Take Five: 2019 Linebackers

The “Take Five” series aims to preview prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft.

These names will appear in a one-through-five order and “ranked”, but given the publish date, thoughts and opinions are far from finalized. Rather, it is best to use this list as a starting point of sorts, in order to get familiar with some of the top names in the class and how they might satisfy a need and fit on the Raiders’ roster.

Currently, the Raiders’ depth chart reads as follows:

Derrick Johnson — Turning 36 in November.

Emmanuel Lamur — Familiarity with the new defensive coordinator; depth-at-best.

Tahir Whitehead — Coming off a strong campaign in Detroit, but the same coverage questions remain.

Marquel Lee — New staff talked-up Lee throughout camp, and he flew around in the preseason. Should continue to push Johnson.

Nicholas MorrowGot a cool little shout-out and spotlight video back in June, which has to be worth something, right?

Kyle Wilber — I’m not sure who this is.

Looking ahead:

Nation faithful have been calling for an upgrade at the linebacker spot(s) since the front office swung and missed on Rolando McClain back in 2010. Fast-forward to 2018, and nothing has changed. Roquan Smith was the dream this past spring, but as we got closer to Day 1, it was clear that he wasn’t going to be on the board. Now, there’s probably an argument to be had about the value of the position in general, but with such an absence of talent, I think you can justify an early-round selection. Paul Guenther has a history of coaching up and bringing along linebacker play. Will it be a blessing (new investment) or the curse (tinkering with existing and/or washed personnel)?

Early “top 5” prospects: 

Devin White, Louisiana State, JuniorFormer four-start running back recruit who, thanks to some strong athleticism in addition to obvious talent, has made the successful transition to the linebacker position. White’s still learning, which speaks to his ridiculous ceiling. Last year’s pass-rush productivity stood out, per PFF.

Devin Bush Jr., Michigan, Junior — Standing at 5-11, 232, some may question Bush’s size (and/or play strength) heading into Sunday’s. But, by all accounts, the Wolverine looks like “today’s” linebacker. He flies around like one. He’s a playmaker, and much like White, can affect the passer. Sound-tackler, as PFF has Bush missing only 3 tackles on 94 attempts last season.

Mack Wilson, Alabama, Junior — Every year, there’s one or two Alabama products at the position who will get penciled in the first- or second-round. This year’s version is the former five-star (of course) by way of Montgomery, Alabama. Athletic ability alone will put him in that White-tier as far as ceiling is concerned. Effective in coverage. 6-0, 239 per NFL Draft Scout.

Joe Giles-Harris, Duke, Junior — Productive captain of the Blue Devil’s defense. Giles-Harris’ well-rounded game has a chance to vault him to the top of the class with another strong season. Eyes are always reading and reacting, evidence by his 25 tackles for loss last season. Quiet star.

T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin, Redshirt Senior — Common theme with the prospects noted above is their play in coverage. There may not have been a linebacker in the country who was better in that category last year than Edwards. He piled up four interceptions and another six pass breakups, and allowed only a 38.9 passer rating when targeted (per PFF). 6-1, 242, and I’d expect him to test just how you’d think he might. While athleticism is not his game, he makes up for it with his physicality and ability to quickly dissect and breakdown plays, notably around the line of scrimmage.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive