, he will require a DL in front to keep him clean.
2:12 ILB Christian Harris, Alabama. (Junior). 6’2”, 232 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Another run-and-chase tackler who can cover, and qualifies from the draft POV as Devin Bush Lite. One hell of a player so long as the D-Line can be relied on to keep him clean. This January scouting profile from Bleacher Report notes that he really enjoys the downhill part of the position, and plays like a bigger guy. That reputation is the only thing keeping him from being another pure Mack.
2:12 Buck ILB Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati. (RS Senior). 6’4”, 255 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. An excellent, multisport athlete who outgrew his H.S. position as a Safety, became a talented Edge Rusher at U. Conn., and then went to his native Cincinnati where he morphed into a sideline to sideline enforcer at ILB. This January Bleacher Report scouting profile particularly admires the “lightning fast mental trigger [with a] head-on-fire mentality… when engaging with offensive linemen.” You couldn’t come up with a better description of a true Buck ILB. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report agrees, showing highlights of some very impressive burst to go along with the bulk and the straight line speed. The questions go to whether he can hold up in coverage. That verdict is still out because he’s looked good at times but seems to lack some lateral agility. An ideal thunder to Devin Bush’s lightning, Beavers would specialize in the dirty work that raises all boats while earning a lot of wrath from the ill-informed because of highlight reel plays where he loses in coverage. A bigger and more athletic version of Vince Williams? His coach has compared him to Zaven Collins from last year’s draft, which suggests that his stock may rise as the process moves forward. Good agility numbers and impressive drills could push him into Round 1. This January scouting profile looks both good and thorough.
3:01 ILB Damone Clark, LSU. (Senior). 6’3”, 245 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. A tough player to pigeonhole because he has incredible athleticism, very good size, and the sort of array of fixable flaws that hints at someone who could grow to be a superstar. But he will have to make that growth, and is likely to be neutralized until he does. Here is a thorough January scouting profile that is well worth the read. This briefer January scouting profile is also worth the time, loving the athleticism and size, but worrying that he has “limited vision and is easily fooled by misdirection.” Here is a background-focused scouting summary from December.
3:12 BUCK ILB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin. (RS Sophomore). 6’2”, 250 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Anyone described by TDN’s Kyle Crabbs as a “fearsome enforcer” is a prospect that Steelers Nation ought to study with care. Honestly? The descriptions sound like Vince Williams’ self-description: “Who needs a goon?” He won’t be a 3-down player. Make no mistake. But this is the sort of ILB who really can make up for deficiencies in a defensive line. This nice January scouting profile ends with a late-2nd grade for Chenal as an “old school thumper.” This January scouting profile climbs up to a high-2nd grade, using phrases like “elite dominator” and “carved out of rock.” Mmmm, spicy.
3:12 EDGE/ILB Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma. (RS Junior). 6’2”, 235 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. One of those frustrating tweeners who’s built like an ILB, but excelled in college as a pass rusher because of his extraordinary burst, bend, motor, and football IQ. Remember Haason Reddick? Same type of guy. A Rorschach Test that lets you see what you want, and thus is very hard to grade. After all, the original Reddick failed on the inside, where we wanted him, and then succeeded as an undersized pass rusher. I choose to see a prospect who really can transition to being a pass rushing Buck ILB; but I acknowledge that my vision goes through some thick B&G desire-glasses. Here is a Seahawks-oriented scouting profile from around New Years.
3:12 ILB Brandon Smith, Penn St. (Junior). 6’3”, 241 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Boom or bust baby! Smith has the potential to be a perennial all pro, but questions exist about his upstairs game. Can he absorb an NFL playbook, and then recognize an NFL offense at a speed sufficient for the pro game? He also prefers to play as a run-and-chase guy rather than a banger. As this January Bleacher Report scouting profile notes, Smith has an “ideal build for the position [and] flashes great strength… [but the] physicality comes and goes; too often does not play downhill with enough of a temper, [and has] below-average technique taking on blocks.” Doesn’t sound like a Buck ILB despite the size.
3:12 ILB Channing Tindall, Georgia. (Senior). 6’2”, 230 lbs. with long ___” arms and ___” hands. A freak athlete with good size, shocking explosion, and the sort of internal fire that exemplifies his college team (the Bulldogs). He plays like a Buck, but he’s definitely on the lean side for that role. Can he add the weight, or will he be a tweener destined for a 4-3 team? Our own Jonathan Heitritter has suggested that Tindall could play as a Buck ILB despite his lack of pounds and inches. That opinion is echoed in this January PFN scouting profile, which calls him Georgia’s “attacker, whose physical profile and hot motor make him a constant disruptor… Moreover, Tindall has underrated play strength for his size. He occupies blockers for teammates and keeps his balance when clogging gaps and taking on double-teams. He’s a physical player who’s willing to lower his shoulder and engage blockers with force.” Guaranteed special teams star even if he can’t close the sale as an ILB. This January Bleacher Report scouting profile sees all that, but makes a point of listing the cautionary notes as well. Particularly the raw technique in several areas, as well as the lack of pure size.
3:12 ILB Quay Walker, Georgia. (Senior). 6’3”, 240 lbs. with long ___” arms and ___” hands. Walker is an athletic specimen who played the physical, run-stuffing role in college but only started for only a year. His football IQ got notably better as the season went on, but the significant need to keep learning lowers his grade. The sheer athletic talent is top notch, and he achieves a grade of “average” for coverage while still being a physical banger. Thus as Tom Mead’s gif-supported Depot scouting report concludes, “Walker is [] raw but he could be molded into the blitzing Buck linebacker a la Vince Williams that the Steelers are missing.” Welcome news! He ends with a bottom-3rd grade. This January scouting profile from PFN continues with another view that should excite Steelers nation. “Walker’s play strength is another factor that separates him from other linebackers. He undoubtedly has the size and strength to take on offensive linemen at the second level. The Georgia ILB latches onto opposing linemen’s pads, then rips down anchors with violent force.”
3:24 MACK ILB Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma. (RS Junior). 6’0½”, 230 lbs. with long ___” arms and ___” hands. A talent who’d rate higher for this board if there was no current Mack #1 in the room, Asamoah is sideline to sideline hunter who chases the ball down, tackles what he hits, shows good leadership, and has the native athleticism to succeed in coverage. Better than most at taking on blocks, but still inconsistent and not really built to excel in that role. Still raw enough to be much better at see-do than at reading what’s coming. This longish January PFN scouting profile emphasizes how much Asamoah’s game improved in 2021 versus 2020.
3:24 ILB Chad Muma, Wyoming. (Senior). 6’3”, 242 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Grade would be higher if he’d played against a higher LOC. Reports like this January scouting profile have raved that he is tremendous in all phases from coverage to run support (with the exception of blitzing), with special credit for his communication on the inside. Alex Kozora’s careful, gif-supported scouting report ends with a late-3rd grade based on concerns that Muma will fit a 4-3 defense much better than the 3-4, where he’d be less athletic than you want in a Mack and less physical than you need in Buck. Alex describes a very good all around athlete who lacks the elite trait or two that would raise him over the NFL crowd.
4:16 EDGE/ILB Nolan Smith, Georgia. (Junior). 6’3”, 235 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Another undersized pass rusher who would fit Pittsburgh much, much better if he has the ability to move inside and play as a Buck ILB with extremely good pass rushing chops. Average strength, average+ explosiveness, and less than average size, but his knack of converting speed to power makes up for a lot.
4:16 MACK ILB Jojo Doman, Nebraska. (RS Senior). 6’1”, 230 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Turns 25 as a rookie. The age is a killer for the youth-loving Steelers. If that didn’t matter his grade might be a full round higher. The sort of ILB who excels in coverage and can even double as a supersized Nickel Safety, but will have trouble nearer the line of scrimmage and would be helpless if faced with NFL OL’s in his face.
5:01 BUCK ILB Jesse Luketa, Penn St. (Senior). 6’3”, 250 lbs. with 32¾” arms and big 10¼” hands. A good looking, powerful defender in the middle of the field who has surprising speed and agility. Native of Ottawa, Canada. Heavy hands and good at using them to disengage from blockers. Fantastic motor. This pre-Senior Bowl January scouting profile from PFN lists pass rush as a weak area, despite physical gifts suggesting he should be good at that part of the game.

There are going to be more names on that list by the end of the process, and much deeper analysis, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far. I’d particularly appreciate a hint on likely looking Day 3 Mack ILB’s who’d take a roster spot away from UG-3 or Tegray Scales. That kind of developmental player with serious special teams chops would make a lot of sense later on in the draft.

It’s also time to start criticizing my initial stabs at providing some grades. Please remember that the Big Board is not like the expert scouting reports done by so many other writers. This is a social endeavor, where we try to assign grades according to the hive mind’s impressions rather than one person’s deep dive opinion. That means that your opinions really do matter, and really will get reflected in the final grade to the best of my ability.

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