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BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki selected by Cleveland Browns in third round of 2019 NFL draft

SALT LAKE CITY — The winding road for Sione Takitaki to the NFL finally has a destination: Cleveland.

The former BYU linebacker was selected by the Browns in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft Friday. He was the 80th overall pick.

“Takitaki is a great human story who watched his game take off last season and went from an ungraded prospect to a potential mid-round choice. He's a three-down defender as a traditional weakside linebacker and will only improve with experience,” Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline wrote.

Takitaki has his best year as a Cougar in 2018, when he led BYU with 118 tackles, including 74 solo stops. He also had three sacks, four quarterback hurries, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.

The 6-foot-1, 238-pound defensive end turned linebacker missed half of 2015 and the 2016 due to suspension but finished his college career with 237 total tackles, 14.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries in becoming one of BYU’s most trusted defenders.

He served as a team captain for BYU in 2018 and was the lone Cougar to participate in this year’s NFL combine.

In assessing the pick, ESPN's Chris Sprow wrote, "The Browns gave up 78 rushes over 10-plus yards last year, including nine rushing touchdowns, a Tecmo Bowl-esque big play problem area that can't continue in 2019 if they want to unleash a potential takeaway combo of a great pass-rush and ball-hawking secondary. Takitaki adds competition at linebacker, where run stops will be a clear focus."

Historical context: This is the second straight year a BYU linebacker has been selected in the draft, after Fred Warner was a third-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers last year. It’s also the third time in five years a BYU 'backer has been selected: Kyle Van Noy was a second-round choice by the Detroit Lions in 2014.

Measurables: 4.63-second 40-yard dash, 24 reps on bench press, 37-inch vertical jump, 125-inch broad jump, 7.21-second 3-cone drill, 4.28-second short shuttle at the NFL combine.

Scouting Takitaki: “Takitaki has tweener traits that make his scheme fit tough to project at the next level, but he flips a switch and competes with terrific play speed, which will give him a chance to earn a role on special teams while he finds his footing on defense,” wrote The Athletic’s Dane Brugler.