2019 Draft Snapshot: Linebackers

There’s just two days to go until the first 32 players of the 2019 NFL Draft class are named.

The first round of the annual event will begin at 7 p.m. (CT) on Thursday in Nashville.

The Miller Lite Vikings Draft Party will coincide with the opening night. It is scheduled from 6 to 11 p.m. on April 25 at U.S. Bank Stadium and will feature live coverage of the draft by “Voice of the Vikings” Paul Allen and KFAN. Tickets are available for purchase here.

The second and third rounds will be held on April 26, with festivities beginning at 6 p.m. (CT).

The fourth round will start at 11 a.m. (CT) on April 27 and be followed by Rounds 5-7.

The Vikings currently have eight selections in the draft, beginning with the 18th overall pick.

Vikings.com is taking a glance at the top prospects at each position leading up to the draft.

Schedule

April 11: Running backs

April 12: Tight ends

April 15: Quarterbacks

April 16: Wide receivers

April 17: Offensive tackles

April 18: Centers and guards

April 19: Defensive tackles

April 23: Linebackers

April 24: Cornerbacks

April 25: Safeties

Where the Vikings Stand

The Vikings have eight linebackers whose NFL origins are wide-ranging. The group is led by 2014 first-round selection Anthony Barr and 2015 second-round pick Eric Kendricks. The other players drafted by Minnesota at the position are Ben Gedeon (fourth round in 2017), Kentrell Brothers (fifth round in 2016) and Devante Downs (seventh round in 2018). Eric Wilson made the squad as an undrafted free agent in 2017. Reshard Cliett, who hasn’t played in a regular-season game, was originally selected by Houston in the sixth round in 2015. The Vikings also added Greer Martini earlier this month. Martini joined Green Bay as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2018. He spent time on the Packers practice squad and most recently played in the Alliance of American Football.

Recent Draft History (over past five years)

Total number of linebackers taken (includes players classified as LB, OLB or ILB at the time of the draft by Pro-Football-Reference.com): 175

Round 1: 22 (4 in 2018, 5 in 2017, 2 in 2016, 5 in 2015, 6 in 2014)

Round 2: 21 (4 in 2018, 4 in 2017, 5 in 2016, 5 in 2015, 3 in 2014)

Round 3: 21 (5 in 2018, 6 in 2017, 3 in 2016, 4 in 2015, 3 in 2014)

Round 4: 25 (4 in 2018, 5 in 2017, 7 in 2016, 4 in 2015, 5 in 2014)

Round 5: 28 (4 in 2018, 6 in 2017, 3 in 2016, 7 in 2015, 8 in 2014)

Round 6: 27 (8 in 2018, 3 in 2017, 7 in 2016, 6 in 2015, 3 in 2014)

Round 7: 31 (9 in 2018, 3 in 2017, 7* in 2016, 5 in 2015, 7 in 2014)

* Includes Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly

The past five years of drafts have averaged 4.4 linebackers in first rounds and 4.2 in second and third rounds. Day 3 of the drafts, however, have seen an uptick in linebackers coming off the board, with 5.0 on average in the fourth, 5.6 in the fifth, 5.4 in the sixth and 6.2 in the seventh.

The Prospects (based on rankings by Dane Brugler of The Athletic)

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1. Devin Bush

Michigan, Junior, 5-foot-10, 234 pounds

2018 stats: 78 tackles (38 solo), 9.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, 6 pass breakups in 12 games

Quotable: “That’s one person I can always lean on, one person that’s never going to give bad advice. He’s going to keep it straight up with me and keep it real. He always encouraged me to be the best person I could be. When I was young, he said not to play the game because he played it. I should play because I want to. He always made sure I was playing the game for me and not him. When I made the decision to play football, he always stood by me. He was my biggest critic. He was always on me, but he always helped me get better.” — Bush on his father (Devin, Sr.), who played for Florida State and helped the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV

Expert take: “Bush doesn’t have ideal take-on skills to thrive inside as a ‘Mike,’ but his ability to diagnose, his reaction quickness and his closing speed are special, projecting best as an impact starting ‘Will’ in the NFL.”Brugler

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2. Devin White

LSU, Junior, 6-0, 237

2018 stats: 123 tackles (62 solo), 12 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 6 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles in 13 games

Quotable: “It fits pretty well. You can’t be a guy that shies away from leadership. You can’t be a guy that doesn’t study and knows what he is doing on the field. You’re the quarterback of that defense, you have to be a playmaker and an absolute stud. I am not shy. I have to be able to go into the league, win guys over and start leading those guys.” — White on how his personality matches the position of “Mike” linebacker

Expert take: “Although I don’t think Devin White is on the same level as Roquan Smith, there is plenty to like about his play speed and violence. The better comparison is to another former SEC linebacker, Jarrad Davis, who was the 21st overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Lions.”Brugler

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3. Mack Wilson

Alabama, Junior, 6-1, 240

2018 stats: 71 tackles (36 solo), 5.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, 5 pass breakups, 2 interceptions in 15 games

Quotable: “The strength of my game is my ability to play any linebacker position and my ability to run sideline to sideline. Cover tight ends, cover running backs, blitz, tackle. I feel I can do it all. That’s something I’m going to continue to work on and just continue to keep moving forward.” — Wilson on his versatility

Expert take: “Wilson is like a classically trained musician who hits his notes on time, but the question is whether or not he can play as a free-form, improvisational talent when the opportunity arises. Either way, he’s a solid, three-down starter in any defensive scheme.” — NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein

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4. Jahlani Tavai

Hawaii, Redshirt Senior, 6-2, 250

2018 stats: 82 tackles (42 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble in 8 games

Quotable: “It helped me with open-field tackles and how to target the hip. As a rugby player, you have to be explosive, not only as a tackler, but also carrying the ball. My tackling ability really increased the last four years.” — Tavai on how his background of playing rugby helped his development on the gridirion

Expert Take: “Overall, Tavai needs to tidy up his anticipation and break-down skills, but he has true three-down ability with his physicality vs. the run and athleticism to drop in coverage, projecting to be a hybrid linebacker with inside-outside versatility.” — Brugler

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5. Germaine Pratt

N.C. State, Redshirt Senior, 6-2, 240

2018 stats: 104 tackles (55 solo), 10.5 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles in 11 games

Quotable: “I think I’m a three-down linebacker — ain’t too many of them that say they’re three-down linebackers. They get out sometimes. I don’t get off the field. I think I’m better covering a tight end and stuff. If coach calls a blitz or something, he expects me to be in man-to-man coverage, and he doesn’t have to worry about me.” — Pratt when asked about the strength of his game

Stop in the name of Pratt: According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, Pratt ranked fifth among evaluated linebacker prospects with a run-stop percentage of 13.45 percent. PFF combines total tackles, run-play snap counts and defensive stops — “what we judge to be tackles that prevent an offensive success (defined as gaining 40 percent of required yardage on first down, 60 percent on second down and the entire required yardage on third or fourth)” — to assess the effectiveness of tackles. PFF counted 32 run stops (as well as 63 total tackles and two missed tackles on 238 run-defense plays).

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6. Te’Von Coney

Notre Dame, Senior, 6-1, 234

2018 stats: 123 tackles (63 solo), 9.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 4 pass breakups, 1 interception in 13 games; ranked 32nd in FBS with 9.5 tackles per game

Quotable: “I’ve always talked about ‘going bonkers.’ It’s just a mindset of going out there and dominating: I’m going to make every play that comes to me, and the other defenders aren’t going to get anything. It’s something I came up with back at home. Junior year, I started playing really well. I had a huge year. I started telling people I was going bonkers, kind of made a definition for it. That’s something I stuck with to this day and something that’s driven me to continue to get better.” — Coney on describing his fierceness

Pass-rush production: PFF calculated a “pass-rushing productivity” score of 37.7 for Coney, which ranked 11th among evaluated linebacker prospects. The pass-rushing productivity is determined by adding sacks, hits and hurries (extra weight is placed on sacks, and other multipliers are used) and then broken down on a per-pass-rushing snap basis.

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7. Blake Cashman

Minnesota, Senior, 6-1, 237

2018 stats: 104 tackles (62 solo), 15 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble in 12 games; ranked 37th in FBS with 5.2 solo tackles per game and 36th with 1.3 tackles for loss per game

Quotable: “It makes me happy that we’re both able to represent our high school in a professional setting. I believe you can never forget where you came from. I think the Eden Prairie football program definitely shaped us to be the football players that we are today.” — Cashman on he and former Eagles teammate Ryan Connelly participating in the combine and draft

Making the grade: PFF issued an overall grade of 90.5 for Cashman in 2018. The site graded him at 87.4 at rushing the passer, 88.8 when defending the run and 80.4 in coverage.

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8. Vosean Joseph

Florida, Junior, 6-1, 230

2018 stats: 93 tackles (40 solo), 9.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 5 pass breakups in 13 games

Quotable: “Whoever wanna draft Vosean Joseph, just draft him, and you gonna get a dog. That’s how I see it.” — Joseph at Florida Pro Day

Same alma mater: Joseph attended Miami Norland High School, the same as Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes and Raiders receiver Antonio Brown.

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9. Bobby Okereke

Stanford, Redshirt Senior, 6-1, 239

2018 stats: 96 tackles (52 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles in 13 games

Quotable: “I think they see from my play how much I love the game of football, but you get that question as a Stanford guy, ‘Are you going to jet out and do something on Wall Street?’ I tell coaches that I love the game of football — started playing freshman year of high school and I haven’t turned back since.” — Okereke when asked at the combine if teams question his passion for football because of his academic commitments

Off the field: Okereke, a first-generation American who was born in San Mateo, California, earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America and performed at Carnegie Hall with his high school choir.

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10. Drue Tranquill

Notre Dame, Redshirt Senior, 6-2, 234

2018 stats: 86 tackles (63 solo), 9.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 4 pass breakups in 13 games

Quotable: “It’s funny turning 23 and looking around to see guys I’m playing with [are] 17, 18 years old. I’m married, so I feel a little bit old. But wise in other ways.” — Tranquill at Notre Dame’s media day last August

Comeback to the comeback: Tranquill, 23, came back from a torn ACL as a freshman in November 2014, but he suffered another torn ACL the following September. Tranquill bounced back again and started 36 of the 37 games he played from 2016-18. He was a team captain his final two seasons and won the Wuerffel Trophy (recognizes community service and academic achievement of a football player) in 2018 after already earning a mechanical engineering degree.

An image from September 9, 2018 regular season home game against the San Francisco 49ers. The Vikings won 24-16.

Vikings Draft Party

April 25 at U.S. Bank Stadium

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