The best linebacker in college football is going to the NFL.
Devin White, the Butkus award-winning linebacker out of LSU, has decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft.
White has consistently been linked to the Bengals in most mock drafts thus far due to their obvious need at linebacker. Between injuries and suspensions keeping the position group from truly playing together for most of the season, the Bengals looked utterly looked lost in the second level of their defense. Factoring in Vontaze Burfict looking like a shell of himself, it’s clear that major change is needed there.
There is no doubt that a player like White could solve a lot of the issues the Bengals have at that position. For starters, his athleticism is incredible. He absolutely flies around the field with a nose for the football. He is also an incredible blitzer and quarterback spy, which is becoming increasingly more valuable as the Bengals will be playing Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson twice a season each. He’ll undoubtedly blow everybody away at the NFL Scouting Combine later next month.
The biggest knock on White at this point is that he can be over aggressive at times, and he tends to bite on play action fakes. He isn’t the perfect linebacker prospect, but his base level of talent is much higher than the current linebackers on the roster who can’t even keep up with tight ends in coverage and track down running backs breaking outside.
The Bengals can only hope to end up with a player like White in the 2019 draft as they need to beef up a position that is holding them back. It is even more possible that Cincinnati will need even more than one player to address this need because of the current state of that group.
It almost seems like a foregone conclusion that Burfict has played his last game with Cincinnati. With Marvin Lewis and most of his staff gone (including linebackers coach Jim Haslett) he could fall out of favor from a new regime. His seven official concussions he’s suffered over his career (including two just last month) do not help his long-term case either.
Cincinnati also has a decision to make on Preston Brown, who signed a one-year deal last season, but ended up on injured reserve with a knee injury. He is a Cincinnati guy, who could be a valuable veteran presence going forward. Nick Vigil looked like the best linebacker, but he still showed issues closing out on running backs like Nick Chubb toward the end of the season. He is a sure tackler, but his lack of top-tier athletic ability is very apparent.
The Bengals desperately need to address the linebacker position in a major way to improve their defense in 2019, and a player like White could go a long way to fixing it.