#21 Devin Bush, Linebacker, Michigan
Especially on the defensive side of the ball, this draft class has a long list of great athletes and Devin Bush adds another name to it. At the 2019 NFL Combine, he ran a 4.43 second 40-yard dash (ranked second among linebackers), had a 40.5-inch vertical (ranked first) and ran the three-cone drill in 6.93 seconds (ranked fifth). What makes him different from his former teammate Rashan Gary is that Bush has the production to match his athletic abilities. In the last two seasons, Bush combined for 161 tackles and 10 sacks. He may not possess the prototypical NFL Linebacker size (5’11”, 233lbs), but his speed and athleticism make him the ideal “new age” NFL linebacker.
Bush excels in coverage and is very good at tracking running backs out of the backfield. This is an important skill in today’s league because the running game is becoming more and more involved in passing plays. Bush also excels in zone coverage and does an excellent job at looking at the quarterback and feeling where the receiver is. This allows him to read a quarterbacks’ eyes and make plays on the ball without sacrificing coverage on the receiver. For a middle linebacker, he is a good pass rusher and it’s easy to see how he had double-digit career sacks. He also has great sideline-to-sideline speed that allows him to make plays on outside runs. When trying to jam or get hands on receivers, he sometimes gets caught flat-footed and has to grab the receiver to maintain coverage. He needs to keep his feet moving, get hands on the receiver and trust his athleticism to help him maintain tight coverage.
The most concerning part of Bush’s game, is that he can be too patient. At times it looks as if he either doesn’t have great instincts or just doesn’t trust them. He needs to read the play faster and attack. If a team falls in love with his athleticism, he could sneak into the top 15 on draft day.
Fit for the Raiders
The Raiders have been looking for a middle linebacker for a few years now. They signed defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s protégé Vontaze Burfict and former Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall in the offseason, but neither of those two should be a deterrent from drafting Bush. Oakland needs someone who can cover tight ends. Safety Karl Joseph isn’t getting any taller and 5’9” Lamarcus Joyner isn’t the answer either. While Bush is only listed as an inch taller than Joseph, his 40-inch vertical should make up for what he lacks in height.
The Raiders need defensive help and should be looking into taking the best defensive player available. That might be Bush if he’s still around at pick 24. The Ravens lost linebacker CJ Mosley in the offseason and Bush wouldn’t be a bad replacement. Also, it looks like the Ravens will be relying on their defense to wins games this season, so it would make sense to load up on defensive playmakers. Linebacker Jon Bostic enters a contract year for the Steelers and they recently re-signed Vince Williams. Bush could be Bostic’s future replacement as the Steelers should be cautious about resigning Bostics when T.J. Watt’s contract is expiring.