2016 NFL Draft Rankings: Inside Linebacker

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
4 of 6
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /

12.) Terrance Smith, Florida St (6’4 | 222| 4.60) – Speedy, undersized linebacker who reminds many of fellow Seminole Tevin Smith who had a solid rookie year as a weak-side 4-3 OLB for the Jags. Terrance has an inch or two of length and about 20 pounds on Tevin and could be a fit inside for the Bears hybrid 3-4 scheme. Smith has the same sideline-to-sideline range against the run, but his size should give him an advantage covering both TEs and RBs out of the backfield. He played in the middle in his last season in college and showed good play recognition skills and attacked the line of scrimmage with aggression against the run. Smith is raw, but has the size, speed, and instincts to become a solid inside backer in time. While he learns the position Smith should be an above-average contributor on special teams.

13.) Deion Jones, LSU (6’1 | 219 | 4.53) – If the Bears are looking for more speed at the ILB position, they could do a lot worse than LSU’s Jones. He’s undersized right now , but at the Senior Bowl showed he could make plays all of over the field, Jones is probably a better fit as a weak-side OLB in a 4-3 but with passing games taking over the NFL there is a new premium on fast ILBs. The Bears could pair Jones with one of their run stopping ILBs (Timu, Jones) to give them an inside backer who can excel in coverage while cutting off runs to the outside. Jonathan Anderson was the only Bear ILB who has the athleticism to cover out of the backfield while still providing solid support against the run.Jones will need to put on strength to shed blockers and make plays inside, but his speed will be an asset in coverage and on special teams. Jones could push Anderson for his role as a sub-package ILB and has more potential as a run stopper outside and is a potentially dangerous blitzer (5 sacks in 2015).

14.) Blake Martinez, Stanford (6’2 | 239 | 4.79) – Not as fast as most teams would like from their ILBs, but Martinez has such good football instincts that he can play significantly faster than his timed speed. Martinez made a ton of plays for the Cardinal last season and is just has elite football instincts. He had over 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons for Stanford including 141 last year and was a leader both on the field and in the locker room.

Martinez may not be a fit in the middle for most teams, but is actually a good fit for the Bears scheme and could add the ability to cover TEs which was a huge problem in Chicago last season. The Bears are looking to upgrade the ILB position and change the dynamic in the locker room and Martinez checks both of those boxes as well as the ability to contribute on special teams. Martinez is likely a day 3 pick but his consistent production, sound tackling, ability to cover, and strong work ethic should put Martinez clearly on the Bears radar late in the draft. He reminds me of a taller, faster version of John Timu and could end up as a priority UDFA for the Bears this year if he slips though the draft.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

15.) Nick Kwiatkowski, West Virgnia (6’2 | 241 | 4.78) – Had just under 200 tackles over the last two seasons for the Mountaineers, showing good play recognition skills and an aggression to attack the line of scrimmage vs the run. Kwiatkowski was a former safety which gives him an edge in pass in pass coverage and combined with his solid run stopping skills could make him an ideal fit the Bears 3-4 ILB position. He needs to continue to add bulk in order to navigate through traffic inside, but has great range outside and could be the Bears best coverage linebacker from day 1. The skills are there for Kwiatkowski to add value against both the run and the pass and could be a steal on day 3 where he is currently projected. I think he has day 2 upside and could eventually develop into a 3-down NFL starter in time. Short-term, Kwiatkowski has the skill-set to add value in sub-packages and be an excellent special teams player.