2016 NFL Draft Rankings: Inside Linebacker

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

16.) Reggie Northrup, Florida St (6’1 | 231 | 4.60) – Was FSU’s leading tackler as a junior in 2014 before tearing an ACL in their bowl game that season. Northrup made a quick, impressive recovery before the 2015 season to lead the team in tackles again and make first team All-ACC. for the 2nd year in a row. He doesn’t stand out in any one area physically, but one thing Northrup can do is hit. When he makes contact the ball-carrier is normally knocked back. Northrup diagnoses plays well, reading the guards to track the ball and rarely letting his targets escape. He’s a violent hitter who can be a force against the run and be a demon on special teams. Northrup has shown the ability to drop back in zone coverage and hold his own. If he can improve his pass coverage ability and stay healthy. Northrup could surprise and become a starter well before the end of his rookie contract. His two-years of high-level production, violnet hitting, and potential to contribute in coverage could make Northrup a steal early on day 3.

17.) James Burgess, Louisville (6’0 | 229 | 4.62) – Undersized for an ILB in most schemes, but could be an excellent fit for the Bears hybrid 3-4 scheme. Burgess isn’t a classic run-stuffer, but plays bigger than his size and hits with authority in the run game. He has an explosive burst to the ball and doesn’t miss many tackles when he makes he contact. Burgess can certainly tackle, but his best trait is his ability to cover backs and tight ends in the flat. His instincts in pass coverage are excellent, he understands offensive schemes and reads quarterback’s eyes well, has a knack for timing blitzes (4 sacks) and was able to pick off seven passes and breakup 13 more in his two years as a starter. Burgess is a well-rounded ILB with the ability to make an impact against today’s passing offenses while contributing on special teams. Bears OLB coach Clint Hurtt is familiar with Burgess from his time at Louisville which may bump him up the Bears draft board

18.) Cassanova McKinzey, Auburn (6’2 | 253 | 4.64) – Versatile backer who played inside, outside, and occasionally as an edge rusher last season. McKinzey has the size, speed, and power to play all over the front seven. He has the speed to be an sideline-to-sideline run stopper, has shown the ability to rush the passer with a team leading 20 QB hurries, and is fast enough to dodge blockers but struggles to disengage when he can’t. McKinzey is also un-disciplined in coverage often gambling to much which can result in occasional turnovers but more often gives up big plays.

The size, athleticism, and talent is there for McKinzey to be an excellent ILB but he’s raw and will need a year or two of coaching before he can make a significant impact. With the Bears in rebuilding mode McKinzey is exactly the type of high-upside player they should be using their day 3 picks on, this year in particular since they have three 6th rounders.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

19.) Antonio Morrison Florida (6’1 | 232 | 4.76) – The Bears have some depth at run-stopping ILBs which is pretty much Morrison’s calling card right now. He’s a thumper inside and should be an impact player against the run right away. With teams becoming more and more reliant on the pass, Morrision is a bit of dinosaur. He’s been a two-year captain at Florida and could help solidify the Bears run defense if they aren’t satisfied with Christian Jones and John Timu inside. Morrison lacks ideal NFL athleticism, but has produced whenever given a chance in college and his run-stopping instincts, aggression attacking the line of scrimmage, and willingness to do whatever it takes to make the tackle should get Morrison on the field as a rookie and he could be an upgrade for the Bears over both Jones, Timu, and obviously McClellin. If he can stay healthy and avoid some of the off-field incidents from early in his college career, Morrison could be a solid 2-down NFL ILB.

20.) Jared Norris, Utah (6’2 | 239 | 4.74) – Operates well in traffic, slipping blocks and shedding those that can’t avoid. Norris is tough as nails inside and can be a run-stuffing force at the next level. That’s about the extent of his skill-set though as he doesn’t show much outside range or the ability to cover backs and tight ends out of the backfield. Norris is more of a between the tackle run stopper in the middle of a 3-4. The Bears are stocked at those types of players but Norris could potentially beat out the Christian Jones, who disappointed last year. Norris and Timu are actually similar players who are strong against the run and leaders in the locker room. Both will help a team who needs to strengthen their interior run game, but it may it may come down to whichever player is better on special teams