Malik Jefferson was a defensive stud on a Texas team that has been struggling for quite a while. While in college Jefferson picked up many accolades to his resume including Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Honorable mention All-Big 12 selection and consensus Freshman All-American. During his sophomore year he struggled with a concussion but still managed a second-team All-Big 12 selection, only starting 11 games. In his final season, he started all 13 games and led the Longhorns with 110 tackles, and earned himself a second team AP All-American selection and first team all-conference selection. Even though he likely won’t be selected in the first round he would be an excellent day two addition for a team that needs a linebacker as he has the size and athleticism for potential and the accolades to back it up.
Jefferson, who is 6’3”, 236 lbs. has the build, frame and muscle to be an NFL linebacker. In the combine he ran a 4.52 40-yard dash which was third among linebackers and he had 27 bench press repetitions which was second among linebackers. He has great speed and can go great distances across the field to get tackles. His quickness is great for filling up run gaps and tackling ball-carriers. His tackling numbers improved significantly from 60 to 104 when Todd Orlando became defensive coordinator of Texas because he had him attack rather than react. When attacking he can be a dangerous middle blitzer or even off the edge. Because of his athleticism and agility, he can do man coverage.
The reason he did better when his new coordinator had him attacking rather than reacting is because he lacks instincts when playing off blocks and pursuit. These are skills that are developed and worked on through the years and that can be easy for someone who is as athletically gifted as Jefferson. He waits on the second level too long rather than going downhill to hit blockers. When going into contact he sometimes ducks his head which allows blockers to engulf him. He lacks aggressiveness and a certain meanness that is important for an NFL linebacker. This is a big reason why he slides off tackles and gets engulfed by blockers. Again, this can be developed especially with a great and proven defensive coordinator.
On the Packers:
I wouldn’t want the Packers to take Jefferson in the first two rounds but he would be an excellent third round pick if another team didn’t reach for him before that. The Packers are doing a massive overall of their defense getting new safeties, corners, linebackers and hiring Mike Pettine, who has coached top ten defenses before as their defensive coordinator. Packers need to add speed to their defense and a great place to start is at the linebacker position. I probably wouldn’t want Jefferson playing a lot this year but he can be developed to become a good piece on the team’s new defense. He has exceptional athleticism and by the third round it’s hard to pass on that. He plays at a position the Packers need and the team has the perfect coordinator to develop him.