Bears Day 2 Draft Prospects: Inside Linebacker

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /
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Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

Inside Linebackers

Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame (6’2 | 223 | 4.60) –   A consensus top-5 pick before his severe knee injury late last season, but after tearing two ligaments in his knee, Smith may be stuck on the sidelines his rookie season. If Smith regains close to his former 2014 form, he could be a Pro Bowl player in the NFL.

When healthy Smith can do it all; He is a force against the run with sideline-to sideline range and racked up 224 tackles in two seasons. Smith has the power and technique to shed blockers in traffic and find the ball carrier. He diagnoses plays quickly and attacks the line of scrimmage with abandon, making 23.5 tackles for loss during his time with the Irish. Smith is also an effective blitzer both inside and out with 4.5 sacks over the last two seasons.

He can stop the run and pressure the QB, but his best skill might be his coverage ability. Smith can cover running backs, tight ends, and even slot receivers. When healthy Smith could be a 3-down ILB in the Bears scheme, an edge rusher when needed or a coverage backer in sub-packages. Smith has also been a leader for the Irish on and off the field the last few seasons.

If he gets back to being the player he was pre-injury, Smith is an absolute steal on day 2. He has one more medical check coming up and if he doesn’t show significant improvement, Smith is probably dropping into the 2nd or 3rd rounds. If Smith is available when the Bears pick in the 2nd round, it would be hard for them to pass him up. Smith has the prototype speed and skill to take over the Patrick Willis role for DC Vic Fangio and the Bears. A healthy Smith teamed with Trevathan in sub-packages would give the Bears arguably the best pass coverage duo at ILB in the league.

Smith will most likely need the 2015 season to fully recover and play behind Freeman and Trevathan while he learns the position and gets back in football shape. Once he’s back to 100% though… Smith has the potential to become the Bears next great linebacker.

Next: Tyler Matakevich