From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling arguably the best off-ball linebacker in this year’s draft class, Devin Lloyd.
#0 Devin Lloyd, Linebacker, Utah (R-Sr.) – 6030, 236 lbs.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Devin Lloyd||6026/237||9 /12||33||80 1/4|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Ideal size and length for the modern NFL three-down linebacker
— Versatility – played off-ball inside and outside as well as an EDGE in passing situations, best suited as an off-ball LB
— Great at using hands and length to disengage from blocks
— Not going to miss many tackles once he gets hands-on
— Smooth hips in coverage
— Shows a good understanding of passing concepts in zone coverage
— Has the speed to shoot gaps, but also the patience to sift through trash for TFL’s in the run game
— Not overly physical, can see him getting out of position by trying to use athleticism to run around blocks
— Blitzing is not his strong suit, often looks hesitant
— Doesn’t look comfortable blitzing as an edge – loses contain trying to make plays against the run
— There are a lot of times on tape where you question if he’s truly running
— Can get over aggressive and overrun his angles
— 47 career games as a Ute with 32 starts.
— 256 Total TKLs, 150 Solo, 43.0 TFLs, 15.5 Sacks, 5 Ints, 8 PDs, 1 FR, 2 FFs, 3 TDs
— 2021 Consensus All-American, 2021 AP Defensive Player of the Year, 2021 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year
— Two-time Butkus Award Finalist (2020, 2021)
— 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl invitee
— Played WR, Safety, Punter in High School (had 12 punts inside the 20-yard line and a long of 60 yards in his senior season)
— 2-star safety coming out of high school, Utah was his only power-5 offer
— Father was in the military for 26 years
Linebackers in the traditional sense are changing. No longer can you simply trot out a stiff, downhill thumper on defense and expect them not to be put under fire by opposing offenses with mismatches. If teams met up in a lab and wanted to create the “modern linebacker,” they’d wind up with Devin Lloyd.
Watching his tape, you see a guy that has played the game long enough to fully understand the concepts at game speed, diagnose them, and make plays against them.
The first thing to look for in a “modern linebacker” is sideline to sideline speed. Lloyd has it.
This rep he is able to flow with the pre-snap motion, fight off a downfield block by a lineman, and still is able to lay a big hit behind the line of scrimmage. That’s a big-time play.
The next play also shows off Lloyd’s speed. He’s brought on a pressure, but is able to recognize the screen mid-blitz, and turns and makes a beeline for the ball, laying another brutal hit on the offensive player.
He trusts his eyes and has a ‘see ball, hit ball’ mentality when he plays downhill with confidence.
Watch below as the entire play is flowing right. Due to the overload blitz, the running back cuts back. Lloyd stays patient the entire time. He doesn’t overpursue the run, changes direction with ease, and is able to cover enough ground to stick the back behind the line of scrimmage.
Speaking of see ball, hit ball, check out Lloyd on this 3rd & 3 against Oregon. It’s an unblocked play as the center is too late looking to go to the second level, but what I was impressed with was Lloyd’s hit power.
The running back is coming with a full head of steam and looks like he runs straight into a wall, stopped right in his tracks. The Ducks come up short on third down and choose to punt. Big play by Lloyd.
One of the biggest things to look for in linebackers is how they deal with bigger o-linemen when they get hands-on. Linebackers aren’t always going to have a solid defensive line’s in front of them to absorb all the blocks, they need to make some plays themselves. If a linebacker can consistently absorb and shed blocks, he’s going to be a weapon at any level.
Lloyd’s ability to block shed was one of the things that stuck out the most in his tape. He has long dangly arms, and he knows how to use them to create keep a distance from himself and the incoming lineman.
Watch below as he’s able to stay low during his read steps, bench presses the lineman, then finds the ball for another run stop around the line of scrimmage.
You’ve seen an unblocked stop, a contested stop, now let’s check off the last type of run stop for Lloyd, the ability to sift through the trash and shoot gaps.
In this play, he’s able to keep himself clean from the center that is stumbling at his feet, then accelerate through the gap, and lay a nice hit on the running back for a short gain.
Lloyd oozes athleticism. I feel as if the former high school safety and receiver is just scratching the surface with how he can use it at the linebacker position.
Here he’s lined up on the edge and is able to hold the edge and then spin off the block to make the tackle for loss.
In this play, pay attention to Lloyd’s lateral movement. He’s such a fluid mover in space and is able to not only easily slide around this block, but is able to show off his ankle flexion in turning the corner and getting in on the tackle.
That same technique will get Lloyd out of position at times. It’s not something you want to see him do a ton as it puts linebackers in bad spots. Former Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier had to coach it out of his game his first few seasons as well.
Along with running around blocks, you’ll see Lloyd over-pursue some plays from time to time. Here, you can see he gets lackadaisical and strolls across the midline. This leaves a wide-open cutback lane for the running back. Lloyd didn’t stand a chance.
I wouldn’t go as far to say he takes a lot of plays off, but there are a good bit of reps where you can question if he’s truly running. This may point to a need for better conditioning more than anything else as Lloyd plays just about every snap for the Utes on defense.
The same thing that helps Lloyd win in the run game also helps while pass rushing. He is able to translate his speed to power and then bench press the lineman en route to the quarterback for the sack.
Lloyd’s long strides help him cover ground in a hurry. Once he has his eyes set on the ball carrier, he’s a heat-seeking missile. The quarterback stood no chance.
Blitzing is the area in Lloyd’s game that needs the most work at this point. A lot of his interior blitz reps look similar to each other. A hesitant run-up, contact with the linemen and stops his feet.
This happened so frequently on film I’m interested if it’s just the way it’s taught at Utah because he is clearly looking to get his hands in the air for deflections.
Here’s an almost identical rep.
Trying to get his hands in the passing lane has worked out for him in the past, just ask Stanford. Lloyd was able to do this exact move against the Cardinals and was able to turn it into a pick-six, an obnoxious show of athleticism.
It’s possible because he made this play, he wants to try to do it all the time. There’s no problem with the understanding you won’t get home and trying to get your hands in the passing lane after the fact, but if it’s on his own accord, I don’t want to consistently ignore the blitz responsibility for a play like this to happen once in a blue moon.
The other point to look at though is don’t try to take the playmaker out of an x-factor. Some of the best defenders make their best plays out of structure.
The following clip is a prime example of how it may get him into trouble though. Lloyd has a green-dot blitz and is too hesitant at attacking the quarterback because he’s thinking of jumping.
If he comes screaming at the quarterback it’s a fourth-down sack, Ute ball (sans the penalty). Instead, the quarterback is able to safely go through his progressions and find the check-down for the first down.
Utah did use Lloyd a good bit off the edge on pass-rushing downs. He made some plays there but overall didn’t see enough from him there to want him there for an extended amount of time. He looks much more natural as an off-ball linebacker.
While most tackles made pretty easy work of him off the edge, below is easily his best rep. He’s able to get the tackle to overcommit with an outside jab step before spinning inside for the win. While he’s not able to complete the sack, he gets the quarterback off-platform and forces a bad throw. Great rep.
While that may have some scouts foaming at the mouth, this next clip is more conducive to what was seen from him while playing edge. You can see his natural position of off-ball come into play. He sees the gap and goes to fill it, trying to make a play. However, as an edge that’s not your job. Your job is to seal the edge and push things back inside. He does a poor job here and the running back easily takes advantage for the first down.
Now it’s time to get into what really separates Lloyd as a linebacker prospect, his pass coverage skills.
The thing that sticks out the most to me is the fluidity in his hips. They’re loose and he can turn and run with just about anyone. Here’s simply walling off the inside vertical, but you can see him flip his hips easily and carry the receiver downfield. Going to take an insane throw to fit the ball there.
Here, you get to see his understanding of route concepts. He knows he has help outside so he doesn’t try to jump the out, in fact, he’s already setting himself up in position for the stick nod route that does actually get run here by the WR3. He easily is able to sink underneath it and ensure it’s incomplete.
Lloyd can also make plays on the football. This rep, he is patient in his zone while reading the eyes of the quarterback. The tight end runs an inside comeback route and he’s able to catch his route, drive on the football and knock it away for the incompletion. Just making it look so easy.
This is the last clip we’ll have for pass coverage. The one common theme with these is they are all zone looks from the defense. Utah didn’t man up their linebackers much in the games that I saw, however, with what Lloyd has shown in the zone looks, I see no reason why he couldn’t match some inside guys and tight ends in the passing game.
As I mentioned already, it’s clear Lloyd understands passing concepts he’s seeing in real-time. Watch here as he sees the one inside receiver running a drag from his right, he hardly wastes any movement and understands if there’s a drag coming from one way you expect one from the opposite direction as well, known as the mesh concept. He easily takes away the opposite drag leaving the quarterback nowhere to throw.
In terms of off the field, I’ve seen nothing but glowing reports of Devin Lloyd. He was the undisputed leader of the Utes defense and was a captain in 2020 and 2021. Coming from parents who were both in the Navy, he takes his craft seriously in being the best he can be. Been described by people in the program as being able to play every position on the football field.
There are not a whole lot of holes in Lloyd’s game. Wherever he ends up, I see him being able to step in and take command of that defense on day one. As mentioned earlier, this is the guy defenses’ dream to have roaming the middle of the field for their defense in the modern era of linebackers drawing matchups with people like Travis Kelce and Deebo Samuel out of the backfield.
Lloyd is going to check a ton of boxes for the Steelers as they continue the search for their next great middle linebacker. He may not be the traditional downhill bully in the run game they may be looking for, but the sky is the limit with his athleticism. This is the guy they thought they were drafting with Devin Bush. I do question if they’re willing to take another linebacker this high so soon, especially considering the other needs on the roster.
When looking at comparisons you’re going to see a ton of Fred Warner comparisons and I don’t think they’re too far off. Another name to throw out there is Darius Leonard, another quick-twitch guy who always seems to be at the right place at the right time.
Think he’s certainly in the conversation for the Steelers at 20 if they wanted to address the position this early again. Will be interesting to see how much we can follow the smoke with the Steelers and linebacker prospects during this draft process.
Projection: Mid-Day 1
Depot Draft Grade: 9.0 – Year 1 Quality Starter (1st Round)
Games Watched: at BYU (2021), at USC (2021), vs. Oregon (2021), at Stanford (2021), Senior Bowl