New York Giants fans desperately want to see their team draft a linebacker highly in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The position is probably the most glaring need on their defense, and they could use an infusion of talent. So much so, in fact, that doubling down and drafting a second linebacker in the mid-rounds might not be a bad idea.
If the Giants do target an under-the-radar linebacker, Utah’s Mohamoud Diabate could catch the eye of Wink Martindale. Diabate is an instinctive, athletic, and versatile linebacker who can play a variety of roles from a variety of alignments. He could also be one of the big sleepers in this year’s linebacker class.
Prospect: Mohamoud Diabate (3)
Games Watched: vs. Florida (2022), vs. UCLA (2022), vs. Oregon (2022), vs. USC (Pac-12 Championship 2022)
Height: 6-foot 3⅜ inches
Weight: 229 pounds
Arm length: 32⅛ inches
Hand size: 9½ inches
Games Played: 44
Tackles for a loss: 24.0
Forced fumbles: 4
Passes defensed: 2
Games Played: 12
Tackles for a loss: 13.5
Forced fumbles: 1
Passes defensed: 1
Best: Length, athleticism, versatility, instinctiveness
Worst: Play strength, playmaking
Projection: A rotational linebacker with starting upside and positional versatility
(Diabate is Utah LB number 3)
Utah linebacker Mohamoud Diabate has a good blend of size, athleticism, and instincts to play the position at the NFL level.
Diabate is a very versatile linebacking prospect who played inside and outside as an off-ball linebacker for the Utes, as well as lining up on the line of scrimmage as an edge defender on occasion. In fact, Diabate even played out of a 3-point stance as a down defensive end as well.
Diabate is a smart and instinctive linebacker who communicates well before the snap and typically makes an accurate first move.
He usually does a good job of anticipating the play and positioning himself in the path of the ball carrier. Diabate has good initial quickness and enough speed to be a fairly rangy linebacker, allowing him to beat blockers to their landmarks. He does a good job of playing with leverage and using his hands to keep blockers from latching on to him. Diabate is both a slippery defender who can beat blockers with athleticism, as well as surprisingly strong when taking them on directly.
He shows a good get-off as a pass rusher, firing off the ball and playing with good leverage. He generally times his rushes well and uses his hands and lower-body fluidity to stay clean into the backfield.
He is quick to get depth on his zone drops and does a good job of keeping his eyes in the backfield. Diabate tends to not get “stuck” on players running through his zone of responsibility, and instead lets the quarterback’s eyes lead him to the target. He has enough speed and lower-body fluidity to run with most tight ends and running backs in man coverage. Diabate is a sound and reliable tackler who consistently wraps up ball carriers while also delivering hard hits.
While Diabate is smart and instinctive, he can be a bit too eager in committing to his first read. He can bite hard on misdirection, letting play-action, read-option (or RPO) mesh points, or jet motion pull him out of position. He can also be pulled out of position in coverage by quarterbacks with good eye discipline. Diabate can also struggle to keep up with particularly athletic ball carriers, and isn’t quite a “sideline-to-sideline” linebacker.
Overall Grade: 7.3
Diabate is an instinctive and athletic linebacker prospect who projects best as a key “moveable piece” in a multiple defensive scheme.
Diabate will likely begin his career as a rotational sub-package outside linebacker who comes on the field in likely passing situations. He’s athletic enough to be a coverage linebacker as well as a blitzer for aggressive defenses.
That said, Diabate’s versatility to play inside or outside, weak or strong side, and rush as an interior blitzer or edge defender make him an asset for a team that is willing and able to move him around the defensive formation. Teams that make use of exotic blitz schemes and disguised pressure packages will likely be the best fit for Diabate.
While he isn’t a traditional “downhill thumper”, Diabate’s athleticism, instincts, and communication should allow him to play in the middle if necessary. He doesn’t avoid blockers and could use his hands to deal with offensive linemen at the collegiate level. However, he might need to play behind a good defensive line at the NFL level.
It was a surprise when Diabate didn’t get an invitation to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, but that could just make him a sleeper who surprises once he gets into the NFL.