2016 NFL Draft Rankings: Inside Linebacker

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bears have nine picks in the upcoming 2016 NFL craft, but unfortunately have about double that number of holes on their roster. They did a good job last year finding four quality starters in their first five picks and another, WR Kevin White, who will most likely join the starting lineup after missing his rookie year with a shin injury. That’s probably the best draft the Bears have had in the last ten years, but they will have to repeat their success in 2016 to keep the Bears rebuild moving in the right direction.

I’ve covered a few draft positions already as you can link to below, but there might bot be a bigger need for the Bears than at the inside linebacker position. In their new defensive scheme under DC Vic Fangio, inside linebacker is a crucial position. Most ILBs are required to stop the run and occasionally drop in coverage, but when the Fangio’s Niners D was a perennial top 5 unit, the ILBs had more coverage responsibilities than in most 3-4 schemes. In addition to stopping the run and occasionally blitzing they also had to cover tight ends, running back, an the occasional slot receiver. It worked well for the Niners, but they also had Patrick Willis and Novarro Bowman. The Bears don’t have an ILB on the roster close to either player talent wise and need to find one in the draft or free agency Th

The Bears young ILB core showed flashes of talent last season but had trouble with both aspects of their ILB responsibilities. Some players, Christian Jones & John Timu, excelled against the run, while some like Jonathan Anderson played the pass well, and then their was Shea McClellin¹ who struggled at both. In year two of Fangio’s scheme they should all be improved but still a far cry from the Niners’ Willis/ Bowman combo that Fangio built his Niners dominant defense around. Finding at least one or two players with that type of well-rounded skill-set and potential should be a priority this season.

Signing former Bronco Danny Travathan (or Brandon Marshall) would give the Bears one top-tier starter at ILB but finding a more affordable one in the draft would go a long way to improving the Bears long-term defensive outlook. I broke down the ILB prospects in the draft below with an emphasis on players who have the balance to play both the run and pass and would fit the Bears new scheme.

You can check out the free agent options at other positions, my preview of the Bears current situation at each position, and my draft rankings below:

Bears position previews: QB | DL | RB | ILB

Bears free agent options: QB | DL | RB  ILB

2016 Draft rankings: QB | 3-4 DE | RB

2016 NFL Draft Rankings: Inside Linebacker

1.) Myles Jack, UCLA (6’1 | 245 | 4.56) – Elite athlete who can do it all from the linebacker position. He’s the ideal fit for the Bears ILB position. Jack can cover backs or tight ends, is a sideline-t0-sideline to run stopper, has good instincts to blitz up the middle and is also dangerous as a running back. He’s coming off a serious knee injury, but is the type of talent the Bears could build their defense around if he’s available with the 11th pick.

2.) Reggie Ragland, Alabama (6’1 | 259 | 4.71) – Coverage isn’t the only skill that an ILB needs, they also need to be able to shed blocks, sift through traffic, and stuff running backs in the hole. That is where Ragland excels. He may not be the best coverage ILB in the draft, but he’s arguably the best interior run stopper. Ragland isn’t going to wow anyone at the combine, but has been the best interior linebacker on CFB’s best defense and has shown a knack for diagnosing plays, shedding blocks, and shutting down runs near the line of scrimmage. He beat out higher profile teammates early in his career to become Bama’s best run stopper as just a sophoore Ragland looked a big heavy at the combine, but it didn’t stop him from being the best interior run-stopper in Mobile. He should be able to stop in right away and improve the Bears run d without being a liability in coverage.