Browns, NFL Draft

2019 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings: Linebackers

Rick Scuteri, Associated Press

The Cleveland Browns had a really promising 2018 NFL season. This offseason will be an important moment for the future of the franchise. The Browns will use the 2019 NFL Draft to continue the development of the team and hopefully catapult the franchise to the next level.

Here at WFNY, we will be getting you ready for the upcoming draft. In particular, Joe Gilbert and John Colosimo will examine each of the positions in the draft, giving their top five prospects in each position group, while also giving their thoughts on the overall class at each position.

After examining the defensive secondary, the next position up in our series is the linebacker class. So, here are Joe and John’s thoughts on the top five linebackers and overall class of linebackers in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Gilbert and Colosimo’s 2019 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings Series: Safeties and Cornerbacks

Joe Gilbert’s Top 5 Linebackers John Colosimo’s Top 5 Linebackers
1. Devin White, LSU 1. Devin White, LSU
2. Mack Wilson, Alabama 2. Devin Bush, Michigan
3. Devin Bush, Michigan 3. T.J Edwards, Wisconsin
4. Khalil Hodge, Buffalo 4. Joe Giles-Harris, Duke
5. Vosean Joseph, Florida 5. Khalil Hodge, Buffalo

Best of the rest: Bobby Okereke (Stanford), Germaine Pratt (N.C. State) and Gary Johnson (Texas)

Which linebacker do you feel stronger about than most people?

Joe: This class is not good and I do not feel really strong about any of the linebackers, but I do think Khalil Hodge is better than many have him rated. I think he is one of a few complete linebackers in the class with the ability to play multiple roles on the defense.

John: TJ Edwards, Wisconsin. He has good size, is an excellent tackler and good in coverage. He may not be the athlete that White is or be able to provide pressure as well as Bush can, but I think when the dust settles he will a very good NFL linebacker and a value for where he’s drafted. I would be very happy if the Browns selected him late Day 2/early Day 3.

Who is your No. 1 linebacker in the class and why do you believe he is the best linebacker?

Joe: My No. 1 linebacker in the 2019 NFL Draft is Devin White of LSU. He is pretty much the consensus pick by most draft experts as the best linebacker in the class. White is the most complete linebacker in the class with the size and athleticism to defend the run, cover in the passing game and rush the passer. He is a clear No. 1 in my eyes. 

John: Devin White. Just the most complete package and highest ceiling for this years’ class. Is he a good value in the middle of the 1st round? That’s an entirely different proposition.

What are your thoughts on the overall linebacker class? How would you rate the class?

Joe: This group of linebackers is not good, to say the least. It does not have a lot of top tier talent with White being the only player I would think about taking on Day 1. This class is not even in the same universe as last season’s group of linebackers. If you are looking for linebackers in the draft, good luck.

John: As Joe pointed out, there isn’t much of a top end, although I’m not sure I would say its a bad class overall. It’s tough to sort out at the minimum, but I feel that LBer is the position where you have more high-quality guys fly under the radar than at any other position. I’m sure that this class will produce a few studs, in the end, its just a question of whether your front office can find them.

Who has the best single skill set and what is that skill set?

Joe: I think the athleticism of Devin White is the best skill set in the class. White is a freak athlete with explosive closing speed to run ball carriers down from behind. He is also strong, which helps him get clean through the traffic of the trenches. There is nobody in the same class in terms of White’s combination of size, athleticism, and strength.

John: Devin White I believe ultimately has the best skill set and ceiling. His tenacity, length and athleticism set him apart.

Who is a sleeper linebacker who you are keeping an eye on? 

Joe: I think Khalil Hodge of Buffalo is an interesting linebacker and a player who many are sleeping on in this class. He has three years of high production at Buffalo. He is a solid athlete with the ability to play in coverage and defend the run from sideline to sideline. Hodge is a player who can fight through traffic and get away from blockers using his elusiveness and strength. He is one of a few linebackers in the class who can play on all three downs.

John: Ben Burr-Kirvin, Washington. His production is off the charts, but is very undersized and he may be a bit of a tweener. I’ll be paying close attention to his testing at the combine, and I could easily see him finding a way to prove doubters wrong in the NFL.

What is the impact of this linebacker class to the Browns?

Joe: The Browns will definitely be in the market to improve their linebacker corps, but this class is just not good enough to find an impactful linebacker past the top three. So, if the Browns are to spend a pick on a linebacker, I would only use an early Day 2 pick on the top three linebackers with the rest of class only deserving of a late round flier.

John: I’m going to have to disagree with Joe here, I think the meat of this draft provides some interesting options, from which a few gems will emerge. The Browns ultimately will need to turn over the entire current LBer room outside of Avery in the next 2 seasons, so I expect them to get 1 or 2 in this draft for development/ST roles.