Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, which starts April 25, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down 10 at a time, followed by profiles on our top 30 overall players.
Previous entries: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30. Drew Lock | 29. Deandre Baker | 28. Taylor Rapp | 27. Garrett Bradbury | 26. Dexter Lawrence | 25. Jerry Tillery | 24. Josh Jacobs | 23. Christian Wilkins | 22. Cody Ford | 21. Noah Fant | 20. Andre Dillard | 19. Greedy Williams | 18. Dwayne Haskins | 17. Rashan Gary | 16. D.K. Metcalf | 15. Clelin Ferrell | 14. Florida OT Jawaan Taylor | 13. Byron Murphy | 12. Jonah Williams | 11. Devin White | 10. Kyler Murray
9. Michigan LB Devin Bush Jr.
5-foot-11, 234 pounds
Key stat: Bush had a 10-yard split on his 40-yard dash of 1.50 seconds, which ranks tied for second among all off-the-ball linebackers recorded since 2003 –ahead of Roquan Smith, who was the eighth overall pick of the 2018 draft, and LSU’s 2019 prospect, Devin White.
The skinny: A four-star recruit out of high school, and the son of the former NFL defensive back of the same name, Bush chose the Maize and Blue despite Florida State (his dad’s alma mater) putting on the full-court press. As a reserve in his freshman season of 2016, Bush played in 13 games (seven on defense, all on special teams) and made 12 tackles. In 2017, Bush was one of the most improved players in the country in making 102 tackles – at least five in every game, and 9.5 for losses – along with five sacks and an interception. The first-team All-Big Ten (coaches) choice also was a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker.
Bush was named team captain as a junior in 2018, earning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and AP second-team All-American and once more being named a Butkus finalist. He led the team with 80 tackles (9.5 for loss), totaled five sacks and six pass breakups in 12 games.
Bush, who turns 21 in July, opted to forgo his senior season and enter the 2019 NFL draft. He skipped the team’s bowl game — after suffering a hip injury in his final game against Ohio State — to prepare for the draft.
Upside: Outstanding combination of speed, intensity and physicality. Disciplined aggression in his play and training. Takes football seriously, and it shows. Confident but humble. Knows he has work to do to improve and sets personal goals. Has made strides in each of his seasons. Great football instincts and expanding football IQ. Flies around sideline to sideline but never looks out of control. Great weight distribution, foot quickness and burst. Strong football and athletic pedigree — father was eight-year pro and sister is standout softball player for Florida State. Physically and mentally tough.
Terrific work in positional drills at scouting combine and pro day, especially dropping into coverage — ran them more smoothly than many defensive backs. Experienced man-cover linebacker who can stick with backs out of the backfield, especially in the flat. Relentless pursuit and energy. Gets on his horse and makes plays — lightning-quick reaction skills and effortless plant and drive to the ball. Incredible backside speed to take down even fast runners from behind. Sniffs out draws and screens beautifully and can shut it down fast.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 3, 2019
Good tackling form. Takes choppy steps to the ball, gets body squared up and drives through the target — throws his chest into running backs when meeting them in the hole. Violent but purposeful hitter. More often than not sends a message with his physicality without sacrificing technique. Times up blitzes well and closes fast. Smart when taking on blocker — works half a man, gets lower than they can and beats them to spots.
Has makeup to be very good in coverage. Athletic and instinctive in man coverage and can beat guys to their spot. Routinely asked to mark backs and tight ends in man and won a lot of those battles. In limited sample size, Bush flashed enough twitch and the ability to jump routes and close fast in zone coverage. Three-down linebacker every day — exactly the type of modern NFL playmaker who can play multiple spots (“Mike” and “Will”) and never come off the field.
Downside: Compact, stumpy frame with short arms and small hands. Never missed a game in college but has a history of shoulder injuries. Hip injury was also something that attracted attention of doctors in Indianapolis, although teams don’t believe it’s a chronic issue.
Once a lineman locks in on Bush, he has serious trouble getting free — can learn better technique shedding blocks but will always have to work harder than bigger-framed linebackers to prevent this. Can stand to avoid second-level blockers better. Tries to run around blockers too much and will run himself out of plays.
Takes some false steps in coverage. Gets handsy downfield past no-contact zone in coverage. Highly inexperienced in zone drops — Michigan was primarily a press-zone team that was almost stubborn to a fault with how much it ran it. Didn’t force a single fumble in college — delivers big hits but seldom seen trying to rip ball out.
Gambler who will take his shots and miss. Goes for big plays, and it doesn’t always turn out well. Guesser whose instincts let him down here and there. Will let his enthusiasm boil over occasionally, such as when he scuffed up the Spartans logo at Michigan State pregame.
Best-suited destination: If you look past the measurements, all you see is a highly instinctive playmaker with great strength and the ability to run and cover. His good work ethic and natural leadership skills have him well-prepared for the NFL, and Bush should be a fit in some kind of way for almost any type of defense, even if a zone-heavy scheme could leave him needing to develop a bit more in coverage.
Among the teams that should be highly interested in his services include the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Oakland Raiders.
Fun fact: Devin Bush Sr. (the 26th overall pick in the 1993 NFL draft) surely wouldn’t have minded if his son had gone to FSU, his alma mater. But once Devin Jr. picked Michigan, dad followed. He coached his son at Flanagan High School in Pembroke Hills, Florida, and then joined Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines staff as a defensive analyst. The two remain very close – in fact, dad moved in with Bush Jr. in Ann Arbor.
They said it: “I’m baffled when I hear [Bush is undersized]. … He can run sideline to sideline, make plays on the perimeter. In the spread-run game he was kind of an extra half defender that you had to account for. And he’ll go get his nose dirty. So for my money, I know who I am taking.”
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, to NFL Network
Player comp: Bobby Wagner
Expected draft range: First-round pick
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