2021 NFL Draft Profile: Riley Cole

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Riley Cole 2021 NFL Draft Overview

Position: Linebacker
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 240 pounds
School: South Alabama

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Riley Cole 2021 NFL Draft Profile

It has been a long and windy road for Riley Cole and his journey to the NFL draft. A three-star recruit out of high school, he suffered a season-ending ACL injury in 2016. After fighting through more injuries to the same knee in 2018, his season eventually ended when he fully tore his meniscus later in the season.

Cole never gave up, though, playing in all 12 of South Alabama’s games in 2019, starting the final 11. He forced a fumble and recorded nine tackles for loss, including three sacks. For his efforts, he was named Honorable Mention All-Sun Belt Conference.

In 2020, Cole recorded 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He added two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, and his 96 tackles were second in the Sun Belt. He finished the season being recognized as First-Team All-Sun Belt.


  • Plays most comfortably and at his best downhill;
  • Doesn’t blitz often, but is effective when he is sent;
  • Understands how to play in zone; opens hips correctly and isn’t robotic;
  • Strong at the point of attack;
  • All of these traits were on display at the Senior Bowl against better competition.


  • Misses open-field tackles on the second level too often;
  • Although he seems to know what he is doing in zone, he doesn’t react fast enough;
  • Doesn’t disengage blockers consistently;
  • Gets flat-footed on play-action.

NFL Comparison: Michael Mauti

Teams With Need at Position: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants, New England Patriots, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints

Projection: Seventh round/undrafted

Bottom Line on Riley Cole

At his best, Cole may project as a serviceable two-down linebacker at the next level. Realistically, he will have to cut his teeth by playing special teams. On top of being a small-school product, he turns 24 in November and has a history of knee problems.

Still, he was productive when he was on the field in college. And he had a good week at the Senior Bowl practices before he found himself on several tackles during the game. He showed NFL teams that he could replicate everything he showed on tape. On day three of the draft, Cole could hear his name as the draft draws to a close.

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