New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis was one of the most underrated free agent signings of the 2018 offseason, and one of the better ones in Saints franchise history. He led the Saints in tackles a year ago (110 total, 11 for loss), while adding 5 sacks, 11 qb hits, 4 passes defensed, a fumble recovery and 2 fumbles forced. Davis joined Alex Anzalone and A.J. Klein in giving New Orleans a more athletic and disruptive starting linebacking unit then they've had in some time. Craig Robertson was re-signed this offseason to provide special teams skill, versatile depth, and locker room leadership. Manti Te'o has not been re-signed however, and Klein enters a contract year with an already high cap number. The New Orleans linebackers excelled in coverage against opposing backs and tight ends in 2018, and all of their 'backers are capable of playing either inside or outside positions. New Orleans may look to the draft for a similar style of player to not only provide depth, but a future starter as well. Today's draft profile could potentially fill that role perfectly.
Germaine Pratt, LB (N.C. State)
Pratt began his collegiate career at North Carolina State as a safety, where he played his first two seasons, accumulating 64 tackles, an interception, 4 pass breakups, and a forced fumble. After a shoulder injury forced him to redshirt the 2016 season, Pratt returned to the lineup and was moved to linebacker for the Wolfpack. He compiled 69 tackles (5.5 for loss) in 2017 after the position switch, along with 2 interceptions (returning one for a touchdown) and 2 passes defensed. Pratt nailed down a starting role in 2018, and would finish 4th in the ACC with 104 tackles, including a team-best 10.5 for loss. He also had a team-leading 6 sacks, along with 2 fumbles forced, a fumble recovery, and 3 pass breakups. Pratt's lone season as a starter for the Wolfpack ended with a first team All-ACC selection.
Pratt had a solid showing at the NFL Scouting Combine after his standout senior campaign. His 4.57 40-yd dash and 24 bench press reps ranked sixth among all linebackers, while he finished among the top dozen with a 32.5 inch vertical leap and 116 inch broad jump.
Tahir Whitehead (Raiders)
Germaine Pratt has shown the potential to be an every down player at linebacker on the NFL level. He has the ability to play out of the middle and either strongside or weakside spots. Pratt has excellent range, tracks the ball well, and has good closing speed to the ball carrier. He knifes through blockers in lateral pursuit and is aggressive in his movements to the line of scrimmage. He packs a punch as a hitter, following through and wrapping up with good fundamentals. Pratt's background as a defensive back serves him well as a pass defender. He is fast and fluid in his drops, with good change of direction and instinctive understanding of zone coverages. He is athletic enough to cover tight ends and bigger receivers in the slot man to man, often even to stay with them down the field. He has shown devastating blitzing skills, and has particularly effective timing on a delayed rushes.
Pratt has good general football instincts, but is still learning the linebacker positions after only two years, and just one as a starter. While he is fearless when taking on lead blockers, he comes in upright with his pad level too high, and often gets stood up or pushed off the line. He can get caught out of position in gap containment, but that should improve as he hones his linebacking instincts.
Germaine Pratt has been projected as a late second day or early third day selection. His coverage skills will most likely be used immediately in nickel alignments, with a long term possibility as a weak or strong side starter. Pratt has impressive all-around abilities as a defender. He has not only produced against the run and pass games, but looks to have a tremendous upside. He could not only lock down a starting job right away, but has the skills to stay on the field in every situation and has the potential to be a draft steal.