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Malik Jefferson is a fantastic athlete, but will that be enough in the NFL?

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The Longhorns star has the athletic traits NFL teams look for

Texas v Baylor Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Malik Jefferson, LB
School: Texas | Conference: Big 12
College Experience: Junior | Age: 21
Height / Weight: 6-3 / 240 lbs
Projected Draft Status: 2nd - 3rd Round
NFL Comparison: Stephone Anthony

College Statistics


Player Summary

Highly recruited player out of high school that was supposed to turn Texas’ defense (and to some extent, program) around. Started as a true freshman and named to Freshman All-American team. Missed time with ankle injury and a concussion in true freshman and sophomore campaigns. Started every game in 2017 and his stats sharply increased under Tom Herman’s great coaching staff. Declared for the NFL draft as a true junior after being named second team All-American.


Strengths

  • Ideal size and bulk for NFL linebacker and easily carries 240 lbs on 6-3 frame, could gain 10-15 pounds as he matures
  • Natural, fluid hips equates to plus lateral agility and easy backpedals into coverage. Has ability to cover tight ends and running backs
  • Great, rangy athlete that has the speed to cover large chunks of the field and make up ground in pursuit
  • Does damage blitzing up the A/B gaps, can close in on QB in a hurry from long range
  • Solid tackling mechanics and is frequently able to square up runners to get them on the ground


Weaknesses

  • Will deliver a big hit but lacks the “killer instinct” of say a Rashaan Evans
  • Struggles to get off blocks from offensive linemen and is often washed out of the play
  • Only average instincts; less effective in coverage than he could be
  • Missing violence and waits at the second level for contact opposed to using his ability downhill


Media


This is one of his top plays of the season. Shows great instincts here:


How He’d Fit on the Redskins

Malik Jefferson is going to be a good player in the NFL and can definitely help a team — particularly a 4-3 team like Miami, Dallas, or Philadelphia — with a weakness at linebacker. In my opinion he lacks the alpha dog mentality of an impact, game-changing defensive player even though his physical gifts are evident.

His size is adequate for a 3-4 middle linebacker, which is where the Redskins would need to play him, and he could play in a 3-4, but I don’t think that’s his ideal position. While it’s easy to get caught up in the pedigree and athletic traits — I’m sure he’ll blow up the Combine — the Redskins’ front office needs to look for intangibles like toughness, grit and nastiness at the linebacker position.

I’d take a guy like Leighton Vander Esch over Jefferson any day of the week, or wait and take Mike McCray in the later rounds.