In a recent mock draft from Mike Renner of PFF, we not only saw Leo Chenal of the Wisconsin Football sneak into the first round, but he ended up going 21st overall to the New England Patriots.
Here is what Renner had to say about the selection of Leo Chenal from the Wisconsin Football program:
“Chenal isn’t for everyone’s scheme, but any of Belichick’s disciples will love the skill set he brings to the table. The Wisconsin product has the block-beating ability and football IQ to seamlessly replace Dont’a Hightower. He recorded the highest run-defense grade and second-highest pass-rushing grade among linebackers in college football last year.”
Chenal is coming off two dominant seasons with the Wisconsin program. As Renner just mentioned, he was one of the nation’s best linebackers by PFF’s grading system against the run and as a pass-rusher last season. Chenal would also lead Wisconsin in tackles for loss and sacks in each of the last two seasons, and he was also named a second-team All-American this past year as well.
In 2021 specifically, Chenal logged 21 pressures, including nine sacks — the fourth-most among LBs — according to PFF ($$), and 92 total tackles, a whopping 18.5 of which were for a loss. He finished with 58 stops, or plays that resulted in a “loss” for the offense, which was the fourth-most, and he allowed 11.2 yards per catch on 19 receptions.
Due to the shortened 2020 season, from a pure volume standpoint, Chenal’s numbers don’t compare to what he did in 2021, but the tape and his PFF grade, which overall was the fourth-best among linebackers, illustrate just how good he was that season too.
For more on Chenal and his potential role in the NFL, here is a look at what Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network has to say about him in his scouting report.
“He’s featured in an abnormally high role as a pressure player, showcasing some alignment versatility to play mugged up in interior gaps or firing off the second level as a green-dog pressure add-on later in reps. Chenal gets high marks for his football character and is a visible catalyst of energy for his teammates. With a rocked-up frame and some level of potential on passing downs, Chenal will have the opportunity to swoon an NFL franchise about his potential to become a more dynamic player in all phases.”
For the New England Patriots, linebacker is likely one of their biggest positional need on the defensive side of the ball. Both Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley are set to be free agents, leaving the Patriots in a potential transition period at the linebacker position with some question marks left on the depth chart behind those two players. If selected, Chenal could step in and carve out an immediate role.
In several other mock drafts compiled over at the NFL Mock Draft Database, Chenal has commonly been a third or fourth-round pick up to this point. But as Renner pointed out, in the right scheme Chenal is a player that certain teams could fall in love with. I also won’t be surprised if Chenal is one of those players who goes flying up draft boards in the coming months.
Chenal, along with Jake Ferguson, Jack Sanborn, and Logan Bruss have all been invited to the NFL combine, which is now only a few weeks away.