What if the Steelers miss out on Devin Bush and Devin White…

Mid-Round Draft Gems 1.0: Inside Linebacker

Blake Cashman, Minnesota– Once a super sleeper in this draft class, Blake Cashman has become a household name in the draft community after running a 4.50 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. His performance prompted many to look back at his film, and for good reason. Cashman is fast, fluid, and excels in coverage. He’s not perfect against the run, but he shows a level of toughness and aggressiveness that would make this fanbase proud to call him a Pittsburgh Steeler. As a small school player with a smaller name than, say, one of the Devin’s, he could be an ideal target in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Gary Johnson, Texas – Johnson ran the 2nd best 40 yard dash at the combine at 4.43 seconds, and he was only .01 off from 1st. His film is far from perfect, as he’s raw and a little smaller at 6’0″ 226 lbs. He has a lot to learn and reminds just a little of Mathew Thomas from last year; he’s athletic and has shown potential, but there is a lot of room to grow. They key difference is that Johnson is far ahead of Thomas in terms of development and has been way more consistent in his college career. The Steelers have already shown interest in Johnson, as they hosted him for a visit. He is a sold player to grab in the 4th round.

David Long Jr, West Virginia – Long is another example of a smaller linebacker (5’11” 225 lbs) with tremendous upside as an athletic WILL-type Linebacker. He’s solid in coverage, but he excels as a blitzing linebacker with absurd closing speed and pursuit. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin were at West Virginia University’s Pro Day, so it is likely that Long caught their eyes during workouts. He should be available in the 3rd or 4th round.

Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington – Burr-Kirven doesn’t excel in any one area, but he’s one of the fiercest competitors in the entire draft class. His motor is endless and he hits quite hard. He’s capable in coverage and his 4.56 40 yard dash shows that he can be a rangy, off-ball linebacker with a little bit of development in the area. He would be an absolute steal in the 6th round.

Terrill Hanks, New Mexico State – Hanks, on film, shows tremendous speed and quickness and seems to offer a lot of potential as a coverage linebacker. But his 4.98 40 yard dash was a huge disappointment and the slowest of all linebackers in the draft. This alone could drop him to the latter end of Day 3 of the draft. But there are some cases where, despite a poor speed testing, players can be prove to be fast on the football field. Hopefully this is true for Hanks. He struggles with mental processing and is below average as a run-stuffer, but he is an asset in coverage and could be pretty solid value in the 6th or 7th round.

Ulysees Gilbert III, Akron – Gilbert is my personal favorite sleeper linebacker in this draft. He ran a very impressive 4.46 40 yard dash at his Pro Day, and his tape shows a ton of good reps in coverage. But, his smaller frame has made him a bit of a liability in the run game. Gilbert still offers upside, though, as he was a tackling machine who never missed a game in college. He’s clearly a competitor and could be great for the Steelers in the 5th round.



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