TJ Edwards, Linebacker
School: Wisconsin | Conference: Big Ten
Experience: Senior | Age: 22
Height / Weight: 6-0 / 230 lbs
Projected Draft Status: 4-5th Round
NFL Comparison: Hardy Nickerson Jr.
T.J. Edwards is the highest-graded draft eligible linebacker from the B1G this season. He also received the highest run-defense grade (89.6) and second-highest grade in coverage (84.8) among that group as well. pic.twitter.com/0GVj5bcQZE— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 5, 2019
Edwards was a four-year starter in the Badgers’ stout 3-4 defense. A Freshman All-American, in his first career start, Edwards made 12 tackles in Wisconsin’s 2015 opener against Alabama. He led the Badgers in tackles as a freshman and sophomore, and was second as a junior, when he was a finalist for the Butkus Award and a first-team All-American in 2017.
He considered leaving a year early for the 2018 NFL Draft, but was given a “return to school” grade by the NFL draft advisory board. Still, Edwards entered his senior season with high expectations, and set career highs in tackles, solo tackles, and tackles for loss in 2018.
Edwards unable to participate in drills during last month’s NFL Combine due to an ankle injury.
Depending on who you ask (not laser timed) Edwards ran his 40 yard dash in the high 4.7s to mid 4.8s at Wisconsin’s pro day, while weighing in at 235 pounds. His other numbers included a 32.5-inch vertical and a 112-inch broad jump.
According to draft analyst Tony Pauline, Edwards looked good during position drills but wrote “The concern of scouts is the size and speed, as they believe Edwards would have to be closer to 250 pounds to stuff the run, which is what he does well. But once he weighs 250 pounds, he’ll be more of a five-second 40 guy.”
Somewhat overrated last summer, Wisconsin LB TJ Edwards (53) has become a forgotten man. Old school thumper, here is is with a PBU (that’s potential top-50 Parris Campbell). pic.twitter.com/lYQIMVhgD0— Durst (@DurstNFLDraft) February 16, 2019
- A dominant run defender, with 367 tackles over four years at UW.
- Edwards’ instincts, intelligence and toughness cover up his lack of elite athleticism.
- Been described as a “throw-back” player with a high motor.
- When watching his junior tape, Edwards did an excellent job (credited with 7 PBU and 4 INTs) at reading the QB’s eyes and looked very comfortable patrolling the shallow zone.
- It today’s NFL, it’s ok to be undersized, as long as you compensate for it with near elite athleticism, but Edwards does not.
- Looks stiff, with tight hips, and limited change of direction.
- Based on his style of play, he may need to play at or near 250 pounds in the NFL, which would further limit his movement skills.
What Others Are Saying
Prior to the Combine, Mel Kiper stated Edwards likely wouldn’t test great but is a “smart, instinctive linebacker who could come off the board in the third or fourth round”.
Fran Duffy - “T.J. Edwards is one of my favorite linebackers in the country. A four-year starter in a pro-style defense, Edwards can do a little bit of everything. An extremely instinctive player against the run, Edwards is physical downhill, uses his hands well, and navigates through traffic at a high level. Moving in reverse in coverage, Edwards may not be the best athlete in the world, but he’s got great instincts and ball skills in that area and has made some great plays on the ball over the course of his career. I think he’s a three-down player in the NFL.”
NFL.com draft profile: “He’s the kind of player that nobody in our scouting department gets excited about because he’s not fast or splashy, but he knows how to play. We need depth and we need guys who know how to play and are dependable and durable.” -- Linebackers coach for NFC team
How He Would Fit On The Redskins
As we have mentioned before, the Redskins enter the 2019 season with uncertainty at ILB, but with QB and EDGE being bigger needs, Washington may decide to wait until Day 3 before selecting an off-the-ball LB.
Given his role at Wisconsin, Edwards projects best as a MIKE linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Edwards had a very productive collegiate career, including 366 tackles and 10 interceptions in his career. He was an All-American in 2017.
While analysts will tell you his play slipped some as a Senior, he finished 2018 with 31 more tackles than his Junior season.
Of coarse, collegiate production is not a very good indicator for NFL success, and Edwards projects as an early Day 3 pick largely due to ordinary athletic traits. Specifically, he is very stiff in space, with poor change of directions skills in coverage. However, he has the character, motor, and football intelligence to outplay his draft position.