NFL Draft 2019: An early look at the top five linebackers
College football is only weeks away. There's no better time than now to look at five linebackers who could be early-round NFL Draft picks after this season.
1. DEVIN WHITE, LSU
Stats: White led LSU by far with 133 tackles, including 14 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He also had an interception, a fumble recovery and five quarterback hurries.
Farrell’s take: We knew White was a four-star talent; we just couldn’t figure out at which position to rank him. I remember when he first came onto the radar he was considered the next Leonard Fournette in the state – a massive and fast running back prodigy. However, he kept getting bigger and lost speed, so he was projected either as a linebacker or a fullback/H-back, or even a kid who could grow into a defensive tackle. He wasn’t very good covering in space at all, so we ranked him as a fullback and now he’s showing us we should have kept him at linebacker. He’s a big hitter, always has been, and is the clear No. 1 linebacker for me.
2. MONTEZ SWEAT, MISSISSIPPI STATE
Recruiting: After playing at Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson, Sweat played at Michigan State before transferring to junior college at Wesson (Miss.) Copiah-Lincoln and eventually ending up at Mississippi State.
Stats: Sweat finished with 48 tackles, including 15.5 stops for loss and 10.5 sacks. He also added a fumble recovery and four quarterback hurries.
Farrell’s take: I put Sweat at linebacker here because he could be the great hybrid in this class, an athletic kid who makes his living as an end but could easily stand up at the next level. Sweat was a tall, filled-out defensive end out of high school who was a mid-three star but has developed into an athletic freak who has NFL scouts very interested. Last season put him squarely on the radar.
3. JOSH ALLEN, KENTUCKY
Recruiting: Allen committed to Kentucky during his official visit to Lexington in January. The Wildcats were his only listed offer.
Stats: Allen was fourth on the team with 65 tackles, including 9.5 for loss and a team-high seven sacks. He added two forced fumbles and four quarterback hurries.
Farrell’s take: Allen was a low three-star out of high school, a big linebacker who we had some concerns about when it came to lateral movement and what position he would end up playing. He’s turned into a tackling machine who can also blitz and get after the passer. His ability to cover in space as well as rush off the edge has scouts intrigued.
4. TRE LAMAR, CLEMSON
Stats: In 10 games last season, Lamar finished with 52 tackles, including five for loss and four sacks. He also had a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and three quarterback hurries.
Farrell’s take: Lamar was a five-star player out of high school because he was big and powerful, but also rangy and solid in coverage. To add quickness at the college level he actually gained weight and power. He’s come along a little slower than expected, but last season showed his range and physical abilities, and he could take it to the next level after this. His physical skills have NFL scouts encouraged.
5. DEVIN BUSH, MICHIGAN
Recruiting: In December of his senior season, Bush committed to Michigan over Florida State, Georgia, Auburn and others. He picked the Wolverines despite his father having had played for the Seminoles.
Stats: Bush led the Wolverines in tackles with 100, including 9.5 for loss and five sacks. He also had eight pass deflections and an interception.
Farrell’s take: We had Bush ranked in the Rivals250 and as a top 10 inside linebacker, but I never expected him to be as dominant as he has been this early in his career. He’s a much bigger hitter at the college level than I expected, and his lack of length – something we worried about – hasn’t hurt him at all. He explodes to the football, arrives with a thump and has been a huge key for Michigan’s defense. Could he be this year’s Roquan Smith? Time will tell.