The linebacker position has been a need for the Raiders for a long time. Instead of drafting late round picks or signing long in the tooth veterans to man a linebacker spot, here’s a crazy idea—use of the 3 first round picks to address a need.
There are a few pretty darn good linebackers in this group but it’s a top heavy group and the good ones will likely be gone after round 3. Here are a few names to keep your eye on today during the on field drills at the combine.
Devin Bush, Michigan
Weight: 234 lbs
Bush is a silky smooth athlete who has no problem playing in space. His agility and speed are on display on every play, and Bush is a true sideline to sideline linebacker. Don’t let his relatively short stature fool you, he’s also a load against the run and uses his natural low center of gravity to unload into blockers and stand them up.
If Bush were 2 inches taller he would be everyone’s consensus top LB. After the athletic testing is over, Bush has a chance to move up plenty of boards. He will test among the top performers in most categories.
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame
Weight: 234 lbs
Tranquill also stands a chance to be a top performer because he used to be a defensive back. The Captain at Notre Dame originally signed to play safety and switched to linebacker after his freshman season. Tranquill is one of the best linebackers in coverage coming into the NFL and routinely locked down TEs and defended passes. He already smashed the bench test with 31 reps of 225 lbs, better than all but 3 defensive lineman.
Tranquill was one of Gruden’s favorites at Senior Bowl practices and was named captain of the North Team. He is a tough player who loves football and looks like a Gruden grinder from the outside looking in. Theres a good chance quite a few teams will be in love with Tranquill after his on-field drills.
Josh Allen, Kentucky
Height: 6’4 7/8
Weight: 262 lbs
This is slightly cheating because Allen is really an edge rusher but will work out with the linebackers during the combine. Allen is very likely to go before the Raiders pick at 4th overall but would be a no-brainer if he were to still be available when the Raiders are still on the clock. He has the chance to become a premier defender in the NFL, an edge rusher who can also cover a slot. Not many defenders in the history of the NFL have Allen’s skillset coming into the league. A team in the top of the draft will be getting one helluva player.
In Allen’s press conference today he specifically mentioned the Raiders, saying he thinks he could help the team and the team could help him get better. He will test great but even if he doesn’t there isn’t much that could hurt his draft stock at this point. I predict he will run 4.6 in the 40 to go along with a 38 inch vertical to solidify his status as a top 5 pick in April’s draft.