It’s pretty incredible that we’re entering the last week of September and therefore, we’re a third of the way done with the college football season. As each week passes, we get another step closer to the 2019 NFL Draft. The process is a long one and with time, we’ll get there. Eventually, we’ll find out who the first pick of the draft is, and we’ll find out who our favorite running backs are.
One position you should fall in love with is the linebacker position. We don’t have any Roquan Smith‘s of the world, but there are some solid linebackers for the 2019 NFL Draft. For example, Cameron Smith from USC has generated plenty of buzz for himself and is off to a strong start in his senior season. He’s already got 40 tackles, five tackles for loss and a sack.
Throughout the draft process, you’ll hear plenty about Smith, who has no relation to Roquan Smith. At least from my understanding, he doesn’t. However, moving aside from Smith, I want to put a focus on three linebackers to keep an eye. Not just specifically for week five of the college football season but also for the season and its entirety.
Joe Bachie, LB, Michigan State
My top-ranked linebacker for the 2019 NFL Draft is the Michigan State Spartan, Joe Bachie. How can my top-ranked linebacker be on this list? Simply because he’s on my list but not being discussed enough. He’s a terrific prospect at the linebacker position and is a natural fit for the MIKE linebacker position. Currently, he’s listed at 6’2 and 230 pounds and is pound-for-pound the best linebacker in the Big Ten Conference.
Bachie is an instinctive player who diagnoses so quickly and does a great job attacking downhill. He can scrape over the top, provide defenses with good backside pursuit or can drop into coverage from playing as a RAT defender or handling hook to flats responsibility. In his sophomore season, he had three interceptions and already has an interception after three games for this season.
Currently, Bachie has 30 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack. Meanwhile, he’s helped anchor and lead a Michigan State defense to be the top run defense in the country. Through three games, the Spartans only allow 32.7 yards per game. I love watching Bachie play the linebacker position for the Spartans. He looks so natural on the field and always finds his way to the football. If you haven’t watched him, you need to do so. Be sure to keep his name on your list for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Ben Burr-Kirven, LB, Washington
There might not be a linebacker faster than Ben Burr-Kirven. One thing that’s certain; there isn’t a better last name. Ben Burr-Kirven a.k.a BBK has been a human highlight reel this year. He caught my eye when watching the Auburn vs. Washington game from earlier this year. It seemed like no matter what Auburn did with their offense, BBK was right there making a play on the football.
He has a knack for finding the ball and being involved in just about every offensive play. One area that separates him from other linebackers is the range that he displays. BBK has no restrictions when going from sideline to sideline and shows plenty of aggressiveness on every play. There are times that he hesitates when flipping his hips when dropping into coverage but there’s no reason to believe that he can’t contribute in stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise when BBK returned for his senior season, but with how well he’s playing, it’s somewhat of a surprise. Right now, the 6’0 and 225-pound linebacker already has 53 tackles this season. Again, that’s 53 tackles in four games and this past weekend against Arizona State; he had 20 tackles. You read that correctly. TWENTY tackles in ONE game. The Huskies will be playing BYU this Saturday, and it should be a good game. BYU has already pulled an upset over Wisconsin, and they could be lurking to upset the Huskies. Even though the Huskies have plenty of players to watch on offense, Ben Burr-Kirven is one player to absolutely watch on defense.
Drue Tranquill, LB, Notre Dame
It has been surprising to see the Notre Dame defense play as well as it has. This week they get a tough test from the Stanford Cardinal. The offense for the Cardinal is starting to heat up, and it’s all behind their playmakers of quarterback K.J. Costello, running back Bryce Love and wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Defensively, the Fighting Irish will have their hands full, but one guy that will help ease the pain is Drue Tranquill.
Teamwork makes the dream work
-DE Khalid Kareem (53) gets a significant pass rush off the edge forcing the QB out of the pocket.
-LB Drue Tranquill (23) see’s the RB blocking & rushes the QB.
-Also a great job by LB Jonathan Jones (45) getting depth to take away the slot WR. pic.twitter.com/K5DbfSCkJj
— Matt Freeman (@mattfreemanISD) September 25, 2018
The former safety, now-turned linebacker, Drue Tranquill has been fantastic for the Fighting Irish during his tenure and specifically, this season. He’s starting to come into his own, and the spotlight will be on him for this game against Stanford.
One of the most popular roles evolving on defenses is the “box safety” role. Tranquill is the prototypical fit for that role and rightfully so. More often than not, he plays in the box and attacks offenses by running downhill and stuffing the run. If he drops into coverage, it’s more common for him to cover tight ends, get to flats or monitor the middle of the field. Right now, he’s got 33 tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack. He’s got average ball skills with only three interceptions, but this weekend, it’ll be fun to watch him matchup against Bryce Love. For the 2019 NFL Draft, Tranquill is a name to watch, and he could really help his draft stock with a strong showing against Stanford this weekend.