LB4: Daiyan Henley (Washington State)
Daiyan Henley, like others before him on this list, played several positions growing up. In high school, Henley was a superstar wide receiver who earned a scholarship to Nevada. With the Wolf Pack, Henley caught 17 passes in two seasons as a rotational pass catcher.
Wanting more playing time, Henley made the switch to defense in 2020 before immediately suffering a season-ending injury, causing a medical redshirt. He returned in 2021 looking like a brand new man. Henley used his receiver background to jump passing lanes and haul in four interceptions in this span.
Following the 2022 season, Henley transferred to Washington State and continued his emergence on the national scene. He posted the best year of his career as a tackler, earning a pristine 90.3 grade from PFF. Henley started rushing the quarterback on occasion too, tallying five sacks on the campaign.
Henley’s traits, size, and mental makeup will have him off the board on day two. In a draft class lacking true middle linebackers, Henley sits behind only the LB1 on this list in that regard. Expect the Wazzou star to be the next in a long line of offensive-players-turned-defensive-superstars.
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-Day 2
LB3: Trenton Simpson (Clemson)
Now, you may be getting tired of hearing the word versatile in this article, but nobody embodies this more than Clemson’s Trenton Simpson. With the Tigers, Simpson aligned in several spots. He amassed 387 snaps on the defensive line, 381 in the slot, and 682 in the box, never earning worse than an average grade in any spot (via PFF).
The reason Simpson can succeed in each position is his otherworldly traits. Simpson is not just fast, he is lightning-quick and accelerates from 0-60 in the snap of a finger. This explosiveness allows the rangy defender to play passes downfield and recover if he ever loses a step. The closing speed Simpson brings is remarkable.
Furthermore, Simpson does well turning his burst into power. He must do a better job shedding blocks and leveraging himself, but I believe NFL coaching can do a lot for Simpson in this area. Also, Simpson flexed a couple of pass-rushing moves on tape, proving that his sack production wasn’t entirely due to scheme.
Simpson is a prospect that needs a plan to reach his full potential. He will be an above-average starter in a traditional linebacker role, but in the right setting, Simpson could blossom into a superstar on Sundays. All the pieces are there.
NFL Draft Grade: Early Day 2