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2019 NFL Draft Superlatives: Linebackers

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NCAA Football: Air Force at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker has been a need for the Raiders long before Gruden’s second stint at Head Coach. Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther has been quoted saying he thinks he can develop a day 3 linebacker into a starting caliber player. There are a few linebackers, however, who could change the dynamic of this defense and with 3 first round draft picks to work with, this could be the draft to use an early pick on this position.

The 2019 NFL Draft Superlatives continues at the linebacker position. Here are a few players who stood out in the following categories.

Body beautiful

Terrill Hanks, OLB, New Mexico State

Not often on twitter do you see so many draft writers collectively develop a crush on a player. But after the Senior Bowl weigh-in “Terrill Hanks shirtless” was probably trending on social media. The senior linebacker stands at 6’2 234lbs with an 80.5 inch wingspan. He is considered a project at linebacker but has the athleticism and body type that you can’t coach.

Highest skill

Drue Tranquill, OLB, Notre Dame

Tranquill’s teammate Te’von Coney at Notre Dame is getting more draft buzz and when you watch the tape both are clearly very coached up. Tranquill however is better in coverage; the play above shows him carrying the TE vertical before turning and locating the ball for a PBU something that he did frequently in college. Tranquill also excelled against the run and rarely takes false steps or makes eye violations. An ACL tear in 2015 could make teams pause but if his medical checks out, Tranquill will be defensive coordinator’s favorite new player.

Most athletic

Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan

At 5’11 225lbs Devin Bush doesn’t have the prototypical size of an NFL linebacker. Players shorter of stature who succeed in the NFL are often superior athletes at their position. This is the case for Bush who hits like a truck but moves like a sports car. Bush’s change of direction ability pops off the tape and he made more sideline to sideline plays in 2018 than any other player on this list. Bush will likely dominate the combine athletic testing— which will go a long way for him before NFL teams decide if they draft a linebacker under 6’0.

Strongest

Devin White, ILB, LSU

Running into Devin White is like crashing your car into a fire hydrant. Out of all the linebackers in this class White was consistently the strongest at the point of attack. White is considered the best linebacker in the class because he makes plays all over the field with ferocious tenacity. Some of his footwork and eye discipline will need to improve but the violence he plays with is an NFL quality already.

Highest Upside

Mack Wilson, ILB, Alabama

The complete package at linebacker. Wilson has size, movement skills, ability to diagnose blocking schemes and route combination in spades. However Wilson struggled to remain consistent as the Alabama season came to a close and draft writers are doing their best to find flaws in his game. No need to second guess this one—Wilson can make plays that few NFL linebackers can and if he gets more consistent he should be the best linebacker drafted in 2019.

Most Underrated

Germaine Pratt, OLB, NC State

Pratt experienced a huge surge in production in his final season at NC State. He was a tackling machine who showcased the ability to get off blocks and be a stout run defender. Against the pass Pratt was used as an off-ball blitzer and generated tons of pressure. As a result of being blitzed so often Pratt is probably the least polished in coverage on this list. He might need to fit into a certain scheme to maximize his talents but put him on the field at any position and watch him hunt.

Honorable Mentions

Te’von Coney, ILB, Notre Dame: Highest Skill

Bobby Okereke, ILB, Stanford: Body Beautiful

Chase Hansen, OLB, Utah: Most Underrated

Vosean Joseph, OLB, Florida: Most Athletic

Deshaun Davis, ILB, Auburn: Strongest

Ben Burr-Kiven, OLB, Boise State: Highest Skill

Khalil Hodge, ILB, Buffalo: Most Underrated

TJ Edwards, ILB, Wisconsin: Highest Skill