Welcome back to the next edition in our combine series. Today, we’ll focus our attention towards the linebacker class. The obvious top choice in the draft is Devin White from LSU, and should be drafted pretty high in the first round. The other first round hopeful is Devin Bush, Jr from Michigan. We’ll spend some time below breaking down his game. Outside of those players, the top tier talent is limited. However, we’ll analyze some talented linebackers that’ll be good value in the middle rounds of the draft.
Devin Bush, Jr
Devin Bush Jr is a name that’s been on the radar for two years now. The son of former Atlanta Falcon Devin Bush, Sr has been buzzing into the ears of collegiate offenses and putting everyone on notice. Bush had a phenomenal sophomore season registering 102 tackles with 5 sacks earning a Butkus award nomination. He also received 1st team All Big 10 honors. He elevated his play on the field during his Junior season with the wolverines. Bush became a fixture on the Michigan defense, often disrupting offenses all over the country. His play earned him the Big Ten Defensive player of the year, and earned 2nd team AP All-American honors.
Devin Bush displays the qualities that involve becoming a fixture on a defense in the NFL. He’s an excellent leader on the field, but also plays like he’s got a chip on his shoulder. That slight cockiness elevates his game on the field. He plays very physical, and gets after the football very well. He shows good anticipation on defense and his motor is always running hot. Bush brings versatility with him to the NFL having played all 3 linebacker positions.
Although he displays the qualities of a linebacker at the next level, there’s questions about his size. His measurements at the combine were 5’11, 234lbs. He plays much bigger than his size indicates. He finished with the highest vertical jump at the combine, and tied for 2nd in the 40 yard dash. Devin Bush, Jr will make a solid addition to a team with linebacker needs coming into the draft. Devin can expect to hear his name called in first round of Thursday’s draft, and most likely higher than where Dad was drafted (26th).
Drue Tranquill has experienced a roller coaster journey as a member of the fighting Irish football team. The first two years of his collegiate career, he suffered devastating injuries to both ACL’s limiting his growth as a football player. As he made a remarkable return from these injuries, he moved to linebacker after previously lining up at safety. Despite Drue’s limited experience at linebacker, he jumped right in and took on the challenge. He became a 2 year captain of the Irish, and finished his senior year with 86 tackles, 9 for a loss, and 3.5 sacks. Tranquill finished his final 3 seasons with 75+ tackles per year.
Thee 2018 Wuerffel trophy winner (awarded to a student athlete exemplifying community service combined with academic and athletic performance) demonstrated strong character for the Fighting Irish while becoming an exceptional leader for their football team. He exhibited a high motor on the field, and was very physical not being afraid to lay an imposing hit on an opponent. While he was good in coverage at linebacker, he has what can be referred to as “stone hands”. Drue Tranquill does have a few red flags with his injury history and limited experience at linebacker. However, the hard work and determination he puts forth will help him succeed at the next level. Whether it’s as a special team contributor, reserve role, or eventual starter, Drue Tranquill deserves an opportunity to compete at the next level.
Mack Wilson is 6’1, 240lb linebacker from the University of Alabama. Wilson was limited at the combine only participating in the vertical and broad jump, after dealing with a sore hamstring. He’s not a shy bird when discussing his overall value and potential. Wilson feels like he’s the best linebacker in this draft. There’s nothing wrong with confidence. In fact, it’s an excellent character trait in succeeding at the next level. Wilson finished the season with 2nd team All SEC honors after making 71 tackles, and 2 interceptions.
Mack Wilson brings to the draft several likable talents in a successful NFL linebacker. Wilson has tremendous ball skills. He finished an Alabama career in which he recorded 6 interceptions in 2 years. He displays good lateral movement, and does well attacking the ball carrier finishing tackles. However, he lacked penetration to the offensive backfield for tackles. He tends to be slow off the ball, and needs work on his angling to the ball. The puzzling statistic is the lack of sacks he obtained during his collegiate career. Wilson could project as a WILL linebacker in the NFL. In what is a weak class of linebackers, so Mack Wilson could sneak into the second round of the draft.
What a great story this kid has compiled during his years at the University of Minnesota. Blake Cashman entered Minneapolis as a walk on, and exited campus as a NFL prospect. The road in between exemplifies the hard work and determination that Blake has running through his veins. Simply put, Blake Cashman is a grinder. Being a walk on to your home state university is cool, but not cool enough for Cashman. He walked on to the football team, and initially earned a spot on special teams. He grinded his way to being a rotational player on defense as a sophomore.
The determination to improve finally earned him a football scholarship after his sophomore season. Cashman worked his way into the lineup as a starter on defense and earning himself the “C” after his junior season. He finished his senior year with 104 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Those statistics came with being recognized as 2nd team All Big Ten.
Blake Cashman arrived in Indianapolis with a purpose: Impress the scouts, and make sure they don’t forget his name. That’s exactly what he accomplished. He finished in the top 7 in every category. The game tape on Cashman shows a hard worker who’s very aggressive on the field. He locks in on the ball carrier, and has shown the ability to make good tackles. Cashman 5 games last season with 10+ tackles. Very impressive! The one red flag on his resume is injuries. There was a span before his senior season where he was under the knife for 3 separate shoulder surgeries. Teams may think that long term durability could be an issue. Any team willing to take a chance on this young man will be sure to get a natural leader willing to work hard to attain team goals.
The FBS leader in tackles (176) last season is ready to burst onto the NFL map. Ben Burr-Kirven is a 6’0, 230lb senior from the University of Washington. He’s coming off an incredible season that earned him honors as 1st team AP All-American. Burr-Kirven also earned the prestigious honor of the Pat Tillman PAC 12 defensive player of the year award. The stats Ben compiled during his senior campaign would need another article to cover, but he did everything on the field in college. Of the 176 tackles, he collected 94 solo stops on defense. Burr-Kirven finished his collegiate career with 338 total tackles.
The team taking a chance on an undersized linebacker will be receiving a player with an extremely high motor and a tremendous football IQ. He plays a very physical game and exhibits a ton of explosiveness. He does lack some of the length that’s needed at the next level, but makes up for it with quickness. The one thing concerning scouts is the size. Can he succeed as a LB? Is he better suited as a box safety? Day 3 of the draft is where his name is expected to be called. Only time will tell how his path is drawn, but Ben Burr-Kirven is a good football player. He could be a strong contributor on special teams at the very least, but the heart worn on his sleeve should help him get on the field as a contributor to a NFL team.
The linebacker class is not the strongest of position groups in this year’s draft. However, the elite players in this group (White, Bush, Wilson) are bound to make an immediate impact on NFL rosters this summer. The value in the middle rounds is either boom or bust, but these players have shown the ability to compete at the collegiate level, and should be able to make contributions to a NFL roster. Our final installment of the combine series will attack the defensive backs, and will be available in the next day or so. Stop back on the website and check it out!