Malik Jefferson, linebacker, Texas
At 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds, Jefferson will have to bulk up to go against the big boys in the NFL. But this dude is about as athletic as they come. Last season saw the linebacker record 60 tackles (44 solo), nine tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He added a forced fumble and two passes defended for good measure.
The lingering question here is where Jefferson might play at the next level. He’s a sideline-to-sideline player in the ilk of rookie first-round pick Reuben Foster. Jefferson also flies to the ball in a hawking manner, very similar to what Jaylon Smith did for Notre Dame prior to being selected by Dallas in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The primary question here is where Jefferson will play under first-year defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who is expected to utilize a 3-4 scheme. We could see the junior play more of a pass-rush position out on the edge. There could also be somewhat of a hybrid role for him in this new defense.
Either way, there’s very little doubt that Jefferson has the frame, track record of success, raw talent and athleticism to be a dynamic performer for Texas in 2017. Should he build off what we saw from him in his first two seasons in Austin, it would not be a surprise to see Jefferson land in the top-five next year. He’s definitely someone to watch.