Filling the Middle Linebacker Spot

Bark About It!

Jan 7, 2019; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Clemson Tigers safety Isaiah Simmons (11) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2019 College Football Playoff Championship game at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After the Browns allowed Joe Schobert to hit Free Agency and released Christian Kirksey, there is now a large gap to to be filled at MLB. Both have now signed new deals elsewhere and Andrew Berry has only brought in one linebacker so far. That is B.J Goodson and he will more than likely play a special teams/backup role. Mack Wilson had an outstanding rookie year, and the Browns will be looking for another linebacker to pair alongside the 5th round steal. Let’s take a look at a few different potential options for starting MLB next season:

Sione Takitaki

It easy to forget after the season that Mack Wilson had last year that he was actually the second linebacker Cleveland selected in last year’s draft. Sione Takitaki was a 3rd round selection out of BYU who will be 25 years old before the Browns report to camp. He had 21 combined tackles last year as a back up and special teams contributor, and as it sits today one of the few linebackers on the roster. At 6’2 245 lbs, Sione is more of a run stopper and still transitioning to playing in the middle. During his four collegiate seasons Takitaki failed to record an interception. This could be the one weakness the holds him back from starting, but Sione should definitely see more reps in 2020.

Isaiah Simmons

There’s no doubt that Isaiah Simmons has solidified himself as one of the standout players in this draft! The Clemson Tiger’s incredible speed (4.39 40-yard) has some scouts grading him as a safety and others as a linebacker. Whatever position he ultimately plays in the NFL he should be outstanding. Last season he recorded 104 total tackles, 7 sacks, and added 3 interceptions. Simmons is an absolute nightmare for opposing QB’s as he lines up all over the field and constantly needs accounted for. Odds are he will be off the board by the time Cleveland picks at 10. However, they could always trade up a few spots to go after such a game changing player.

Malik Harrison

Buckeye fans would be ecstatic with this pick as Harrison was one of the premier play makers for the “Silver Bullets” last season. Malik has enough speed and athleticism to cover TE’s and RB’s. He also has a knack for getting after the quarterback and is what most would consider a new age or hybrid linebacker. Several experts predict Harrison going in the third round or later which seems like a steal for such a talented player. Last season at Ohio State, Malik recorded 79 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 4 pass deflections. Harrison posted the fastest 3 cone drill time for linebackers at the combine last month:

Kenneth Murray

Chances are that in a few weeks Murray will be the second linebacker selected behind Clemson’s Isaih Simmons. If all of the Browns “top-tier LT options” are off the board at 10, trading back for the best linebacker in the draft could be an appealing option for Andrew Berry. Murray was a three year starter for the Oklahoma Sooners and racked up a ton on tackles during his time in Norman. Baker’s former teammate has 257 total tackles since Mayfield joined the Browns two seasons ago. At 6’3 245 lbs, Kenneth ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the combine. That combination of size and speed should translate nicely to the NFL.

Come September, there will be a new starting linebacker alongside Mack Wilson. Fans will know a lot more about Stefanski and Berry’s stance on the position in a few weeks after the draft. Hopefully they get it right as Cleveland attempts to assemble one of the best young defenses in the league.

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