Every draft class has a theme. There’s always positions that are deep, and positions not so deep. You ask yourself going in to the draft every year, ‘if my team needs position x to fill a need this year, do we have to take them in the first round? Or if we miss out on the top guys is there good value at the position in later rounds?’.
Of course outliers exist. A JaMarcus Russell can be taken first and a Tom Brady can be taken 199th. There’s no exact science to the draft. That’s what makes it so fun. The good thing is that a player’s draft position does not determine his career, he does. However, every year we are overloaded with hundreds of analysts offering us their pre-draft rankings, ratings, and grades to give us an idea of what to expect in the upcoming draft. So what are the strengths and weakness in the 2019 class? Let’s break down the linebackers.
- Top Prospect: Devin White, LSU
- Biggest Riser: Blake Cashman, Minnesota
- Sleeper Potential: David Long, WVU
- Bust Potential: Devin Bush, Michigan
- Players With A First Round Grade: 2
Let’s first address the elephant in the room so that I don’t have an army show up at my door to stone me. No, I do not think that Devin Bush is a bust. However, since Bush and Devin White are the only two linebackers I gave a First Round Grade to, Bush is the one I went for with bust Potential. The biggest issue I came away with in watching his tape is his ability to disengage from blocks, which can be a problem in the run game. If a lineman gets his big paws on Bush, he can be removed from the play entirely. However, Bush does have the best coverage grade in the draft from the LB position. The fluidity in his hips is a sight to behold, and if he can learn some block shedding moves, he may come away the best linebacker in the class.
On day two you have the big riser in a Blake Cashman, and the forgotten man in Mack Wilson out of Alabama. Cashman shot up boards with his athletic testing. The athleticism translates to the field well, as his read and react skills are remarkable. His best fit may be as a chess piece to move around the defense and let him make plays with his speed. That being said, Wilson is a guy that could step in day 1 and take some reps. With only 17 starts under his belt, he is a bit raw, but his ceiling is high. He doesn’t have the lateral ability or the top end speed of the others, but he makes up for it with his football IQ and overall physical skill set. Don’t be surprised if he sneaks in to round 1.
After the big 4, (White, Bush, Wilson, Cashman), you’re mostly looking at day 3 value. There are guys who can play, but are scheme specific and may need to find a niche in the NFL. The big sleeper is David Long out of West Virginia. He displays excellent short area quickness, change of direction ability and anticipation. He’s a sub package defender that can play sideline to sideline, however his lack of size (5’11, 227lbs) can restrict him to nickel football.
The Steelers did bring in Mark Barron, who expects to be a 3-down linebacker that doesn’t come off the field. This mitigates the need to reach for one on day 1 if their guy isn’t there. Wait for day 2 and you can still potentially grab a higher end prospect. If one of the Devin’s do fall, Barron could be limited to dimeback duties by mid season. This could also make Jon Bostic a cap causality. Behind the starting tandem of Vince Williams and Mark Barron, you have Bostic, Tyler Matakevich, Keith Kelsey, and JT Jones. It’s a possibility that even if the Steelers do get their guy round 1, they double dip at the position on day 3.
- Devin White, LSU
- Devin Bush, Michigan
- Mack Wilson, Alabama
- Blake Cashman, Minnesota
- Vosean Joseph, Florida
- Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame
- Bobby Okereke, Stanford
- Joe Giles-Harris, Duke
- David Long, WVU
- Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington