In the 2017 NFL Draft, zero linebackers were selected in the top 10 for the first time since 2007, when Patrick Willis somehow fell to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 11. It could happen again next year.
Though the 2018 linebacker class had a handful of studs and emerging youngsters, there are no locks to be top-20 picks, let alone top-10 picks.
Here are the top five 2018 NFL Draft prospects at linebacker, an intriguing group led by an elite athlete moving to the outside.
5. Mike McCray – Michigan
Mike McCray is back on the national radar after a slow start to his career. He appeared in 11 games in his first three seasons (2013-15), redshirting in 2013, seeing limited action in 2014 and missing all of 2015 due to injury.
“My confidence right now is at an all-time high,” McCray said in March. “Coming out last year, just playing every game with all I’ve got and staying healthy and coming into the spring healthy. So my confidence is at an all-time high.
The 6-foot-4, 248-pounder had 76 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and nine pass breakups. Though McCray's NFL position is unclear — he could play inside or strongside linebacker or shift to defensive end — his versatility should continue shooting him draft boards.
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) September 21, 2016
4. Azeem Victor – Washington
Victor missed Washington's final five games after fracturing his leg in early November. He could've declared early but opted for another season to solidify his draft status and clear any doubts on his health.
A likely first-round pick, Victor is a 6-foot-3, 239-pound outside linebacker who flies around the field. He had 95 tackles, nine tackles for loss, six passes defended and two forced fumbles in 2015.
3. T.J. Edwards – Wisconsin
Edwards at No. 3 might be aggressive but it's impossible to ignore his all-around game.
Another former mid-level recruit who's blossomed into an big-time playmaker for the Badgers, the 6-foot-1, 244-pound Edwards is strong, ferocious and can drop into coverage. Despite losing T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel, he's part of a loaded group for Wisconsin and could warrant first-round consideration with an outstanding year.
2. Cameron Smith – USC
It didn't take long for the NFL hype to reach Cameron Smith.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound inside linebacker had 78 tackles and three interceptions in only 10 games as a true freshman in 2015. He's quick, instinctive, a responsible blitzer and good-enough in coverage. Smith had 83 tackles, seven tackles for loss and four pass breakups last year.
1. Malik Jefferson – Texas
Malik Jefferson will join teammate Connor Williams in the first round to give Texas two first-round picks for the first time since 2007.
He's moving to outside linebacker this year, where his size (6-foot-3, 238 pounds), athleticism and speed will better utilized. Jefferson has 16 tackles for loss and nine sacks the last two years. If he can find a little more consistency, he has a puncher's chance to be the first Texas linebacker taken in the top 10 since 1989.