Ivan Pace Jr., LB
School: University of Cincinnati | Conference: American Athletic Conference
College Experience: Senior | Age: 22 yrs old (Week 1)
Height / Weight: 5’ 10.5” 230 lbs
Projected Draft Status: 4th-5th round
Player Comparison: Denzel Perryman
Ivan Pace Jr. started his collegiate career with University of Miami-Ohio after playing linebacker and running back at Colerain High School (OH). In his freshman season, he recorded 7 sacks in limited snaps. After two years of playing in a reserve role, Pace Jr. broke out in 2021, where he had a productive season of 125 total tackles (solo and assisted), 13 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 3 passes defended, one interception and one forced fumble. He transferred in his senior season to play for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats in 2022. He followed up with another stat sheet stuffing season, 136 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 4 pass defended, and 2 forced fumbles. He earned the 2022 AAC Defensive Player of the Year award and Consensus 2022 All-American Teams Award.
Ivan Pace Jr. is a compactly built off ball linebacker that is explosive coming downhill attacking the run and off blitzes. He has developed into a consistent tackler leading the conference (MAC & AAC) in total tackles in his last two seasons. He is projected to start his professional career as a rotational linebacker who can be a great asset in special teams. In the course of his rookie contract, he could develop into a starter. The challenge for Pace Jr. is to prove he is capable of making it in the league without the optimal physical traits for the position. Scouts see him best fitting in a 4-3 defensive scheme.
- Dense and compact frame with a lot of lower body power.
- Excellent blend of power and tackling form.
- Excellent as an off-ball pass rusher.
- Great burst going downhill.
- Plays with intense competitiveness and toughness.
- Knows where to be in zone coverage and good at helping tackles.
- Has a hard time fighting from blocks once engaged.
- Below average lateral quickness.
- Can be over-aggressive in run pursuit.
- Lacks instinct in man-coverage.
- Scouts believe tackling effectiveness is limited by lack of arm length.
- Not used a lot in coverage.
Let’s See His Work
How Will He Fit On The Team
The linebacker position has been lightly addressed by the Commanders front office throughout Rivera’s tenure. This offseason, Washington added Cody Barton on a one-year deal but lost long-time starter Cole Holcomb. Even if Jamin Davis takes the next step into becoming a good starter, the team still lacks long-term and rotational depth at the middle linebacker position.
What Ivan Pace Jr. brings to Washington is an uptempo depth piece that can spell Davis if he needs a break or in case of injury. He adds pop to special teams coverage and can be an aggressive run defender and situational gap blitzer. If Pace Jr. is able to improve in pass coverage, primarily zone, he could become a starter in his second or third season. But even if Pace doesn’t become a starter, he provides plenty of positive traits that plays into the defensive unit’s strength.