2019 NFL Draft Inside Linebacker Prospects

Among draft eligible linebackers, 28 had an 11% or better team market share for solo tackles. These for the most part are considered inside linebackers. Outside linebackers tend not to get a solo tackle market share that high. There are a few exceptions here and those could probably play either position. These are those linebackers ranked starting with the best.

  1. Devin White – LSU
    Pro Football Focus gave Devin White the highest grade in coverage among all college linebackers in 2018. White’s 62 solo tackles in 2018 was good for a 15% team market share. That market share was fifth best among linebackers. White won the 2018 Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker. His LSU bio says that White is one of the best players to ever play at LSU. His nfl.com draft profile calls him a “Voracious student of the game”. White had the fastest 40 yard dash (4.42) among linebackers at the combine. He participated in six combine drills and made linebacker targets in five of them. There were only five linebackers at the combine that made five or more target goals.
    Projected Top 15, Projected high – Top 5

  2. David Long – West Virginia
    Comparing team market share percents across the five statistics of solo tackles, sacks, tackles for loss (TFL), interceptions and passes defended David Long comes out at the top in this group. He was one of three linebackers that had above average percents in 4 of the 5 stats and he had the highest positive sum of the standard deviations from average. Just on production alone among linebacker draft prospects in 2018 Long was 8th in sacks/game (0.58), 4th in TFL/game (1.58), 5th in solo tackles (76), and 8th among combine linebackers in career passes defended (10). Here is part of a review from Joe Marino of thedraftnetwork.com – “A truly unrelenting football player. Incredibly urgent attacking the football and he flies all over the field. His effort in pursuit is exceptional and it should translate nicely to contributions on special teams.”
    Projected Round 4, Projected high – Round 3
  3. T.J. Edwards – Wisconsin
    T.J. Edwards was another one of three linebackers in this group that had above average market share percents in 4 of the 5 statistics. He was second highest in the positive sum of the standard deviations from average. Edwards is one of only two players that over the last four years had 3+ interceptions and 40+ solo tackles for each of three years. The other player is a defensive back – DB Delvon Randal of Temple. Edwards played in 53 games starting 52 at inside linebacker. T.J. made 80+ tackles every year of his four year career. Among draft LB prospects 18 others came close to a full 4 years at 80+ tackles but only one other LB prospect achieved it – LB Terrill Hanks of New Mexico State. Edwards has been described as a throwback linebacker. He hits hard, has a high motor, plays smart and is tough. Edwards is good in coverage also.
    Projected Round 5-6, Projected high – Round 4.
  4. Sione Takitaki – Brigham Young
    Sione was the third of three on this list that that had above average market share percents in 4 of the 5 statistics. His one negative deviation from average for market share was the lowest compared to the sum of each player’s negative deviations. Sione lead all defenders in college Bowl games with 19 tackles and made the Sports Illustrated and USA Today All Bowl teams. Sione plays fast and with high energy. Takitaki was a 2018 team captain.
    Projected Round 6, Projected high – Round 4
  5. Blake Cashman – Minnesota
    Cashman came in second in team market share percent for both tackles for loss and passes defended. As reported by Pro Football Focus, Cashman was one of only two linebacker in 2018 who finished with 80.0-plus grades in run defense, pass-rushing, coverage and tackling. Cashman met linebacker targets in five of the seven combine drill tests. This from his draft profile on nfl.com = “Tough guy who lives for football” and “Tenacious demeanor wills him past certain blocks”.
    Projected Round 3, Projected high – Round 2
  6. Ben Burr-Kirven – Washington
    Ben had the second best solo tackle market share. The sum of his market share deviations for interceptions and passes defended was second best. Ben Burr_kirven played the middle of the field a lot and was a tackling machine. he had the third most tackles per game (12.6) and the third most solo tackles (94). At the combine Burr-Kirven met linebacker targets in six of the seven drill events. That was the second most among combine linebackers.
    Projected Round 6, Projected high – Round 4
  7. Germaine Pratt – NC State
    Pratt is a former 2 year safety converted to linebacker and has good cover skills to show from that experience. He shows excellent speed sideline to sideline. Pratt plays fast with high effort and a love for the game. Pratt produced in multiple areas and was one of only seven draft prospects to have 100+ tackles, 50+ solo tackles, 10+ Tackles for Loss and 5+ sacks in 2018.
    Projected Round 2-3, Projected high – Round 2
  8. Ulysees Gilbert III – Akron
    A three year starter, Gilbert played in every game of his college career.In 2016 and 2017 he was named Team Defensive MVP. He is a three time All Mac selection making first team in both 2016 and 2017, then second team in 2018. Ulysees plays fast to the ball and is a sound tackler. Gilbert is fast athletic linebacker that has great sideline to sideline speed. He has played extensively in zone and man coverage and shows solid ball skills. Reported high character and a leader.
    Projected Round 5, Projected high Round 4
  9. Chase Hansen – Utah

    Hansen played 2016 and 2017 at defensive back where he earned honorable-mention All-Pac-12 recognition as a strong safety in 2016. After playing one game at linebacker in 2017 he made the switch to full time linebacker in 2018. Hansen was one of eight semi-finalists for the 2018 Lott Impact Trophy presented to the college football’s best defensive player in character and performance.In 2018 Hansen was one of only two draft prospects that had 100+ tackles, 50+ solo tackles, 10+ Tackles for Loss, 5+ sacks and 1+ interceptions. “Chase Hansen is a beast,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told reporters after Hansen was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week following a 12-tackle, two-sack, pick-six performance against Northern Illinois on Sept. 8, 2018.
    Projected Round 5-6, Projected high – Round 4

  10. Cody Barton – Utah
    Barton was winner of the 2019 East West Shrine Game Pat Tillman Award presented to a player who best exemplifies character, intelligence, sportsmanship and service. Barton recorded 5 or more solo tackles in nine of his fourteen 2018 games. He was one of only twelve linebacker prospects to accomplish that. Solak (draft analyst from The Draft Network) had this to say about Barton – “tough as nails”, “Great man coverage player regularly tasked with third down/red zone coverage of backs and tight ends.” and “Aggressive, attacking style will attract blue-collar coaches.“. Per ,a href=”https://www.profootballfocus.com/news/college-top-25-observations-week-13″>Pro Football Focus, in his over 1,600 career snaps, Barton has 78 stops and only 10 missed tackles.
    Projected Round 6-7, Projected high Round 5
  11. Cole Holcomb – North Carolina
    Cole Holcomb made Bruce Feldman’s 2017 “freaks” list. In 2018 Holcomb had 40 more tackles than anyone else on his team. He is a three year starter at linebacker. In the East West Shrine Game Holcomb had two straight pass breakups to force a West punt in third quarter. The UNC invited walk-on has always had a great work ethic and desire to play Division I football.
    Projected Round 6-7, Projected high Round 5
  12. Ryan Connelly – Wisconsin
    In 2017 Pro Football Focus reported that no returning linebacker was better at stopping the run in 2016. Pro Football Focus selected Connelly for their 2018 Big Ten Team of The Year Second Team. Ryan Connelly was a walk-on and was one of ten semi-finalists for the 2018 Burlsworth Trophy awarded to the most outstanding football player in America who began his career as a walk-on. Connelly was one of ten semi-finalists for the 2018 Butkus Award given to the nations top linebacker. Ryan is recognized for seldom missing tackles and for coming through in big moments.
    Projected Round 7, Projected high Round 5
  13. Joe Giles-Harris – Duke
    Giles-Harris was on track to have his third season on 100+ tackles before he got injured and missed the last four games. Only three players achieved that in that three year time-frame. Joe is considered a tackling machine. Though he missed four games in 2018 he still topped all Duke players in tackles and made the ACC All Conference First Team for the second straight season. For 2017 Pro Football Focus credits Giles-Harris with 52 run stops in run defense which was 2nd most among returning FBS linebackers.
    Projected Round 7, Projected high Round 5
  14. Khalil – Hodge – Buffalo
    Khalil Hodge was 2016 All-MAC Second Team and 2018 All-MAC First Team. Hodge was second in the nation in 2017 for total tackles. For the 2017 season Pro Football Focus had Khalil Hodge as the second best cover linebacker with a quarterback rating of 39.4 when quarterbacks targeted Hodge. Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson was amazed at Khalil’s work ethic. Khalil would go catch balls with Jackson preparing for Jackson’s redshirt season. Hodge would run routes and work on his hands at linebacker. Hodge was named a team captain in 2017 his second season on the team.
    Projected UDFA, Projected high Round 7
  15. E.J. Ejiya – North Texas
    Ejiya had the third most tackles for loss per game (1.92) in the FBS in 2018. His TFL team market share was 26.3 and tops of everyone on this list by over 5%. His 40.5 career TFLs is fifth among active linebackers. Not only did Ejiya meet the Linebacker solo tackle market share threshold with 12.9% but he also met the defensive line thresholds with 26% sack market share and a whopping 26% tackle for loss market share on 25.5 TFLs.
    Projected Round 7, Projected high Round 5
  16. Tre Watson – Maryland
    Watson’s five interceptions in 2018 was second most by a linebacker and his interception market share (27.8%) was the most of anyone on this list. As reported by Pro Football Focus, he allowed the lowest passer rating in the Big Ten (37.6) and didn’t allow a single touchdown. Watson led his team in tackles and solo tackles. He led the Big Ten with 9.6 tackles per game and five interceptions. He has come thru in clutch plays at key moments and also plays hard in large losses. He is hard hitting linebacker with a high football IQ. His father played 13 games in the NFL over four seasons.
    Projected UDFA, Projecetd high Round 7
  17. Cameron Smith – USC
    Cameron is a two-time Trojan captain who started all four years at inside linebacker. He was the quarterback of the defense. He has been described as a “film rat”, instinctive, explosive and athletic. Cameron stops plays. Out of the top 99 players in 2018 for tackles per game Cameron had the second highest solo tackles to assisted tackles ratio (2.52). Smith’s 46 defensive stops this season compares favorably to Pro Football Focus’s All American David Woodward who had 49. Smith can also drop back in coverage. Over Smith’s four year college career he is one of only four players that had 200+ solo tackles, 2+ interceptions and 10+ passes defended. Smith could have declared for the draft last season when four other USC underclassmen declared. However Smith decided he wanted to remain and finish his fourth year at USC. “It’s my last go-around, I’ve got one more shot to leave my legacy here. I strive for greatness. I’ve dreamed of being great since I first started playing. I like the sound of someone saying, ‘Hey, this is Cameron Smith, All-American.’ – Cameron Smith
    Projected UDFA, Projected high Round 6
  18. Jordan Kunaszyk – University of California Berkeley
    Jordan Kunaszyk is a 2018 All Pac-12 Conference First Team. Kunaszyk was one of eight national semifinalists for the Lott Impact Trophy. He is second in the nation in solo tackles with 92 and second in forced fumbles with 5. His 143 total tackles is fifth in the nation. Kunaszyk is a film room junkie that loves football and his team. He lives and breathes football doing all that he can to be the best and help his team win.“He’s built to play the position, in a lot of ways — physically, mentally, He’s a physical guy, he loves contact, he’s into the game. I think everything, the preparation part, meetings, he’s always up watching extra tape. The way he prepares his body, he’s a football player, through and through.” – head coach Justin Wilcox
    Projected UDFA, Projected high Round 6
  19. Joe Dineen – Kansas
    Joe Dineen was one of eight semi-finalists for the Lott Impact Trophy which recognizes the personal character of the winning player as well as his athletic excellence among defensive players. He played as starter in games for last for years. Dineen is one of just three players in Kansas’ 128 years of football to be voted a team captain three years. Dineen was number one in the nation in solo tackles with 109. The second place player had 17 less solo tackles. Dineen’s solo tackle market share was 19.3 percent. To put that percentage in perspective the top solo tacklers in 2017 and their market share percentages were Frank Ginda (14.8%), Leighton Vander Esch (16.2%), Joe Dineen (15.3%), Christian Sam (15,2%) and Roquan Smith (16.3%). Dineen is deadly against the run and has improved his pass coverage skills. He had his first career interception in 2018 to go with 2 passes defended.
    Projected UDFA, Projected high Round 6
  20. A.J. Hotchkins- UTEP
    In 2018 not only did Hotchkins meet the linebacker market share criteria with 12%, he also met the defensive line criteria. He excelled in sacks getting seven for the year at a team market share of 35%. Hotchkins led Conference USA in total tackles with 126. “The biggest thing is effort, It’s coming out to practice every day, putting in the effort every day. I’m not a really big vocal guy; I lead by example. It’s about competing every snap; make sure you’re focused on every snap.” – Hotchkins
    Proj UDFA, Projected high UDFA
  21. Bryton Barr – Massachusetts

    Bryton Barr is finishing his final and seventh year of collegiate eligibility. Barr missed the majority of 2013 and all of 2014 and 2015 due to injury. He is a graduate transfer to Massachusetts. Barr has made Phil Steele’s All-Independent First Team each pf the last two seasons. He was one of thirteen linebacker prospects to have 95+ tackles each of the last two seasons. In 2018 he had double digit tackles in eight of his twelve games. Barr had 17 stops including 10 solo tackles against Boston College. In two other games in 2018 Barr recorded 11 and 14 stops. “Bryton Barr is probably going to go down in the history of my life as one of my favorite college football players ever. How he sees the game, how he plays the game, how he practices the game, how he represents it, … I find it very hard to find anyone who sees the game — and it means so much to him — and represents the game as well as he does.” – Towson head coach Rob Ambrose
    Projected UDFA, Projeceted high UDFA
  22. James Nachtigal – Army
    “He’s just such a physical, fast football player. He plays the game really fast and pursues the ball with a lot of energy and intensity. He cares a lot about winning and being the best he can be.” – Army head coach Jeff Monken. Nachtigal had five forced fumbles in 2018 which was second in the nation. James was one of thirteen linebacker prospects to have 95+ tackles each of the last two seasons. He made bleacherReport’s 2018-2019 All Bowl Season Team for his 16 tackles, 11 solo, 3.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble in the Armed Forces Bowl. The forced fumble was recovered by Army for a touchdown. He had another great game against D=San Jose State where James had 8 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and 1 TD.
    Projected UDFA, Projected high UDFA
  23. Jeff Allison – Fresno State
    Allison was the 2018 Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. One of thirteen LB prospects to have 95+ tackles each of the last two seasons. Allisin is a hard hitting physical player that is always around the ball. He is strong at reading plays and knowing where to attack. He excels in stopping the run. This is from thedraftnetwork.com – “Toughness and physicality around the box is unquestionable. Plays with an edge and won’t be pushed around.”
    Projected UDFA, Projected high Round 6
  24. Austin Robinson- Houston
    Robinson made 2018 AAC All Conference First Team. The converted quarterback was first in the AAC in tackles (127) and solo tackles (74), As reported by Pro Football Focus reported that Deshaun Davis made the most tackles for a loss or no gain in run defense among all Power-5 linebackers. Davis is a three year starter at middle linebacker. In their 63-14 victory over Purdue in the 2018 Music City Bowl Davis logged a team best nine stops and a sack. He is a leader of the defense and watches a lot of film to help himself and the team. “I wouldn’t trade him, Right now, today, I would recruit Deshaun Davis every day of the week. He’s a football player. He loves football. He’s a leader on and off the field. I’m very happy to be his coach. I’m glad he’s at Auburn. He’s graduated. He’s an Auburn man. If I’m looking for a linebacker, I’m looking for a football player like Deshaun Davis.”- Auburn linebacker coach Travis Williams and “He’ll play in the NFL, because he’s so smart. His freaking football IQ is just off the charts.” – Williams
  25. Thomas ‘Peyton’ Pelluer – Washington State
    Pelluer was a 2015, 2016 and 2018 All Pac-12 Honorable Mention. Pelluer received a sixth year of eligibility in 2017 after breaking his foot in his redshirt senior season. He came back to a career year and was nominated to the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the year award. Pelluer has played in a WSU record 54 games, 47 as a starter. Pelluer was named 2018 Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP after making game-high 11 tackles with 1.5 for loss including one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in a win over Iowa State. “He loves football, he’s dedicated and he’s a big film guy” – WSU head coach Mike Leach.
    Projected UDFA, Projected high UDFA
  26. Josiah Tauaefa – UTSA
    Tauaefa earned 2016 FWAA Freshman All-American Team and was named the Conference USA Freshman of the year.
    Projected UDFA, projected high Round 7. Tauaefa was injured in 2017 and only played 7 games. In his two healthy years (2016, 2018) Tauaefa had 50+ solo tackles, 100+ tackles, 5+ TFLs, and 4+ sacks. Counting Tauaefa only four active players had two years of those stats over the last four years. Tauaefa did it both of his healthy years and his TFLs were 9+. Tauaefa plays with power, speed and passion. He flys to the ball and also shows good instincts. “The truth is, his body of work on film is what he is,” UTSA coach Wilson said. “He’s a football player. He tested solidly on this day — did himself well. But when you put on the film, it jumps off with his intangibles. His tenacity. His speed. His intuitiveness. The things that he does when you blow the whistle into play are the things that matter most for NFL organizations.”
  27. Dre Greenlaw – Arkansas
    Greenlaw was a 2015 FWAA Freshman All American. He is a four year starter at linebacker. Greenlaw is consistently around the ball. Has a nose for the football and good football instincts. He has speed and is good in coverage.
    Projected Round 7, Projected high Round 5

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