3. Damone Clark, LB, LSU
ADP: 113.5 via Pro Football Focus
I’m honestly shocked that the SEC’s most dominant run stopper at linebacker has fallen so far down draft boards. I understand that’s not as enticing as a Devin Lloyd or Nakobe Dean, but past that, I don’t see many linebackers that much better than LSU’s Damone Clark.
In 2021, Clark led the entire SEC (the most competitive conference in CFB) and was third in the nation in total tackles with a whopping 136, as well as tackles per game at 11.3. Along with his reliable tackling, Clarke also managed to tally 5.5 sacks, 23 QB pressures, 15 TFLs, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 interception in his final year as a Tiger.
All of which was enough for him to be named a second-team All-American for both the Walter Camp and Sporting News, as well as a finalist for the coveted Dick Butkus Award. Handed out annually to the best linebacker in college football.
So, there’s no question that he was one of the most all-around productive linebackers in FCS competition last year. In fact, Damone Clark was the only player in college football that finished with over 130 tackles and 5+ sacks, so he can clearly fly around the field and make plays against elite offenses (which the SEC is full of).
Clark also has the ideal physical makeup to thrive in the NFL, measuring at 6’3″ and 240-pounds with 33″ arms and 9.75″ hands. In fact, he was the only linebacker at the NFL Combine that finished in the top ten for the 40-yard dash (4.57), vertical jump (36.5″), broad jump (10’7″), and three-cone drill (7.12).
He even made his way onto Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list prior to the 2021 CFB season after clocking a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash and benching a ridiculous 405 pounds.
He likely would’ve garnered more attention through the pre-draft process if he had more experience as a starter. Since he was forced to sit behind former Tigers Devin White in 2019, and Patrick Queen in 2020, both of whom were drafted in the first round in their respective years.
Although, despite having just two seasons under his belt as a starter at LSU, he’s already shown that he has the capability to captain a defense and make plays in various aspects of the game.
Perhaps what best exemplifies Clark’s leadership is the fact that he was the only player in LSU football history to dawn the No. 18 jersey more than once. Which is typically handed out to the Tigers player that best represents the school both on and off the field.
So, any team that drafts him would be getting an incredible athlete that has not only been productive at the college level but also one that has the maturity and experience to lead a defense. That’s pretty incredible value for a player projected to fall anywhere between rounds four through six.