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2017 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Duke Riley, OLB, LSU

Could the Giants add some speed to their linebacking corps?

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The game of football at the college level has undergone a fundamental change. Largely gone are sophisticated Pro-Style offenses, or teams with big, powerful offensive lines and a desire to win the game in four yards and a cloud of dust.

They’ve been replaced by small, fast, horizontal offenses that get the ball out quickly and let athletes on the edges pick up yards. These offenses can be installed quickly, run at a breakneck speed, and it isn’t uncommon to see an offense run 80 or 90 plays in a game.

That has put a tremendous stress on defenses, who have been forced to adapt. The lines between positions at all three levels have been blurred as defenses have gotten smaller and faster in response to changes in offense. All that change at the collegiate level has forced a change in the NFL as professional teams have had to adapt to different breeds of players entering their talent pool. Elements of the spread offense have bled through to the NFL game, and defenses have likewise had to adjust.

Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than the linebacker position. The New York Giants have become almost famously deficient at the linebacker position over the years, and they could certainly use a long-term option for covering tight ends and athletic running backs who can be pass catchers out of the backfield.

One option to fill the need for an athletic new-age linebacker could be LSU’s Duke Riley.



  • Very athletic, with great speed and short-area agility for the position.
  • Quick to break towards the ball. Tries to be in on every tackle.
  • Sifts through the trash at the line of scrimmage well.
  • Good awareness of the play. Generally has an accurate first step and doesn’t lose sight of the ball.
  • Good special teams contributor.


  • Undersized for a linebacker. Lacks length and girth, at least compared to the positional archetype.
  • Can’t regularly take on blockers. Needs to be protected by a stout defensive line.
  • Only one year as a regular starter and has relatively limited experience on the defensive side of the ball.

Does He Fit With The Giants?

The Giants only have one linebacker under contract beyond the 2017 season, so just about any linebacker who can play in a 4-3 defense is a fit.

Riley might be more of a sub-package (nickel) linebacker to start, but he has the ability to grow into a three-down linebacker for the Giants at the WILL position. He can cover, clean up in the run game, and has upside as a blitzer. He might night fit the physical archetype for a Giants’ defender, but his physical skills shouldn’t be overlooked.

Prospect Video

Big Board Rankings

Big Blue View - 91st overall

CBS Sports - 53rd overall

Draft Countdown - 92nd overall

Draft Tek - 112th overall

Final Thoughts

How Duke Riley is viewed largely depends on how the beholder views the linebacker position. He is not a “classic” linebacker who can stack and shed linemen on the way to stopping running backs or sacking quarterbacks.

That just isn’t his game.

However, Riley has the upside to be a good “new age” linebacker who can run all over the field, cover, break up screen plays, and shoot gaps as a blitzer to make plays in the backfield. If a team is looking for a thumper or a dedicated pass rusher, then they will likely overlook Riley and keep going. However if a team needs to upgrade the speed and versatility of their defense, Riley is certainly an intriguing option.