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Draft Prospect Profiles: Inside Linebacker

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NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang offers his evaluation of the top inside linebacker prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft class.

Devin White, LSU, 6-0, 237, 4.42

Strengths: Built like a Sherman tank on roller skates, White is a true thumper, generating eye-popping collisions with dramatic closing speed and supreme stopping power due to his compact frame and iron-like grip. A former running back and it shows with his excellent stop and start quickness to avoid would-be blockers in tight spaces, as well as the vision and anticipation to hit holes at full speed. Improved awareness and timing in coverage in 2018, doubling his previous career high with six passes broken up. Voted a “permanent” team captain over 2017-18 seasons. Beloved by the coaching staff, players and fans at LSU for his dedication to the program and never-say-die attitude.

Weaknesses: Picking nits, but White has shorter arms than ideal, which can leave him struggling to disengage when blockers get into his pads and limits his tackle radius in pursuit.

Devin Bush, Michigan, 5-11, 234, 4.43

Strengths: Shorter than preferred but otherwise possesses an ideal frame for inside linebacker with good overall musculature and weight distribution, including a thick lower half. Easy mover who accelerates in a flash due to his quick feet and short, choppy steps which help him remain balanced through contact. Plays to his timed speed, beating backs to the corner. Good agility to avoid would-be blockers while showing impressive power in his punch to disengage. Highly physical hitter who seems to enjoy the combative element of the sport. Athletic bloodlines: Father, Devin Bush Sr., played at Florida State and spent eight seasons at safety in the NFL.

Weaknesses: Lack of ideal height shows up on film as Bush loses sight of the ball too often, running himself out of plays. Takes highly aggressive, almost reckless angles to the football, which leave savvy runners cut-back lanes to exploit. Too willing to leave his feet as a tackler.

Mack Wilson, Alabama, 6-1, 240, 4.65

Strengths: Prototypical frame. Good balance to hold his ground, bending his knees and sprawling to anchor. Easy athleticism, including terrific initial quickness and a secondary burst to close, showing above average straight-line speed overall for the position. Generates impressive power with little runway, a testament to his closing speed and compact, powerful frame. Good coordination and balance when operating in reverse, dropping back easily and showing the loose hips to turn and accelerate smoothly. Good awareness and soft hands for coverage, converting six of his 13 career passes defensed into interceptions.

Weaknesses: Not yet the sum of his parts. Spotty instincts, often taking false steps and relying upon his athleticism to recover. Can struggle to disengage once blockers latch on, needing to show greater strength and technique with his hands. Erratic strike zone as a tackler, too often attempting to grab hold at the chest level and wrestle ball carriers to the ground rather than consistently driving through with his hips and wrapping his arms.

Bobby Okereke, Stanford, 6-1, 239, 4.58

Strengths: Much more athletic than recent Stanford defenders. Coordinated athlete showing balance and agility shuffling and sliding off blocks to pursue laterally and downfield or when turning to drop in coverage. Physical face-up tackler whose long arms provide an expanded tackle radius. Unusual build for an inside linebacker, sporting a lanky, high-cut frame that belies a physical, no-nonsense playing style. Shows zero hesitation in taking on fullbacks in the hole. Delivers a jolt to would-be blockers, using his exceptionally long arms and powerful hands to stack and shed.

Weaknesses: Just average instincts, too often getting sucked up in play action or blindly rushing upfield only to watch the back escape on the draw. Lacks ideal body armor for inside linebacker with relatively narrow shoulders and hips that could limit his ability to add and maintain much more weight.

Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M, 6-3, 239, 4.82

Strengths: Looks the part of an NFL inside linebacker with broad shoulders and a compact, athletic v-shaped frame with good overall musculature. Shows good initial quickness, especially coming downhill in run support. Eager to crash the line of scrimmage and willing to take on blockers, showing strength and balance to stand them up in the hole. Good core flexibility, allowing him to scrape corners and adjust quickly in close quarters to latch onto runners. Shows some savvy in coverage.

Weaknesses: Forced to take conservative angles in pursuit downfield to compensate for his average wheels. Shows just average balance when working through the trash, catching blocks and losing his footing too often. Requires a thorough medical screening after suffering multiple arm injuries over his college career.

Best of the Rest:

  • Te’Von Coney, Notre Dame, 6-1, 234, 4.70 (est.)
  • David Long, West Virginia, 5-11, 227, 4.45
  • Tre Lamar, Clemson, 6-3, 253, 4.95

Sleepers:

  • Blake Cashman, Minnesota, 6-1, 237, 4.50
  • Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii, 6-3, 245, 4.86
  • Josiah Tauaefa, Texas-San Antonio, 6-1, 245, 4.82

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