It’s not that often that a 19-year-old player comes along who projects as a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft. But that’s the situation in 2018 with Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, a wildly athletic 6’5″, 253-pound linebacker who piled up 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the Hokies in 2017.
There are any number of mock drafts that have Edmunds pegged as a top-10 pick after that big year and a great showing at the scouting combine, where Edmunds peeled off a 4.54-second 40-yard dash and demonstrated plus quickness and agility in position drills. That includes the latest one from Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller, who has Edmunds headed to San Francisco with the ninth overall pick.
“Edmunds is just 19 years old,” Miller said, “and already looks like an immediate NFL starter. At 6’4 ½” and 253 pounds, he doesn’t look like a teenager and doesn’t play like one either. Edmunds is a versatile asset on defense, and given Reuben Foster‘s off-field issues, he would also provide insurance in case the Niners lose last year’s first-rounder for an extended time. And should they get on the field together? Watch out.”
Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA Today has Edmunds slipping one spot farther, to the Oakland Raiders at No. 10. “The 6’5″, 253-pounder is the kind of singular physical prospect that Al Davis would have coveted,” he wrote. “Oakland needs all the defensive help it can find, and Edmunds brings a rare physical makeup, albeit one kept in check by instincts that are still under development.”
Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports also listed Edmunds as a viable possibility for the Chicago Bears at No. 8. “Similar to (Roquan) Smith, Edmunds would plug into (Jerrell) Freeman’s former spot,” he said. “Edmunds shot up draft boards after an impressive showing at the combine and might be even better than Smith. The Bears might be able to get him by trading down, but it also might not be worth the risk in case he does get taken before they’re on the clock again. If either Smith or Edmunds are available here after (Quenton) Nelson is off the board, the Bears should fix their linebacker problem by taking one or the other.”
Kevin Haswell of Stampede Blue even listed Edmunds as an attractive target for the Indianapolis Colts at No. 6. “With the Colts moving into a 4-3 base defense next season,” Haswell said, “the need for an elite pass rusher is evident. But the defense struggled so much last season because of their mediocre linebacking core. Edmunds would not only sure up a linebacking core that struggled so much last season, but he would also bring the leadership to the middle of that defense. While I’m not saying that the Colts need to take Edmunds at No. 6, he is still a fantastic option and one they should think about.”
Those potential landing spots come with very different defensive schemes. And therein lies the rub with Edmunds—where do you slot a player who appears to be able to do just about everything? “Good luck with your player comp on this one,” one NFC scout told Lance Zierlein of NFL.com. “They don’t come like him. I don’t think there has ever been a linebacker that has had his size and speed. You’re better off comping him with a basketball player.”
However, as Brett Kollman wrote for Battle Red Blog, Edmunds impressive physical gifts come with a “but” – the kid’s a long way off from being old enough to have a beer. “Blessed with a massive frame, long arms, fluid hips, and terrifying speed for his size, Edmunds is the ideal physical profile of a middle linebacker in the modern NFL,” Kollman said. “If you were to create one in “Madden” from scratch, he is what it would look like. But with all those athletic gifts comes a downside. The 19-year old Edmunds has no idea what he’s doing yet on a football field. Mental mistakes are rampant, as are poor angles to the ball. Less than one half into watching his film, I knew he was a long way away from being a finished product.”
As Andy Bitter wrote for the Roanoke Times, the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock confessed he’s never seen a prospect quite like Edmunds. “I put the first tape in on this kid, and today he’s an off-the-ball linebacker,” Mayock said. “Meaning in a three-four, he’s an inside linebacker and he’d be great there. He also has a scary skill set as an edge rusher, which he did a little bit at Virginia Tech, and I know for sure he’s working on that now. So, I see incredible upside. I see an off-the-ball linebacker, I think some of the 3-4 teams could look at him and say he could be a 34 outside linebacker, in addition to being a 34 inside linebacker. Right now, what I say is a starting-off-the-ball linebacker and a potential sub at edge rusher. He’s got a skill set. I don’t use this word often, but he has a skill set that’s unique.”
Unfortunately for IDP owners, that unique skill set also makes it more than a little difficult to peg his fantasy value (especially early on). If Edmunds lands a gig as an inside linebacker, it’s entirely possible that three years from now we’ll look back and shake our heads that any rookie linebackers were drafted ahead of him in 2018. Or he could get snatched up by a team that envisions him as much as an edge-rusher as an “off-ball” type—a role that would severely limit his upside.
Assuming that he lands in at least a relatively favorable spot (a good bet), Edmunds probably has the highest fantasy ceiling of any linebacker in this class. He’ll be among the first few rookies at the position selected in dynasty formats and rookie drafts.
But that stratospheric ceiling also comes with a lower fantasy floor and steeper learning curve than youngsters like Smith and Alabama’s Rashaan Evans – a caveat worth keeping in mind in redraft IDP leagues this summer.