Chicago Bears 2015 Draft Prospects : Outside Linebacker

1 of 2

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

With the Bears officially out of playoff contention, it’s time to focus on next year. With college football’s bowl season already under way, I will be focusing on college players who might be good fits for the Bears next season. I will be breaking down prospects at every position with some focus on players I think the Bears could target. They need all the help they can get on both sides of the ball.

At some positions that aren’t as glaring of a need for the Bears like RB and G, I will focus less on the players projected to go early and more on mid-round prospects who could provide depth for the Bears.  I’ve already covered all of the offensive positions, so will be looking at defense this week. With the draft being in Chicago this year and the Bears likely having a top ten pick, this years draft is even more exciting than usual for Bears fans.

If you are sick of watching the Bears (or morally disgusted with the NFL), the college bowl season is an exciting alternative and gives you a chance to catch a glimpse of some future NFL stars.  These lists will identify some players to keep an eye on during bowl season and the college football playoff. I’m also covering potential NFL prospects in each bowl game (link).

Position Summary: With the inevitable loss of Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams after the season, the Bears will go from having one of the oldest LB groups in the league to one of the youngest. Not only are Christian Jones and Jon Bostic younger, but considerably faster and more athletic. Both Jones and Bostic have played well enough the last few weeks that I think they will be the favorites for starting gigs next year and I’m cautiously optimistic about their potential. Bostic has played all three LB spots this year and Jones has played on both the strong and weak sides. Their versatility will allow the Bears to take the best LB available. If Bostic and Jones continue to improve and the Bears can find a solid LB in the draft, they could change the LB position from a glaring weakness to a strength in just a season or two.

More from Chicago Bears Draft

* These aren’t ordered rankings, just OLBs I think are good fits for the Bears

* My NFL comparisons aren’t always what I expect the player to become, but a ceiling on what they could be if they reach their potential.

Outside Linebackers:

1.) Shaq Thompson, Washington JR 

Attributes – 6’2, 231, 4.56

Scouting report – One of the most versatile athletic players in the draft. Thompson has played OLB, Safety, and RB for the Huskies this year and his best NFL position is still up for debate. With the Bears he could play OLB and give the Bears a sideline to sideline tackler they haven’t had since prime Urlacher. Thompson excels in coverage and could team with Christian Jones in sub packages to give the Bears two LBs capable of covering TEs, RBs, and even some slot receivers. Thompson has the speed and closing burst to be a force at LB, but he’s small and has had trouble shedding blocks from bigger lineman.

The Bears best option could be moving Thompson to strong safety in a similar role to how the Seahawks use Kam Chancellor. Thompson could spend most snaps in the box as a roving run-stopper and drop into coverage when needed. Thompson is a big-time hitter and it would give opposing receivers something to think about when they cross the middle of the field. Either position would make the Bears defense faster and more dynamic. Thompson has also shown a knack for making big plays with 4 defensive touchdowns this season.

NFL comparison – Ryan Shazier

Projection –  Top 15 pick

2.) Eric Kendricks, UCLA SR

Attributes – 6’0, 233, 4.68

Scouting report – Plays in the middle for the Bruins and is their defensive captain and leading tackler for three years in a row. Kendricks was ridiculously productive during his 4 years at UCLA with 440 tackles. He’s undersized which will probably require a move to the weak side in the NFL, but some scouts think he could stick inside in the right scheme. Kendricks is about the same size Urlacher was when the Bears drafted him. I’m not comparing him to the Bears legend, but he is a sideline to sideline run stuffer who has great instincts and diagnoses plays quickly. Kendricks is also a sure tackler who rarely misses after initial contact. He is a big hitter as well with enough speed and instincts to cover WRs but struggles at times with his back to the ball.  His lack of size is the main knock on Kendricks, but he’s really a good football player who I think is a 3-down NFL LB. After passing on Chris Borland last year, presumably because he’s too short, hopefully the Bears won’t make the same mistake this year.

NFL comparison – DeAndre Levy

Projection – 2nd-3rd round