The Square Pigeon’s 2019 NFL Draft Coverage – Inside Linebacker
Top 5 Inside Linebackers
There are some definite impact players at inside linebacker this year.
The Raiders even hosted Devin White this week leading to speculation that he may be an option at number four overall.
I can’t imagine that will be the case, but it is a distinct need for Oakland.
Maybe they are looking to trade down from the fourth spot.
1) Devin White LSU
Over the past two seasons, Devin White has been a massively productive linebacker. White averaged nearly ten tackles a game for the past two seasons. His performance this season earned him recognition as a first-team All-SEC and All-American.
The first thing we need to hit on is White’s incredible 40 time. He hit a 4.42 at the combine which is ridiculous for a man of his size. His motor never stops no matter where he is on the field. As a converted running back, he is still just learning, so he will only become better.
Again, he is a converted running back which means there are a ton of things that he isn’t up to par on yet. He’s not great in coverage especially zone coverage. He also gets frozen by play action nearly every time he sees it. Teams will have to hope to coach him up in a hurry for him to make his biggest impact.
2) Devin Bush Michigan
In 2018, Devin Bush earned Big 10 Defensive player of the year honors while being named as a second-team All-American. Bush is a highly productive linebacker, and he is the son of a former NFL player. He was a team captain, but he didn’t play in the bowl game this year to prepare for the draft.
Much like White, Bush is a fast linebacker. He ran a 4.43 at the combine, and he uses that speed to stay with the play every down. Using him close to the line and allowing him to quickly diagnose run plays will make him a huge asset for any team in the league.
His ability to stop the run is offset by his lack of coverage skills. He might have to come off the field on passing downs. He also needs to work on getting off blockers. Once an offensive lineman locks onto him, he is taken out of the play.
3) Germaine Pratt North Carolina State
As a first-team All-ACC member in his only year as a starter with the Wolfpack, Germaine Pratt is another convert to linebacker on this list. Pratt came to NC State and played safety his first two seasons. He recorded over 100 tackles in only 11 games this season.
Pratt offers an incredible amount of versatility. Not only is he a former safety, but he played both at inside and outside linebacker. He has both the pass rushing and coverage skills to stay on the field all three downs.
Again (like White), any team that takes him will have to continue his development. He is a raw talent at linebacker who needs to work on technique and instinct for the position. I will say, I had more fun watching Pratt than any inside linebacker, but he may be a boom or bust prospect.
4) Tre Lamar Clemson
This is the inside linebacker that I value higher than like everyone else. Tre Lamar was a second-team All-ACC member who was also a finalist for the Butkus Award. His 80 tackles were good for second for Clemson even though he missed a game due to injury.
Lamar is a big man and a big hitter. I’m sure that ACC running backs breathed a sigh of relief when he announced that he was heading to the NFL. He is a quintessential downhill thumper who takes great angles to make the tackle. There is also a bit of pass rush ability since he has a quick first step.
Unfortunately, the first step is the only thing quick about Lamar. Given his size, his speed is solid, but it will hinder his range and coverage. He also needs to use his hands better to get off blocks. There is also an evaluation to be made on how much of his production is from his own ability and how much comes from the incredibly talented line in front of him.
5) Mack Wilson Alabama
Mack Wilson made the second team All-SEC as the center piece of one of the nation’s best defenses. While his production looks low when you check his stat line, Wilson rarely played the entire game because of the massive lead that Alabama would put up.
Wilson is a three-down linebacker with great coverage skills. His ability to cover tight ends and running backs led to six interceptions in the past two years. He has great instincts for the running game since he finds the gaps and works off blockers quickly.
Everything screams that Wilson should be great, so why do I have him down at five? Because I’m a stubborn idiot. Watching him is boring. He finds the run gap and waits for the running back to come to him. I like running backs that take the fight to the offense. He never hits the running back in the hole which is why he only had 4.5 tackles for a loss despite being in the right gap. He doesn’t have the killer instinct that linebackers in the NFL need.