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2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Michigan LB Junior Colson

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From now until the 2024 NFL Draft takes place, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections, and priority undrafted free agents. Today, a scouting report on Michigan LB Junior Colson.

#25 Junior Colson/LB Michigan – 6-3, 247 pounds (Junior)

Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Junior Colson 6030/247 N/A N/A N/A
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
N/A N/A N/A N/A
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
N/A N/A N/A

THE GOOD

-Athletic inside linebacker
-Great age size for the position (both height and weight are around the 89th percentile)
-His toughness allowed him to play through a broken hand
-Reads traffic well in the run game
-Doesn’t get totally beat in pass coverage
-Pretty consistent statistically year by year

THE BAD

-Zero forced turnovers in his college career
-Arm tackles and tackles too high pretty often
-Can struggle to shed blocks
-Will continue to allow completions underneath

Bio

-21 years old (Dec. 6th, 2002)
-36 starts in 43 games played for Michigan
-256 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 5 pass deflections, 8.5 tackles for loss and 1 fumble recovery in his college career
-95 tackles, 2 pass deflections and 2 tackles for loss in his 2023 season
-A 2023 broken fourth metacarpal in his left hand caused him to play with a cast on.
-4-star LB in his 2021 high school class from Brentwood, TN
-Former wide receiver who scored a 90-yard kick return touchdown
-Born and spent his first 9 years in Haiti before moving to the United States where he was adopted by Steve and Melanie Colson

Tape Breakdown

Plays like these from Junior Colson make me really like his potential in the NFL as a run-defending inside linebacker. Colson is the weak side backer in this play straight ahead of Washington’s left tackle. Initially, in this play, you can see the communication from Colson to his teammate which is always a good sign of leadership. Once the ball is snapped, Colson floats to the middle reading the handoff, and then explodes. Colson’s athleticism gets him by Washington’s tackle (#73) who is making his way to the second level. That’s when he can come in and make a clean-up tackle.

 

 

Coming off a positive note with the last play, this is what Junior Colson’s film is littered with. Colson is the linebacker on the far left of the screen ahead of the right tackle. He will play his zone causing him to disappear on the screen until Alabama’s receiver (#84) catches the ball where he reappears. Once Colson appears, he does an alright job breaking down but wraps up at about the receiver’s shoulder pad area. This causes Colson to get shrugged off to the receiver’s ankle. If it wasn’t for his teammate, Makari Paige (#7), coming in to assist on the play, Colson’s tackle would’ve been broken and the receiver would be running free.

On a similar note to the last play, tackling high is a consistent issue with Colson not just because of the potential for a broken tackle but due to the high risk of a horse collar penalty. In this play, Colson starts at the far right of the screen and sniffs out the screen. The play recognition in this clip is fantastic. The issue comes up when he goes to make the tackle lunging with his arms around the neck of Alabama’s receiver. The risk of this being called for a horse collar is high and even if it isn’t called, it is dangerous for the offensive player.

Going back to some positives, Colson’s quick burst makes him a natural play wrecker. In this clip, Colson is again the linebacker ahead of Ohio State’s left tackle. They’re going to send him off the edge. He is quick enough to get in the backfield and make a nice wrap-up tackle.

Coverage wise Colson didn’t really stand out in a good or bad way for me. He would allow underneath passes for little yards but things you could live with. However, plays like this need to be eliminated from his game. Allowing the underneath catch is fine, there isn’t much he could do in that aspect. What he can control is cleaning up that footwork. He almost trips when changing directions from a back peddle to a forward sprint and then proceeds to fall on his face without making the tackle. If he had made the tackle in that spot it would’ve set up third and inches with a possibility of a turnover on third down.

Big-time players make big-time plays. The situation right here is third down, ten yards to go and Colson is responsible for the middle of the field while being lined up across from the left guard. The ball is snapped and it’s a quick screen to the left. Ohio State’s receiver Xavier Johnson (#0) is breaking multiple weak tackles until Colson comes flying in for the cleanup. The tackle form isn’t particularly great but it’s better than what he has displayed before and it creates a big play.

Conclusion

Junior Colson is a prospect who does have the talent to be a starter in the NFL with the raw skills he possesses as an athlete that he has shown since his time at Ravenwood High School. The main issue I had when watching Colson is the lack of an elite trait that really stands out on tape. His best trait is his athleticism which is above average but not game-changing like someone like Isaiah Simmons or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. However, despite not having an elite trait, he has made his impact on the University of Michigan where he was the recipient of their Roger Zatkoff Award in 2022 given to the teams best linebacker.

He’s a pretty high-floor, low-ceiling prospect that can instantly improve any defenses run defending if his tackling becomes more consistent. I think any team should feel confident spending a mid-round pick on Colson to try and develop him into the player he has the potential to be. As he stands right now however, I think he is better suited as a backup who has to prove himself. His story could be similar to someone like Jahlani Tavai. A player who struggled to catch on in Detroit, especially tackling-wise, who has since become a reliable starter in New England. Tavai in his time with New England has seen career highs in snaps and career bests in missed tackle percentages.

Projection: 3rd round
Depot Draft Grade: 7.6 – Potential Starter/Good Backup
Games watched: Washington (2023), Ohio State (2023), Alabama (2023)

 





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