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Watch These LBs in the NFL Draft

By Matt Schauf 10:04pm EDT 4/22/19


So it’s Devin, Devin … and then what?

You might have heard people say the 2019 NFL Draft sports a weak LB class. But just like the underwhelming RB group, we’ll find some fantasy football value within. And that should mean contributors beyond the class-leading duo of Devins.

Like at most positions around the league these days, speed matters at LB. A lot.

I pointed to this offseason’s research by Rotoworld’s Hayden Winks in last month’s article on DL speed scores and other potential indicators of NFL success. For off-the-ball LBs, Winks found that basically what matters is speed score (which combines 40-yard dash time and weight) and tackle production -- specifically solos. And by "matters," I mean: shows a correlation to early NFL production.

That makes sense. Today’s NFL calls for a nice combo of size and speed in the middle of the field, so you can run with TEs, shadow mobile and still halt RBs. And if you can combine that size-speed profile with proven production? All the better.

As for solo tackles vs. assists: The former obviously tends to be more of an individual accomplishment.

So let’s get to this class’ best in the pertinent categories …


Speed Score

1. Devin White, LSU -- 124.2
2. Devin Bush, Michigan -- 121.5
3. Gary Johnson, Texas -- 117.4
4. Ty Summers, TCU -- 116.5
5. David Long, West Virginia -- 115.8
6. Blake Cashman, Minnesota -- 115.6
7. Germaine Pratt, N.C. State -- 110.0
8. Bobby Okereke, Stanford -- 108.6
9. Andrew Van Ginkel, Wisconsin -- 108.6
10. Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame -- 107.3
11. Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington -- 106.4
12. Tyrel Dodson, Texas A&M -- 105.9
13. Emeke Egbule, Houston -- 104.8
14. Sione Takitaki, BYU -- 103.6
15. Jordan Jones, Kentucky -- 102.7
16. Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin -- 102.6
17. Cody Barton, Utah -- 102.3

Those are the LBs in this class who top 100. Barton’s speed score is 64th percentile among NFL LBs, according to PlayerProfiler.com. Next on this year’s list: USC’s Cameron Smith at 98.4 (51st percentile).

So we’ve got 17 off-ball LBs in this class sporting an above-average size-speed profile for the position. Which ones also delivered the on-field numbers in college?


2018 solo tackles per game

1. Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington -- 6.71
2. David Long, West Virginia -- 6.58
3. Cameron Smith, USC -- 6.44
4. Chase Hansen, Utah -- 5.83
5. Sione Takitaki, BYU -- 5.77
6. T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin -- 5.62
7. Jeff Allison, Fresno State -- 5.42
8. Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii -- 5.25
9. Blake Cashman, Minnesota -- 5.17
10. Cody Barton, Utah -- 4.93
11. Germaine Pratt, N.C. State -- 4.91
12. Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame -- 4.85
13. Te’Von Coney, Notre Dame -- 4.85
14. Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin -- 4.83
15. Devin White, LSU -- 4.77
16. Gary Johnson, Texas -- 4.69
17. Deshaun Davis, Auburn -- 4.38
18. Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas -- 4.22
19. Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic -- 4.00
20. Bobby Okereke, Stanford -- 4.00

Eleven LBs delivered strong speed scores and also averaged 4.0+ solo tackles per game last year. Burr-Kirven, Long, Takitaki and Cashman topped 5.0 solos per game with plus-100 speed scores.

Now, tackle production is obviously good, but not all situations are equal. Some defenses spend more time on the field than others. Some players deal with more surrounding talent. So let’s check out the top LBs by market share ...


2018 solo-tackle market share

1. Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington -- 18.0%
2. Cameron Smith, USC -- 16.4%
3. Chase Hansen, Utah -- 15.5%
4. T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin -- 15.2%
5. Jeff Allison, Fresno State -- 15.2%
6. Devin White, LSU -- 15.0%
7. David Long, West Virginia -- 14.4%
8. Sione Takitaki, BYU -- 14.4%
9. Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M -- 13.9%
10. Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii -- 13.0%
11. Blake Cashman, Minnesota -- 13.0%
12. Cody Barton, Utah -- 12.9%
13. Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin -- 12.6%
14. Germaine Pratt, N.C. State -- 12.5%


2018 sacks per game

These guys proved to be productive blitzers in their final college seasons.

1. David Long, West Virginia -- 0.58
2. Germaine Pratt, N.C. State -- 0.54
3. Gary Johnson, Texas -- 0.50
4. Andrew Van Ginkel, Wisconsin -- 0.46
5. Chase Hansen, Utah -- 0.42
6. Ty Summers, TCU -- 0.40
7. Terez Hall, Missouri -- 0.38
8. Devin Bush, Michigan -- 0.38
9. Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M -- 0.33
10. Sione Takitaki, BYU -- 0.31
11. Te’Von Coney, Notre Dame -- 0.31
12. Vosean Joseph, Florida -- 0.31

Long, Pratt, Johnson and Takitaki are the only 4 who have appeared in each list so far.

Now, let’s finish with the most productive tacklers over the course of their college careers ...


Career solos per game

1. David Long, West Virginia -- 5.12
2. Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii -- 4.68
3. Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic -- 4.67
4. Cameron Smith, USC -- 4.52
5. Jeff Allison, Fresno State -- 4.47
6. Chase Hansen, Utah -- 4.41
7. Gary Johnson, Texas -- 4.30
8. Joe Giles-Harris, Duke -- 4.21
9. T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin -- 4.06
10. Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington -- 4.04

Yeah, Devin White and Devin Bush both showed up in these lists. They’ll almost certainly leave the board 1st among off-ball LBs and should go early in dynasty-league rookie drafts with IDPs.

Beyond them, though, keep an eye on the NFL landing spots for players such as David Long, Ben Burr-Kirven, Gary Johnson, Sione Takitaki, Blake Cashman and Germaine Pratt.

I’ll, of course, be ranking all these guys for rookie drafting once the NFL Draft wraps.

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