Over the past couple of seasons the Bengals have had some real issues at linebacker. Vontaze Burfict has been in and out of the lineup due to injury and suspension, which has left the Bengals to rely on their depth too often. The Bengals are still holding out hope on Nick Vigil and Jordan Evans, but drafting a blue chip player may be exactly what the Bengals need to fix their issues at the position. That player could end up being Tremaine Edmunds.
Edmunds is a very talented linebacker out of Virginia Tech who offers a rare combination of great size and speed. By watching him move you would never guess he is 6’5” and 250 pounds. He could be the jolt of talent the defense needs to take that next step.
School: Virginia Tech
Weight: 250 pounds
Projected Round: First Round
NFL comparison: NFL.com compares him to Brian Urlacher
Edmunds is a one-of-a-kind athlete. He boasts one of the best combinations of size and speed in this draft. He has an insane ability to play from sideline-to-sideline while also having the ability to stop runners in their tracks. He may lack the incredible instincts of a Roquan Smith, but he has enough of an understanding of the game to make huge plays on a regular basis. Edmunds and Smith are headed toward being this year’s drafts first two linebackers off the board.
The thing that doesn’t get talked about enough with Edmunds is his age. He will only be 20 by the time his rookie season starts. That means by the time his first contract is up he will only be 25, and he will be in the middle of his prime.
The other thing about Edmunds is his versatility. This goes along with him being so young, but his athletic ability also gives coaches a ton of option as far as where to play him. To show the sheer level of versatility he carries, some teams will probably consider him as an outside linebacker for a 3-4 defense.
The upside for this kid is incredible, and if he finds the right situation he could be a Pro Bowler for years to come.
How he would fit with the Bengals
Considering how often teams lineup in three receiver sets forcing the defense to play nickel, Edmunds would probably be considered an outside linebacker in the NFL. If he were to join the Bengals, he would essentially be taking Vigil’s snaps away. He is faster than Vigil, and he could help limit the huge plays by running backs against Cincinnati. You could even kick him inside when going to 4-3 personnel, but that probably depends more on if the Bengals are higher on Evans or Vigil at that point.
Edmunds’ ability in pass coverage would also be a huge upgrade for the Bengals who have notoriously struggled in that area. He only had one interception, and five passes defended over three seasons, but that was mostly due to the scheme they ran at Virginia Tech. He often was sent to blitz or even spy the quarterback, which he also did very well. He had 10 sacks in his final two seasons. You combine that with his 33 tackles for loss over three seasons and it is clear how well he does at getting into the backfield. He could be the rushing linebacker that Marvin Lewis has been trying to bring to Cincinnati since he drafted David Pollack.
It would show a real change of stripes if the Bengals selected Edmunds at pick No. 12, but it is doubtful they will. The team has a tendency to be overly confident in its young players who have struggled to turn a corner. Edmunds would come in and fix a ton of problems the linebacker unit has had for a few seasons now, and it’d make the Bengals’ defense tough to play against.