NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang offers his evaluation of the top outside linebacker prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft class.
Josh Allen, Kentucky, 6-5, 262, 4.63
Strengths: Broad-shouldered, long-armed, muscle-bound and loose-hipped, Allen checks all of the boxes of a modern-day edge rusher. Crafty and creative out of the two-point stance, varying his approach with speed, hesitation and an assortment of hand techniques, showing excellent coordination with his feet. Suddenness off the snap to cross the face of tackles with a simple speed rush and complements it with an explosive counter back inside, balance in his spin moves and active, powerful hands. At his best rushing, but improved in coverage in 2018 as well.
Weaknesses: Picking nits, Allen is more finesse than physical despite his imposing frame. At times, he is too reliant upon his length and athleticism to avoid blockers, showing the power to stack and shed but often giving up extra yardage to do so.
Brian Burns, Florida State, 6-5, 249, 4.53
Strengths: Fires off the ball to instantly threaten the corner, whether starting from the two- or three-point stance. Galloping strides to quickly get to top speed, showing the smooth acceleration backed up by his impressive timed speed. Sudden swim move with excellent coordination with his lower body to cleanly climb upfield. Surprisingly stout at the point of attack, using his length and core strength to lock-out much-larger blockers and often create a stalemate.
Weaknesses: High-cut and a slightly top-heavy giving him less-than-ideal balance among edge rushers. Uses a flailing off-hand to steer his course and throttling down to turn sharp laterally. Lacks meaningful experience in coverage.
Vosean Joseph, Florida, 6-1, 230, 4.65 (est.)
Strengths: Tight-skinned, coordinated athlete with the instincts, agility and speed to beat backs to the sideline. Wonderful spatial awareness and balance to duck, dip and slip by would-be blockers, showing vision, patience and athleticism to dance through the trash, almost like a running back. Very good lateral agility to avoid blockers and shows quick, active and surprisingly powerful hands to punch and disengage quickly when opponents do find him before the ball arrives. High-low hitter who brings his hips as a tackler, generating impressive short-area explosiveness to close.
Weaknesses: Relatively narrow shoulders and hips, lacking ideal body armor for linebacker. More of a striker than a technically-refined tackler. Far too many missed tackles on tape where Joseph simply launches himself at ball carriers but fails to wrap up. Over-aggressive in run support, leaving him flat-footed and late reacting to play action. Allows his emotions to get the better of him at times, drawing silly penalties.
Chase Winovich, Michigan, 6-3, 256, 4.59
Strengths: Stout, compact frame with good overall weight distribution and long arms. A master at guessing the snap count. Quick enough to cross the face of tackles and make plays off the edge and excels on counter moves, incorporating a carpenter’s tool belt full of techniques to dip, rip and slip by opponents. Effective bull rusher as well, showing impressive functional power and pad level to get underneath and drive back much larger opponents. Best attribute may be his hands, which are spinning cinder blocks that help him quickly chop through the efforts of tackles to latch onto him.
Weaknesses: Stiff hipped and high cut, causing him to struggle (relatively speaking) changing direction and likely limiting him to a rush-only role. Forced to run a wide arc due to his core stiffness, limiting his effectiveness on twists and stunts and really laboring to peel off and pursue if the quarterback is able to toss the ball over him into the flat or when he guesses wrong on a pitch his way.
Jachai Polite, Florida, 6-3, 258, 4.84
Strengths: Compact, powerful frame with twitchy athleticism and excellent snap anticipation. Often so fast off the ball tackles are left scrambling to recover and playing on their heels, leaving them off-balance and unable to handle his counters and bull rushes. Easy movement skills, operating in forward, reverse and laterally. Wasn’t often used in coverage but shows intriguing change of direction and awareness to handle these duties, peeling off to cover backs. Terrific timing and hand-eye coordination to slap at the ball as he’s being blocked, forcing an FBS-best six fumbles in 2018 alone.
Weaknesses: Didn’t always take his conditioning seriously and opted to declare after just one productive season, leaving some to wonder if he will maintain his intensity after landing a lucrative NFL contract. Too often overwhelmed at the point of attack when blockers latch on. Makes a lot of his plays on backside pursuit, including downfield. Missed the final four games of the 2017 season with a shoulder injury.