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A Look at Possible Linebacker Draft Fits for the Chargers

Andy Nelson/AP Photos

Welcome to Part 9 of our 2023 draft preview series, which will be a position-by-position look at key prospects and where the Chargers roster stands ahead of the NFL Draft. This series will include a look at which prospects could be options for the Chargers later this month.

We chatted with CBS Sports draft analyst Chris Trapasso to break down the off-ball linebackers in this draft class. Trapasso can be found on Twitter @ChrisTrapasso for his analysis.

Chargers status at LB

The Bolts have a fresh face at linebacker, as the team signed Eric Kendricks earlier this offseason.

He spent the past eight seasons in Minnesota, where he made 113 career starts and racked up 900-plus tackles while earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2019.

Count Trapasso as a big fan of the addition of Kendricks.

"I really liked that by the Chargers. To have a veteran presence in that linebacker room that is relatively young, has some younger pieces, I think makes a lot of sense," Trapasso said. "I've always been a huge fan, even going back to his UCLA days, of Eric Kendricks. His coverage ability, instincts, can beat blocks, has range.

"His high-end prime [was] with the Vikings, but one of the best veteran three-down linebackers to a group that I think has gotten quality linebacker play at times, but probably needed that veteran presence," Trapasso added. "They know what they have with Eric Kendricks. I like that signing a lot. I know the Chargers were not super active in free agency, but that was one of the key signings I think for this organization."

Kendricks will pair with fellow starter Kenneth Murray, Jr., in the middle of the Bolts defense. Kendricks said earlier this week that while he doesn't know Murray well yet, the two have bonded early over a love of cars.

The Chargers lost Due Tranquill and Troy Reeder in free agency, but return a handful of players from a year ago including Amen Ogbongbemiga, Nick Niemann, Tyreek Maddox-Williams and Damon Lloyd.

Kendricks and Murray will start while the others are expected to provide depth on defense and special teams.

Is LB a position of need?

If the Bolts had lost Tranquill in free agency and not made another move, there would be a big hole for a starting spot at linebacker.

But with Kendricks in the fold, the Chargers are set at the top. Trapasso believes linebacker could be in play in the middle rounds if the Bolts want to add more depth and look for a longer-term player at that position.

"It's not a gigantic need anymore," Trapasso said. "If later in the draft, I don't necessarily think fifth or sixth round here, but third or fourth round if they like someone with a little more upside that might not be a finished product at the linebacker position, I can certainly see the Chargers taking more of the long view with that spot.

"I still think it'll be on the radar relatively early for the Chargers," Trapasso added.

Key draft questions

1. Who is your No. 1 prospect at linebacker?

"It's Jack Campbell from Iowa. I didn't expect him to test as well as he did at the combine. He ran 4.65 in the 40, but the three-cone, the short shuttle, the broad jump, vertical, all very good. He's just awesome in coverage. His instincts, he plays zone really well, he can play with tight ends in man because he's 6-foot-5 and 240-plus pounds. I know what I'm getting even with a rookie in Jack Campbell that he's not going to be a liability in coverage. I think that's actually a strength in his game. Very high floor and because of his athleticism, I think there's high upside with him as well."

2. Who's a mid-round prospect the Bolts could target?

"There's two players I'll highlight. Dorian Williams from Tulane, not super tall but tested very well at 220-plus pounds. Very athletic and is a good coverage player, made a lot of plays on the football. He kind of feels like that third to fourth round range linebacker that we'll look back upon in a couple years and say 'How did this guy get picked that far down the draft' because he just does a lot of things well on all three downs.

"One other player ... he's older ... Jeremy Banks from Tennesee. He's turning 24 in September. Another three-down player. He is one of the most aggressive, downfield, rangy linebackers in the class and I saw him again, sink in coverage, find the football, good awareness, crossing routes in front of him, behind him and what an offense was trying to do to get him out of position. Very good coverage linebacker that was good at Tennessee for multiple seasons."

3. How do you weigh positional value at linebacker?

"That's a really good question. What it feels like to me, and I'll try to summarize this the best way I can, if you look back at the first round linebackers over the last 10 years, there's not a lot of good ones that ultimately became superstars. It's really they later picks who have become the stars at the position. What I think the problem is and why I would probably say don't pick a linebacker early in the first round is that it seems like the athleticism and the run-stopping ability has been kind of incorrectly placed at the top of the priority of teams when they're drafting a linebacker early, when you have to be good in coverage. I think that is why I really like the Kendricks signing, because he is so good in coverage. It's not an absolute philosophy of mine that you can't pick a linebacker in Round 1, but if you pick one in Round 1, don't select a player that is not experienced and not effective and productive in coverage. You have to be good in that area."

Expert rankings's Daniel Jeremiah currently has two linebackers in his overall Top 50: 43. Trenton Simpson and 49. Jack Campbell.

ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., has no linebackers in his overall Top 25.

Rankings for linebackers by Jeremiah, his NFL Media counterpart Bucky Brooks, Kiper, analytics site Pro Football Focus and The Athletic's Dane Brugler are listed below.

Potential Chargers options

Note: Heights and weights are from each player's profile on (linked for each player's name).


School: Arkansas | Year: Junior | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 235 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
-- LB1 LB1 LB3 LB1

2022 stats: 12 games; 103 tackles (40 solo), 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 1 interception, 6 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles

Quick fact: Sanders was a member of the 2020 Alabama National Championship team before transferring to Arkansas in 2022, where he was a unanimous All-American in his lone season with the Razorbacks.

Trapasso's Take: "Sanders is more of your Micah Parsons-type off-ball linebacker where you don't want him in coverage, but he can give you high end ability as an edge rusher. That's where he was utilized best at Arkansas and where he'll probably be best in the NFL."


School: Clemson | Year: Junior | Ht: 6-foot-2 | Wt: 235 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler

2022 stats: 12 games; 72 tackles (41 solo), 4 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 3 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles

Quick fact: A 2022 Third-Team All-ACC selection, Simpson racked up the third-most tackles for the Tigers in his second full season as a starter.

Trapasso's Take: "Trenton Simpson is more of a space player. I wouldn't say that he is amazing in coverage right now, but just let him play in the slot, play that traditional outside linebacker position and just get to the football because he's an elite athlete."


School: Iowa | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-5 | Wt: 249 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler

2022 stats: 13 games; 128 tackles (60 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, 2 interceptions, 3 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble

Quick fact: Campbell starred in his final collegiate season and stacked up accolades including winning the Butkus Award given to the top linebacker in the nation. He was also a 2022 unanimous All-American selection.


School: Washington State | Year: Redshirt senior | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 255 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
-- -- LB4 LB1 LB4

2022 stats: 12 games; 106 tackles (54 solo), 12 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 1 interception, 2 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries

Quick fact: Henley spent his final year of eligibility with the Cougars and played at a high level, as he was named a First-Team All-Pac-12 selection and became the first Butkus finalist in school history.


School: Wisconsin | Year: Junior | Ht: 6-foot-2 | Wt: 240 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
-- -- LB11 LB4 LB5

2022 stats: 11 games; 47 tackles (33 solo), 15.5 tackles for loss, 11.0 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles

Quick fact: A First-Team All-Big Ten selection, Herbig led the conference with 15.5 tackles for loss and averaged 1.0 sacks per game, the most by a Badgers player in a single season since 1996.


School: Alabama | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 227 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
-- LB5 LB5 LB9 LB6

2022 stats: 13 games; 94 tackles (45 solo), 8 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks

Quick fact: To'oTo'o became a starter in his freshman year at Tennessee and produced at a high level each year, earning First-Team All-SEC honors in 2022 playing for Alabama.

Dorian Williams

School: Tulane | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 228 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
-- -- LB6 LB5 LB7

2022 stats: 13 games; 126 tackles (76 solo), 8.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 8 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles

Quick fact: Williams dominated in his senior season, leading his defense in total tackles, tackles for loss and sacks. He played a major part in the Green Wave's shocking Cotton Bowl win over USC, leading both teams with 17 tackles and winning the defensive MVP award in his final college game.


School: Texas | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 229 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
-- -- LB7 LB6 LB8

2022 stats: 12 games; 96 tackles (49 solo), 10 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 5 passes defensed

Quick fact: A 2022 First-Team All-Big 12 selection, Overshown set career-highs in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks in his final season at Texas.

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