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2019 Senior Bowl Positional Preview Scouting: Linebackers (ILB and OLB prospects)

Air Date:
January 20, 2019

It’s Senior Bowl time…

Leading into the 2019 Senior Bowl week, all first-half of January 2019, I’ve been preview scouting all the prospects (except OL and PK) – spending 20-60 minutes per prospect watching selected tape and looking over their college output/statistics and game logs.

I then typed a quick reaction paragraph or two and assigned a school grade scouting to each prospect. This initial grade is just my early reaction to what I see. I cannot run the non-QB prospects through my computer scouting models until I get the NFL Combine and/or Pro Day data. This preview is my best attempt to explain what I see and to prepare myself on things to look for going into the Senior Bowl week of practices. *My scouting grades/takes on these players can/will change based on watching them this week but more so when their Combine and Pro Data comes in.

I will be releasing a few positions of preview scouting and grades starting 1/19 and running to 1/22. On 1/22, Tuesday, we have the official weigh ins and measurements, which I’ll be covering and reporting on the interesting results as fast as I can type them out.

1/22 (TUE) also starts the practice week 1/22-1/24, I’ll be covering what I saw/heard from prospects and coaches, etc., and reporting out that night/next day. 1/26 will be the game itself.

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OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS:

OLB Terrill Hanks, New Mexico State (6’1”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade = D-

Didn’t like anything about this tape at all. Was playing 4-3 OLB in 2018 tape I watched and looked slow in pursuit and just didn’t standout at all. Had a nice 2017, statistically, big drop-off in 2018. I’m not sure how he got an invite.

OLB Chase Hansen, Utah (6’2”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade = D

A try-hard middle linebacker for Utah. Smart college player – chases every play, guesses well to blitz the backfield, solid form tackler. I just do not see any physical/athletic traits of an NFL linebacker here. Too slow, not agile enough. He’s just short of what he needs for the NFL. College play is his peak.

OLB Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame (6’1”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade = D+

I watched him playing 4-3 OLB but seems like losing 10-15 pounds and moving to safety might be better for his NFL career. I didn’t see anything of real note upon scouting some of his games. Tries hard. Willing hitter. Just not real athleticism, for the next level, on display. Does his best work guessing the play/guessing which hole the play is going through and when he gets it right he’ll ring up a TFL. Otherwise, he’s not really creating chaos by the force of his talent.

OLB Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M (6’2”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade = C-

Looks like a capable 4-3 OLB. Not sure I see ‘ILB’ as his future. He’s fairly fluid dropping into coverage and rushing the backfield or chasing ballcarriers. He wasn’t so great when he was fighting off blockers.

OLB Ben Banogu, TCU (6’3”/245) *Preview Scouting Grade = C

Very fast feet, nice bounce as a stand-up EDGE rusher, but that’s all he showed me – he tries to attack the backfield every play and will occasionally make the TFL (18.0 of them in 2018 in 13 games) but more times than not he overruns the play or, worse, he blocks away easily…too easily. Too simple for better blockers to take out of the play because he doesn’t have overwhelming upper body strength.

Could be a pass rush specialist in the NFL, but a consistent star…I don’t see it.

OLB Christian Miller, Alabama (6’4”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade = C+

Looks like he has all the tools, physically/athletically. I just didn’t see an attention-getting playmaker. He was a solid 4-3 EDGE rusher. Used quickness or power to get to the backfield but was also patient enough to play the run when needed. Everything was solid but in looking for ‘special’…I didn’t see it first go-round.

OLB D’Andre Walker, Georgia (6’2”/245) *Preview Scouting Grade = B-

Has the ‘look’, the build and movement of a nice 4-3 OLB. A few times, on tape, he looked like an ‘A’…but mostly Walker was up and down on tape. Sometimes super-promising, sometimes just an average ‘good’ college pass rusher. Hard to get a full read. I’m on the fence with him but based on how good he could be in flashes, I’ll put him in the B-range to start.

OLB Josh Allen, Kentucky (6’4”/255) *Preview Scouting Grade = B+

Sometimes I watch Allen on tape, and I see what everyone else sees and think he’s a future star, but too many times I’m watching and left wanting. I watched him against Georgia/2018 and Allen was just taken out of the game by single blockers.

Allen has amazing closing speed. You give him a step or angle…and it’s over. He’s into the backfield – 21.5 TFLs and 17.0 sacks in 2018 (13 games). If you can block him off the jump he doesn’t make as much impact in the end. Speed is his everything, which is great but some hesitation shedding blockers keeps me from making him an ‘A’.

His ability to get by blockers with his feet and just be a menace in the backfield so often makes him a dangerous weapon in the NFL. His production, his best moments…there is more ‘star’ here than not but it’s not ‘perfect’, but it’s REALLY good.

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ILB Germaine Pratt, NC State (6’2”/235) *Preview Scouting Grade = D+/C-

Three years as a safety, then moved to ILB his senior year. He looked OK. Tries hard/gives a good effort. I didn’t see anything special except he played hard and was a solid tackler. He could catch on in the NFL.

ILB Bobby Okereke, Stanford (6’2”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade = D+/C-

Solid college ILB but looks like more of an NFL OLB or SAF/OLB hybrid. However, I worry that his speed/agility aren’t enough for the next level to have an impact. I might be being a bit harsh on him, but I know he’s not a great-looking ILB prospect.

ILB Te’Von Coney, Notre Dame (6’0”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade = C-

Good all-around linebacker, but not ‘special’ in my viewings. Played some 4-3 ILB and OLB but seems to have a heart more for OLB – likes to drop into coverage or move all around the alignments. Didn’t seem to have that ILB/tackle-everything vibe. Nice NFL size and movement skills.

ILB Cameron Smith, USC (6’1”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade = C

Classic middle linebacker look but lined up all over the defense. Looked like he lost weight his senior year, played less bulky and more fluid…but wasn’t as effective as he was earlier in his career. A bit of an enigma for me at this point. I see NFL skill, and then I see something to worry about.

ILB David Long, West Virginia (5’11”/220) *Preview Scouting Grade = B+/A-

Amazing closing speed. Waits patiently, and sometimes not, for the play to be shown and then from a standstill he’ll rocket into the backfield and wipe out ballcarriers with a vengeance. They don’t call him ‘Mr. TFL’ for nothing – 19.5 TFLs in 2018, 35.0 TFLs the past two seasons combined in just 21 games.

He’s a bit small for NFL middle linebacker but could pull it off like Deone Bucannon…or just move to be a killer strong safety. He’ll play somewhere because he’s a player.

ILB De’Shaun Davis, Auburn (5’11”/246) *Preview Scouting Grade = B+/A-

A legit starting middle linebacker in the NFL. Quick to the ball. Fights off blockers well and will push them backwards in battle. Hits hard, tackles with nice form. Like everything that I saw here. 112 tackles, 12.0 TFLs last season.


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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics. 

Learn more about RC and the College Football Metrics system >>