April 19, 2024   8 MIN READ

Saturday Spolights

Temple LB Leads Day 3 Defense Prospects At Draft


When it comes to the NFL Draft, it’s the blue-chip players and first-rounders who are identifiable to most.

As a result, they get the lion’s share of pre-draft coverage.

The entire opening night revolves solely around prospects who were largely the belle of the ball at the Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine, and during 30 visits.

But the reality is prospects acquired on Day 2 and Day 3 of the NFL Draft account for a significant chunk of most rosters, and yet they’re rarely discussed by the majority – until Day 3 rolls around.

The good news is every draft offers a wealth of talent on the third day of the three-day extravaganza, this year being no exception.

Jordan Magee

GETTY IMAGES: Former Temple LB Jordan Magee’s athleticism makes him a good candidate to be an impact special-teamer right away.

On Tuesday, I listed my favorite Day 3 offensive prospects.

Below is Part 1 of my favorite Day 3 defense prospects – linebackers, edge rushers and some deep sleepers. On Saturday, I’ll list my favorite Day 3 corners and safeties.

[Note: If there are players you don’t see listed whom I’ve previously mentioned, it likely means I’ve tagged them with Day 2 grades. Prospects such as edge rushers Mohamed Kamara and Jalyx Hunt, for example, I have third-round grades on.]

LB Tyrice Knight, UTEP

A former Juco product who spent two seasons at Independence [KS] Community College, Knight immediately stood out due to his football intellect and processing. His urgent pursuit to the football and closing speed, man coverage and tackling prowess are other notable perks.

Knight proved quite active, accumulating 390 tackles (32 for loss), 8.5 sacks, 16 passes defended, a pair of interceptions, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries over in four-year tenure at the El Paso campus. Instinctually, Knight is a bit of a project, and he gets into conundrums when he doesn’t stay within structure, avoiding the urge to drift or go off script.

If Knight lands with a team positioned to rely on him situationally as a rookie, and can nurse him as a core special teamer, he should provide tangible returns down the road.

LB Jordan Magee, Temple

An explosive athlete boasting blistering speed, fluid mobility and sideline-to-sideline range, the Temple product enjoyed a stellar pre-draft process.  Twitched up and seemingly always attacking downhill, Magee has also established himself as an effective pass rusher, collecting eight sacks over the past two seasons.

Likely to start his career as a sub-package defender due to his slight frame (6-1, 228) and under-construction instincts, Magee should be a highly coveted second-level defender early on Day 3.

It’s also worth noting that at Temple’s pro day, Magee, who preformed well at the NFL Scouting Combine, underwent position drills at the request of Eagles LBs coach Bobby King.

Michael Barrett

GETTY IMAGES: Michigan product Michael Barrett fulfilled a storied college career by helping his team win the national championship.

LB Michael Barrett, Michigan

Barrett, who set a program record by appearing in 64 career games for the Wolverines, deserves more recognition than he’s received. Once recruited to Michigan as an athlete, Barrett eventually found a home at linebacker, where his speed and coverage acumen served as a hallmark.

A thumper in the run game, Barrett – a team captain in 2023 – was a more-than-willing participant in run support and frequently boasted his veteran savvy, displaying advanced eye discipline in coverage. One could also argue that Barrett is the most proficient second-level blitzer in his class, racking up 8.5 sacks and frequently generating timely pressure.

For some, Barrett’s 5-foot-11, 233-pound frame will be enough to exclude him from draft boards – block-shedding and run support could be a legitimate hang-up at the pro level – but Barrett projects as a special teams dynamo and situational player on defense.

LB Omar Speights, LSU

I’m a big fan of the passion and physicality with which Speights plays. He’s someone I would classify as an effort player. A compact frame at 6-0, 229 pounds, the slight build and short arm length may be a deterrent for some, but they’d be remiss to ignore the production.

A starter during his time at Oregon State and lone season at LSU, Speights has played a ton of football, starting 49 of the 55 games in which he appeared. He’s also a fairly savvy player, demonstrating instincts and flowing to the football with urgency.

Speights also isn’t averse to sticking his nose in against the run. A source told InsideTheBirds.com that Speights showed well at the Eagles’ local pro day Wednesday, and the Philadelphia native has had a busy stretch in terms of Zoom meetings.

Deep Sleepers

[I want to acknowledge here the tragic passing of former Albany pass-rusher A.J. Simon, who would’ve been the first player listed in this category. My heartfelt condolences to all affected.]

EDGE Nate Lynn, William & Mary

Lynn (6-3, 260) wins with powerful, heavy hands and a strong, sturdy base, often overwhelming opposing tackles with his relentless nature. As a lineman, if you give Lynn your chest, he’s taking it and exploiting it every time.

A 2023 team captain, first-team All-CAA recipient and Buck Buchanan Award finalist, Lynn finished second in program history in sacks (28) and third in tackles for loss (40). Notably, Lynn landed a 30 visit with the Lions toward the end of the pre-draft cycle. A non-combine invite, Lynn could wind up in the late-round conversation. I interviewed Lynn as part of our “Draft Dreams” series.

LB/EDGE Bo Richter, Air Force

Leaning on his twitch and short-area quickness as his most prominent traits – which should help a potential transition to off-ball linebacker at the next level – Richter is a prospect you might want to highlight when preparing your draft guide ahead of next weekend. His physicality and effective hand usage allow his to disarm would-be blockers and flow to the action unimpeded, and his motor always runs hot.

The Air Force standout last season collected 45 tackles (19.5 for loss), 10 sacks, eight quarterback hits, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Due to his lateral agility, ability to process and disengage from blocks, I project Richter as an off-ball linebacker and core special teamer at the next level.

“I would say something that I want people to know is my do-it-all attitude,” Richter told Inside The Birds. “I’m willing to do whatever a team needs from me, and I can’t wait to work from the bottom of any team’s depth chart. I’ve done it before, and I embrace the journey but not let it take away from my work ethic – AKA, I can’t wait to wreak havoc on special teams!”

Tyrek Funderburk

GETTY IMAGES: Tyrek Funderburk, a cornerback prospect from Appalachian State, has 4.4 speed and a track record of INTs.

CB Tyrek Funderburk, Appalachian State

Funderburk (6-0, 185), a Richmond transfer, accumulated 46 tackles (2.5 for loss), eight passes defended and four interceptions (two for TDs) in 2023. His penchant for taking the football away – coupled with his 4.4 speed and scheme variance – should get him into a camp, where he should garner some fodder.

Funderburk attended the Panthers’ local pro day and has seen interest from the Bears, Steelers and Chargers.

“I’d say I model my game after a mixture of Aqib Talib & Darius Slay,” Funderburk said in a message to Inside The Birds. “Some of my strengths are concept & route recognition, which allows me to make plays, closing speed on routes & ball carriers, and my transition ability I think is very good.”

CB Tavion McCarthy, Mercer

McCarthy (5-9, 190), who in 2023 produced a 44-inch vertical at the school’s pro day, racked up 54 tackles (three for loss), five passes defended, two interceptions and a sack, should be on more radars. He’s on the Eagles’. They  contacted McCarthy’s pro liaison, among a handful of other teams. The compactly built cornerback is known for his short area quickness, ball skills and instincts. He projects as a slot defender at the next level, modeling his game after two of the best at the professional level.

“I believe the comparison I would give my game is a Buddha [sic] Baker and Kenny Moore-style of play,” McCarthy said in a message to Inside The Birds. “Ball hawks that are discipline[d] and smart. Student of the game but also explosive and instinctual. I love to be around the ball and it’s very important for me to show effort day in and out.”

CB Rico Payton, Pittsburg [KS] State

Payton (6-0, 182), who produced 35 tackles, 12 passes defended and four interceptions in his final season at Pittsburg State, could be a name to file away. At his pro day, the lengthy cornerback recorded a 4.55 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical, 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump, 6.98 three-cone and 4.13 short shuttle. The impressive small school prospect also logged 30-visits with the Patriots and Saints.

S Derek Slywka, Ithica

Slywka (6-2 6/8, 215), who last season totaled 51 tackles (two for loss), six interceptions and 10 passes defended, turned in an impressive showing at Syracuse’s pro day, producing a 4.51 40-yard dash, 39-inch vertical, 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump, 6.71 three-cone and 4.15 short shuttle.

He spoke to the Eagles at the pro day, and has talked to or had communication with 18 other teams either at – or after – the Buffalo and Syracuse pro days. Slywka would be an interesting rookie free agent/minicamp signing.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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1 Comment

  • Eric Gregory

    I hope the EAGLES don’t make any attempts to get rid of A.J.Brown .I Think he and Devonte Smith are just getting started! We have many more amazing things coming from this duo in the future seasons 💪🏾🫶🏾💯💯‼️