5 linebackers the Patriots should consider drafting 

Nov 26, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (35) celebrates
Nov 26, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (35) celebrates / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA
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In his previous life, the Patriots’ new head coach was a legendary linebacker in the NFL. It’s hard to imagine any linebacker headed to the 2024 draft wouldn’t want to be coached by Jerod Mayo (or maybe DeMeco Ryans). And the Patriots have four linebackers headed to free agency, so there will be a few linebackers on their big board in April.

But who could Mayo look to when it comes to the draft? 

Well, the best linebacker in college football won’t even be in the draft. Danny Stutsman is the new Luke Kuechly, but he’s only 20, so he’s declined the chance to declare for the draft. He’ll be staying at Oklahoma for another season instead. It’s a sensible decision with all the furor surrounding this quarterback class. Expect his name to appear at the top of mock drafts very soon, though. 

Jaylan Ford - Texas

The Texan product is a strong tackler. And if that sounds like an essential requirement for a linebacker, well, it is. But Ford just drags anyone he touches to the turf. He’s not the fastest; he ran a 4.76-second 40-yard time. That’s only a fraction quicker than Keion White clocked. But it’s faster than Anfernee Jennings and Terez Hall, two of the Patriots headed to free agency.

It was pretty much the same time as Ja’Whaun Bentley ran, and he’s the incumbent middle linebacker who Ford would back up. 

Ford is an inch taller than Bentley and is listed as 18 lbs. lighter (although players often pile on the muscle in the lead-up to the combine). He’s not just a run stuffer either; he made six interceptions in his last two seasons in college. And he deflected another four passes. 

It’s not just his physicality that leaps out at you when you watch him. It’s how quickly he sees and digests what is happening and how disciplined he is in zone coverage. Two of his interceptions came because he read the route and waited for the quarterback to release the ball before jumping the receiver’s route. 

Texas played a 4-3 defense similar to the Patriots’ base, too, so Ford wouldn’t have any problem adapting to a new setup. He’s not projected to go until the 5th round either; he will be a real late star if he lasts that long. He’s only 22, too, so he could be around for a while.