Name: Devin Bush
Devin Bush has all the tools to be a great NFL linebacker, but his lack of size may ultimately drop him into round two. Still, thanks to the current era of NFL offense, Bush may be entering the league at exactly the right time to be an immediate difference-maker.
The one real detriment to Bush’s draft stock. If Bush starts early on, he will be one of the smallest starting linebackers in the league. His lack of size influences his play style, as well, as it leads him to avoid blocks at times rather than taking them on. It is not for lack of effort or aggressiveness, more a matter of understanding weaknesses. Thankfully, his overall play style mitigates this issue, as he is generally unafraid to deliver hits and can create separation from blockers thanks to elite quickness.
There is no area of the field out of range for Bush. He is a true sideline-to-sideline player who can cover any manner of offensive weapon. Bush’s first step is explosive, he fires through gaps with fervor, can duck blocks without sacrificing assignment, has tremendous balance for the position, great turn and run flexibility and lethal blitzing speed. From an athletic standpoint, Bush has it all.
Bush is extremely bright, and that paired with his elite athleticism predicts well for his coverage upside in the NFL. Most of his time in coverage at Michigan was spent in zone, and his speed allowed him to run the seam with most tight ends. As a man defender, he is certainly quick enough to cover backs out of the backfield, and even drifted into the slot to cover receivers on many occasions. As he develops, he should get more comfortable as a man defender, especially as he is tasked with guarding athletic tight ends who have a major size advantage on him. For now, any coverage lapses he may possess are not the result of physical deficiencies.
Bush is quick to the ball because he reads and reacts efficiently. Simply put, he does not blow many assignments. He can be susceptible to misdirection and fakes from time to time, but generally, Bush is on the ball, literally and figuratively. He also has worked a variety of assignments, both as a run and pass defender. Bush has plenty of experience as a blitzer with 10 career sacks, can sink into zone coverage or stick man-to-man and can take on any blocking scheme.
Bush is downhill and aggressive when he needs to be without sacrificing discipline. He is relatively low to the ground and plays fast, which means he finishes his tackles strong. Bush shoots gaps with the best of him, resulting in a number of disruptions in the backfield. While he is rangy, Bush’s lack of length means he will not have ideal tackle radius, but he makes up for it with motor and quick reads. He will not make the shoestring tackles longer linebackers will, but he will get places those guys cannot.
A lot of this will come down to Anthony Barr. It seems fairly likely that Barr will sign a big deal elsewhere, possible as a 3-4 edge. In that scenario, the Vikings would have a massive hole at Sam linebacker. Bush is considerably smaller than Barr, but he possesses a similar skill set in that he should be an immediate versatile asset in coverage and as a blitzer. He is one of the headiest defensive players in the draft, and should not take too long to adapt mentally to NFL speed. The only major question will be how his size impacts him early on. But given the nature of today’s NFL, undersized, uber-athletic linebackers are succeeding now more than ever. Eric Kendricks is about the same size as Bush, after all. As long as the Vikings stretch him outside a bit, mitigating his size disadvantage, Bush could be a day one stud in their defense.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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