Manase Hungalu (LB, Oregon State) – 86

Not many people are talking about Hungalu as we go into the 2017 season but, in my view, he’s one of the most underrated linebackers in college football.  The thing that stands out most when you watch Hungalu is how quick he is to diagnose a play.  Both against the pass and the run, it looks like he there is an iron filing in the ball, with Hungalu playing the role of the magnet.  This means one of two things; he is either a “first-in, last-out” type in the film room, or he is quite incredibly instinctive – perhaps it’s both.  There are plenty of examples; the obvious one is the touchdown return in the UCLA game but one of my favourites is his pass break up at the 1:56 mark of the 3rd quarter of the Minnesota game.  He is also a very good athlete; the rapidity with which he chases down Royce Freeman at the start of the Oregon game speaks volumes for his quickness.  The other thing I love about Hungalu is the ferocity with which he takes on blockers.  Drew Sample, the Washington TE, was simply abused at times last year, even in a game in which the Beavers were outmatched.  There are, of course, things he needs to work on.  Hungalu is a really unrefined pass rusher when he comes on the blitz and, like many college linebackers, he could benefit from being bigger and stronger.  I do, however, really like his skill-set, which I think translates really well to the next level; he probably fits best as a WILB in a 3-4 defence.  I suspect I’m much higher on Hungalu than many others but I think he could be an excellent NFL player and I currently have a second round grade on him.

Jack Cichy (LB, Wisconsin) – 83

What I like most about Cichy is that, the bigger the game, the better he plays.  His most impressive performances on tape have come against USC (where he earned his nickname, ‘Three Sack Jack’), Ohio State and Iowa – that is really encouraging and tells me a lot about his competitiveness.  He is slightly undersized at 6-2, 234lb, but I could see him carrying 245-250lb comfortably at the next level.  Cichy is, by all accounts, a natural leader and he’s certainly a natural playmaker.  He has good instincts and an almost maniacal determination to make a hit.  At the same time, though, his tackling technique is erratic; he often goes very low and, in the NFL, it is easy to imagine RBs, in space, simply jumping over him.  He will occasionally guess, when it comes to run fills, but, more often than not, his instincts are impressively sound.  I’m not convinced of his functional strength when it comes to shedding and stacking, though, and I think this is something he will need to address prior to the combine.  In coverage, he can become somewhat fixated on the QB and allow receivers to slip behind him.  When he keeps his head on a swivel, however, he shows really good range and ball skills – he has the traits to make NFL teams very interested.  He is not a 1st rounder for me – there are too many issues with strength and technique – but, nevertheless, I do really like Cichy as a mid-day 2 prospect.  At the very least, he will be a special teams dervish; equally, though, I can see him developing into a good starting LB at the next level.

Nyles Morgan (LB, Notre Dame) – 71

Morgan is more of an aggressive, downhill LB than a read and react type. It’s impossible to escape the impression that he’d have been much happier in the middle of a 4-3 defence 20 years ago, when his ability to hit and stuff the run would probably have been more appreciated. I do, though, really like the way in which Morgan embraces contact and, if he gets a clean shot at the ball carrier, he is going to ensure that the opposition’s training staff earn their money that week. In pass coverage, he seems less inclined to cover his man than to line him up in order to beat the snot out of him – again, there is something pleasingly old-school about this approach. As a LB in the modern NFL, however, he lacks the range and athleticism you need to see from a starting LB. He is, apparently, trying to slim down from 250 to about 235 for the 2017 season and it will be interesting to see if this reaps its rewards. I have concerns about his processing skills but I think Morgan can definitely earn a paycheck in the NFL as a special teams demon and spot starter. He reminds me a lot of Vince Williams coming out of Florida State and Williams is just about to enter his fifth season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. As such, there is certainly some value in drafting him and I could see him going early on Day 3.