Quay Walker, Georgia
Yet another Bulldogs defender makes this list in the form of Nakobe Dean’s linebacking buddy, Quay Walker. While at Georgia, he developed a serious brain for the game, and was the communications speciality of college football’s best defense. At 6’4 and with serious athleticism, Walker’s not just compensating for something by becoming one of the smartest players on the team. He has a drive to get better as a player who didn’t start all that much in college, and was more of a rotation piece for Georgia. He’s athletic, fluid for his size, and a wildly versatile chess piece for any team that picks him up.
Walker might be one of the best communicators on Georgia defense, but I can’t say he was one of the best processors. His lack of starting experience leaves a lot to be desired in that regard, and I think that’s the reason some scouts have him rated out of the first, or sometimes even second round. If Walker started, he’d have a lot more polish on his play-diagnosing abilities, and would probably be a more complete package. I wish that Walker could’ve had just one more year with Georgia to truly showcase and hone his abilities, but I don’t think these lapses in awareness will affect him too much once he gets acclimated to the NFL.
Christian Harris, Alabama
I mean, you’re getting the guarantee on the box here. Alabama produces front seven defenders like nobody’s business, and Christian Harris is just the next in a quite frankly hilariously long line. Harris has extreme burst, athleticism, and explosiveness, but strangely enough, that’s best showcased in his pass-coverage abilities. Harris uses his fluidity and change of direction best when he’s defending the pass, and those two traits set him apart from every other linebacker in this class. His versatility makes him the exact archetype of that “universal remote” defender that NFL teams are looking for right now.
The biggest problem I have with Harris is that he’s just so inconsistent. Some plays show that he’s not giving his best effort, and some plays show him playing with his hair on fire. He seems to have lapses in processing much like Quay Walker, but those lapses also come with some missed tackles. Scouts have noted that sometimes he checks out of games, which is a massive red flag for me. Is this mentality correctable from Harris? Will he ever have that “a-ha!” moment? I sure hope so, because he could be such a fun player at the pro level.
Comparison: Harris is a linebacker who almost plays safety. Take Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, make him bigger, and replace the boom-stick hitting ability with excellent pass coverage.