NFL Draft Profile: Wake Forest ILB Justin Strnad

Justin Strnad (23) of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons reacts after making a tackle during second half action against the Memphis Tigers in the Birmingham Bowl at Historic Legion Field on December 22, 2018 in Birmingham, Alabama. The Demon Deacons defeated the Tigers 37-34. (Photo: Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film)

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The Los Angeles Rams are undergoing a defensive scheme and regime change. With that being said, former Pro Bowl starting inside linebacker Cory Littleton has departed via free agency. That leaves the Rams set to start Micah Kiser, a former fifth-round pick and one of their young crop of inexperienced talent. While the Rams have talent and potential at the position, one could make the argument that they will need to look in the NFL Draft early on for a replacement to Littleton.

That replacement could very well be Justin Strnad out of Wake Forest. Strnad’s build is eerily similar as both physical and as an athlete to the aforementioned Cory Littleton. Perhaps he could be the replacement.

College Bio

A three-star recruit out of high school and a team captain. Strnad redshirted his 2015 freshman year. He played in 41 games over the course of his college career which included his senior season in which he was named team captain. He started off his senior season with promise but unfortunately had it cut short due to a bicep tear eight games through the season. He did have surgery to repair it which would be considered his only red flag heading into the draft.

Measurables

Height: 6’3
Weight: 238

Strengths

Strnad is a talented linebacker that was a true leader for the Demon Deacons. He has great size for the position at the next level and is a very versatile player. Strnad excels in all areas. He’s not particularly great at everything but is more than capable at defending the run, rushing the passer, shooting gaps, man and zone coverage as well as his ability to force turnovers. His range is one of the biggest aspects of his game and while that can be great, he knows how to also finish plays with pop behind his pads. He’s got a high motor and is never willing to give up on a play. He has great foot-step quickness and displays the ability to move sideline-to-sideline at ease. He takes on being the leader of the defense and wants to make a statement every time he is on the field. In a draft lacking coverage linebackers, he’s one of the few that can really excel early on in that area.

Weaknesses

Strnad didn’t test well and that will likely cause him to fall in the draft. He’s coming off a bicep tear in which he had to repair with surgery. He can get out of control and force himself to miss tackles he would have otherwise had. His block recognition is lacking and will often lead him into trouble. He does have a tendency to lose contain when going for a bigger play than what is needed.

Three Plays on Tape

Development

Strnad makes for one of the safest picks in terms of day one ability in the draft. However, his injury could be a concern for some teams, his lack of bulk could make his job of block shedding extremely difficult and his block recognition, in general, could halt his progress and production as a run defender. Still, though, Strnad is at least good at everything. There are some things he absolutely excels at and others that he is marginally good at. At the end of the day, Strnad really resembles Cory Littleton as he is in the NFL today. He’s constantly looking to take the ball away and make the big play. Strnad because of this could be a Pro Bowler someday. His testing shouldn’t worry people because he is indeed a player that plays way faster on tape.

Draft Grade: 2nd round

Bottom Line

Strnad is a very talented and decisive linebacker that can start day one in the NFL as long as his medicals check out accordingly. He’s going to need to refine the run defensive part of his game but Strnad offers everything including special teams which will give him and his team an edge. Strnad has a higher floor than most of the linebackers in the draft but due to that, his ceiling could be smaller than those same players he’s ahead of right now. There’s no doubt that Strnad could help the Rams this upcoming season though and they may not have to spend a second-rounder on him due to his recent injury and poor testing that could scare teams away.

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