NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Draft's Top Linebackers

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 5, 2019

NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Draft's Top Linebackers

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    After 11 months of evaluation, conversations with scouts and coaches and endless nights on the road or at games, our staff is finally ready to answer the burning questions surrounding the 2019 NFL draft.

    Who is the best overall player? How about the best at each position? 

    The goal of the NFL Draft 400 series is to figure that out.

    The top 400 players were tracked, scouted, graded and ranked, with help from scouting assistants Marshal Miller and Jerod Brown. Together, we viewed tape of a minimum of three games per player—the same standard NFL teams use.

    Oftentimes, we saw every play from a prospect over the last two years. That led to the grades, rankings and scouting reports you see here.

    Players were graded on strengths and weaknesses, with a pro-player comparison added to match the prospect's style or fit in the pros. The top 400 players will be broken down by position for easy viewing before the release of a top-400 big board prior to the draft, which begins April 25.

    In the case of a tie, players were ranked based on their overall grade in our top 400.

         

Grading Scale

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    At the end of each scouting report, you'll see a final grade that falls somewhere between 4.00 and 9.00. This scale comes from the teaching I received from Charley Casserly, Michael Lombardi and other former or current front-office personnel in the NFL. 

    This applies to all positions across the board.

         

    Matt Miller's NFL Draft Grading Scale
    GradeLabel
    9.00Elite—No. 1 pick
    8.00-8.99All-Pro—Rare Talent
    7.50-7.99Round 1—Pro Bowl Potential
    7.00-7.49Round 1—Top-15 Player Potential
    6.50-6.99Round 2—Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    6.00-6.49Round 3—Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    5.80-5.99Round 3-4—Future Starter
    5.70-5.79Round 4—Backup Caliber
    5.60-5.69Round 5—Backup Caliber
    5.30-5.59Round 6—Backup Caliber
    5.10-5.25Round 7—Backup Caliber
    5.00Priority Free Agent
    4.50-4.99Camp Player

49. Joe Dineen Jr., Kansas

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    Craig Hudson/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Hitter's mentality that wins at almost every phase of contact.

    —275 tackles over the last two seasons with relentless pursuit to the football.

    —Excellent processing skills to diagnose interior runs and fill gaps.

    —Aggressive at the point of attack and stays square through contact.

                    

    WEAKNESSES

    —Change-of-direction skills are underwhelming and will leave him exposed in space.

    —Coverage skills won't compete at the NFL level routinely.

    —Straight-line athlete that lacks hip fluidity, which is particularly evident in zone-coverage drops.

    —Will overrun off-tackle plays and leave backside cutback lanes available without ability to redirect.

             

    OVERALL

    A relentless player with a nose for the football, Joe Dineen is the quintessential run-thumping NFL linebacker. Unfortunately, his game simply isn't as valued in today's NFL as it was in the past. Dineen has excelled over the last two seasons for the Jayhawks, seemingly always near the football and serving as a clear leader on defense. If a team is willing to hold a roster spot for a two-down linebacker with special teams value, Dineen just may find a long-term home in the NFL.

              

    GRADE: 4.90 (CAMP PLAYER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Tyler Matakevich

48. Koron Crump, Arizona State

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Versatile athlete with rare speed and agility when healthy.

    —Shows impressive burst and short-area explosion.

    —Pass-rushing technique is above average, offering potential as a third-down sub-package player.

    —Special teams star that showed athleticism to even play gunner.

              

    WEAKNESSES

    —Tore ACL early in 2017 season.

    —Redshirt senior season that ended early due to insufficient recovery of previously injured knee.

    —Lack of sustained production is concerning and points to fluke wins via athleticism against inferior talent.

    —Run support relies on athleticism as opposed to technique and will lose, particularly when blockers are able to get on his frame.

                  

    OVERALL

    Koron Crump might be the best pass-rushing off-ball linebacker in this entire class. Unfortunately, that one trick isn't enough to earn him an NFL spot. Athleticism is important, but only if a player can transition that athleticism to actual play on the field. Crump is enticing as a physical prospect, but he leaves much to be desired in regards to tangible traits. He's the type of player that makes a practice squad in Year 1 as a team works to develop him over time.

                

    GRADE: 4.90 (CAMP PLAYER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Darron Lee

47. Natrez Patrick, Georgia

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    STRENGTHS

    —Physical at the point of attack and looks to initiate contact as a run defender.

    —Excellent length and size for the position with a well-built upper body.

    —Handles contact with ease and is able to compete for leverage in tight spaces.

    —Play strength is apparent and will immediately translate versus NFL talent.

               

    WEAKNESSES

    —Major off-field concerns due to marijuana-related arrests and multiple suspensions from program.

    —Questions about athleticism related to top-heavy frame and ability to move in space.

    —Limited production in college and lacks any specific standout skill.

    —Play speed is underwhelming and easily outmatched on runs to the edge.

              

    OVERALL

    Natrez Patrick comes from one of the best programs in the country and a defensive powerhouse. That's about where the good news ends. Patrick was heavily recruited out of high school but has struggled to see consistent playing time due to off-field incidents and suspensions. NFL teams will need to have contingency plans in place to ensure Patrick makes more headlines on the field and fewer off of it.

              

    GRADE: 4.99 (CAMP PLAYER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Chase Allen

46. Curtis Akins, Memphis

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    STRENGTHS

    —NFL-caliber length and frame that can be built to carry ideal weight.

    —Athleticism to remain on field as coverage linebacker.

    —Loose hips and smooth feet that can backpedal out and zone turn in coverage.

    —Balance and change-of-direction skills allow him to redirect on cutbacks and remain engaged.

                  

    WEAKNESSES

    —Undisciplined eyes in run support; easily falls for fakes and misdirections.

    —Struggles to disengage from blocks at any level versus average opponents at TE or OL.

    —Misjudges angles to off-tackle runs and effectively takes himself out of position.

    —Hand usage is limited and lacks strength to deliver blows when meeting OL at the second level.

                  

    OVERALL

    Akins lacks much of the technical refinement needed to be an every-down NFL linebacker. A team with entrenched starters could take the time to develop Akins into more than an athlete that tackles, but the first step is teaching routine block-destruction technique. Some time on a practice squad would be ideal as he learns to use his athleticism as a bonus rather than a crutch.

                 

    GRADE: 4.99 (CAMP PLAYER)     

    PRO COMPARISON: Ray-Ray Armstrong

45. Quart'e Sapp, Tennessee

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    STRENGTHS

    —Solid athlete with smooth lower-body movements and ability to stay balanced in space.

    —Fluid enough to flip hips and spot-drop with eyes on quarterback.

    —Good spatial awareness in coverage with a feel for route concepts.

                  

    WEAKNESSES

    —Missed most of 2015 season due to fractured foot; missed all but one game in 2016 due to torn ACL.

    —Limited playing time and didn't earn starting spot heading into 2018 after playing in 11 games in 2017.

    —Thin frame that is easily washed out of run support, particularly against power schemes.

    —Hesitates to engage and allows blocks to reach second level comfortably.

              

    OVERALL

    Injuries slowed down Quart'e Sapp's development, and he struggled to get back onto the expected trajectory. His early showings at Tennessee suggest there is potential, but a failure to crack the starting lineup in 2018 makes it hard to imagine an NFL team betting on any upside. He's likely a practice squad guy whose best chance is to make noise on special teams.

              

    GRADE: 4.99 (CAMP PLAYER)     

    PRO COMPARISON: Gerald Hodges

44. Jordan Kunaszyk, California

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    STRENGTHS

    —High-volume tackler who recorded 143 tackles in 13 games as a senior.

    —2018 All Pac-12 selection and Cal team captain.

    —Wins with relentless effort and hustle to be near the action.

              

    WEAKNESSES

    —Stiff-hipped athlete who looks labored moving in space.

    —Inefficient angles to maintain leverage on boundary runs.

    —Hesitates to engage offensive linemen, even when contact is imminent.

    —Struggles to identify gaps to shoot and will work laterally too often before catching ball-carriers.

                

    OVERALL

    Jordan Kunaszyk has the production and resume to suggest he'll find a fit in the NFL. But his tape simply doesn't show the type of athlete that transitions well. Kunaszyk particularly lacks the flexibility and fluidity in his lower body to open up and run with pro athletes. A practice squad role looks like the best possibility for the Golden Bear while he builds an athletic profile to compete in the NFL.

                 

    GRADE: 4.99 (CAMP PLAYER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Scooby Wright 

43. Cole Holcomb, North Carolina

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    STRENGTHS

    —Led team in tackles for three consecutive seasons.

    —Instinctual player who understands how plays develop.

    —Wins with hustle and effort from whistle to whistle.

    —Eyes the football on contact and is always looking to create big plays and turnovers.

                    

    WEAKNESSES

    —Rarely wins battles upon contact and will lose to the majority of NFL backs.

    —Lower half looks undersized and doesn't have the overall thickness to drop weight and use leverage.

    —Lunging tackler that has to put everything behind each hit for effectiveness.

    —Hip fluidity is average at best and will become an issue if asked to cover in space.

              

    OVERALL

    Cole Holcomb's deficiencies as a tackler will always be tied to his build. The NFL team that gives him a shot will need to have a plan to add thickness to his body. What he offers as a playmaking weak-side linebacker is negated by some coverage concerns that will quickly be exploited. In the meantime, his instincts and energy should give him a chance to become a core special teamer somewhere.

                 

    GRADE: 4.99 (CAMP PLAYER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Nathan Gerry

42. Chris Peace, Virginia

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    STRENGTHS

    —Three-year starter with production in multiple phases.

    —14 sacks in the last two years; offers refined hand usage and technique as a pass-rusher at LB.

    —Heavy-handed inside punch with understanding of leverage and setting the edge in run support.

             

    WEAKNESSES

    —Tweener athletic profile that will limit positional versatility.

    —Limited lower-body flexibility.

    —Change-of-direction ability looks labored and doesn't cover ground.

    —Coverage prowess is limited and will need significant work to reach adequate levels.

             

    OVERALL

    Chris Peace's role at Virginia was largely to play on the line of scrimmage with some expectations of pass rushing and a blended linebacker/edge role. While Virginia was able to maximize Peace's ability, the NFL may struggle to find a long-term home for him due to the limitations in his athletic ability. His best bet is to land in a 3-4 defense where he can be a backup outside linebacker and potential sub-package player.

            

    GRADE: 4.99 (CAMP PLAYER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Ahmad Brooks

41. Khalil Hodge, Buffalo

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    STRENGTHS

    —Stays square to the line of scrimmage and balanced through contact.

    —Production machine with over 120 tackles each of his three years at Buffalo.

    —Nose for the football that puts him in the right spot more often than not.

    —Pre-snap processing is solid and keeps him competitive with accurate diagnosis.

                

    WEAKNESSES

    —Will dance around blocks in space, effectively taking himself out of potential run support.

    —Limited athlete that has to take perfect angles to offer any sort of run support out of the tackle box.

    —Tendency to give up on plays to the boundary.

    —Lower body isn't strong enough, and he doesn't show routine technique to drop his hips for leverage support.

               

    OVERALL

    Khalil Hodge has impressive production and plays with instincts that help him make the right move more often than not. If he can continue to utilize that knack for finding the football while building a technical foundation to compete against top-tier talent, he could land on a roster as a depth piece and special teams player.

            

    GRADE: 5.00 (UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT)     

    PRO COMPARISON: L.J. Fort

40. Nate Hall, Northwestern

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    STRENGTHS

    —Instinctual player that loves to jump routes.

    —Nose for the football and finds a way to get involved in everything.

    —Spatial awareness in coverage is good and helps him diagnose route concepts post-snap.

    —Good athlete in open space and can handle backs one-on-one in coverage.

                      

    WEAKNESSES

    —Tore ACL in 2017, and a shoulder injury ended his 2018 season.

    —Doesn't show consistent technique and ability to stack and shed blocks.

    —Downhill presence is lacking and leads to more lunging tackles rather than true stops.

    —Allows himself to be washed out of backside support too often versus inferior talent.

                    

    OVERALL

    Every once in a while, Nate Hall looks like he could be a top-10 linebacker in this class. Throw in the fact that he excels in coverage and has NFL-ready instincts, and it's hard to reconcile his ranking relative to other linebackers in this class. But two season-ending injuries and some serious questions about his ability to play the run make him the kind of massive risk that teams typically wait until Day 3 to select.

                 

    GRADE: 5.00 (UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT)

    PRO COMPARISON: Kiko Alonso

39. Azeez Al-Shaair, FAU

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    STRENGTHS

    —Over 350 tackles from 2015-2017 and is the leading career tackler in program history.

    —Has solid play speed and ability to track players in space.

    —Sifts through messes well with bend and balance in pursuit.

    —Change-of-direction skills pre-injury are solid and show a player that can move laterally comfortably.

             

    WEAKNESSES

    —Tore ACL and MCL in October 2018 and underwent Tommy John surgery during offseason before senior year.

    —Questions about whether he will produce in the NFL considering the level of talent he routinely faced at FAU.

    —Shows almost no ability to disengage once contacted.

    —Instincts and ability to process lag behind and cause lapses of play without movement.

             

    OVERALL

    Azeez Al-Shaair arguably would've been the most productive linebacker in this year's class had he not had his senior season cut short due to a knee injury. Now, he'll have to answer questions about his rehabilitation and ability to continue developing coming from FAU. Some of the technical deficiencies were evident pre-injury and will need to be cleaned up. Don't be surprised to see him grabbed as a UDFA and placed on an injury list to begin his career at the next level.

                

    GRADE: 5.00 (UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT)     

    PRO COMPARISON: Elijah Lee

38. Ulysees Gilbert III, Akron

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    STRENGTHS

    —Standout performer at the East-West Shrine Game who turned heads at his pro day with 40-yard times in the low 4.5 range.

    —Sure thing as a tackler who rarely lets running backs leave his grasp.

    —Productive tackler who can play any of the three linebacker positions after lining up on the strong side at Akron but showing the athleticism to move around.

    —Fast enough to cover up tight ends or backs in coverage.

    —High-effort player who has the speed to run clean angles to the ball and slip blockers.

              

    WEAKNESSES

    —Undersized linebacker at 6'0", 224 pounds and with 31 3/4" arm length.

    —Doesn't have the power to stack and shed blockers.

    —Will be put on skates when he attempts to step into the hole and take on a blocker.

    —Length and power are below average for the NFL. Might have to play at weak-side linebacker to keep him away from lead blockers.

    —Lacks awareness at the MAC level.

                

    OVERALL: 

    Ulysees Gilbert is a good athlete with the movement skills to attack the ball and run in man coverage, but he's a project who must gain strength while also working on better read-and-react skills from his perch at linebacker. He has immediate special teams value.

              

    GRADE: 5.15 (ROUND 7 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Matt Milano

37. Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M

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    STRENGTHS

    —Brings power and thump as a blitzer that can effectively create pressure.

    —Thick upper body and powerful player who can handle interior run support duties.

    —Pursuit speed is better than expected and can limit gains on off-tackle runs.

    —Passes off routes in zone coverage well with instincts and lateral movement to sit in windows.

             

    WEAKNESSES

    —Lunging tackler who misses too often or gives up additional yards with poor technique.

    —Plays with top-heavy lean and looks off balance moving in space.

    —Finishes too many plays watching teammates make tackles.

    —Limited positional versatility and will only fit as an inside linebacker.

                 

    OVERALL

    The modern-day NFL linebacker has to be fluid in space and able to run in coverage. Otaro Alaka is a powerful player with a thick frame who can be an effective interior run support player but will struggle when asked to routinely play in space. His fit in an NFL defense is fairly limited, and he's likely going to struggle to be seen as a three-down linebacker that may get matched up in man coverage. Alaka will have to answer questions about balance and hustle while earning a special teams role as a rookie.

             

    GRADE: 5.15 (ROUND 7 - BACKUP CALIBER) 

    PRO COMPARISON: Jon Bostic

36. BJ Blunt, McNeese State

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    STRENGTHS

    —Former DB who excels as a coverage player.

    —Willing hitter who brings speed into contact.

    —Explosiveness gives him sideline-to-sideline tackling range.

    —Productive player who will be special teams standout with speed.

                        

    WEAKNESSES

    —Lacks NFL frame at LB and will have to build body to fit modern-day mold.

    —Interior run support technique is unrefined and must be developed.

    —Played JUCO ball at Garden City Community College after being academically ineligible coming out of high school and lacks film versus legitimate competition.

    —Relies on athleticism too often and can play recklessly as a result.

                 

    OVERALL

    BJ Blunt didn't play at a well-known school and has limited experience at linebacker. However, he makes plays with eye-popping athleticism. The modern NFL linebacker is built on speed and the ability to transition that speed into contact. Blunt is ahead of the game in that regard. If an NFL coach can help him develop the technique to be more than a flash player, Blunt has a legitimate chance to crack an NFL roster as a rookie.

                            

    GRADE: 5.15 (ROUND 7 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Duke Riley

35. Cody Barton, Utah

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    STRENGTHS

    —Good instincts keep him competitive every down.

    —Strong and defined upper body can handle contact and remain square to the line of scrimmage.

    —Coverage experience allows him to play in space with route recognition and awareness.

    —Competitive toughness is apparent on every snap.

               

    WEAKNESSES

    —Lack of positional versatility will make it hard for him to find a fit in NFL.

    —Play speed is fine, but lacks short-area burst and quickness.

    —Doesn't have many ways to disengage from or avoid blocks.

    —Multiple position changes at Utah suggest his style of play, body type and abilities aren't aligned.

             

    OVERALL

    Cody Barton played multiple positions for the Utes, and that versatility is both an advantage and disadvantage as teams look to identify where he fits in the NFL. He comes with instincts, impressive strength and coverage ability, but he lacks the experience that leads to consistency and fundamental technique. If nothing else, Barton will be the type of core special teamer some organizations save a roster spot for.

                    

    GRADE: 5.15 (ROUND 7 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Tahir Whitehead 

34. Deshaun Davis, Auburn

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    STRENGTHS

    —Productive player in highly competitive SEC with big-game experience.

    —Tackling machine who has a nose for the football.

    —Intelligent player with above-average pre-snap mental processing.

    —Tackling technique is consistent and effective as he plays behind his pads.

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Coverage concerns in all areas limit his ability to stay on the field for third down.

    —Will struggle to compete in space with athletes and will be boxed out in coverage against TEs.

    —Undersized frame lacks ideal NFL length and likely can't carry much more weight.

    —Stiff-hipped athlete who struggles to open up and run laterally.

            

    OVERALL

    Deshaun Davis has played against some of the NCAA's best competition for the last four seasons and has been productive on an Auburn team routinely competing for national championships. NFL teams will like the experience and intelligence that puts him in the right place at the right time, but they'll hope to hide some of his coverage and size concerns.

          

    GRADE: 5.25 (ROUND 7 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Mychal Kendricks

33. Gerri Green, Mississippi State

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    STRENGTHS

    —Showed positional versatility in college as an on- and off-ball LB, as well as a DE in 2018.

    —Solid pass-rusher who has enough moves to contribute on third down.

    —Speed allows him to beat second-level blocks outright.

    —Excellent frame with height, weight and length that will make him valuable.

              

    WEAKNESSES

    —Athleticism will be a question mark as teams try to find a long-term positional fit.

    —Will turn 24 years old in mid-September.

    —Play strength is underwhelming and leaves him struggling to compete.

    —Technique is a concern when working laterally; loses leverage to ball carriers in space.

             

    OVERALL

    Green's versatility will also be a curse if he can't ever find a consistent position to play in the NFL. While he does show some potential rushing the passer, he'll be best served settling in as an off-ball linebacker, where he can use his pursuit skills and length to track ball-carriers.

            

    GRADE: 5.25 (ROUND 7 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Devon Kennard 

32. Jeff Allison, Fresno State

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    STRENGTHS

    —Named 2018 Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

    —High-volume tackler with 258 tackles over last two seasons.

    —One-track mind when in pursuit and has a nose for the football.

    —Utilizes every bit of movement and frame when delivering contact for powerful finishes.

                       

    WEAKNESSES

    —Catches contact far too often rather than running through it.

    —Easily and routinely manipulated by play action and loses coverage assignments.

    —Short and squat frame lacks ideal NFL length.

    —Doesn't show requisite change-of-direction or short-area explosiveness.

    —Tons of missed tackles on his tape in 2018.

                   

    OVERALL

    Allison has the production and award recognition to suggest an NFL opportunity. However, his lack of athleticism will force him to be above-average in processing pre-snap. He doesn't do that well enough yet , so he will need time to hone the skills to compensate for his limitations.

                                 

    GRADE: 5.30 (ROUND 6 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Manti Te'o  

31. Tyrel Dodson, Texas A&M

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    STRENGTHS

    —Has the speed to get downhill in a hurry when he diagnoses cleanly.

    —Broad chest and well-built upper body can withstand NFL contact.

    —Solid short-area burst and change-of-direction skills.

    —Big-time production in competitive SEC as a freshman and sophomore.

                    

    WEAKNESSES

    —Undisciplined eyes as a run defender and can be fooled with action easily.

    —Doesn't show the requisite hustle to overcome limitations.

    —Poor tackling form that lacks consistency.

    —Misjudges angles in run support often, loses leverage with overpursuit.

    —Lower half lacks flexibility and fluidity, particularly laterally in pursuit.

            

    OVERALL

    Tyrel Dodson offers the athleticism to compete in the NFL, but serious questions remain about his technique as a run defender in nearly every phase. Linebackers who don't show consistent tackling technique or a desire to aggressively play the run with discipline struggle in the NFL. Dodson should earn a roster spot as a special teams player, but he will need time to develop the requisite traits to be successful long term.

                  

    GRADE: 5.35 (ROUND 6 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Corey Nelson 

30. Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas

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    STRENGTHS

    —When locked in, he's involved in almost every play.

    —Hustle and athleticism help him compete every down and will translate to NFL.

    —Solid overall coverage player, and even better man-coverage skills, where true athleticism shows up.

    —Balanced and smooth athlete who plays with speed and control.

                     

    WEAKNESSES

    —Tackling concerns tied to both consistency in technique and power through contact.

    —Doesn't show refined technique to stack out offensive linemen and disengage.

    —Hops, dips and bends around blocks too often, effectively taking himself out of plays.

    —Lacks NFL frame and will struggle to compete against NFL-caliber size and physicality.

                     

    OVERALL

    Dre Greenlaw was a four-year starter for the Razorbacks and comes with the movement skills of a former safety. He has the kind of athleticism that screams "Will" linebacker, but he lacks any counterpunch when engaged with offensive linemen. Greenlaw is too comfortable dancing around blocks and will struggle to compete physically in the NFL if his play style doesn't improve while he develops functional strength. Greenlaw's best bet is to land somewhere as a coverage backer that provides special teams value while he builds his body to compete against professionals.

                 

    GRADE: 5.35 (ROUND 6 - BACKUP CALIBER) 

    PRO COMPARISON: Deone Bucannon

29. Kendall Joseph, Clemson

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    STRENGTHS

    —Consistent tackler who rarely misses or loses ground on contact.

    —Above-average mental processing helps him diagnose run action.

    —Good eye discipline and spatial awareness in zone coverage.

    —Beats blocks with agility and angle awareness to shoot gaps, especially on off-tackle runs.

    —Highly experienced player with competitive nature against best talent in NCAA.

               

    WEAKNESSES

    —Hesitant to fill downhill against interior runs.

    —Has to refine hand technique and usage to disengage from blocks.

    —Short with a thick upper body that lacks NFL-caliber length.

    —Offers little technique or moves in pass rush and only wins with schemed-up pressure.

             

    OVERALL

    Kendall Joseph's championship experience at Clemson will interest coaches in search of an NFL-ready player who can live up to demanding expectations. Joseph's three years in the middle of Clemson's formidable defense prepared him to face top competition in the NFL. He's an intelligent player who brings consistency in pre-snap recognition and transitions it into post-snap technique as a tackler. However, Joseph's frame looks maxed out and may limit his versatility in the NFL, as he doesn't seem capable of routinely taking on interior responsibilities versus powerful offensive linemen.

                    

    GRADE: 5.35 (ROUND 6 - BACKUP CALIBER) 

    PRO COMPARISON: Vincent Rey

28. Malik Reed, Nevada

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    STRENGTHS

    —Edge-rusher at Nevada whose size has him transitioning to a linebacker/hybrid linebacker role.

    —Two-time first-team All-Mountain West selection with 16 sacks in last two seasons.

    —Scheme and positional versatility; could play stack linebacker and also rush the quarterback on passing downs.

    —Team captain with selfless playing style and mentality; will be able to contribute on special teams immediately.

    —Good overall athlete with closing speed, some hip bend and the burst needed to beat blockers to the ball.

             

    WEAKNESSES

    —Small frame (6'1", 237 lbs) for an edge-rusher; is a true tweener.

    —Lacks read-and-react skills most linebackers develop throughout years of experience and reps at the position. Instincts for the position aren't there.

    —Has limited coverage experience and doesn't figure to match up well against NFL tight ends or slot receivers. 

    —True developmental prospect who must learn to play the position; could benefit from a year on a practice squad.

    —Poor length and play power keep him from getting off blocks when linemen get their hands on him.

               

    OVERALL

    Malik Reed has the athleticism and production to give teams optimism about his potential move to a linebacker role and as a sub-package rusher. His high character and leadership grades from coaches at Nevada will help pro scouts and coaches find reasons to get him onto an NFL roster.

              

    GRADE: 5.50 (ROUND 6 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Lerentee McCray

27. Ty Summers, TCU

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Intelligent player who understands angles in space.

    —Four years of experience in Big 12.

    —Semifinalist for 2018 Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award (the NCAA version of the Walter Payton award).

    —Positional versatility between on- and off-ball LB; played some DE at TCU in 2018; could be seen as a 4-3 "Sam" if he puts on weight.

                 

    WEAKNESSES

    —Stiff and limited overall athlete who will struggle against NFL talent.

    —Block-destruction technique is limited and will have him washed out of interior run support.

    —Doesn't play with enough leverage and weight under pads through the finishing phase of contact.

    —Balance is a major concern and leaves him unable to drop weight for smooth changes of direction.

               

    OVERALL

    Summers doesn't have a calling card powerful enough to warrant much more than a late Day 3 pick. He has experience and decent instincts, but his overall athleticism and technique isn't where it needs to be. His best bet is to land a rookie tryout and convince a team to develop him on the practice squad.

            

    GRADE: 5.50 (ROUND 6 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Nick DeLuca 

26. Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Hustle is evident every play.

    —Mental processing is above-average in coverage.

    —Plays with passion and effort that can compensate for deficiencies.

    —Leadership traits and character through the roof.

    —Athletic profile and versatility allow him to play multiple LB spots.

             

    WEAKNESSES

    —Multiple ACL injuries.

    —Will be considered old as a rookie (turns 24 in mid-August).

    —Limited change-of-direction post-injuries.

    —Tackling technique lacks wrap in finish, and he struggles when he can't run through someone.

    —Gets caught watching backfield action and can be manipulated when diagnosing.

                

    OVERALL

    Drue Tranquill will impress NFL decision-makers with his maturity, leadership ability and overall character. He is the type of player programs look to build around. However, Tranquill's multiple ACL injuries raise major red flags. While ACL injuries aren't nearly as devastating as they once were, multiple injuries become an even greater concern when a prospect's traits are largely tied to his athleticism. Tranquill is a core special teamer who will find a home due to his off-field traits, but he may struggle to make a long-term impact on the field.

                   

    GRADE: 5.60 (ROUND 5 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Shaquem Griffin

25. Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Excellent frame and length with ability to put on more bulk.

    —Above-average mental processor that can diagnose pre-snap.

    —Patient in run support and understands inside-out leverage.

    —Good balance and body control in the box.

    —Sound tackler who plays with good technique.

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Limited production and experience in coverage; will struggle to matchup in man.

    —Heavy feet in backpedal; will struggle to redirect speed receivers over the middle of the field.

    —Underwent surgery on nagging core muscle injury that prematurely ended his collegiate career.

    —Post-snap recognition isn't as strong as pre-snap, and he'll bite on misdirection.

           

    OVERALL

    Connelly is a well-built athlete with high-level processing skills that help him succeed. Wisconsin did him favors by largely asking him to play moving forward, but the NFL will require him to show he can keep up in coverage. Connelly's career at Wisconsin ended due to a core muscle injury, and the long-term effects will be important when identifying value in regard to his draft slot. He'll make an NFL career as a spot starter and backup who wins with preparation.

           

    GRADE: 5.60 (ROUND 5 - BACKUP CALIBER) 

    PRO COMPARISON: Nick Vigil

24. Joe Giles-Harris, Duke

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Pre-snap awareness and intelligence to make defensive calls and adjustments.

    —Consistent finisher who brings thick upper body and strength into tackles.

    —Powerful hands to stack out offensive linemen and win gap leverage on interior runs.

    —NFL-ready frame with good length/weight paired with NFL athleticism.

    —First-team All-ACC in 2017 and 2018, as well as a 2017 All-American. 

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Too content to bulldoze into contact when he could avoid it and make plays.

    —Stiff lower body limits lateral movement in space.

    —Lack of acceleration and foot speed is a concern when maintaining leverage on off-tackle runs.

    —MCL injury in early November ended his season.

            

    OVERALL

    Experience, recognition and NFL size make it hard to look past Giles-Harris when searching for a Day 3 linebacker to draft and develop. He'll have to prove that his season-ending knee injury won't have a long-term effect on his athleticism, but he has the foundational skills to be a solid starter within a few years. Giles-Harris would benefit from some time behind technically savvy veterans while he develops the lower-body flexibility and overall awareness to be a sideline-to-sideline player.

           

    GRADE: 5.60 (ROUND 5 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Demario Davis

23. Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —2018 Pac-12 Football Scholar Athlete of the Year and Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

    —Led FBS in tackles and plays all over the field with nonstop motor.

    —Instinctual and bright player who gets others in the right spot before shutting plays down himself.

    —Has a knack for making plays and looks for opportunities to create for the defense.

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Undersized frame in all aspects that doesn't look like it can be developed much more.

    —Will use unorthodox methods to avoid blocks, which creates spacing for offense.

    —Misjudges his own athleticism, overestimating ability and running lanes that are ineffective in run support.

    —Doesn't have the technique and ability to muscle up and stack out offensive linemen when necessary.

           

    OVERALL

    Ben Burr-Kirven has the football IQ and production to rival any other linebacker in this class. However, many NFL teams have size thresholds, and Burr-Kirven won't make it onto a handful of boards regardless of his production. He plays all-out on every down, but his physical limitations may be too much to overcome. He'll get a shot to prove teams wrong and will have to begin by making noise on special teams.

           

    GRADE: 5.60 (ROUND 5 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Vince Williams 

22. Dakota Allen, Texas Tech

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Two-time team captain (2017, 2018) who won rave reviews from coaches for his maturity and leadership.

    —Quick with good short-area burst and explosive closing ability.

    —Ball skills show up on tape with four interceptions; able to sink smoothly into zone coverage and reads the quarterback's eyes well.

    —Gets by blockers rather than going through them; knows how to make himself small to dip and duck around them without losing ground.

    —Times his blitzes well when coming through the line of scrimmage as an A- or B-gap rusher.

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Combine testing left a lot to be desired. Ran a 4.77-second 40-yard dash, had a 31½" vertical jump and lacked ideal arm length (31¼") and hand size (9¼").

    —Can be a step late reacting to the run game. Might benefit from a move to outside ("Will") linebacker.

    —Doesn't do well getting off blocks with his hands or power; would rather run around a blocker, which throws off his pursuit angles.

    —Will get sucked in by misdirection. Average awareness and football instincts.

    —Dismissed from Texas Tech before the 2016 season following an arrest for home burglary and stealing guns (charges were dropped). Played one season at East Mississippi Community College before returning to Tech to finish his career.

           

    OVERALL

    Allen became famous on the Netflix series Last Chance U, but his on-field play has been substandard. He wasn't a standout player at Tech, but he was a solid linebacker with the chance to make an NFL roster as a backup linebacker and special teams performer.

           

    GRADE: 5.65 (ROUND 5 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Micah Kiser 

21. Gary Johnson, Texas

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Impressive all-around athlete who made an immediate impact at Texas after transferring from Dodge City Community College before 2017 season.

    —Violent, hard-nosed player who loves football; will attack blockers and runners and relishes contact.

    —Fast, fluid mover in space; fits what current NFL defenses must add to combat spread-out offensive formations with improved speed threats.

    —Able to get behind the line of scrimmage and make tackles against the run or take down the quarterback; can even take away bubble screens.

    —Sees what he hits and hits what he sees. Good awareness and is rarely lost despite seeing a ton of misdirection in the Big 12.

            

    WEAKNESSES

    —Undersized at 6'0" and 226 pounds with 31¼" arm length. Won't fit the mold of most teams running a 3-4 defense; could be limited to clubs running a base 4-3.

    —Suspended during 2018 season for unspecified team rules, but team sources confirmed it was for a failed marijuana test.

    —Small body and short arms allow blockers to get into his frame and control him at the second level.

    —Has the speed but lacks the ideal size to work in man coverage against tight ends.

    —Might get knocked for his lack of size despite good overall athletic ability.

           

    OVERALL

    Gary Johnson's lack of tape hurts him some, as does his one-game suspension, but there is a lot here to like. He's athletic, rangy, was productive from the second he stepped on Texas' campus, and the Longhorns coaches speak highly of him. He could work his way into an NFL team's linebacker rotation early on with enough potential to become a starter down the line.

          

    GRADE: 5.65 (ROUND 5 - BACKUP CALIBER) 

    PRO COMPARISON: Jerome Baker

20. Sione Takitaki, BYU

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Versatile athlete tasked with playing multiple roles in BYU defense.

    —Plays with infectious passion and hustle.

    —Has the agility to knife gaps in run support and defeat blocks in space.

    —Coverage skills to stick with slot receivers while identifying route concepts mid-play.

            

    WEAKNESSES

    —Misjudges angles to the boundary and will take himself out of plays prematurely.

    —Doesn't display hand strength or technical skills to routinely disengage from second-level blocks.

    —Production as a pass-rusher was largely manufactured by scheme.

    —Inefficient tackler who will miss too many expected finishes.  

           

    OVERALL

    BYU asked Sione Takitaki to do a little bit of everything. He's a hyped-up player who is all over the field, but that energy can become reckless and inefficient. He has to learn to play with balance and technique rather than consistently relying on athleticism and hustle to compete. He looks best suited to play the weak-side linebacker position in a 4-3 defense where he can run and shoot backside gaps, masking some of the deficiencies in his game.

           

    GRADE: 5.65 (ROUND 5 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Todd Davis 

19. Josiah Tauaefa, UT-San Antonio

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Has top-five instincts in the class, which routinely keep him involved in plays.

    —Impressive power through contact leads to squared-up and clean hits.

    —Good balance through traffic; can stay square to the line of scrimmage while working laterally.

    —Offers impressive pass-rushing ability that can affect pocket movement and create pressure.

            

    WEAKNESSES

    —Suspect long speed may leave him outmatched versus NFL athletes.

    —Amped-up playing style can be detrimental when he becomes sloppy with fundamentals.

    —Has to learn to balance competitiveness/effort with technique that ensures he does his job.

    —Average lateral explosiveness limits his coverage ability, particularly when he's matched up in space.

           

    OVERALL

    Josiah Tauaefa leaves the University of Texas-San Antonio having posted some of the best individual seasons in program history. He has the size to compete in the NFL but will have to prove he has the sideline-to-sideline speed to be a three-down linebacker. Tauaefa shows hustle and effort in spades, but teams will expose his tendency to play recklessly at times. If Tauaefa can wrangle his own energy and routinely play within a system, he’s an ideal "Mike" linebacker in a 4-3 defense.

            

    GRADE: 5.65 (ROUND 5 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Elandon Roberts 

18. Drew Lewis, Colorado

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Hybrid athlete with versatile body type that fits mold of new-age coverage LB.

    —Above-average zone-coverage instincts with great spatial awareness.

    —Good short-area burst allows him to be efficient in limited space.

    —Excellent flexibility allows him to redirect with ease.

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Inefficient tackler in space that misses too often.

    —Almost no true pass-rush plan or moves despite significant experience as blitzer.

    —Limited and unrefined technique when stacking and shedding blocks on interior runs.

    —Often misjudges angles through traffic.

           

    OVERALL

    Drew Lewis has the coverage skills that NFL teams love. As an athlete, he wins most of his matchups in space and should be able to find NFL suitors as a result. A lack of technical fundamentals and consistency make Lewis a gamble, but the upside is evident.

                        

    GRADE: 5.70 (ROUND 4 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Alec Ogletree

17. Terez Hall, Missouri

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    STRENGTHS

    —No hesitation to fill downhill if he reads correctly.

    —Physical at every opportunity; makes his presence felt.

    —Understands leverage behind pads and can change levels to avoid blocks or win upon contact.

    —Good arm length; plays with active hands in man coverage to disrupt route timing.

                     

    WEAKNESSES

    —Hustle borderlines on recklessness, which can cause concern when he freelances.

    —Overruns plays away from him and will leave cutback options available.

    —Lacks ability to identify pre-snap and then play within system post-snap, which leaves him out to dry.

    —Often too willing to let blockers get inside his frame when he could reasonably control the contact.

            

    OVERALL

    Terez Hall is a willing hitter who is more than comfortable with bringing the thump to his opponent. However, he'll have to harness and control that energy in the NFL, or teams will routinely exploit his tendency to overrun plays. If that happens, he'll fail to meet the critical demands of playing within a system.

            

    GRADE: 5.75 (ROUND 4 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Zach Brown

16. Tre Lamar, Clemson

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    STRENGTHS

    —Elite run-stopper who can own A- and B-gaps with his power and instincts.

    —Good vision to read-and-react to the ball. Won't get fooled or taken out of plays with his eyes.

    —Stack-and-shed strength pops off the tape; can stand up blockers and force backs to make cuts off his play.

    —Arrives at the ball with good power and pop in his pads. Can be a violent banger in the middle of the field.

    —Shows some ability to be a soft dropper into zone coverage. Finds the ball with good vision.

            

    WEAKNESSES

    —Below-average speed and agility; two-down player who doesn't have the quickness to survive in coverage or when taking on outside runs.

    —Doesn't overrun the play, but struggles to get to it in time to be effective.

    —Was covered up by a defensive line that featured four future NFL players, three of whom could be first-rounders.

    —Limited burst; takes him a while to get going and needs to attack downhill to make plays.

    —Will get stuck on blocks and must learn to more effectively shed when engaged.

           

    OVERALL

    If you watch a handful of Tre Lamar's games, you can be fooled into thinking he has the athleticism and instincts needed to be a high-level NFL starter. He doesn't. In a scheme that values power and two-down linebackers, Lamar could become an impact player, but he's the type of linebacker the league was looking for 10 years ago.

             

    GRADE: 5.75 (ROUND 4 - FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Reggie Ragland 

15. T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin

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    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Four-year starter and former high school quarterback who has excellent instincts and experience as an inside linebacker.

    —Impact run defender who will step up into the box and take on blockers with excellent stack-and-shed technique.

    —Willing and able tackler; doesn't let backs bounce or spin off his initial contact. Has a high success rate of bringing down ball-carriers on first impact. Plays smart, heads-up ball when tackling.

    —Zone drops are clean and impactful. Knows how to read the eyes of a quarterback and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Closes on the ball well, with good hands to secure interceptions.

    —Solid read-and-react linebacker who doesn't make many mental mistakes.

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Suffered a hip injury while training.

    —Looks to be physically and mentally maxed out, with little development potential.

    —Lack of athleticism stands out on tape; doesn't explode out of his stance, doesn't look smooth moving outside the tackle box, lacks range.

    —Struggles to run in-phase with tight ends and backs, even after losing weight to be more explosive.

    —Overall lack of juice and burst means he's often playing from behind even when he properly diagnoses the play. Will only get further behind in the NFL.

             

    OVERALL

    T.J. Edwards looked like a potential top-75 selection at times throughout his collegiate career, but his lack of ideal size and athletic ability makes him more of a liability when he's asked to operate in space. He might have a future in certain schemes that cover up some of his weaknesses, but he can definitely make an impact as a backup and core special teamer either way.

           

    GRADE: 5.75 (ROUND 4 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Kenny Young

14. Blake Cashman, Minnesota

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Squares up ball-carriers in space and is able to drive through contact.

    —Competitive toughness and energy stand out on film, particularly when dealing with contact in limited space.

    —Solid recognition when zone-dropping to use body as redirect tool while keeping eyes on the QB.

    —Try-hard attitude that wins when others take plays off.

             

    WEAKNESSES

    —Wasn't a starter until his senior season and has limited experience.

    —Underwent multiple shoulder surgeries; didn't play in Minnesota's bowl game as injury precaution to prep for NFL.

    —Easily swallowed up when he doesn't have time to prep a move against second-level blockers.

    —Waits for plays to develop in front of him but won't have enough athleticism to get away with that playing style in the NFL.

            

    OVERALL

    Blake Cashman is the type of player who becomes a fan favorite in the NFL because he always plays all-out. His instincts, however, seem borderline hesitant and force him to do even more work to catch up. Against NFL talent and with his athletic profile, he'll have to find a way to merge his on-field energy with the necessary click-and-close play speed to be successful long term.

           

    GRADE: 5.80 (ROUNDS 3-4 - FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Ramik Wilson

13. Chase Hansen, Utah

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    Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

    STRENGTHS

    —Bright player who is able to process pre-snap and diagnose post-snap.

    —Presses line of scrimmage in run support with good ability to shoot gaps in tight spaces.

    —Understands angles and leverage in space while closing distance.

    —Coverage awareness is solid; particularly impressive recognition of concepts in zone coverage.

          

    WEAKNESSES

    —Experience at LB is limited; will need coaching to develop NFL-caliber technique.

    —Has won with athleticism and hustle; will have to refine technique to defeat NFL offensive linemen.

    —Will be 26 when rookie season begins.

    —Doesn't show varied ability to disengage from blocks when contact is imminent.

            

    OVERALL

    Chase Hansen's background as a DB means he brings the sort of coverage skills NFL teams will covet. However, the Utah linebacker will turn 26 in May. Given Hansen's limited experience at linebacker, NFL decision-makers will have to decide whether it's worth investing draft capital and time into developing him. Hansen is best-suited for a weak-side linebacker role that allows him to be more protected in run support and utilizes his athleticism to maximize his on-field potential.

           

    GRADE: 5.80 (ROUNDS 3-4 - FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Zach Cunningham

12. Cameron Smith, USC

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Has above-average instincts that keep him near the action.

    —Four-year player for Trojans with more than 75 tackles per season.

    —NFL-ready frame with long arms and ability to carry anywhere between 230-245 pounds comfortably; reworked his body to be more agile and improve his range.

    —Point-of-attack physicality is no concern.

            

    WEAKNESSES:

    —Will be exposed to edges vs. backs in man coverage.

    —Relies on instincts/size and has to refine technique to shed blockers in between tackles.

    —Avoids imminent contact and will take himself out of solid positioning.

    —Fairly limited positional versatility in NFL.

           

    OVERALL:

    Cam Smith is an experienced player with NFL-caliber instincts and hustle. He dropped significant weight before January's Senior Bowl and will have to prove he can run in coverage with skill players at the next level. He's a solid depth player and core special teamer as a rookie.

           

    GRADE: 5.80 (ROUND 3-4 - ROOKIE STARTER) 

    PRO COMPARISON: Mason Foster

11. Terrill Hanks, New Mexico State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Instinctual player who has a knack for getting involved in plays.

    —Has speed and range that allows him to play multiple LB spots.

    —Good spatial awareness in coverage that allows him to redirect routes and identify throwing lanes.

    —Closes quickly and brings power and speed into all contact.

             

    WEAKNESSES

    —Questions about caliber of competition he faced.

    —Can get caught taking bad angles and running himself out of plays.

    —Struggles to accurately diagnose misdirection and backfield action far too often.

    —Has won largely with athleticism and will have to refine his overall technique.

           

    OVERALL

    Terrill Hanks is an athletic, rangy linebacker who fits the modern mold of what NFL teams look for in a three-down defender, but his lack of competition against top-tier offensive players cannot be overlooked. However, Hanks has the tools to be this year's Darius Leonard.

           

    GRADEE: 5.80 (ROUNDS 3-4 - FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Kiko Alonso

10. Emeke Egbule, Houston

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Ideal frame with height, length, weight and athletic profile to play multiple roles in NFL.

    —One of the best coverage linebackers in this class, with length to disrupt at all levels of the field.

    —Shows some solid ability as a pass-rusher and may see time as sub-package player early in career.

    —Fluid athlete that can ease out in a backpedal before firing feet and working laterally.

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Misses too many tackles from a form and functionality standpoint.

    —Mechanics and processing skills are still developing and need cohesive and coherent coaching.

    —Overly reliant on athleticism; when it doesn't work, he doesn't have technique to match.

    —Run-around style creates gaps that effectively increase offensive success on plays he should be stopping.

           

    OVERALL

    Emeke Egbule might have the highest ceiling and lowest floor of any linebacker in this year's draft class. He has an above-average athletic and physical profile, which makes him an ideal three-down player who could fill a lot of roles within a defense. But he is so raw and underdeveloped that whoever takes him will have to help him grow as a player before he ever sees the field on Sundays.

             

    GRADE: 5.85 (ROUND 3-4 - FUTURE STARTER) 

    PRO COMPARISON: Christian Kirksey

9. Te'von Coney, Notre Dame

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Uses excellent length well to contain ball-carriers.

    —Good short-area burst and closing speed in the box when diagnosis is clean.

    —Impressive ability to stay square to the line of scrimmage as he works laterally in run support.

    —Well-built frame with upper-body thickness and ability to comfortably carry necessary weight.

              

    WEAKNESSES

    —Underwhelming speed to the boundary; loses leverage too easily.

    —Man coverage versus tight ends with speed or route-running technique will be an issue.

    —Questionable hustle to finish plays; leaves him watching action too often.

    —Too comfortable with accepting contact downfield rather than initiating it at the line of scrimmage.  

           

    OVERALL

    Te'von Coney has all of the necessary foundational tools to be a starting linebacker in the NFL. The question is whether he will display each of those consistently enough to be an above-average run defender while his coverage technique improves. A sturdy frame with good length and impressive balance through contact will help Coney be successful despite some athletic limitations in space.

           

    GRADE: 5.99 (ROUNDS 3-4 - FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Anthony Hitchens

8. Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Family bloodlines with two older brothers who played college football, one of whom made it to NFL with Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent.

    —Heavy-handed striker that can engage, stack out, and win reps routinely.

    —Revved-up playing style that is aggressive, angry and competitive.

    —Has NFL size; won't struggle to compete against top-tier physicality.

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Suspended for season opener as a senior after summertime arrest.

    —Load-up tackler who looks to make too many statement hits rather than just doing his job.

    —Shoulder injury ended season and kept him out of predraft prep opportunities.

    —Average athlete that compensates with some hectic movements rather than fluidity.

           

    OVERALL

    Hawaii's Jahlani Tavai has size and toughness that jumps off the screen. There's no question whether he's ready to be the kind of run-thumping in-the-box linebacker that some teams still covet. But Tavai's athleticism is lacking, and his hard hits may not be enough to compensate in the NFL.

           

    GRADE: 6.25 (ROUND 3 - FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Vontaze Burfict

7. David Long Jr., West Virginia

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    Ray Thompson/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —One of the most aggressive players in this year's class; flies around the ball, makes hard hits and big plays and looks to run around the field with a wild love for the game.

    —Smart read-and-react with a quick trigger.

    —Productive on three downs; able to take away inside/outside runs, play in coverage or get after the quarterback. Lived behind the line of scrimmage.

    —Good pursuit tackler who has the closing speed to seal the deal; looks for contact and does a good job dropping his weight to attack.

    —Easy mover through transitions whether in coverage or chasing down backs; light feet, smooth hips and has some juice to accelerate through space.

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Almost built like a strong safety at 5'11" and 227 pounds with 30¾" arm length.

    —Can be overly aggressive and find himself out of position; misdirection and play action still trip him up.

    —Has speed, but lacks awareness when asked to play in zone coverage. Will get turned around and needs eyes on the quarterback. Plays better moving forward than backward.

    —Too often goes for the big hit and forgets to wrap up the ball-carrier.

            

    OVERALL

    Long plays with his hair on fire, but will that work against bigger, faster, stronger players in the NFL at his size? He might always be seen as a tweener, but in a 4-3 scheme or in a lot of nickel packages, he has enough traits to become something nice, especially outside of the first round.

           

    GRADE: 6.30 (ROUND 3 - FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Mark Barron

6. Vosean Joseph, Florida

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Eye-popping athlete who closes on the ball in a hurry and with an explosive, violent striking mentality.

    —Has both downhill speed and agility; can open his hips and run in coverage or dip around blockers to rush the quarterback.

    —Takes on blocks much better than expected for a lean-bodied outside linebacker. Comes in willing to pop his pads, but also uses his hands well to stack and shed.

    —Has true sideline-to-sideline range.

    —Lined up primarily at "Mike" linebacker for Florida, but is athletic enough to move around any of the linebacker spots. Is a three-down player who will excel in two-linebacker sets thanks to his range.

            

    WEAKNESSES

    —Doesn't have great size at 6'1½" and 230 pounds, with 31⅜" arms.

    —Mental lapses show up on film; will get caught taking false steps and trying to make up ground with speed and aggressive play style. Instincts and football IQ might not wow teams.

    —Likes to take long angles to the ball; loops instead of going straight-line through the alley.

    —Can lose track of his man in coverage; instincts and awareness with his back to the quarterback leave much to be desired.

    —High-upside player but comes into the league with a low floor. Needs to be coached up.

           

    OVERALL

    Joseph is a great athlete with huge potential. He has some of the most fun tape to watch of any linebacker in the draft. With that said, his mental lapses and underdeveloped awareness could hold him back from living up to his high potential.

             

    GRADE: 6.35 (ROUND 3 - ROOKIE IMPACT)

    PRO COMPARISON: Jordan Hicks

5. Germaine Pratt, North Carolina State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Explosive linebacker with ideal size and upside who started his college career as a free safety.

    —One of the best coverage linebackers in the class, and does so at 240 pounds

    —Has excellent sideline-to-sideline range and the speed to win in pursuit.

    —Hits like a ton of bricks; comes in hot and closes with good leg bend and drive.

    —Produced in all three areas defensively (tackles, sacks, interceptions) in his career.

    —Comfortable in man or zone coverage; will go out in the slot and lock up tight ends; drops into clean, pretty zones.

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Shoulder surgery in 2016 caused him to redshirt; ankle injury ended 2018 season early.

    —One-year starter with limited production.

    —Struggles to free himself from blocks; needs to be taught hand fighting and stack technique.

    —Can play too tall at times, especially when shooting gaps.

    —Can be caught thinking and not reacting, which is somewhat expected for a player new to the position.

            

    OVERALL

    Pratt might need some time to develop, but you can get him on the field right away thanks to his coverage ability and range. He has a ways to go against the run, but his enthusiasm for playing football and hitting ball-carriers is contagious. He looks like a future starter.

           

    GRADE: 6.50 (ROUND 2 - ROOKIE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Danny Trevathan 

4. Bobby Okereke, Stanford

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —High-energy player with the athleticism to run down backs to the boundary.

    —Solid awareness as underneath zone defender to diagnose and disrupt timing routes.

    —Shows enthusiasm and competitiveness on film that keeps him revved up.

    —Good awareness for spacing to knife gaps in backside run support.

    —Excellent in coverage with quick, easy movements and the awareness to attack the ball.

          

    WEAKNESSES

    —Slow-plays interior runs far too often and appears unwilling to engage.

    —Has a tendency to bounce around blocks between the tackles and will lose gap leverage.

    —Success and disruption as a pass-rusher is more about scheme than individual performance.

    —Splash plays hide the every-down inconsistencies in his game.

           

    OVERALL

    Okereke's lack of significant improvement while at Stanford is either concerning or an indication that an NFL team will know exactly what it's getting. He's a back-side linebacker with explosive traits to make flash plays in the backfield. Whichever team drafts him will need to have a stout defensive line up front to keep him clean and let him run.

            

    GRADE: 6.75 (ROUND 2 - ROOKIE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Jatavis Brown 

3. Mack Wilson, Alabama

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Three-down linebacker who has coverage chops and athleticism to handle the middle of the field no matter what the offense brings to the table.

    —Handles tight ends well in coverage and has the hips and feet to hang in both man and zone coverage.

    —Explosive closing on the ball from the middle of the field; arrives at the ball-carrier with power and a violent streak.

    —Showed off ball skills with six interceptions in the last two seasons.

    —Quick to open his hips and run to shut down the outside game, both on passes and runs.

    —Pursuit-style linebacker who can run down ball-carriers and shut down the corner before they get there.

            

    WEAKNESSES

    —Read-and-react can be a touch slow; comes off stiff and programmed.

    —Doesn't show up behind the line of scrimmage and tends to catch more tackles than he initiates behind blockers.

    —Looks maxed out physically and in terms of football instincts and IQ.

    —Doesn't always play through contact and will look to evade blockers, which opens back-side rushing lanes.

           

    OVERALL

    Wilson was a solid starter at Alabama and comes with all of the normal Crimson Tide linebacker traits of speed, toughness and production. He has proven chops on third downs but has seemed to plateau on his growth and development. He's a high-floor, low-ceiling player, but he should be a long-term NFL starter.

            

    GRADE: 6.85 (ROUND 2 - ROOKIE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Avery Williamson 

2. Devin Bush, Michigan

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Short (5'11") but thick, stocky 234-pounder who showed off impressive athleticism with a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, 40½" vertical jump and 10'4" broad jump. All of his athletic testing is confirmed on film.

    —Brings power to the field with an explosive first step and bad intentions as a tackler and elite closing skills when zeroing in on a ball-carrier. Has fantastic balance and closing speed.

    —Instincts are top-tier; doesn't get fooled by misdirection or play action; doesn't take himself out of the play with missteps.

    —Will get after quarterbacks as a blitzer, both off the edge and through interior gaps.

    —Takes away outside running game with his speed to track the ball down.

    —Experienced and productive in pass coverage; fast enough to lock up tight ends or backs.

    —NFL bloodlines; his father, Devin, played at Florida State and was a first-round pick in 1995.

           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Can get caught looping to the ball instead of taking a direct angle.

    —Will miss some tackles because of a shorter tackle radius and grasp.

    —Big blockers can stop him in the middle of the line in the run game; has to learn to better stack up blockers.

    —Might be scheme-limited to a weak-side linebacker spot in the NFL, where he won't be asked to take on as many blockers in the run game.

           

    OVERALL

    Bush was considered a great film guy who likely wouldn't measure or test well, but he did both. Putting together his two years of production with elite athletic traits should have scouts and coaches opening up to the idea of him as a top-15 selection.

           

    GRADE: 7.15 (ROUND 1 - TOP-15 PLAYER POTENTIAL)

    PRO COMPARISON: Lavonte David

1. Devin White, LSU

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Former prep running back who still looks the part with a blazing-fast 4.42 in the 40-yard dash and a 39½" vertical jump. One of the best athletes to come out at linebacker in the last decade.

    —Range for days; can get outside the tackle box but also stacks up well against blockers in the middle of the field. Improved his strength and technique to stack-and-shed before the 2018 season.

    —Coaches' dream with top-end work ethic, coachability and a competitive streak.

    —Agile mover who shows explosiveness coming out of his stance; can easily get outside to crash bubble screens or quick passes.

    —Strong enough at 237 pounds to take on blockers in the gap and rock them back on their heels.

    —Productive in the SEC, and found ways to shine brightest in big games. Impacts games with tackles, sacks, interceptions and tackles for loss.

    —Plays with a mean streak and a belief that the ball belongs to him.

    —Can sink in coverage and run with tight ends, backs and receivers.

            

    WEAKNESSES

    —Instincts on defense are still being developed; will over run the play or get caught guessing, but has been able to overcome in college due to speed.

    —Can stand to play lower when taking on blockers or ball-carriers.

    —A high-potential player who has two years of high-end production, but is still raw to the point that he needs more development in terms of read-and-react.

           

    OVERALL

    Devin White is the ideal modern NFL linebacker. He can stack up against the run, chase down outside plays, spy mobile quarterbacks or cover the middle of the field on pass plays. With no notable injury history, no off-field issues and elite athleticism, he's one of the safest players in the 2019 draft class.

                 

    GRADE: 7.35 (ROUND 1 - TOP-10 PICK)

    PRO COMPARISON: Roquan Smith