2023 NFL Draft Front Seven Preview

LB1: Noah Sewell, Oregon

You might recognize that last name. Noah’s older brother Penei is currently a Detroit Lion, and was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 draft. Where Penei was a master technician at the offensive tackle spot, the younger Sewell brother is a 6’3 nuclear bomb of a linebacker who can blow up any play he chooses. Sewell’s chief trait is how fast he is for his size. At 6’3, Sewell swiftly moves through gaps like a bullet, but with eyebrow-raising smoothness.

Sewell’s athleticism is seriously impressive, and it impacts every single area of his game. He’s a raw prospect at linebacker when it comes to knowledge of the defensive game, but he makes up for it simply by being faster and stronger than you. There are plays where you can tell that he sort of has no idea what’s going on, and it ends up just not mattering at all, because his quickness covered for his brain on that particular rep. It’s something to behold, and if his football IQ catches up to his athleticism, he has Pro Bowl linebacker upside.

That’s just the thing, though. I find Sewell to be a bit of a volatile prospect, even if I’m willing to bet on his athletic upside and work ethic. Any scout would tell you that he regularly gets tricked by play-action and quarterbacks who are adept at using their eyes to manipulate coverages. There’s a chance, although I think a slim one, that this is just who Sewell is mentally. If that’s the case, it could lead to some serious problems at the NFL level. Even the most athletic prospects flame out if they don’t know the game, but I have to think that Sewell’s play-diagnosing abilities will improve.

LB2: Trenton Simpson, Clemson

Clemson is absolutely killing my prospect previews so far, at least on defense. Trenton Simpson is gigantic, and it’s amazing. He’s a 6’3, 230-pound ass-kicker of a linebacker, and his physical ability puts even Sewell’s to shame. He has the athleticism to get out and move in space, even covering sidelines when defensive coordinators ask him to. Simpson was a highly sought after recruit in high school, earning top honors as the country’s best outside linebacker in his class. This innate talent absolutely shines through in his play.

One thing I’ve heard a couple times about Simpson’s tape is just how versatile he is. He might be in the box, or lined up at safety, or even rushing the passer off the edge. He explodes to the tackling point and is a thumper when he gets ahold of you. He will wrap you up, put you in the ground, and you just have to hope to live another day as a ball carrier. Simpson’s instincts are top-notch, and one of the things I love about him the most. He takes football seriously, and you can tell that he has the smarts to win at the NFL level.

Although Simpson is a sure tackler, he has to get to the ball carrier first, and sometimes he just shows a weird inability to do that. He diagnoses the play, but it almost feels as though he just doesn’t know what angle to take in order to catch someone who, even with all his athletic ability, is much faster than him. He’s not an extremely strong prospect, even if he makes up for it with speed and force of will. He has the drive and will to succeed, but I worry about him having an immediate impact as a pro. What I don’t worry about, however, is that he will eventually get there. It just takes some time.


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