Official Grades and Scouting Reports: 2019 Linebackers

Welcome, to the eighth of my official draft reports for the 2019 NFL draft. I will be going position by position giving a full report and grade on every player that I have scouted this season. Obviously, I can’t scout every single prospect in the entire country since I am a one man army and a full-time college student. I’ve tried to get at least 20 done at each position, so I think I’ve covered a pretty good chunk of the players who will be drafted. Each article will start with the worst and get to the best, so if you want to skip down to some of the better prospects you can do that.

Each profile will have some biographic data including name, school, year, height, weight, and “Red Flags”. It will also include a numerical value between 1 and 10 that will dictate there placement in the rankings. The number is calculated based on my own personal grading formula for draft prospects. The profile will have a “round grade” that is based on a scale that I will put at the end of this introduction. Round grades are not a prediction of where a player will get drafted, but where I think they should be drafted.  Last but not least, the profiles will include a small paragraph on my overall thoughts on the prospect and some explanation on their NFL outlook. I’ll try to explain some of each players strengths and weaknesses as well.  

As always you can hit me up on twitter (@DanteCollinelli) if you want to discuss my rankings further. I love talking ball with people so please let me know what you think.

 

Grading Scale

 

First-round: 8.75-10

Second-round: 8.74-7.45

Third-round: 7.44-6.15

Fourth round: 6.14-4.85

Fifth round: 4.84-3.55

Sixth round: 3.54- 2.25

Seventh round: 2.24- .095

UDFA: 0.94-0.0  

 

Number 25: Tre Lamar, Clemson

Image result for tre lamar

Class: Junior

Height/Weight: 6’4 and 250

Round Grade: UDFA

Number Grade: 0.75

Red Flags: None

 

Tre Lamar is one of the slowest linebackers I have ever seen in my life. He looks like he is running in mud when chasing players around the field. 10 years ago Lamar probably would’ve been viewed as a top 100 pick. He does a good job coming downhill in the running game and being a thumper with his big body. Problem is, that type of linebacker is getting phased out of the game and he’s not even that good at it. I really don’t see any role for Lamar at the next level.

 

Number 24: Khalil Hodge

Image result for Khalil hodge

Class: Senior

Height/Weight: 6’1 and 235

Round Grade: UDFA

Number Grade: 0.75

Red Flags: None

 

Hodge plays like there is a firecracker up his butt at all times and has a pretty decent nose for the football. He does his best to weed through all of the traffic created at the line of scrimmage which is admirable. Personally, I don’t think checks any of the other boxes required to be an NFL player. He doesn’t have the athletic profile or the football IQ to make an impact on an NFL field. I feel bad saying that because you can tell that Hodge has a lot of heart but he just isn’t on a high enough level right now.

 

Number 23: Kendall Joseph

Image result for kendall joseph clemson

Class: RS Senior

Height/Weight: 6’0 and 225

Round Grade: UDFA

Number Grade: 0.80

Red Flags: None

 

I really expected more from two linebackers on one of the best defenses in the entire country, but man, they ain’t it. Joseph has exceptional football IQ and always follows his keys in the running game. Joseph still struggles though because he isn’t a free mover. So, you will see him start to head towards the right place, but he lacks the burst, speed, and acceleration to make the play. He is super stiff in the hips which makes him a huge liability in coverage which is something modern linebackers are doing more of. Joseph might be able to make it stick on special teams, but I really doubt it.

 

Number 22: Deshaun Davis, Auburn

Image result for deshaun davis auburn

Class: RS Senior

Height/Weight: 5’11 and 246

Round Grade: UDFA

Number Grade: 0.93

Red Flags: None

 

Davis is another player with high football IQ but lacking the physical traits to actually make the play. Davis reads his running keys well and typically tries to shoot the correct gap to make the tackle. He did a decent job passing off receivers in zone coverage despite not having much ability to make plays on the ball. Davis has super stiff hips and can’t open up to run with anybody. He lacks the speed and burst to go sideline to sideline which limits his upside at the next level. Davis will probably get a camp invite but shouldn’t make the team.

 

Number 21: Chase Hansen, Utah

Image result for chase hansen lb utah

Class: RS Senior

Height/Weight: 6’2 and 220  

Round Grade: 7

Number Grade: 1.63

Red Flags: None

 

Hansen does a couple of things well that don’t really line up with what he does poorly. Hansen did a great job tracking the running back in the backfield and then shooting gaps when they opened up. He has a really nice wingspan but was a poor tackler in college which was weird to see. He did a good job when heading downhill to be a thumper at the line of scrimmage, but I don’t like his initial burst. Hansen showed some short area quickness when asked to play in zone coverage, however, he struggled to use short area quickness to get separation off of blocks. Hansen has some hybrid ability if he can be coached up and taught how to use his strengths to his advantage.

 

Number 20: Gary Johnson, Texas

Image result for gary johnson lb texas

Class: Senior

Height/Weight: 6’0 and 252

Round Grade: 7

Number Grade: 2.02

Red Flags: None

 

So far the linebackers that I have talked about have been players with good football IQ but couldn’t move in space. Gary Johnson is the exact opposite because he can move in space well but has no clue where he is supposed to be. Johnson popped to me (and others) at the combine because of his gaudy athletic numbers. Johnson has the speed and burst to get sideline to sideline fairly quickly which points to higher usage and upside in the NFL. With that said, Johnson almost never fires through the correct gap in the running game and will get lost in coverage way too often. Johnson has some traits that are worth taking a flyer on, but I wouldn’t bet on him.  

 

Number 19: Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington

Image result for ben burr-kirven

Class: Senior

Height/Weight: 6’0 and 222

Round Grade: 7

Number Grade: 2.08

Red Flags: None

 

Burr-Kirven has a cult following on twitter so I’ll try to be careful not to offend them here. Burr-Kirven does a good job flying around the field and being around the ball despite having a long way to go to make the play. You can tell he has a solid feel for the game in zone coverage with reacting to the quarterback’s eyes. Burr-Kirven runs into trouble a lot because he is so small and doesn’t have the needed quickness to get away with his frame at the NFL level. Burr-Kirven will challenge O-linemen all the time but he almost never wins the battle. He doesn’t have a great wingspan which limits his tackling ability and separation skills. Kirven might make it as a special team player if he sticks at all in the NFL.

 

Number 18: Te’Von Coney, Notre Dame

Image result for te'von coney notre dame

Class: Senior

Height/Weight: 6’0 and 240

Round Grade: 6

Number Grade: 3.27

Red Flags: None

 

Has a run defender there is a lot to like about Coney’s game. He does a good job trusting his keys and won’t fall for all the motion back there. He’s a thumper for sure always hitting people hard while trying to wreak havoc on every play. Coney can use his hands to disengage with blockers when heading downhill fairly well. Has a pass defender there is nothing to like about Coney’s game. He lacks the hip fluidness to open up and run with receivers, tight ends, running backs, and quarterbacks. He doesn’t have the instincts to be truly effective in zone coverage. Coney will have to improve his coverage skills at the next level, despite that, I think he’s enough of a playmaker against the run to make a roster in the NFL.

 

Number 17: Bobby Okereke, Stanford

Image result for bobby okereke

Class: Senior

Height/Weight: 6’2 and 232

Round Grade: 6

Number Grade: 3.30

Red Flags: None

 

Okereke has a cult following on twitter especially over at TheDraftNetwork; I mean, wow, those guys love him. I like that Okereke is a sure-handed tackler from multiple angles even when coming in with a full head of steam. He showed the ability to be a great gap shooter at times with his natural quickness. I thought he did a good job in zone coverage due to his hip fluidity allowing him to move freely in space. Okereke starts to get into trouble with me when it comes to football IQ. He will get caught peeking into the backfield way too often for my liking. When he drops into coverage he looks out of place to me. He doesn’t seem to quite grasp route concepts yet which is concerning. Okereke struggles to get off of blocks despite having long arms and decent power in his hands. Okereke has a long way to go to be considered for a starting spot at the next level.

 

Number 16: Ulysses S Gilbert, Akron 

Image result for ulysees gilbert

Class: Senior

Height/Weight: 6’1 and 225

Round Grade: 5

Number Grade: 3.59

Red Flags: None

 

Gilbert’s best trait is by far his sideline to sideline range combined with his athletic ability. Gilbert racked up a lot of tackles at Akron just based on his effort level and gigantic wingspan alone. He did an okay job handling running backs out of the backfield in man to man coverage. He can stay with them speed-wise but struggles with good route runners. Gilbert also displayed some pretty impressive change of direction skills. Gilbert is essentially a ball of clay at this point of his career. He played at a small school and is still super raw when it comes to the mental side of the game. Gilbert has an intriguing upside in a really poor linebacker class with minimal depth in the later rounds.

 

Number 15: Sione Takitaki

Image result for sione takitaki

Class: RS Senior

Height/Weight: 6’2 and 245

Round Grade: 5

Number Grade: 3.69

Red Flags: None

 

I liked what I saw from Takitaki when it came to the mental side of the game. He showed the ability to understand what offenses were trying to do while identifying pulling linemen coming up to hit him. When he gets into range to make a tackle he displays great closing speed and solid tackling fundamentals. He did a good enough job in zone coverage that should get him by in the NFL but I would like to see him open up quicker. I worry about Takitaki’s ability to shed blocks in the running game. He doesn’t have the natural length to just move blockers off of his chest plate. His overall athletic ability doesn’t always look great either especially when asked to go sideline to sideline. Takitaki has some of the makings of a successful NFL linebacker but still has a way to go.

 

Number 14: Jahlani Tavai, Hawai’i

Image result for jahlani tavai

Class: RS Senior

Height/Weight: 6’3 and 235

Round Grade: 5

Number Grade: 3.81

Red Flags: None

 

I love that Tavai doesn’t fall for all the motion happening in the backfield and trusts his keys. He flashed the ability to get rid of his opponent’s hands in order to shed blocks but needs to do that way more often. He did make some plays that required him to go sideline to sideline which is rare for this class and adds to his overall upside. He’s got enough quickness and strength to get through gaps in the running game. Tavai isn’t a great tackler which is something very important to me when it comes to linebackers. He doesn’t keep himself balanced through contact which allows ball carriers to shake him off. Tavai can look stiff at times on tape and was rarely asked to open his hips and run at Hawaii. Tavai can make an NFL impact as long as he works on his tackling at the next level.

 

Number 13: Terrill Hanks, New Mexico State

IMG_2637

Class: Senior

Height/Weight: 6’2 and 235

Round Grade: 5

Number Grade: 3.95

Red Flags: None

 

Man, I really wanted to grade Hanks a lot higher than this after watching him make some plays at the Senior Bowl. He then proceeds to go to the combine and break my heart by finishing in the third percentile for the 40-yard dash. On tape, it looked Hanks had fluid hips that make him effective when dropping into zone coverage. I love the motor that he plays with; he’s always around the ball and trying to make an impact on every play. He can shoot gaps at the line of scrimmage by getting skinny and reducing his surface area. Hanks has just one year of experience at linebacker as a converted safety. To put it mildly, he has no idea where he is supposed to be on the field like 90 percent of the time. He plays like a chicken with his cut off but with really bad speed. Hanks has a lot of growing to do at the position and flashed enough to show ample upside to warrant a fifth-round pick.

 

Number 12: TJ Edwards, Wisconsin

Image result for Tj Edwards

Class: RS Senior

Height/Weight: 6’1 and 248

Round Grade: 5

Number Grade: 4.33

Red Flags: None

 

Edwards is a heady 4-year starter that adds value to a linebacker room through his anticipation. He does a good job trusting his keys in the run game not getting moved by all the movement in the backfield. Edwards has great power in both his hands and pads which he uses to disengage from blocks. Edwards does a good jump of slipping through the cracks in the offensive lineman to make plays in the backfield. Edwards isn’t a free mover in space which limits his upside a good amount. He has super stiff hips especially in zone coverage where he has to open up and move laterally. Edwards isn’t going to keep up with anyone in man coverage either, so he’s really just a run defender. Edwards might be able to find the field with his mental processing but his impact will be limited.

 

Number 11: Vosean Joseph, Florida

Image result for vosean joseph

Class: Junior

Height/Weight: 6’0 and 227

Round Grade: 5

Number Grade: 4.62

Red Flags: None

 

Joseph is a player who if asked to do a lot then he will fail, but if he’s asked to just run downhill and make plays then he will be fine. He has good pop in his pads when coming downhill and is a decent tackler to finish plays. I liked the way he was used as a coverage defender against running backs and tight ends. He has a great ability to flip his hips and run in space with just about anybody. Joseph is another linebacker who suffers from the chicken with no head syndrome. He runs well and has a great motor to get to plays that don’t involve him, but the path he takes there isn’t great. He doesn’t trust his run keys and will take weird paths to the football at times. Joseph has exciting movement tools but he needs considerable mental development before he can make an impact.

 

Number 10: Dakota Allen, Texas Tech

Image result for dakota allen nfl

Class: Senior

Height/Weight: 6’1 and 235

Round Grade: 5

Number Grade: 4.86

Red Flags: Charged with Burglary in 2016

 

It should tell you something that we are in my top 10 linebackers and the tenth one is a 5th round grade with a burglary charge. Allen has some off the field concerns but I think that he has some traits to be successful at the NFL level. Allen was a successful blitzer while at Texas Tech because of his quick first step and downhill mentality. He does a good job when asked to drop into zone coverage because he has smooth hips and feet. He will have these moments when he comes downhill and blows up a play that will make you say “wow” out loud. Too often, however, he gets stuck amongst the trees and can’t separate from his blocker. Allen has a lot of stuff to work out but the traits are present for at least a rotational player at the next level.

 

Number 9: Tre Watson, Maryland

Image result for tre watson maryland

Class: Senior

Height/Weight: 6’2 and 235

Round Grade: 4

Number Grade: 5.04

Red Flags: None

 

Watson was a small breath of fresh air for me because he’s the first player on this list that didn’t make me wanna bang my head on the wall. Look, Watson isn’t great but I’m excited about his upside. Watson does a good job of using his quickness to avoid blocks in the open field as he just slips around people like a snake. He showed off good tackling ability as someone who always plays behind his pads and wraps up. He made five interceptions in college which points to some ball skills. I think he lucked into a couple of those though so manage your expectations in that regard. I did like him dropping into zone coverage with smooth hips while using his football IQ to move on the ball. The big thing for Watson will be if he learns how to disengage from blocks once he’s tied up. He can avoid contact well enough but that gets harder at the next level. Watson could make an impact in a couple of years with some development.

 

Number 8: Joe Giles-Harris, Duke

IMG_2401
Joe Giles-Harris

Class: RS Junior

Height/Weight: 6’2 and 240

Round Grade: 4

Number Grade: 5.46

Red Flags: None

 

Giles-Harris starts a three-player run I like to call “linebackers who disappointed me at the combine”. On tape, you see a smart linebacker who fills his holes quickly and trusts his keys at all times. He even showed that he could generate some separation on blocks because he has powerful hands. Originally, I had down that Harris would be effective as a coverage player in space but then he ran in the 37th percentile for the 40-yard dash. To make matters worse he finished in the 7th percentile for vertical jump and 13th for broad jump. He struggled with opening up his hips but I didn’t think he lacked explosiveness and long speed on tape. Giles-Harris doesn’t hit many of the athletic thresholds for the position but has enough skill to find some success at the next level.

 

Number 7: David Long, West Virginia

Image result for david long west virginia

Class: RS Junior

Height/Weight: 5’11 and 225

Round Grade: 4

Number Grade: 5.49

Red Flags: None

 

Next up in “you disappointed me at the combine” we have David Long who didn’t do any athletic testing. The only thing he did was measure in and oh boy did he measure in super small. On tape, I liked Long’s closing burst when he was making tackles both coming downhill and in the open field. He’s a pretty good gap shooter in the run game with enough football IQ to pass in the NFL. He likes to use leverage as his advantage when tasked with getting off of blocks. He plays low to the ground and uses that to disengage. All of my concerns about Long had to do with coverage ability and movement skills. Since he didn’t test at the combine I can’t go back and say I was wrong about those things. Long has some starter upside but his ability to cover will be huge for him sticking in the league.

 

Number 6: Germaine Pratt, NCST

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Notre Dame
Germaine Pratt

Class: RS Senior

Height/Weight: 6’3 and 245

Round Grade: 4

Number Grade: 5.76

Red Flags: None

 

Last but not least in my favorite game “you disappointed me at the combine” we have Germaine Pratt. Pratt was my number three linebacker heading into the combine because I thought he could cover backs and tight ends in the open field. Well, guess what? He actually ran super well(88th percentile)! Ha, bet I fooled you on that one. Pratt let me down when it came to his other testing numbers. 47th in the broad jump is concerning plus his arm length and hand size isn’t great. Combine that with his struggles to get off of blocks on tape and you have a bad combo. Pratt is good in coverage and showed the ability to track the ball all over the field. That right there means he might get a chance to see the field his first season. If he can figure out how to get off of blocks he will produce at a decent level.

 

Number 5: Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame

Image result for drue tranquill

Class: Senior

Height/Weight: 6’2 and 233

Round Grade: 3

Number Grade: 6.2

Red Flags: Tore his ACL two straight seasons.

 

So, Tranquill breaks the streak of combine let downs by actually being someone that impressed me greatly at the combine. Tranquill tore his ACL twice but he was fully healthy this past season and looked pretty good. Tranquill does decent job shedding blocks with good hand usage and a powerful initial pop in his strike. I liked his movement skills in space and in coverage. He did a good job going from sideline to sideline to make plays out along the boundary. He had smooth hip transitions on tape, and his combine testing reflected that. Tranquill is a converted safety, so he’s super green when it comes to the mental part of playing linebacker. He needs to improve in his ability to read running backs behind the line of scrimmage and identifying which gap he should hit. Tranquill’s movement skills are intriguing and worth a look on late day-two but he comes with plenty of risks.

 

Number 4: Blake Cashman, Minnesota

Image result for blake cashman lb minnesota

Class: Senior

Height/Weight: 6’2 and 235

Round Grade: 3

Number Grade: 6.33

Red Flags: None

 

I haven’t been doing this for a long time but Blake Cashman is actually a first for me. He came into the combine as a relatively unknown player and tested out of his mind. Usually when that happens scouts go back to the tape and find out the player is just an athlete and not a football player. Well, Blake Cashman turned that stereotype on its head because he’s actually a solid football player. Cashman does a great job shooting gaps in the running game by making tackles against the grain. His closing burst when he’s making tackles at any angle is really good which is rare for the class. His movement skills are above average which gives him upside as a coverage player as well. Cashman’s smaller frame can betray him in the running game sometimes leading to him getting swallowed up by bigger linemen. Overall, I think Cashman can have an impact year one with his movement skills.

 

Number 3: Mack Wilson, Alabama

Image result for mack wilson nfl draft

Class: Junior

Height/Weight: 6’0 and 231

Round Grade: 2

Number Grade: 8.26

Red Flags: None

 

Mack Wilson could have gotten a round one grade from me in about November but he regressed this season. Last year, he showed great instincts in the running game to shoot the correct gap and make a TFL in the backfield. He showed that in flashes this season but had way more false steps in 2018. Wilson is a smooth mover in space and has good short area quickness which helps him doge blocks and is effective in man coverage. During his sophomore season Wilson was a coverage ace for Alabama but this past season he blew way too many coverages. Wilson has the sideline to sideline range that teams will look for in a middle linebacker. He should be on the field at some point during his rookie season but he must be more consistent if he wants to stick there.

 

Number 2: Devin Bush Jr., Michigan

IMG_2160
Devin Bush

Class: Junior

Height/Weight: 5’11 and 235

Round Grade: 1

Number Grade: 9.05

Red Flags: None

 

I really freaking love Devin Bush. He started the season as my number one overall linebacker and he will finish the season my eight overall player in the class. Bush is a game changer with his attitude and play speed. He runs around the field like runaway missile hitting everything that moves. He was one of the best blitzers in the country coming downhill to lay the boom down on opposing quarterbacks. He has the range to get sideline to sideline on just about every single play. He’s a smooth mover in space with a lot of really promising reps in both zone and man coverage. The only bad thing I can say about Bush is that his small frame will get him eaten up in the run game at times. He will need to improve his hand usage when engaging with linemen. Bush should be an instant impact starter at middle linebacker. He will change the attitude of an entire defense.

 

Number 1: Devin White, LSU

IMG_2161
Devin White

Class: Junior

Height/Weight: 6’0 and 240

Round Grade: 1

Number Grade: 9.20

Red Flags: None

 

I really freaking love Devin White. Sound familiar? I could copy and paste pretty much everything I said about Devin Bush and it would apply to Devin White. With that said, White does everything to a higher degree than Bush. White is the fastest linebacker I have ever seen in my short time covering the draft. He gets sideline to sideline in the blink of an eye and it’s so exciting to watch. He’s got plenty of speed and short area quickness to be effective in both zone and man coverage. He hits like a truck especially when coming downhill in against the running game. He’s a playmaker always going to strip ball carriers and make sacks when blitzing. White is a great tackler in space and in tight quarters from all different angles. The only issue with White’s game is that he’s still a little green mentally. During his sophomore season, he made a lot of bad choices about shooting gaps. He improved a lot on that area this season, so I’m convinced he will continue to do so at the next level. White should be a day one-starter and pro-bowl contender this season.

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