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Junior Colson 2024 NFL Draft Profile

Junior Colson 2024 NFL Draft
Junior Colson is one of the top linebackers in the 2024 NFL Draft. Check out the Michigan linebacker’s 2024 NFL Draft Profile here. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Junior Colson 2024 NFL Draft Profile

The 2024 NFL Draft features a small handful of off-ball linebackers that could immediately become impact players. That includes Michigan linebacker Junior Colson. Let’s discuss Colson’s game in his 2024 NFL Draft Profile.

Colson was a highly-rated four-star recruit who quickly made an impact at Michigan. In his freshman season, he eventually won a starting linebacker role and started seven games. That is incredibly impressive. It is uncommon for a freshman middle linebacker to win a starting job on a Jim Harbaugh team. Not to mention, Mike McDonald was the defensive coordinator and he has proven to be a great mind. In total, Colson tallied 36 college starts across three seasons.

Colson is listed as six-foot-two, 238 pounds. That size comes with above-average athleticism. Colson did not participate in NFL Combine testing or drills because of injuries. That is not ideal, but his tape shows solid speed, movement, and agility considering he is a 238-pound linebacker.

Before we get into skills, let’s make a note of Colson’s toughness. In Michigan’s Week 9 game against Purdue, Colson broke his hand in the first half. Instead of heading to the locker room, he played the final two drives of the half. At half-time, the team took X-rays and saw that he had a clean break. Colson played the rest of the game in a cast and was forced to play in a cast for the remainder of the year. This guy has the mentality and toughness of an NFL linebacker. It is always nice to know you are drafting a dog that is not going to quit on you.

Colson is a pretty well-balanced linebacker that shows a lot of positives in run support and coverage. If you forced me to pick the area he is better in, I’d pick the run game.

As previously mentioned, Colson has good size for an off-ball linebacker and that can be seen on his tape. Colson is willing to get into the trenches to stop the run. Generally, he is good at taking on blockers. The average running back and tight end will struggle to eliminate him from the play. Plus, he can deal with guards. Colson has shown that he can get physical with bigger bodies while keeping a hand free to make the tackle. Lastly, he follows pullers well and uses them to read the play.

The best aspect of his run support is that he sends it once he recognizes where the ball is going. If Colson gets his eye on a hole, he gets downhill quickly and makes the tackle near the line of scrimmage. Similarly, this trait can be seen in the open field. Colson will attack tosses, screens, and short passes to the flat while limiting yardage. Ideally, Colson could take his game to another level if he increases the frequency of these plays.

In the open field, Colson takes good angles, forces opponents to work to the boundary, and navigates traffic well. I would not consider him an elite sideline-to-sideline linebacker, but it is a functional part of his skills.

Colson is a very reliable tackler. I would not label him as someone who makes big tackles that make their way onto highlight reels; however, he is consistent and rarely misses tackles.

In the passing game, Colson is solid when asked to drop into zone coverage. The fundamental ability to back peddle and shift his hips is evident. In addition, he is quick enough to cover in the flat.

Colson did not have any interceptions and only logged five pass deflections, but those stats don’t represent his ball skills. If quarterbacks attempt to throw it over Colson while in zone coverage, he can get his hand on the ball and break up passes.

Similarly, Colson is functional in man coverage. In the NFL, it will be a little tougher to hold up. Despite being a respectable athlete, he does not have the pure athleticism to match up with quick running backs or tight ends. In all likelihood, teams will target him with players that create mismatches.

Colson does have a few flaws. The first is that he can be tricked with misdirection or counters. It is not like he is getting completely fooled and looks stupid, but he can take a false step. This is worrisome because it allows offensive linemen to get a strong angle and get their hands on him. The ability to compete with these bigger bodies is present. That said, he makes his job much harder if he puts himself in an easier position to block.

Colson does not add much as a blitzer. The majority of his best blitzes come when he can get a running head start and take on a guard. It is much easier to create havoc when he can get his 238-pound frame to top speed and smash into the pocket. Conversely, he will be stopped if he is forced to use a rush move at the line of scrimmage.

Colson is pretty good at showing blitz and dropping into coverage, but that skill is less applicable when his pass rush is not much of a threat.

The lack of a blitz and pass rush limits Colson to off-ball duties and kills his positional flexibility. Plus, it hampers his ability to make game-changing plays.

Junior Colson should become a starter in the NFL. I doubt he will ever become an elite linebacker. The lack of big play upside hampers his overall projection. Still, a dependable tackler and run-stopper that is serviceable against the pass can make a career in the NFL. I would label Colson as a late second-rounder that I’d prefer to draft in the third round. At that point in the draft, I’d feel comfortable taking an off-ball linebacker with a lower ceiling that will be a solid player.


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