2019 LB Summary

Can Joe Giles-Harris make the NFL transition?
2019 Browns LB’s of Interest (Rnd 1-4)
2019 Browns LB’s of Interest (Rnd 5-7)

With the proliferation of Spread-concept offenses, LB’s these days need to be able to think on their feet and diagnose/react/move so quickly. They need to have plus athleticism, especially lateral movement skills. Range is highly valued and can mean the difference in the run game as these offenses spread the defense drastically and force them to cover a ton of ground.

Outlet passes to RB’s in the flats (slot receivers too) exist in nearly every play design. The ability to cover, at least in the shallows has become highly prized as well. There has never been more pressure on Linebackers in the history of the game. And it’s getting harder to find guys that can give you all or many of these skills in one package.

Combine these facts with the reality that LB is one of the positions that has me completely baffled in terms of identifying the guys that can really play in the NFL. The 1st Round talents are easy for everyone to spot, it’s the guys after them that don’t offer all of the skill sets or physical attributes you need to succeed at the next level. I am determined to figure this out using simple stats from college and physical attributes like I did for QB’s. See my FQRS documents on that topic. I hope to work on the LB version this summer.

So, in this year’s Draft we know Devin White and Devin Bush are very talented and offer just about all the tools you want. I am pretty frustrated with the “real” player evaluators because when it comes to height for LB’s that is an attribute that will bring tons of disdain and boo-hooing because “length is vital to success for Linebackers” say the scouts, the TV and radio idiots and all of the dummies like me who post online about every detail on every player.

And yet, Devin White who is one inch taller than Devin Bush is RARELY criticized as being short for the position (ideally the NFL wants 6’2″ or better). Devin Bush is crushed constantly for lacking the length needed. Keep in mind they include arm length with height because arm length will increase your tackle radius…and yet White, Bush and Te’Von Coney (nearly a clone physically of Devin White) all have exactly the same arm length: 32″. And that means all three have SHORT ARMS by NFL standards! And yet since Devin White is the run-away favorite for best LB in this class, very few people are calling out his length as an issue, but all of the others like Bush an Coney are being downgraded for this very thing.

Unfortunately you have to sift through the over-reacting on some players and apply your own standards fairly. And once again, I believe this represents the very kind of advantage that good GM’s like Dorsey (and other long-term successful guys) seem to jump on every year and draft extremely talented guys who might fall a little short in some physical attributes.

This year the LB class is pretty poor after those first 4 guys. White, Bush, Coney and Mack Wilson are the cream, after that the fall off is steep and endless. The middle rounds don’t hold a ton of magic or sleeper guys, and definitely don’t hold a lot of talent. There will be a ton of guys drafted late who will be fighting to make rosters, but mostly lacking the physical attributes needed. They will need to flash and do it fast in camp. The UDFA group is going to be SICK…assuming that part of the process excites you! But again, most of those boys don’t make a roster.

Assuming he sees LB as a major gap and this Draft as offering good value, I see Dorsey approaching LB under two different scenarios. One, in order to grab Mack Wilson from Alabama, he is likely going to have to jump up into the top of Round 2 to get him. Wilson is an absolute breathtaking athlete in the mold of CJ Mosely. He’s not quite as good anticipating and lacks required strength, but so did Mosely. But you can’t teach what this kid can do athletically. He can also play all 3 positions off the ball. Incredibly multiple and would be a very nice consolation prize after Bush and White go off the board.

I think what you are weighing here is how do we have Wilson slotted in terms of talent versus a CB, FS, SS, EDGE or DT in that Round 2 slot #49? If he is far and away better than our highest rated guy in these other positions then you do what’s necessary to get him. If you do move up into the high Round 2 range, you put yourself in position to get an even better CB or SS so that’s part of your equation too. Some folks thing Wilson will be better than White or Bush by year 3…Remember, White, Bush and Coney are all limited to Mike LB role, where Wilson can play 3 positions….I say Draft. What. You. See. But it’s beauty in the eye of the beholder right? Well Dorsey is going to need to outmaneuver the Patriots, Steelers, Bengals and Ravens who all need a starting LB and all traditionally draft them very well…

Mack Wilson – Is He Special or No?

Scenario 2 is wait at #49 to see if Te’Von Coney drops that far, which he absolutely should. He is a poor man’s Devin Bush and not that far off physically and athletically. They both have similar gaps in ability and athletic profile. Neither checks every box and both are limited to Mike LB most likely, but both are old NFL style thumpers with good, but not killer speed. They bring the wood and can run gap, but both have to work hard to get off blocks and need to improve their power and technique to do that. Coney is no slouch, he just does not fit the modern NFL linebacker profile of speed, range and processing skills.

My hope is that if we don’t snag an early round LB in the 2nd or 3rd Round, we should be looking late in the Draft for serious developmental projects. In Rounds 5-7 I’d love to see us grab two players who can play Will and/or Sam on the outside. There are a couple of local University of Akron boys you will see on my mocks – Ulysees Gilbert III and Jamal Davis II who I believe offer the speed, the lateral agility and the processing skills to develop for the NFL. Your hope is they make the roster so you don’t have to stash them on the practice squad, but both guys are worth a shot. Tremendously talented, just undersized and lacking needed strength and take-on power. And what a great local story!

Gilbert III and Davis II – Imagine We Got Both These Young Bucks!

Here is how I score our current LB roster after Free Agency. All three positions need depth badly as I consider our current back ups to be throw away players in terms of skill level. I believe from statements made recently that Dorsey values length in his DL players and Wilks values length in his LB’s. Height is not in great supply in this Draft for the 4-3 guys. Couple of 3-4 Outside LB’s with good height like De’Andre Walker from Georgia could probably be played as 4-3 Outside, but that’s a lot of projecting.

Kirksey has not been available enough and appears to be fragile. Schobert is extremely limited athletically, he just makes plays based on elite processing that allows him to get to a spot faster via diagnosis, not speed or agility. Avery is ascending and looks to have elite athleticism but he’s still improving and bounces from Will to 5-Tech to Sam from play to play. Seems to be able to handle it but could hurt his development to some degree. Depth guys we can add now should learn and play one spot to start with unless they prove to be really special like Mack Wilson may be. Buddy Boy will figure this out!