The 2019 NFL Draft had one of the more underwhelming classes we have seen in recent history. Now that we have seen where they have all landed, we cover who has the best shot at fantasy success.
Leading up to the NFL Draft there was a consensus on who the top rookie linebackers were. After those two the rankings from #3 to #20 changed vastly depending on who you were talking to. Now the draft is done and the consensus top two remain the same but the same issue is present with who comes in after them. Here I list my top 5 linebackers based off of their landing spots leading into the 2019 season.
1) Devin Bush- Pittsburgh Steelers
College Stats: 27 Games, 152 tackles (82 solo), 15.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, eight passes defended, and an interception.
Had Devin White landed in a better spot he would be my number one overall linebacker. Landing on the Buccaneers hurt his value a little. He has to compete for tackles with Lavonte David who has been a consistent top 10 linebacker for a few years now.
Devin Bush is of the same profile as Devin White, he just does not rush the passer as well. His landing spot in Pittsburgh could not have been better. He will not need to worry about rushing the passer as he will play middle linebacker in a 3-4 base scheme. Bush is a sideline to sideline athletic linebacker. He ran a 4.43 second 40 yard dash at the combine coming in at 234 Lbs. He has great body control, understands offenses and shows great patience in his run pursuit.
— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) April 30, 2019
The Steelers have not had an athletic and rangy linebacker since Ryan Shazier and he was putting up solid numbers. Bush should be able to take over the Shazier spot and thrive from day one.
2) Devin White- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
College Stats: 29 Games, 239 tackles (82 solo), 22 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, eight passes defended, one interception, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
As I mentioned before Devin White is my favorite linebacker from this draft. His landing spot next to Lavonte David is the only thing that drops him to #2. He would still be first on this list had the Buccaneers stayed with a 4-3 base considering how David and Kwon Alexander were able to co-exist and produce. In a base 3-4 White will compete directly next to David and as a rookie will likely be outplayed by him.
With that said Devin White is a great talent and overall great addition to the Buccaneers defense. He is a solid blitzer and gets behind the line of scrimmage quickly and has the power not to be stood up at the line.
A Tiger is headed to Tampa.
Buccaneers select Devin White No. 5 overall pic.twitter.com/6jFNStTYdo
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 26, 2019
He shoots gaps terrifically reading the run game with ease and should prove to make this teams run defense much improved. White can also drop in coverage and is quick enough but also strong enough to compete with tight ends. White is easily #2 on this list.
3) Germaine Pratt- Cincinnati Bengals
College Stats: 47 Games, 235 tackles (121 solo), 17 tackles for a loss, six sacks, nine passes defended, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and a touchdown.
After Bush and White, the talent drop off is pretty significant but some landing spots still will hold fantasy value. The Bengals are a barren wasteland for linebackers as they employ one of the weaker groups in the NFL. Jordan Evans underwhelmed and was benched last season. Nick Vigil performed well fantasy wise but is not a long-term option. Malik Jefferson is a rookie from last year and was never able to crack the lineup even with such a feeble corps.
Pratt brings a level of physicality and pass rushing ability to the group. During his Senior season he racked up 104 tackles, 10 for a loss, six sacks and three passes defended. Pratt has solid pursuit speed and takes pride in finishing his tackles.
CALLING ALL BENGALS FANS!
— Stadium (@Stadium) April 27, 2019
With the state of the Bengals linebacker corps, Pratt has a clear path to fantasy relevancy.
4) Jahlani Tavai- Detroit Lions
College Stats: 47 Games, 390 tackles (220 solo), 41 tackles for a loss, 16.5 sacks, five passes defended, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Predraft, I thought that Jahlani Tavai was a Day 3 prospect. Then the Lions held the 11th pick in the 2nd round (43rd overall) and they drafted Tavai. The pure fact that the Lions selected Tavai in the 2nd round means he will most likely start this season. Jarrad Davis is the beset linebacker of this group but last season he suffered with far too many missed tackles.
Tavai was a tackle machine at the University of Hawaii. He had two straight seasons over 120 total tackles and was well on his way there in 2018 with 82 in eight games. Tavai has great hands and sheds blocks well as a blitzer. He also drops into coverage well due to his good athleticism and should not have any issues covering tight ends.
Athletic enough? pic.twitter.com/0uTJxscXx6
— Chris Salts (@ChrisSalts) April 29, 2019
Tavai will most likely win the weakside linebacker job from Christian Jones as he has underwhelmed his entire career. Tavai has a pretty clear path to solid fantasy numbers.
5) Mack Wilson- Cleveland Browns
College Stats: 33 Games (one year starter), 113 tackles (59 solo), seven tackles for a loss, one sack, seven passes defended, six interceptions, one fumble recovery and a touchdown.
Mack Wilson started the predraft period as a potential first round prospect. During the predraft process of tape review and workouts, Wilson dropped all the way to 17th pick in the 5th round (155 overall). Wilson was not even the first linebacker selected by the Browns, that was Sione Takitaki from BYU which was a head scratcher. He is the superior talent over Takitaki and was a steal in the 5th round.
Wilson fits the mold of the new style linebacker. He is adequately athletic and actually excels in coverage. During his college career he totaled six interceptions while only being a full-time starter for one season.
I understand the hesitation on Mack Wilson, and why he fell where he did. The tape is uneven as well, but….
You just have to feel good about the upside for a guy selected in Rd5. This is one hell of a play running up the seam and flipping your hips in mid-air. pic.twitter.com/iykklKsTHI
— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) May 1, 2019
The Browns decided not to re-sign Jamie Collins Sr. in free agency opening up one of the linebacker slots for competition. Wilson has a good chance to win the starting job for week one. Even if he does not win the job his special teams play will catch coaches eyes and push him to play more snaps.
The 2019 linebacker draft class was not elite by any means. The top two should have solid rookie seasons while the entire group behind them will need to battle for playing time. There should be at three or four rookies this season starting at least eight games this season.
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