Some NFL prospects have their draft stock all but guaranteed from their freshman year. Players like Andrew Luck or Myles Garrett were prohibitive favorites to go in the first five picks of whichever draft they entered from the time they stepped on their college’s campus.
But for most prospects, raising their draft stock is much more a matter of taking advantage of every opportunity they can.
That’s why linebacker Jabril Cox transferred from North Dakota State to LSU after the 2019 season. Cox was a great player for NDSU, but there’s only so much he can prove at that level of competition. So he took the opportunity to transfer to the SEC to play some of the top schools in the country. And while LSU’s season was certainly forgettable, Cox acquitted himself well, showing that he could compete with the nation’s best prospects.
That’s also why he took the opportunity to go to the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. It was another opportunity to compete with the nation’s best seniors, and the only real showcase for NFL teams before the draft. And once again, Cox performed well.
This is, quietly, a very strong linebacker class, so the only question now is whether Cox has done enough with his opportunities to make himself stand out in a crowded field.
Prospect: Jabril Cox
Games Watched: vs. Ole Miss (2020), vs. Vanderbilt (2020), vs. Texas A&M (2020), vs. Alabama (2020)
Height: 6020 (6-foot-2)
Weight: 233 pounds
Arm Length: 32 3⁄4 inches
Hand Span: 8 3⁄4 inches
Games Played: 10
Tackles For a loss: 6.5
Passes Defensed: 5
Best: Athleticism, range, coverage, football IQ
Worst: Block shedding
Projection: Starting off-ball linebacker with scheme diversity.
Senior Jabril Cox is an athletic, rangy linebacker prospect from LSU.
Cox has a good blend of size at 6-foot-2, 233 pounds and movement skills to play both in space and around the line of scrimmage at the NFL level. Cox played multiple linebacker spots for LSU’s defense, aligning as both an inside and outside linebacker. Likewise he played both in space as an off-ball linebacker and on the line of scrimmage as a SAM linebacker in Under packages.
He has a good football IQ, communicating well with his teammates to get them aligned or make adjustments before the snap. Cox diagnoses the play well, quickly reading run or pass, and reacting quickly to his read.
Cox appears comfortable playing in space, easily getting depth on his zone drops and showing good range in the middle of the field. He has good awareness as a space player, keeping track of teammates and opponents alike to avoid traffic or potential rubs. Cox is also a capable man coverage player, with the quickness and lower-body fluidity to keep up with running backs and tight ends in tight coverage, as well as the speed to run with them across the field. Cox was even tasked with shadowing players, at times following them to the slot or even to the boundary and being able to stay in coverage.
He has a quick trigger in the run game, firing hard downhill when he reads a hand-off. Cox does a good job of using his hands and athleticism to keep himself clean, both when he coming up to fill gaps and when he is scraping laterally along the line of scrimmage. He has enough athleticism to beat pulling linemen and disrupt plays in the backfield. Cox is a reliable tackler who generally wraps up to bring down the ball carrier.
While Cox has the play strength to take on blocks from tight ends, he struggles to stack and shed against bigger players. When he can’t beat offensive linemen with his athleticism or use his hands to hold them at bay, he has a tendency to stay blocked. Likewise, while Cox is a reliable tackler with good positioning and form, he isn’t a particularly punishing hitter, and can allow some yards after contact while bringing ball carriers to the ground.
He is also more of a “read and react” linebacker than a truly instinctual one. He processes information quickly, but generally needs to see the play declared before acting on it. He has enough athleticism to make up the difference, but the extra beat could be exploited by offenses at the NFL level.
Overall Grade: 8.0 - This prospect has some slight limitations, but has the athletic and mental traits to win a starting job at the NFL level.
Jabril Cox projects as a starting off-ball linebacker at the NFL level. The exact position he plays would be determined by the defense in which he lands, but whether it is a WILL, SAM, or weak-inside linebacker, he is at his best playing in space.
Cox has the kind of coverage skills which have become coveted at the NFL level, allowing him to stay on the field for all three downs, rather than being taken off for a nickel player. He is also a capable run defender from an off-ball position, using his football IQ, hands, and athleticism to keep himself clean while filling gaps or beating blockers to landmarks. Finally, Cox has solid timing as a blitzer, and is quick to fire into the backfield when given a Green Dog blitz.
However, he is somewhat limited in that he doesn’t deal with offensive linemen well. He can be effective around the line of scrimmage as long as he is able to scrape laterally without fully engaging linemen. But he can be effectively neutralized when offensive linemen are able to get their hands on him.
As long as his future defensive coordinator recognizes his limitations, Cox should quickly become an important contributor in the role of a modern off-ball linebacker. He could become a similar linebacker to what Brandon Marshall was for the Denver Broncos in their last Super Bowl run.