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O'HARA'S 2019 DRAFT PREVIEW: Linebackers

Devin and Devin sounds like a law firm.

It’s really the top two linebackers in this year’s draft class – Devin White of LSU and Devin Bush of Michigan, a pair of inside linebackers who lay down the law for any running backs who enter their territory.

Both were athletic, productive playmakers in college, but the edge in the draft pecking order goes to Devin White. He’s a little bigger, and a little better than Devin Bush.

That does not disparage Bush. He’s almost certain to be drafted in the first round, while White is a Top 10 candidate. In fact, he could be off the board to the Tampa Bay Bucs as the fifth pick before the Lions get their chance – assuming they’re interested -- with the eighth pick.

White and Bush are the only linebackers who are certain first-round picks.

The Lions already have their inside linebacker of the present and future in Jarrad Davis, their first-round pick out of Florida in 2017.

Davis’ development accelerated in head coach Matt Patricia’s scheme last season to the point where he was becoming the unquestioned leader of the front seven.

The possibility of adding Devin White to the front seven is an enticing prospect. There would be plenty of room for Davis and White to be on the field together in the multiple schemes put together by Patricia and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni.

View photos of Bucky Brooks' Top 5 linebacker draft prospects.

It’s an exciting prospect for White too.

In his Combine media interview White said he watched YouTube videos of Davis before some of his games and thinks their styles match as explosive tacklers who get to the ballcarrier.

“I’d just watch the passion that he played with,” White told reporters. “I feel like we’d play exceptionally well together. If they want to get me, I’m willing to go. “

Bush had a big 2018 season as the middle man on a strong Michigan defense. He was voted the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The intensity of the program under head coach Jim Harbaugh prepared him for the NFL, Bush said at the Combine.

“The long days grinding it out, and then seeing the light at the end of the tunnel was huge in terms of experience," he said. “There were ups and downs, but it was all worth it.”

Following is a breakdown of the top eight linebacker candidates, with one to watch and others, along with the Lions’ position breakdown, draft priority and key stat. Inside and outside linebackers are grouped together:

Linebacker draft rating: Strong at the top with Devin White, Devin Bush -- depth after that.

Lions position breakdown: 2017 first-round pick Jarrad Davis has taken over as a playmaker and leader. Devon Kennard posted seven sacks and steady play in 15 starts, and Christian Jones, playing the third most snaps in the unit, was good against the run. Both were 2018 free-agent additions. Injuries limited Jalen Reeves-Maybin to spot duty in nine games after a promising 2017 rookie season.

Lions draft priority: Linebacker is not necessarily the No. 1 priority, but it could be if the right player is on the board at No. 8. Devin White could be that player. If not in the first round, at least one linebacker for depth is likely to be added at some point.

Key Lions stat: Linebackers added strength to the pass rush, with seven sacks by Kennard and six by Davis.

Top 8 linebacker prospects, one to watch and others:

(Note: Workout results are from Combine and Pro Days.)

1. Devin White, LSU: 6-0, 237.

Profile: Combine workout mirrored all-out play: 4.42 40, 22 bench reps. High school RB, rushed for 5,000 yards, 81 TD. Converted to LB and stopped ballcarriers: SEC-high 133 tackles, 14 for loss as 2017 sophomore. Won 2018 Butkus Award as nation’s top LB. Clear cut No. 1 at his position – would look good playing next to Jarrad Davis at Ford Field.

2. Devin Bush, Michigan: 5-11, 234.

Profile: Shade below White, first-round pick in his own right. Showed raw talent at Combine: 4.43 40, 21 reps in the bench. Three-year player, two-year starter. Butkus finalist in 2017, 2018 Big Ten defensive player of the year off 80 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks. Father, Devin, played eight NFL seasons as a defensive back.

3. Mack Wilson, Alabama: 6-1, 240.

Profile: Pro Day 40 times in 4.6 and 4.7 range ordinary after not running at Combine. Played special teams and some H-back while being groomed for regular LB duty. Three-year player, had 13 passes defended, six picks last two seasons combined. Suited to play inside.

4. Germaine Pratt, N.C. State: 6-2, 240.

Profile: Four-year player over five seasons, a 2016 redshirt because of shoulder injury. Began as a safety, last two seasons at linebacker. Tested well at the Combine -- 4.57 40, 24 reps in bench – and played well in 2018: 105 tackles, 10 for loss, tied for team lead with six sacks.

5. Vosean Joseph, Florida: 6-1, 230.

Profile: Hamstring problem kept him from running for the scouts. Three-year player, one start as a 2016 freshman, moved up to start 21 of 24 games last two seasons. Trended up, showed in 2018: Team-high 93 tackles, nine for loss, four sacks, five pass breakups. Size an issue. Athleticism isn’t.

6. Te’von Coney, Notre Dame: 6-1, 234.

Profile: Showed toughness to play inside, and Pro Day time of 4.72 confirmed that he’s best suited there but could stand to add some weight. Had off field issues early in career but productive last two seasons – 22.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks – helped Irish go 10-3 and 12-1.

7. David Long, West Virginia: 5-11, 227.

Profile: Size suits him to play weak side, and so did Combine results: 4.45 40, 15 reps in bench press. Three-year player after a red-shirt 2015 season, flashed early with 11 tackles vs. Miami (Fla.) in 2016 season bowl game. Had 35 tackles for loss, 12 sacks last two seasons.

8. Bobby Okereke, Stanford: 6-1, 239.

Profile: Played 51 games and closed out career with two big games: 13 tackles, forced fumble, assist on a sack in road win over Cal in regular season finale; followed by a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss in a one-point bowl win over Pitt. A 4.58 40 at the Combine.

One to watch: Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii. 6-2, 259.

Profile: Spent five years at Hawaii (who wouldn’t want an extra year in the Islands?) after a red-shirt 2014. A shoulder injury that required surgery forced him to miss the last four games in 2018. He did not run drills at the Combine or Pro Day, doing only some positional drills at the latter.

He put up big numbers his last three seasons: 34 games, 335 tackles, 36 for loss and 14.5 sacks. The shoulder injury could drop his stock -- and give some team a bargain.

Others: Cameron Smith, Southern Cal; Emeke Egbule, Houston; T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin; Terez Hall, Missouri; Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin; Terrell Hanks, New Mexico State; Tyrel Dodson, Texas A&M; Tre Lamar, Clemson; E.J. Ejiya, North Texas State; Dru Tranquil, Notre Dame.

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