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A closer look at Washington’s 2022 UDFA linebacker prospects

NCAA Football: East/West Shrine Game Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the month, I profiled Drew White, a linebacker prospect out of Notre Dame, but given the Commanders’ lack of depth at the position, I thought I’d do a little deeper dive on the other three linebackers that the team has brought in as rookie free agents this offseason.

Descriptions and highlights of each are below:

Tre Walker

College: Idaho

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 240 lbs

According to Idaho’s head coach, Walker grew into “the leader of the whole team” by the spring after his freshman season. By the time he was ready for the draft, after his junior year, he was considered one of the best prospects in the FCS. His pre-draft profile from The Draft Network is below:

Idaho’s Tre Walker is one of the most productive linebackers college football has seen in recent years and he now looks to make the leap from FCS-level football to the NFL. Walker is a four-year contributor to the Idaho Vandals who after his freshman season went on to earn All-American honors in his remaining three seasons. Walker is a well-built, dense linebacker who plays with outstanding physicality and tempo.

He is a good athlete overall with good straight-line speed and short-area burst who excels coming downhill and filling at the line of scrimmage. In the run game, Walker displays good eyes, instincts, and awareness. He is quick to read run and comes downhill with very good burst and toughness. He shoots gaps with good timing and is an excellent tackler. Walker has good pop in his lower half and is above average taking on and shedding blocks. He takes excellent angles to the football and is a natural playmaker who has a knack for forcing turnovers. In the passing game, Walker gets good depth in his zone drops and is quick to close on anything in front of him. He has good straight-line speed to stick in man and has good timing at the catch point.

While there’s a lot to like about Walker, there are some areas of concern. He lacks ideal length and struggles to shed when linemen are able to get inside his pads. Walker is much better moving forward than playing in space, as he shows stiffness when forced to change direction both against the pass and the run. Overall, Walker is an intriguing linebacker prospect who shows redeeming qualities, especially as a tenacious run defender, but his athletic and physical limitations limit his upside as anything more than a backup, two-down linebacker and core special teamer.

Ferrod Gardner

College: Louisiana

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 215 lbs

Gardner is a former teammate of Commanders’ 4th round pick Percy Butler. In an interview in the lead up to the draft, Gardner described Butler as the “teammate he’d most want in a foxhole with him, because he’s going to be in the right spot each time and we can always communicate our indecisiveness out on the field.”

His pre-draft profile from FanNation describes him as follows:

As a multi-year starter for Louisiana-Lafayette, Gardner has grown into his role as a defensive leader. The sixth-year senior puts himself in a good position to fit the run with his processing and lateral mobility. Gardner still has to develop physically to match the level of the next level but he shows the intangibles required. If he works off blocks, he is a productive tackler and finds his way around the ball carrier. With time, Gardner could push for some playing time at the next level and has upside as a three-down linebacker.

Bryce Notree

College: Southern Illinois

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 243 lbs

Notree was initially signed as a free agent after the 2022 draft by the New Orleans Saints, but was cut earlier in the month. He started all 23 games for the Salukis during his final two years in college, posting the second most team tackles in 2020 (63), and the most team tackles during the 2021 season (91). In 2021, he also added 4 sacks, 7.5 TFLs, and 2 interceptions.

Notree’s pre-draft review from Pro Football Network is below:

Positives: Nice-sized linebacker who gets the most from his ability. Intense, plays like a man possessed, and explodes upfield to fill gaps against the run. Breaks down well, effectively uses his hands, and quickly locates the ball handler. Remains disciplined with assignments, gives great effort, and wraps up tackling. Stacks well against the run.

Negatives: Plays to one speed and lacks a quick closing burst. Ineffective in pursuit. Stiff and possesses average quickness.

Analysis: Notree was a high-energy linebacker who plays with a next-level mentality. He possesses speed and athletic limitations but could back up on the inside for a team that keeps eight linebackers.

Conclusion

Not surprisingly, all of these UDFA prospects have significant limitations in their game, whether it be size, athleticism, or experience. That said, each of these small school prospects brings a ton of energy to Washington’s pre-season activities. Based on what you’ve read here and elsewhere, which of these guys are you most excited about?

Poll

Which of these LBs do you think is most likely to make the Commanders’ roster or practice squad?

  • 29%
    Drew White
    (274 votes)
  • 16%
    Tre Walker
    (157 votes)
  • 17%
    Ferrod Gardner
    (161 votes)
  • 16%
    Bryce Notree
    (149 votes)
  • 19%
    None of them
    (183 votes)
924 votes total Vote Now