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2018 NFL Draft prospect profile: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

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Is Jefferson the mid-round help at linebacker the Giants have been looking for?

NCAA Football: Texas at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first big moves the New York Giants made this offseason was to acquire linebacker Alec Ogletree from the Los Angeles Rams to add to their linebacking corps.

The position has grown in importance since hiring new defensive coordinator James Bettcher and moving to more of a 3-4 base defense. The expectation is that Ogletree and second year player B.J. Goodson will be the two starting inside linebackers.

However, Dave Gettleman has done a significant amount of work turning over the roster he inherited from Jerry Reese, and it isn’t clear how many of the existing player the new regime has confidence in. And in any case, the team could stand to add more athletic depth to the middle of their defense.

Texas’ Malik Jefferson has quietly become one of the more well-regarded linebackers in the nation, and he brings the kind of athleticism of which the Giants could certainly stand to add. Could he be an option for the team?

Measurables

Pros

  • Highly athletic linebacker. Good foot speed and agility, and he moves well in all directions.
  • Three-down linebacker, able to contribute in run support, pass coverage, and as a pass rusher.
  • Versatile, able to play middle and outside linebacker, up on the line of scrimmage, and cover the slot.
  • Looks comfortable dropping in to zone coverage
  • Generally diagnoses run plays well, and is a reliable tackler.
  • Good motor. Runs down plays from behind and doesn’t seem to throttle down.

Cons

  • Struggles taking on blockers directly, particularly offensive linemen.
  • Shows some hesitation before committing to a play. Needs to see the play start to develop instead of trusting his instincts.
  • Can be fooled by misdirection or play fakes.
  • Better blitzing off the edge than through the A or B gaps

Prospect Video

What They’re Saying

“Jefferson has the desired combination of height, weight, speed that teams covet and draft, but his career production never matched his athletic traits. He lacks the instincts and play demeanor to be a middle linebacker and could move to a weakside linebacker spot in a 4-3 to take advantage of his athletic gifts. Jefferson has athletic talent, but needs to play with more of a glass-eating mentality to fit in with NFL linebackers. He has eventual starter talent and should become a very good core special teamer.”

-Lance Zierlein, via NFL.com

Does He Fit The Giants?

Malik Jefferson has flown (a bit) under the radar since the college football season has ended. He tested well at the Combine, but his tape doesn’t quite measure up to some of the other linebackers. Of course, “flying under the radar” for him probably still means being drafted somewhere between the second and third rounds.

That being said, he is versatile and athletic, and should be a fit in most attacking defenses, provided they keep his reads and keys streamlined so as to not slow him down.

His athleticism as well as his ability to blitz and drop into coverage should fit well in James Bettcher’s scheme. At Arizona he frequently used linebacker blitzes, which Jefferson does well off the edge, and his ability to play coverage would also help disguise from where pressure is coming.