Last season, De’Vondre Campbell illustrated what talent can do for the Green Bay Packers inside linebackers. Campbell’s signing didn’t grab many headlines. However, it turned out to be one of Brian Gutekunst’s best signings. Not only did Campbell earn starting duties in Week 1, but he went on to have an All-Pro season. His play helped him earn a new contract with the Packers. With Campbell entrenched as one of the starting inside linebackers, Gutekunst might focus on bolstering the other starting inside linebacker spot. He might look early in the NFL Draft to help bolster the depth for the Green Bay Packers inside linebackers.
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Green Bay Packers Inside Linebackers An Early NFL Draft Target
If the season were to start today, the starter opposite of Campbell would be Krys Barnes. Barnes, a former undrafted free agent, has been a big part of the Green Bay Packers inside linebackers the past two seasons. In his first two years, Barnes has combined for 161 combined tackles, with nine of them being for loss, along with two sacks. While he has shown that he is capable, he still has his limits. Barnes is a nice complementary piece to the Green Bay Packers inside linebackers group. But there are questions in regards to if he is a three-down starting inside linebacker. He might be a better fit as a backup who plays a big part in the Packers trying to improve their special teams.
If Barnes is going to move to the number three inside linebacker, the Packers are going to need to get more talent on the roster. Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry has a background in coaching the position. But even with his track record, he needs the talent to work with. Last season, Gutekunst provided him with that type of talent in Campbell. But the current Green Bay Packer inside linebackers group behind Campbell doesn’t provide that.
Ty Summers has seen some spot duty at inside linebacker and the results haven’t been good. Summers has kept his roster spot because he is able to play special teams. However, even his play on special teams hasn’t been overwhelming. Isaiah McDuffie was selected in the sixth round in 2021. McDuffie might provide what Sommers hasn’t, that being strong special teams play. McDuffie has the skills to be a solid special teams player. But it will take some time for him to develop, if he ever does, into a starting NFL inside linebacker.
This year’s NFL Draft has a good group of inside linebacker prospects. Ones that would provide solid depth for the Green Bay Packers inside linebackers group. However, if the Packers are going to get one of them, Gutekunst will need to spend a first or second-round pick. Here are some inside linebackers who could available in the first or second round.
Devin Lloyd, Utah
Devin Lloyd is arguably one the top inside linebacker prospects in this year’s NFL Draft. Lloyd was a standout while at Utah, where he was a two-time captain. Last season, Lloyd posted 111 total tackles, with 22 of them being for loss. He also had seven sacks with four interceptions. Those numbers led him to be named All American, a finalist for the Dick Butkus Award, and Pac-12 Defensive Player of Year.
Gutekunst has shown that he puts an emphasis on players who have a high Relative Athletic Score (RAS). Lloyd fits into that category having a 9.33 score. With being one of the top inside linebacker prospects, if the Packers are going to select him, they are going to need to grab him with one of their two first-round draft choices. Gutekunst, and before him Ted Thompson, hasn’t put an emphasis on the inside linebacker position. So that makes selecting Lloyd a long shot.
Chad Muma, Wyoming
In last year’s NFL Draft, Wyoming produced inside linebacker Logan Wilson. Wilson went on to have a very productive rookie season with the Cincinnati Bengals. It seems like there is something in the water in Wyoming. For the second straight season, a Wyoming inside linebacker might have his name called early in the NFL Draft.
Chad is a third-generation Wyoming football player. This past season, his fourth at Wyoming, Muma was the leader of the Cowboys defense. He posted 142 total tackles, with eight of them being for loss. Along with having one and a half sacks, he intercepted three passes, returning two of them for touchdowns. Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl runs a pro-style defense and demands that inside linebackers play three downs. Muma illustrated under Bohl he can play all three downs, something that should bolster his draft stock.
Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard led one of the best college defenses in the nation last season. A former ten-year NFL veteran, Leonhard runs an attacking 3-4 NFL style of defense. One of the biggest pieces for his defense is the inside linebacker position. Leonhard was blessed to have one of the best in the nation in Leo Chenal.
Chenal, along with fellow inside linebacker Jack Sanborn, made up one of the best inside linebacker duos in college football last season. While Sanborn was rock solid, Chenal was the star. Last season, he posted 115 tackles, with 18 1/2 of them being for loss. But out of all of his numbers, the one that stands out the most is his sack total. Chenal chalked up eight sacks and that is with missing time because of COVID.
Many questioned Chenal’s speed if he had enough to play in the NFL. He put that question to rest when he ran a 4.53 seconds forty-yard dash at the NFL Combine. While he did put to rest the question on his speed, some do question his ability to cover. He wasn’t asked to do that much while at Wisconsin. When he was asked, he displayed tight hips, which hindered his ability to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. He will need to improve on that if he is going to be a three-down inside linebacker in the NFL. If he can’t improve in coverage, Chenal has shown that he can rush the passer. That could lead a team to move Chenal to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
Troy Andersen, Montana State
If an NFL team is looking for an uber-athletic inside linebacker prospect they can mold into an NFL starting inside linebacker, Troy Andersen would be on top of that list. Andersen, a former quarterback, and safety, made himself into the top inside linebacker in FCS football. Even with being the top inside linebacker prospect from FCS, he still has a long way to go in developing into an NFL inside linebacker.
While he might not be polished, the skills Andersen possesses can’t be overlooked. Standing 6’4″ and weighing 235 pounds, Andersen posted a 4.42 in the forty-yard dash at the NFL Combine. If Gutekunst is looking for a prospect that has a high RAS, then Andersen will be top on his list. He posted a 10.0 RAS. With being so raw, Barry would be permitted time to develop Andersen into a starting Green Bay Packers inside linebacker. Even with the potential, Andersen might slip into the third round.
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