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Former Michigan linebacker Devin Bush Jr. doesn’t care some critics think he’s too small to be a force in the NFL.

Apparently, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper also doesn’t think that’s an issue.

Kiper, in his latest mock NFL Draft, gave Bush a significant bump after his NFL Combine performance, where he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash. Bush is at No. 11 to Cincinnati, from No. 30 in Kiper’s previous mock draft, and Kiper said during a conference call Tuesday he is one of the top players in the draft pool.

Bush definitely raised his draft profile after the Combine and has attached this hashtag — #undersized — to his Instagram posts. The 5-foot-11, 233-pound Bush was the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year last season.

More: In Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, Lions take DE Montez Sweat

Kiper has two Michigan players projected as first-round picks, including former defensive end Rashan Gary, who is at No. 9 to the Buffalo Bills in his mock draft. Kiper has consistently had Gary in the top-10 range, but the movement on Bush was noticeable. Former defensive end Chase Winovich, voted the team’s MVP last season, appears to be a second-round pick, Kiper said, while cornerback David Long, is projected as a third-round selection.

“(Bush has) been all over the place with me, because I liked him as a player so much, and you talk to people, your contacts in the league, and you get different opinions. Finding the right fit and I just felt like Cincinnati, being a fast cover linebacker, a guy who can really upgrade that line of defense for them would be a big plus,” Kiper said on an ESPN conference call Tuesday morning. “Pittsburgh’s another team and then you get into the Raiders late in the first.

“I think he’s one of the top players in this draft. I think you could argue he’s one of the 10 best players in this draft. I’m going to have a new top-25 Big Board coming out (Wednesday) and he will probably end up maybe at (No.) 9 on that Big Board. I’m thinking he’s that good. After running that tremendous 40 time that he ran at the Combine when both he and (LSU linebacker) Devin White ran almost identical 4.43, 4.42s, shows his range and his sideline-to-sideline speed like Deion Jones when he came out of LSU. Very similar kind of player, very similar to Devin White. If Devin White is going to be the fifth pick in the draft, I don’t think Devin Bush can be far behind.”

MEL KIPER'S MOCK DRAFT (Pay site)

Bush went through position drills during Michigan’s Pro Day earlier this month. He said NFL teams have been consistent in their conversations with him.

“What they see on the film, they’re just like, ‘You’re very instinctive, fast, physical, you’ve got a lot of range. You play the game really good,’” Bush said.

He said he wants to set the standard for players who might be considered on the smaller size for the NFL, which is why he uses the “#undersized” hashtag.

“That’s one of the things I take pride in,” Bush said after Pro Day. “I want to attach my name to that. I want to be undersized. I want to be that guy. I want to  change it for the athletes behind me and the young athletes growing up who aren’t prototypical or always the biggest or the tallest or the strongest. You don’t got to worry about what people say as long as you’re producing and believe in yourself.”

Bush said he and White know each other and decided at the Combine they wanted “to put on a show”. White, 6-foot, 237, and Bush kept things close in the Combine drills. Bush had a 40.5 vertical, while White was 39.5, and Bush also had the advantage in the broad jump — 124 inches to 118 — and 3-cone drill (6.93 to White’s 7.07). White had a quicker 20-yard shuttle, 4.17, to Bush’s 4.23.

“Was competing against each other the whole time,” Bush said. “We were just having fun with it. He did better than I thought he was going to do. He’s still not better than me, though.”

He laughed before adding: “He’s a helluva linebacker.”

Where Gary is projected also continues to change slightly. Kiper said while Gary is physically gifted and also performed well at the Combine, some teams are still concerned by his 10 sacks in three seasons. Gary missed three regular-season games last fall because of a shoulder injury and decided not to play in the bowl game.

“He has a rare skill-set,” Kiper said. “He was the No. 1 player coming out of high school for a reason — he’s 277 pounds, he’s 6-4 1/2, he’s got really long arms. He ran 4.58, he’s got really good upper body strength and he’s a tremendously gifted athlete. He’s got everything you want to be the No. 1 pick in the draft except the sack production. This year didn’t go his way with the injury and obviously some of the criticism that came his way because of that.

“Rashan Gary is an enigma. You expect more than 10 sacks in a career for a guy with that kind of talent. You expect 20-plus career sacks with that kind of talent, and you didn’t get it. So the thing is, will the scheme allow him to get him turned loose in the NFL? Will that allow him to be more productive as a pro than he was as a collegian? That’s where you’re going to roll the dice. So you’re picking 9, you’re getting a guy with awesome talent. There’s a lot of people I talk to that think he could drop a little further than that, so we’ll see. Rashan Gary is no longer a top-five pick. Back two, three months ago we thought he’d be there for the Bills at nine and looks like he will be now.”

During Pro Day at Michigan, Winovich went through defensive-line and linebacker drills for scouts. It was physically demanding but matched what observers and analysts have always said of Winovich, that he has motor that doesn’t stop. Kiper said Winovich’s Combine, where he ran an impressive 4.59 40-yard dash, likely moved him into the second round.

“I’ve always liked Winovich,” Kiper said Tuesday. “After you get past the initial group of pass rushers, he’s in that second tier. He gives you everything he has. He ran under 4.6. I think he would be a guy, to me, I wouldn’t say a lock second-rounder, but certainly has the opportunity be a second-round draft choice after all is said and done. I’ve liked him all along. I’m not going to change on him. I thought maybe at one point he could be a late one. I’m thinking more of a solid two, at worst a third-round pick.”

Long, a cornerback, is 5-11, 198 pounds and put up impressive numbers at the Combine, including a 4.45 40 and 39.5 vertical.

“For Long, you run a 4.45, that’s going to help you. You have almost a 40-vertical, that’s always a plus,” Kiper said. “Did he play as well as he tested? At times I didn’t always see that. There were games at one point in time I thought he could be a second-round pick. I have a fourth-round game on him, I upped that to a third based on his testing combined with the way he played in certain games. When you test as well as he did and you’re nearly 200 pounds, you played in the Big Ten, he had some games he looked like he could be a one or a two, just like to see consistency. I’d say solid third-round pick.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis

 

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