Nakobe Dean, Devin Lloyd, and more: Breaking down the analytics of the New York Jets’ top linebacker targets in the 2022 NFL draft
It’s time to continue our series that compares some of the top 2022 NFL draft prospects at each position in a few different advanced metrics.
After looking at edge rushers, wide receivers, cornerbacks, safeties, and offensive tackles, it’s time to do the same for the linebacker position, which is another spot where the New York Jets could possibly look for help at some point in the draft.
Here are the 11 prospects we’ll be comparing today:
- Devin Lloyd, Utah, redshirt senior (#19 overall prospect on NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board)
- Nakobe Dean, Georgia, junior (#25)
- Quay Walker, Georgia, senior (#47)
- Christian Harris, Alabama, junior (#53)
- Leo Chenal, Wisconsin, junior (#65)
- Chad Muma, Wyoming, senior (#69)
- Damone Clark, LSU, senior (#72)
- Brandon Smith, Penn State, junior (#89)
- Troy Andersen, Montana State, redshirt senior (#93)
- Channing Tindall, Georgia, senior (#94)
- Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati, fifth-year senior (#97)
These are the 11 linebackers who rank among the top 100 overall players on the consensus big board at NFL Mock Draft Database.
All of the rankings seen below are among 320 qualified FBS linebackers (400+ snaps). Montana State’s Troy Andersen did not qualify, as his team competes in the FCS, so his rankings showcase where his statistics would have ranked among qualified FBS linebackers.
Yards per cover snap
In the past, teams primarily coveted linebackers who thrived at laying bone-shattering hits. But now, coverage is becoming the most important skill at the position. NFL teams need linebackers who have the athleticism, awareness, and technique to provide quality coverage in both zone and man situations.
Yards per cover snap is a good statistic for evaluating how effective a player is at preventing damage through the air. Simply put, it tells us how many yards a player allowed per snap in coverage (yards allowed ÷ snaps played in coverage).
Here is how the group fared in yards per cover snap:
- Channing Tindall: 0.35 (96th percentile) – 72 yards on 205 coverage snaps
- Nakobe Dean: 0.39 (94th) – 126 on 324
- Damone Clark: 0.59 (72nd) – 205 on 345
- Darrian Beaves: 0.60 (71st) – 195 on 325
- Troy Andersen: 0.65 (63rd*) – 276 on 427
- Brandon Smith: 0.69 (56th) – 235 on 339
- Devin Lloyd: 0.73 (53rd) – 247 on 340
- Chad Muma: 0.81 (41st) – 283 on 348
- Quay Walker: 0.87 (33rd) – 260 on 299
- Leo Chenal: 0.96 (22nd) – 216 on 226
- Christian Harris: 1.05 (16th) – 421 on 402
2021 FBS linebacker average: 0.77
This isn’t an amazing linebacker class when it comes to the ability to minimize yardage allowed in coverage. Only two of the players in our group ranked in the top-25% among FBS linebackers when it came to yards per cover snap.
Georgia teammates Dean and Tindall were stellar in this area. However, projected first-rounder Devin Lloyd came up with the most disappointing result relative to his projected draft position. Lloyd’s mark of 0.73 yards per cover snap was barely better than the positional average.
When evaluating the collegiate production of NFL draft prospects, you want to see elite numbers. They are going to face significantly tougher competition in the NFL. If they were only average against collegiate competition, then they have a ton of work to do if they’re going to be average against professional competition.
Passer rating allowed
This statistic tells us the passer rating that opposing quarterbacks generated when targeting the player.
A player’s allowed passer rating is a solid metric for evaluating the quality of his on-ball coverage. It rewards the following four things:
- Allowing a low number of yards per target
- Allowing a low completion percentage
- Allowing a low touchdown rate
- Securing a high rate of interceptions
While yards per cover snap is more of an all-encompassing stat that evaluates every single snap a player logs in coverage (heavily rewarding the ability to prevent targets), this stat focuses specifically on how well the player responded when the ball came his way.
Here is how the group fared when it came to passer rating allowed:
- Nakobe Dean: 43.3 (99th percentile) – 22/37 for 126 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
- Devin Lloyd: 53.9 (96th) – 31/44 for 247 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT
- Troy Andersen: 65.2 (92nd*) – 24/42 for 276 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
- Darrian Beavers: 72.9 (87th) – 25/35 for 195 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
- Damone Clark: 75.4 (84th) – 33/48 for 205 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Chad Muma: 77.5 (81st) – 26/30 for 283 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
- Channing Tindall: 83.5 (73rd) – 13/17 for 72 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
- Brandon Smith: 89.4 (64th) – 35/43 for 235 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
- Quay Walker: 97.6 (50th) – 30/35 for 260 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
- Leo Chenal: 107.6 (36th) – 20/22 for 216 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
- Christian Harris: 123.7 (16th) – 37/48 for 421 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
2021 FBS linebacker average: 101.2
Lloyd rebounds tremendously in this category. While he was targeted often, leading to a high rate of yards per cover snap, he made teams pay for testing him, giving up only 5.6 yards per target (FBS LB average was 7.6) and a 1-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Not only did Dean do an amazing job of preventing yardage on a per-snap basis, but he provided lockdown coverage when targeted, too. His passer rating allowed of 43.3 was fifth-best among 320 qualified FBS linebackers and tops among Power-5 linebackers. Opponents generated just 3.4 yards per target against his coverage.
Andersen, Beavers, Clark, and Muma also thrived in this category.
Chenal and Harris are the only players in this group who posted a below-average number in both of the two coverage stats we have looked at today.
Run stop rate
How often does the player make a big play against the run? That’s what we learn from looking at their run stop rate (run stops ÷ snaps played vs. the run). It’s a good measure of a player’s nose for the ball as a run-stopper.
A run stop, per Pro Football Focus, is any tackle against the run on a play that constitutes a “failure” for the offense. Typically, these are tackles short of the first-down marker on third or fourth down, or tackles for a short gain on first or second down.
Here is how the group fared when it came to run stop rate:
- Leo Chenal: 15.8% (100th percentile) – 44 stops on 279 run defense snaps
- Troy Andersen: 12.8% (97th*) – 50 on 390
- Chad Muma: 11.0% (93rd) – 50 on 456
- Devin Lloyd: 10.8% (92nd) – 37 on 344
- Channing Tindall: 10.2% (85th) – 17 on 167
- Nakobe Dean: 9.6% (78th) – 21 on 218
- Christian Harris: 9.4% (77th) – 34 on 361
- Damone Clark: 8.5% (67th) – 29 on 341
- Quay Walker: 8.1% (56th) – 16 on 198
- Darrian Beavers: 7.9% (53rd) – 36 on 455
- Brandon Smith: 6.0% (24th) – 22 on 366
2021 FBS linebacker average: 7.7%
Chenal makes up for his lackluster coverage with incredible activity against the run. He had the second-highest run stop rate among qualified FBS linebackers.
Andersen, Muma, Lloyd, and Tindall posted elite marks, while Dean and Harris were also strong. Walker and Beavers were mediocre while Smith was well below average.
Run defense grade
PFF’s run defense grade is a solid all-encompassing metric for run defense. It gives players credit and blame for underrated aspects of run defense, like correctly/incorrectly filling gaps, creating valuable penetration, defeating blockers, getting blown up by a blocker, and missing tackles.
It also accounts for the quality of plays made by the defender, giving them more credit for highly impressive plays than routine ones.
Here is how the group fared when it came to PFF’s run defense grade:
- Leo Chenal: 94.1 (100th percentile)
- Chad Muma: 91.1 (100th)
- Devin Lloyd: 82.0 (97th)
- Nakobe Dean: 80.4 (95th)
- Troy Andersen: 80.4 (95th*)
- Darrian Beavers: 73.7 (87th)
- Channing Tindall: 73.7 (87th)
- Quay Walker: 71.5 (82nd)
- Damone Clark: 68.4 (74th)
- Christian Harris: 65.4 (65th)
- Brandon Smith: 47.6 (18th)
2021 FBS linebacker average: 58.8
Chenal led all linebackers with a 94.1 grade, backing up his incredible run-stop numbers. Muma followed him up in second place with a 91.1 grade.
Beavers is a big winner here, as he ranks much higher in run defense grade than run stop rate.
Lloyd and Dean live up to their billings as possible first-rounders with elite run defense grades.
Missed tackle rate
Because of their enormous tackling volume, it is essential for linebackers to finish their tackles at an efficient rate. Linebackers are involved in more tackles than any other position, so, naturally, they also miss more tackles than any other position.
A bad tackling linebacker will cost his team more missed tackles compared to average than a bad tackler at any other position. Conversely, a great tackling linebacker will save his team more missed tackles compared to average than a great tackler at any other position.
Here is how the players fared when it came to missed tackle rate (missed tackles ÷ missed tackles-plus-total tackles):
- Quay Walker: 4.3% (99th percentile)
- Damone Clark: 6.1% (96th)
- Channing Tindall: 7.4% (92nd)
- Chad Muma: 8.1% (90th)
- Troy Andersen: 10.5% (77th)
- Leo Chenal: 10.8% (76th)
- Devin Lloyd: 11.5% (70th)
- Nakobe Dean: 12.2% (64th)
- Darrian Beavers: 15.0% (41st)
- Brandon Smith: 15.3% (38th)
- Christian Harris: 15.7% (36th)
2021 FBS linebacker average: 14.4%
Lloyd and Dean are not quite as elite at tackling as they are in other areas, but they’re certainly not awful.
Walker rules this particular group when it comes to finishing tackles, whiffing on just three tackles in 2021. Clark, Tindall, and Muma were also exceptional finishers, each missing on fewer than 9% of their tackling chances.
Beavers, Smith, and Harris have a lot of work to do on their tackling in the NFL after whiffing at an above-average against collegiate ball-carriers.
Pass rushing is another useful skill at the linebacker position. It’s not as essential as pass-coverage or run-defense skills since linebackers only rush the quarterback on a fairly low percentage of their defensive snaps, but a great blitzing linebacker can still be extremely valuable.
Here is how the group fared when it came to pressure rate (total pressures ÷ pass rushing snaps):
- Troy Andersen: 33.3% (92nd percentile*) – 14 pressures on 42 pass rush snaps
- Damone Clark: 30.3% (88th) – 23 on 76
- Nakobe Dean: 25.6% (76th) – 31 on 121
- Channing Tindall: 25.5% (75th) – 26 on 102
- Leo Chenal: 25.5% (75th) – 26 on 102
- Chad Muma: 22.1% (63rd) – 21 on 95
- Quay Walker: 21.9% (62nd) – 25 on 114
- Brandon Smith: 19.0% (48th) – 16 on 84
- Devin Lloyd: 18.8% (47th) – 31 on 165
- Christian Harris: 17.2% (40th) – 26 on 151
- Darrian Beavers: 17.1% (39th) – 21 on 123
2021 FBS linebacker average: 19.0%
Andersen was asked to play the smallest diet of pass-rush snaps of any player in this group but delivered with highest efficiency, creating pressure on one-third of his rushes. Clark was also stellar.
Dean gains an edge on Lloyd in this category. Lloyd’s 18.8% pressure rate was slightly below-average despite the fact that he was trusted to play the most pass-rush snaps (165) of any player in this group. Dean created the same amount of pressures as Lloyd (31) on 44 fewer pass-rush snaps.
Finally, here’s a roundup of each player’s percentile rankings in the six categories above, listed from best to worst based on their average percentile ranking across the six stats.
|Player||Yds/Snap||QB Rating||Run Stop %||Run D Grade||Miss Tackle %||Pressure %||Average|
Mosley’s contract becomes escapable after the 2022 season. Williams is a talented young player who showed potential in 2021 but needs to become a lot more consistent to prove he is worthy of being trusted as a starter in 2022 and beyond.
Beyond Mosley and Williams, the Jets’ only linebackers on the roster are Jamien Sherwood, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Del’Shawn Phillips, and Javin White. New York is certainly in need of more depth, competition, and long-term upside at this position.
Will the Jets explore a linebacker early in the draft? Or will they wait to address it until later as they did in 2021?
2022 NFL Draft Analytical Comparisons: