As your New Orleans Saints prepare for the 2023 NFL Draft, we take a look at the top 10 ranked players at various positions. The 2023 NFL Draft big board rankings are reflective of Bucky Brooks' top five 2023 NFL Draft prospects by position 2.0 and ESPN's NFL Draft "Best Available" list.
Here are the top 10 ranked draft prospects at linebacker:
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Linebacker | No. 1 Drew Sanders | Arkansas
Drew Sanders is a Pro Bowl-level linebacker who has the traits and versatility to be an immediate force. Despite only having one full season as a starter, it was his most productive season to date. The Razorback prospect finished 2022 with 40 solo tackles, 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and a pick. Sanders made the transfer from Alabama to Arkansas prior to 2022, and it may have been his best move for his career as he really showed his ability to flourish in a starting role. Sanders in the top-rated linebacker according to Bucky Brooks and the second highest rated linebacker on ESPN. A personnel director for an NFC team said, ""He's going to test well but I think there is more value to drafting him as a pass rusher than a linebacker."
Height: 6 feet 4
Weight: 235 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.70
NFL.com overview: "Unique linebacker prospect with the physical traits, athleticism and skill set to be deployed as an inside linebacker or a stand-up edge rusher. The former five-star Alabama signee transferred to Arkansas for the 2022 season and posted eye-catching production with the Razorbacks. He plays with good technique in take-ons and has plenty of pursuit range, but he's still finding his footing with his run fits and tackle consistency. He's a tough out for interior protection as a blitzing linebacker and has natural rush talent to hunt quarterbacks off the edge."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Linebacker | No. 2 Nolan Smith | Georgia
Nolan Smith has been climbing the ranks of draft boards due to his impressive showing at the NFL Combine. His size is his biggest concern among teams, as an NFC national scout said "You worry about him holding up for 17 games with his size. I'm not worried about the toughness, but I just don't know if he can carry more weight without it slowing him down." Although that remains to be seen, what does show is his ability to hold strong in the line, and he has shown effectiveness stopping run plays. He ran a 4.39 at the Combine, which may aid him in coverage situations as well if a team wants to use him in that capacity.
Height: 6 feet 2
Weight: 238 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.33
NFL.com Overview: "Lower weight class edge defender with the toughness to mix it up with bigger players. Based purely upon his sleek but smallish frame, one might expect him to be more effective as a rusher than run defender but the opposite is true. Smith is hard to move off of his spot due to his technique and leverage, and he can be disruptive when firing into gaps. He can get off the mark as a rusher, but lacks the counters and contact balance to consistently assault the pocket at a high rate. Smith falls below the size standards some team might have for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he plays team-first defense with quality technique that should help him translate to the pros."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Linebacker | No. 3 Trenton Simpson | Clemson
Trenton Simpson is the third-ranked linebacker on NFL.com as well as ESPN's Best Available. The Clemson prospect played interior linebacker in 2022, but a move to the outside may benefit his game. He's got great speed that a lot of teams were excited to see, with a regional NFC scout even saying, "He should run at the combine because he will run one of the fastest times we've seen from a linebacker." Simpson did run at the Combine, and he posted an official time of 4.43 seconds. He has the ability to be good in coverage situations, but needs a little work on his tackling before he's ready to see the field as a full-time starter.
Height: 6 feet 2
Weight: 235 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.24
NFL.com Overview: "Chiseled weakside linebacker with rare speed for the position to run down the action in all directions. Simpson played inside in 2022 but displayed average play recognition and a lack of patience that saw him get caught in traffic near the line. He can play run-and-hit football with his speed when playing outside...He's a premium athlete capable of squeezing routes from zone and attacking the pocket as a blitzer. Simpson isn't quite game-ready yet, but players with his traits and range eventually find the field."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Linebacker | No. 4 Jack Campbell | Iowa
Jack Campbell is the fourth-best linebacker on NFL.com, but ESPN has him as the best available interior linebacker. The discrepancy seems to come from the fact that Campbell had a productive 2022 season, but his limitations may not allow him to do much more than that. Campbell seems to show more productivity in passing situations, posting two interceptions last season compared to just one sack. Campbell will likely be a starter before the end of his career, but it may take some time under the right coaching system to develop into that.
Height: 6 feet 5
Weight: 249 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.20
NFL.com Overview: "Inside linebacker who is built for the box and plays with good overall physicality. Campbell's size allows him to challenge blocks and stand his ground despite inconsistent hand usage at the take-on point. He scrapes and plugs his run fits with workmanlike dependability but lacks the short-area burst and reactive athleticism teams typically look for from NFL starters. He plays with above-average field awareness. He's capable as a zone defender and in some matchups against in-line tight ends. What you see is what you get with Campbell, and teams will need to balance the consistency with the play-making limitations in their evaluations."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Linebacker | No. 5 Henry To'oTo'o | Alabama
Henry To'oTo'o has proven to be a consistent presence in the middle of the field. He may not have the abilities needed to be a spectacular play-maker, but he does what he is supposed to do, and he does it well. An executive for an AFC team said, "He knows how to play and he'll be on a roster for a long time but I don't see him as a dynamic play-maker." To'oTo'o may be a Day 2 or 3 selection, but whatever team takes him may want to allow him to shadow a top tier linebacker to see if he can learn anything new to add to his bag.
Height: 6 feet 1
Weight: 227 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.16
NFL.com Overview: "Assignment-oriented linebacker whose play is steady but unspectacular. To'oTo'o is tough but lacks thump inside and doesn't have the speed to cut off angles and stop outside run plays before they get to the corner. He's a good technician but his play is a little more conservative than it will need to be with relatively average traits. To'oTo'o is always under control and generally where he needs to be. He's just average in coverage and will need to become much more consistent as an open-field tackler. Good backup to below-average starter could be his career path whether he plays inside or outside."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Linebacker | No. 6 Daiyan Henley | Washington State
"Rambunctious" may not be the word you want to see when evaluating linebacker prospects, but Daiyan Henley has shown his version of that is a little different than teams may expect. Henley is the type of player who always wants the big play. He was able to tally four sacks, three forced fumbles, and one interception in his final season at Washington State. He has good abilities when it comes to generating turnovers and open-field tackles, but can find himself lost on a couple plays by going for it all.
Height: 6 feet 1
Weight: 225 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.20
NFL.com Overview: "A rambunctious inside linebacker with good speed and toughness, Henley's playing style can be described as more active than instinctive. His inconsistency in reading keys and anticipating the play flow is mitigated somewhat by his speed and talent to wrap and finish in space. He has excellent range and does a nice job of stepping downhill to challenge blockers and running lanes. There are some eye-catching production totals in the takeaway column and favorable physical elements to his game, but inefficient movement combined with recognition delays could push him toward a backup and core special teams role in the future."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Linebacker | No. 7 Dorian Williams | Tulane
Tulane Green Wave prospect Dorian Williams had a wildly impressive 2022 season. He posted an eye-catching 81 solo tackles and added five sacks, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions. His biggest knock comes from his size. At 6 feet 1, 228 pounds, he finds himself swallowed up by bigger and more aggressive offensive linemen and tight ends. Often times, Williams recognizes plays but fails to be able to get past a blocker and make the stop. He can be a consistent starter for linebacker-needy teams, but would likely need to be paired with another linebacker who would allow Williams to break past the line and make the play untouched. He has the talent to be a Day 2 or 3 selection.
Height: 6 feet 1
Weight: 228 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 5.95
NFL.com Overview: "Team captain with athletic, tapered build and eye-catching production. Williams looks and moves more like a big box safety with his bursts to the football and open-field fluidity. Lacking the size and strength to match up with NFL take-on duties near the line, Williams needs to become more adept at slipping blocks and staying a step ahead of the blocking scheme. His coverage potential and special teams background will give his roster quest a boost as a likely Day 3 selection looking to fit into a backup role as a Will linebacker."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Linebacker | No. 8 Tavius Robinson | Ole Miss
Tavius Robinson is listed as a defensive end on NFL.com, but he is a linebacker on ESPN. He has the ability to play on or off the line and be productive. He has a solid frame, but is not reaching his full potential with it and would need to grow into it a bit. He is better in pass schemes, and he would need to show improved production against the run. Robinson can be a Day 2 selection for a team looking to bolster their defensive front. If he shows the ability to size up his game, he can be a starter within a couple of seasons.
Height: 6 feet 6
Weight: 257 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 6.18
NFL.com Overview: "Ascending, even-front defensive end prospect with outstanding traits and projectable upside. Robinson plays with good aggression and heavy hands as both a run defender and pass rusher. He has the agility and foot quickness to beat blockers whether chasing the run or rushing the passer. Robinson attacks the pocket with a game plan and a variety of moves at his disposal. He needs to grow into his frame to improve against the run, but Robinson should become a rotational defender and has future-starter potential."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Linebacker | No. 9 DeMarvion Overshown | Texas
DeMarvion Overshown began his football journey as a safety, but made the switch to linebacker in college. He has shown improvement andif he is brought in by a patient team where he can learn more about the role, he could be a fantastic addition to a roster. Overshown is a boom-or-bust sort of prospect who could either end up in a starting role or on a practice squad depending on how much he is able to pick up.
Height: 6 feet 3
Weight: 229 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 5.96
NFL.com Overview: "Whether playing inside or outside, Overshown will need to get stronger and more effective at taking on blockers and tackling with security. His tape shows much improved key reading and play recognition, which could prove critical in allowing him to play at a consistently faster pace to the football. Overshown could struggle to hold up to downhill running attacks, but his instincts and blitz talent create a potential opportunity for him as a nickel/dime linebacker."
2023 NFL Draft prospects - Linebacker | No. 10 Ivan Pace Jr. | Cincinnati
Ivan Pace Jr. is another prospect who could be seen as a boom-or-bust linebacker. He showed great production in 2022 and has the abilities that make him fun to watch. However, he lacks the speed needed for coverages and pass rushes and may need some refining in his skills before he is ready to see the field full-time. If a team is willing to take a flyer on him, Pace Jr. would need a good linebackers coach and maybe even a mentor to help him refine his skills.
Height: 5 feet 10 1/2
Weight: 231 pounds
NFL.com Draft Grade: 5.84
NFL.com Overview: "A rare blend of leverage, toughness and tackle obsession makes Pace's tape a fun day of film study. He might be one of the strongest players in the 2023 NFL Draft from a pound-for-pound standpoint. He's able to slip and club blockers out of the way with lower-body anchor and elite contact balance. He was cleared to take shots downhill by the defense, which bolstered his production, but his instincts and feel for finding routes to the ball seem to drive him. It is hard not to love Pace's game tape, but his lack of length and speed could create inconsistencies at the next level."