2019 NFL Combine: Linebacker Winners, Losers, and Risers

Winners

Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame

Drue gets the big winner spot -- don't care if Devin Bush and Devin White ran the impressive 40s. For a safety convert who has been through the devastating injuries in his career, a lot of Tranquill's tape shows a lack of ideal explosiveness and agility at a bulked-up mass. I appreciated his motor and love for contact on film, and knew he'd be a culture guy for any team that brought him in.

But Tranquill's testing athleticism illustrates a player who, if fully healthy, could impress at the next level. Acknowledging that he had the advantage of a lighter frame (234 pounds), Tranquill tested as a 80 percentile or better in the 40 (4.57s), vertical (37 1/2"), broad (10'2), short shuttle (4.14s) and bench (31 reps). 6.94 3-cone ain't nothing to sneeze at either.

Dude is an all-around stud tester. In a weak linebacker class, he made money moves today.

Devin Bush, Michigan

Obviously have to give big-ups to Bush, who came out to prove just how dynamic he can be for an NFL defense. He had Top-2 numbers in the 40 (4.43 seconds), vertical jump (40.5"), and broad jump (10'4), and came in at a stronger size than I expected at 234 pounds.

Did Bush push for LB1? Probably not. White has the advantage of size, success playing through physicality, and an SEC background -- for whatever that's worth. As it stands, Mack Wilson's lack of testing and Bush's strong performance absolutely lines him up to attack LB2, and the first round isn't out of the question for teams who don't worry too much about size.

Devin White, LSU

White didn't have quite as strong of a day as Bush, but at comparable size he put up competitive numbers -- and as I said in Bush's blurb above, his LB1 status will not be in question for most NFL teams.

The big differences between White and Bush's Combines are the 3-cone, where White's 7.07 is a tick below Bush's 6.93; and the broad jump, where White's 9'10 number was below Bush's 10'4. But do these numbers really betray a lack of explosiveness for White? Not really. I'd say the 3-cone may illustrate a bit of White's coming-to-balance concerns when he approaches tackles; and those are concerns that keep his film grade outside of the first round for me.

But overall? He did what he came out to do. He's cemented a Round 1 selection.

Losers

Joe Giles-Harris, Duke

Terribly disappointing day for Giles-Harris, a player who probably hurt his stock more than any other (healthy) linebacker this afternoon.

A strong between-the-tackles player who had questionable, but seemingly okay athleticism, Giles-Harris came in light (234 pounds), and we expected some quicker testing accordingly -- instead, he bombed almost everything. 9'3 broad jump is T-worst in the class; 29.5" vert was the worst; and a 4.75 40 really illustrates the limited range of his impact from the middle of a defense.

I don't know what to make of Giles-Harris, a Day 3 grade on film who lacks the athletic upside to be considered an ideal developmental piece.

Jeff Allison, Fresno State

Didn't expect too much from Allison's Combine performance off of his film, which illustrates some athletic limitations for the thumper. But when he, like Giles-Harris, came in at a super light size (228 pounds) I thought that the numbers would accordingly improve.

Nope: a 4.82 40-yard dash is almost a death knell for a linebacker to be anything more than a role player -- if that -- and the other measures don't help. If not for Giles-Harris' rough day, Allison would have had the worst jumps with 31" in the vertical and 9'7 broad. His 7.2 3-cone and 4.45 short-shuttle are also in the bottom five of this class.

I have no idea what you do with an unathletic hitter...who's severely undersized. Weird player, bad testing.

Risers

Blake Cashman, Minnesota

We've heard some rumblings about Blake Cashman and a late-season rise as people circle to his tape, but I haven't yet gotten to it. That said, a great way to get people into your tape is to, you know, blow up the Combine and force them there. That was Cashman's game today, and he delivered.

4.5 flat on the 40 will help people see Cashman as a true WILL at the next level, while his 37.5" vertical jump and 10'2 broad jump should show up on tape when he fills in pursuit. Cashman also ran a 6.95 3-cone and a 4.12 3-cone. There was not a single drill outside of the bench press in which he was outside of the Top-7.

Yeah, I'll watch that player.

Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington

Ben Burr-Kirven baby! The brand embodied in one player, I've been high on the BBK train since watching this kid win a starting job in 2017 and refuse to let it go. A smaller LB who was discounted off the jump for his weight, Burr-Kirven proved today that he has the athleticism and size that demands a look in the NFL.

His 6.85 3-cone led the group; his 4.09 short shuttle was fourth. But anyone watching his tape should have anticipated him coming in quick -- Burr-Kirven hit these numbers at 230 pounds, which was his rumored playing weight this season after running around at 220 in 2017. Good to see him post those competitive numbers with added mass, as well as hit strong numbers in the jumps with a 10'1 broad and 34.5" vertical.

Burr-Kirven likely is maxed out frame-wise and needs to land somewhere willing to give him quasi-safety reps as an overhang defender -- but with the head on his shoulders and the quickness with which he plays, he has an NFL role for sure.

Cody Barton, Utah

This guy has been one of my dudes for a while -- all season long, I've preferred him to his more-hyped teammate, Chase Hansen -- but I wasn't expecting this level of testing.

Barton's film illustrates a sprightly mover who has the ability to tag running backs on routes and close on space plays, and that was illustrated in his class-leading short shuttle (4.03) and Top-5 3-cone (6.90) -- and that's at 237 pounds, which I think is a bit heavier than where he played. I knew he had some juice, but this is more than I expected for sure. Barton was also a top bencher (30 reps), which speaks to how well he was built coming in.

Barton is likely a future SAM in a 4-3 defense, who will add value because he can back up the MIKE spot as well. He'll have to offer special-teams value early, but he has a chance to play himself into a starting role in a few years.



Written By:

Benjamin Solak

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Deputy Editor of Bleeding Green Nation. Undergrad at UChicago.

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