Lance Briggs has been a stalwart at WLB for the Bears but he’s 33 and eventually age will catch up with him. I think Briggs has one or two good years left on the weak side, but the strong side OLB position is a huge question mark. Is it last year’s 4th round pick Khaseem Greene? It didn’t look like it last year in his brief trial by fire. Former DE Shea McClellin is moving to SLB, but who knows if he will be any better than he was as a DE. Last year’s 2nd round pick Jon Bostic may move over from MLB to see if he is a better fit outside. Maybe one of those guys pans out, but if not the Bears will be looking for a starting SLB in 2015. It wouldn’t surprise me if they used a mid-to-late pick on one this year as a back-up plan if none of the current options step up.
Over the next two days I will be listing the players I like best for the Bears in every round at each position of need.
OLB Depth Chart:
SLB – Shea McClellin, Khaseem Greene, Jon Bostic?
WLB – Lance Briggs, Jordan Senn
Round 1 (#14) - Ryan Shazier, Ohio St (6’2, 230): Possibly the best athlete in the draft (4.3 40-time, 42″ vert) and could make an impact in any scheme. Shazier is light for an OLB, but is lightning quick, has great range, and is a big hitter. He could play multiple positions in the Bears scheme effectively: middle linebacker, safety, or obviously outside linebacker. Shazier has game changing speed on defense and has shown great instincts on both blitzes and in coverage.
Round 2 (#51) – Kyle Van Noy, BYU (6’3, 243): Van Noy can do it all at the OLB position. He’s more of a finesse guy than some teams like, but you can’t argue with the results (24 sacks, 54 TFLs over last 3 seasons). Van Noy is unique in that he excels in both coverage and rushing the passer. He could play the strong side off the bat and then more over to the weak side when Briggs retires. Van Noy can do it all and is polished enough to start as a rookie.
Round 3 (#81) – Telvin Smith, Florida St (6’3, 218): If he were 20 pounds heavier he might be a first round pick. Smith was one of the most impressive LBs I’ve watched in this class. He has elite speed and excellent instincts. In the Senior Bowl, Smith snuffed out 3 screen plays by himself. At FSU he was constantly around the ball and didn’t miss many tackles. Smith is solid in coverage and a violent blitzer. The Bears may be wary of drafting a 218 pound linebacker and could look to move him to safety where he could excel with his speed, height and elite instincts. Whatever position he ends up at, Smith is a heck of a football player and will be an asset on special teams as well.