Eagles Draft Profile: LB Jabril Cox
Weight: 231 pounds
Strengths: Best coverage linebacker in class, locks down tight ends in the slot, length to disrupt passes and make extended tackles, good-not-great pursuit speed
Weaknesses: Block shedding, pursuit angles, pre-snap reads, dependability defending the run
Draft Projection: Early to Middle 2nd Round
Howie Roseman and the Eagles front office began their post-Wentz roster reconstruction by shedding a few high-priced veteran contracts. Despite their recent transactions, the Eagles would enter the 2021 free agency period well over the projected cap number. As the beginning of the new league year closes in, don’t expect too many notifications regarding potential free agents landing in Philadelphia. Instead, the front office will look towards April’s Draft to bolster the roster and build a solid core of young players. With three picks on Day Two, the Eagles need to hit on two potential starters to reverse past draft blunders and bolster some of the team’s weaker units, like at linebacker.
Penn State’s Micah Parsons remains the consensus #1 overall linebacker in this year’s draft class and very well could be the top overall defensive prospect. I made a case for taking Parsons at 6th overall, but drafting linebackers in early rounds has never been the Eagles’ strategy. Luckily, the rest of the league seems to share that same sentiment, and several talented linebackers could fall into the second round. One player who appears to be nearing his full potential at just the right time is LSU’s Jabril Cox.
Back at Raytown South High School in Kansas City, Cox defined a “do-it-all” football player. During his senior season, he accounted for over 3,000 total yards and 31 TDs as a dual-threat quarterback while also contributing at wide receiver, linebacker, safety, and cornerback throughout his career. Despite his high school success, Cox didn’t receive a single FBS offer and ended up committing to North Dakota State to pursue his football dreams.
The 6-3, 233-pound linebacker reached the pinnacle of success at the FCS level, winning three straight national titles with a 45-1 record during that span. In his 38 starts for North Dakota State, Cox totaled 258 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, and 14 sacks, along with six interceptions, seven pass breakups, and two defensive TDs. Before the 2020 season, the two-time FCS All-American decided to transfer to LSU, where he’d be facing much tougher competition in the SEC.
In his first-ever action with the Tigers, Cox recorded five tackles, a sack, and returned an interception 14-yards to the house. Jabril’s best trait, which translated seamlessly from the North Dakota State to LSU, is his elite coverage ability. Whether he was asked to play press-man coverage against tight ends, drop into a zone, or line up in the slot, Cox proved that he could do it all in two very different defensive schemes.
The North Dakota State/LSU product furthered that sentiment by turning heads at this year’s Senior Bowl. In one-on-one drills against running backs and tight ends, he forced four incompletions throughout the week. No other linebacker in Mobile had more than one. Out of all the 2021 draft prospects, including defensive backs, Cox recorded PFF’s second-highest grade for a slot defender (91.3), trailing only Washington’s cornerback Elijah Molden (92.2).
Jabril Cox is in a class of his own regarding coverage linebackers in this draft; however, he still needs to improve his consistency defending the run. Cox is far from an old-school thumper at linebacker and can get taken out of plays when offensive linemen get their hands on him at the second level. His block-shed technique will require some work, but another small area of concern is his ability to diagnose plays pre-snap. Jabril can sometimes find himself flat-footed or out of position on running plays causing him to take some lousy pursuit angles. Offenses are only going to be faster at the next level, so he can’t rely on his read-and-react play style when defending the run in the NFL.
While Cox may not be the most explosive playmaker at linebacker in this year’s class, he brings a rare set of coverage skills required in today’s game. The Eagles linebacker unit has been a weakness for the defense ever since the departure of Nigel Bradham. Young guys like TJ Edwards, Davion Taylor, or Alex Singleton would benefit from playing next to Jabril Cox. He would take on most of the coverage responsibilities, freeing them up to rush the passer or disrupt running plays in the backfield. Last season, opponents gained nearly 20% of their total passing yards when targeting only three players: Nate Gerry, Duke Reilly, and Alex Singleton. With basically no money to spend in free agency, the Eagles must address this overlooked position with at least one pick in the first three rounds.
Mandatory Credit: Chris Parent | LSU Athletics