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For the weeks leading up to the NFL Combine event (late Feb.), I go through preview tape of all the prospects attending/invited and give a quick reaction grade and a few sentences on what I’m seeing – a quick guide, of sorts, of what we’re focusing on watching at the event.
It’s a quick eye-test reaction, and grading/scouting typed in pencil. The NFL Combine measurables can/do change things radically for some of the prospects…there’s always a nice (or disappointing) surprise or ten.
After the 2019 NFL Combine results are in, we can load all the results into our computer scouting models to marry up with our performance analytics -- and then start our detailed studies on the top prospects and computer-model sleepers at each position.
Every day for the two weeks leading up to the 2019 NFL Combine we will release another positional preview of the prospects, ranked by our early grades applied.
Today’s group: ILB prospects
Tomorrow’s planned group: CB prospects
2019 NFL Combine Scouting Preview/Ranking: ILB
ILB Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin (6’2”/235) *Preview Scouting Grade: D-
Solid college ILB, but I didn’t see the speed, instincts or power of an NFL ILB. Does a lot of guessing run-blitzes, but other than that I didn’t see an impact defender on tape.
ILB Joe Giles-Harris, Duke (6’1”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade: D-
Looks like an ILB but played more as an 4-3 OLB for Duke. Not great (NFL) speed. Saw him get blocked out by everyone who took him on. Didn’t like what I saw at all. I don’t see the movement skills of a serious NFL prospect at ILB, and for sure not OLB.
ILB Gary Johnson, Texas (6’0”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade: D-
Did not like this tape. Speed-agility was ‘meh’ and didn’t love his instincts. Good effort, willing hitter…but I just never felt like I was looking at a starting NFL linebacker here. Good college linebacker, weaker pro linebacker prospect.
ILB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin (6’1”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade: D
Another LB prospect that to me just looks like a good college inside linebacker but doesn’t have the skills or speed to be an impact player at the next level.
ILB Tyrel Dodson, Texas A&M (6’1”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+/C-
Has the size and movement of an ILB, but I didn’t really see him working well as that classic middle linebacker. Doesn’t seem to sort out the plays very well. Looked like he was moved out of ILB into more OLB type of role as his career went on. I can’t put my finger totally on it, but something didn’t look right with him as a great football player. I could be wrong because he moves and has the size of an NFL player.
ILB Cameron Smith, USC (6’1”/250) *Preview Scouting Grade: C
Has the size. Has good feet. Seems like an NFL ILB, but something doesn’t feel 100% right watching him. Was terrific early in his career and then kinda never got better/more impactful. He seems like a solid prospect, but I didn’t see any ‘star potential’ upside.
ILB Ty Summers, TCU (6’1”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade: C
Relentless player…the kind NFL coaches adore. Will make it on the league on sheer effort. Has the size and burst, and definitely the tackle skills of an NFL ILB. He isn’t higher-end on speed-agility but has enough to either make it onto a roster or someday start. His quality of play and tackling is going to get him opportunity. A classic middle linebacker.
ILB Otara Alaka, Texas A&M (6’2”/235) *Preview Scouting Grade: C
A Swiss army knife linebacker prospect. Has great closing speed/skills to make tackles. Has enough burst to play a little 3-4 OLB and rush the edge from time to time. However, looks capable as a middle linebacker (which is what he was for A&M). A utility LB prospect that could jump to a ‘B’ or fall to a ‘D’ depending upon his Combine numbers.
ILB Devin Bush, Michigan (5’11”/233) *Preview Scouting Grade: C+/B-
Looks like a solid 3-4 ILB prospect for the NFL. He’s an aggressive, fairly savvy reader of the line of scrimmage. Can move around to cover RBs flaring out of the backfield pretty well. He’s a solid player but not amazing. He’s a possible NFL starter or rotational linebacker. He’ll be a solid/good pro over time, I think. Let me see those Combine numbers first…
ILB Te’Von Coney, Notre Dame (6’1”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade: B-
Classic middle linebacker. Does a nice job of staying fluid/constantly moving and avoiding traffic. I fear he may be a hair too slow to become a top linebacker in the NFL. We need to see what the Combine says, but he looks like a very solid, legit NFL prospect but probably not an All-Pro level LB.
ILB Blake Cashman, Minnesota (6’1”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade: B-
Really nice, classic inside linebacker – plays sideline-to-sideline very well. He’s not a ‘chaser’ of plays too late…he’s a pursuer. Has a good knack for when he needs to move forward and when he needs to drop back into coverage. Has some impressive short speed/burst to close in on plays. Liked the possibilities here.
ILB Devin White, LSU (6’1”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade: B
The more I watch of White, the more I’m not a fan/the more flaws I see. I was watching him against Georgia in 2018, and he was blocked out/guess wrong of most plays. He had 13 tackles in the game, so what’s to complain about? Well…12 of the 13 tackles were ‘assisted’. He made one solo tackle against Georgia in 2018…and there were stretches that Georgia just ran up the middle over-and-over.
A lot of weak solo tackle counts in his game log…a sign of a problem. White is big/thick and looks great when he gets to a ballcarrier with a big hit – but the problem is he doesn’t get to them enough for top LB prospects. Something is off here. Maybe it can be coached/fixed. Athletically, he belongs.
ILB Deshaun Davis, Auburn (5’11”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade: B+
Looks like a very solid, instinctual middle linebacker. An NFL starter talent for sure. He’s good, but when looking for great – I didn’t see it. Pursues well, tackles well. He’s fine. Looking for that ‘A’ star power for the next level…didn’t see it on the preview. It might be there, we’ll see.
ILB David Long, West Va. (5’11”/220) *Preview Scouting Grade: B+/A-
Very good pursuer and tackler. Stood out at the Senior Bowl. Has a knack for shooting gaps and getting into the backfield. I like his game. The downside…a little undersized and maybe tries to guess/blitz the backfield a little too much…which drives his numbers but also puts him out of position some when he guesses wrong. In general, he’s an NFL-starter talent for sure.
ILB Tre Lamar, Clemson (6’2”/250) *Preview Scouting Grade: B+/A-
Quintessential middle linebacker. Aggressive, always moving, very fast feet/great burst when needed, quality tackler. Lamar is very good shedding blockers and making plays on ballcarriers…a gift not a lot of ILB prospects have in this draft. Lamar is above most in that area. He’s a legit day one NFL starter at 4-3 or 3-4 ILB, depending upon what situation he lands in.
ILB Jeff Allison, Fresno State (6’0”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade: B+/A-
He hits you and you’re going down. Great leverage tackler. Very aggressive but sound tackler. Nice in pursuit…NFL ILB pursuit, speed, and tackler skills. Really enjoyed watching him. In 2017, against Alabama he has 14 tackles and he was sending all the big ‘Bama backs backwards when he hit them. Very impressive, should be rated much higher as a prospect than I see him at right now nationally.