For as much as fans want the Oakland Raiders to invest higher draft picks into the linebacker position, the team may continue it’s run on mid- to late-round prospects to fill that position group Despite former general manager Reggie McKenzie no longer running the draft, current defensive coordinator Paul Guenther subscribes to the same philosophy the former exec has when it comes to linebackers: They can be found later in the draft and even after it.
Perhaps that changes with new GM Mike Mayock helming scouting and Jon Gruden doing the picking. But if it doesn’t, there’s still plenty of diamonds to mine in this draft. There’s a good group of sleepers.
Let’s get to it:
Tre Watson, Maryland
The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder provided the spark on the Terps defense with 110 tackles and an eye-opening five interceptions. A tough inside backer who has a nose for the football and ball carrier, Watson showed he’s got the mettle to get dirty in the run game and the versatility to be a nimble pass defender. In a league going pass happy, Watson is the type of linebacker needed to counter aerial attacks.
Khalil Hodge, Buffalo
This 6-1, 240-pounder proved to be a sound tackling machine ever since he stepped foot on campus. Racking up 144 tackles with 2.5 sacks, Hodge is a bull in a china shop on defense. He finished with over 100 tackles every year and was a consistent force in college. Hodge provides NFL teams a sure-tackling prospect who can develop in other areas. It’s his ability to wrap up and bring down the ball carrier that separates him from the group.
Vosean Joseph, Florida
Instinctive and lightning quick, the 6-1, 227 pounder is a see-ball carrier, hit-ball carrier type. He collected 93 tackles, 7.5 for loss and four sacks this past season and was a true chomper on the Gators defense. The biggest knock on Joseph is his size, but that could play well in an NFL where linebackers are getting smaller and faster.
Chase Hansen, Utah
Watch tape of the Utes defense and you’ll see the 6-3, 220 pounder all over the field. The converted safety is fast, smart and gets the job done. He closed out 2018 with 114 tackles, two picks, and five sacks. He has the playmaking ability to become a quality safety turned linebacker in the NFL.
Christian Miller, Alabama
This 6-4, 230 pounder took advantage of a spot opening and showed off his rushing chops to rack up 8.5 sacks to go along with 36 tackles. Operating out of Alabama’s 3-4, Miller got the QB often as a situational pass rusher.
Germaine Pratt, N.C. State
Not truly a sleeper, this 6-2, 240 pounder loves to wreck the opposing run game. He showed he can also be an effective pass rusher in 2018 racking up 104 tackles and six sacks. Like Hansen, Pratt is a safety turned linebacker.
Josiah Tauaefa, UTSA
A hard nosed 6-2, 245 pounder that can turn your lights out if not bring you down — hard. Finishing with 113 tackles and 4.5 sacks, Tauaefa was an impact backer.
DeAndre Walker, Georgia
Another who is not truly a sleeper as he’ll get drafted relatively early. The 6-2, 250 pounder is more edge rusher as he collected 7.5 sacks and 45 tackles.