A bold attempt at mock drawing probably lacked a touch of realism.
The Bears are definitely in the market for linebacker help of a certain kind, and CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso traded them back with the Raiders in Round 1, then picked in 7th place and racked up a flurry of picks. Instead of the defensive line the Bears really need, Trapasso Clemson had linebacker Trenton Simpson drafted by the Bears.
It’s an unlikely move, even if they also need at least one starting linebacker who can make the difference, if not two.
There were still reality-based hints this season as to whether the Bears would consider drafting a No. 7 off-ball linebacker.
Some of that happened when they dealt Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens.
Coach Matt Eberflus revealed a little more than the “commonality” they couldn’t come up with when discussing a contract with Smith. It happened when he was asked why Smith was less valuable to her than Shaq Leonard was in Indianapolis.
“Yes, I mean, yes, Pro Bowl, All-Pro, but I’d say if you look at that I’d just say we always base things on numbers and production and for us we covet ball production this position,” said Eberflus. “So that’s a very important thing that[our]Will linebacker has to do.”
Smith still hasn’t forced a fumble in his career, despite picking up three passes this year, two in Baltimore. From his standpoint, he didn’t care because he was getting the money he wanted and he was on a playoff team.
However, what Eberflus said is important to what the Bears want from their weak linebacker.
Is Simpson the guy they would trade for instead of taking one of the best linemen? He only had one forced fumble up until his final season with Clemson, then he forced two.
Leonard of the Colts is a phenomenon at the position. He has 12 interceptions and 31 pass breakups in four full seasons and only played three games in 2022 due to surgery.
He has forced 17 fumbles and recovered seven.
A statistic that’s often cited for linebackers is tackles for loss, and that’s important, but this scheme is all about defenders getting the tackles for loss by pushing into the gaps. The linebackers pit against the linemen and all have gap responsibilities.
That’s why you saw how the 2020 Colts, after having a true three technique in DeForest Buckner, began playing the scheme the way Matt Eberflus wants it. Their defenders made 3 1/2 times as many tackles for losses as the linebackers and prior to this season it was almost a 50-50 split.
Whether it’s intercepting the ball or getting the ball out or getting it back, the goal is to get the ball and not just make tackles from behind the line. This is a prime target for the Bears’ weak linebacker.
Simpson has never done a college interception. He never recovered a fumble.
He’s said to have a speed of almost 4.3 seconds, which could give him a chance at takeaways, but not so far.
Would they call him up at number 7?
Eberflus said in November he doubted his former GM Chris Ballard would ever have picked an offball linebacker for an eighth draft. Weakside linebacker is crucial in this scheme, but not important enough for an early first-round pick. Leonard was a second-round pick at number 36.
Ballard isn’t in charge at Chicago, but one thing that’s very apparent so far is that Eberflus and GM Ryan Poles seem to be connected in their thought patterns for a lot of things. They decided that the off-ball linebacker, who often didn’t take the ball away, wasn’t making any special money.
So it makes sense that they would review draft picks the same way.
Here are the top linebackers available:
Trenton Simpson, Clemson
Clemson excelled in great speed and tackling skills. He made 165 tackles, 23 for losses with 13 sacks and five pass deflections with three forced fumbles. In college, his pass rush ability seems to be more prominent, but scouts are seeing a linebacker with big-play ability budding, and he will likely be the first linebacker to be drafted.
Henry To’oto’o, Alabama
Alabama’s 6-2, 227-pound linebacker who can play either inside or on the weak side. Showed 6 1/2 sack blitz ability in two seasons and had 15 1/2 tackles for loss with 205 tackles. He forced a fumble. He is expected to run in the low 4.5 seconds for the 40. His ability to pull down cover drew positive reviews from scouts, who see him as a potential cover-2 linebacker, the guy the Bears are chasing. Reports also praise his ability to get up after the ball. Maybe he still needs to grow.
Noah Sewell, Oregon
Penei Sewell’s “little” brother who ranges in age from 6-3,250 but plays inside linebacker for the Ducks at that height. His strength and size are considered major assets in running play and his size in passing coverage. However, his passing range and lateral movement have been questioned by some. He makes up for it with a tall engine. He had 7 1/2 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two interceptions in three seasons.
DeMarvion Overdone, Texas
At 6-4, 217, he has played both as a defender and linebacker and could emerge at the next level as a cover-2 middle player if he can add some weight and strength. Made nine sacks, 136 tackles and 30 1/2 for losses. With three interceptions, 17 broken passes and three forced fumbles and three recoveries, he has shown a good feel for the ball. He was a successful blitzer with nine sacks.
Jestin Jacobs, Iowa
Jacob’s coverage and footwork are highly praised in multiple scouting reports, and that’s a real strength considering he’s 6-4, 236. Some of his tackling skills and overall experience are questionable. In 19 games over three seasons, he made 63 tackles, two for a loss with an interception and three pass breakups. Jacobs missed most of his final season after undergoing surgery for a soft tissue injury.
Nick Herbig, Wisconsin
A former teammate of Bears linebacker Jack Sanborn, his 6-2, 227 is the ideal size for the weak side or center in the Bear scheme, but was used extensively in pass rushes in college. He has 134 tackles, 36 for losses and 21 sacks ahead, with four forced fumbles. Although he has blitzed quite a bit, he also shows a real understanding of zoned cover and has been praised by scouts for the angles he takes when chasing the ball carrier. However, the actual tackling technique could improve.
Dorian Williams, Tulane
Another undersized off-ball linebacker who is versatile and has 9 1/2 sacks to go with 27 tackles for loss but also 13 pass breakups and two interceptions. Playing in the American Conference will cause some concern due to the level of competition. At 6-1, 229, the NFL Draft Bible says he needs to build his leg strength and shed blocks better. A real strength in his game that will help the NFL immensely is that he’s been a real force on special teams of all kinds. A scouting report described his special teams game with Sean Desai’s favorite word – “tangible”.
Yasir Abdullah, Louisville
Excellent size for an offball linebacker at 6-1, 233, but scouts want to see his clocking in the 40 because they have some questions about his speed. NFL Draft Bible says he has all the qualities a linebacker needs, with the ability to blitz, cover and play the run, and they see him as an early pick for Day 3. He made 209 tackles, 42 for Losses and 23 1/2 sacks in five years of the game, with three interceptions and eight forced fumbles. His playmaking ability really increased as a senior when he had two interceptions, four forced fumbles, one recovery and four pass breakups, with 9 1/2 sacks and 14 1/2 tackles for the loss.
Jack Campbell, Iowa
All-American linebacker who led the nation with 143 tackles last year. As a freshman, he was a close finish and then went full-time to linebacker. Classic strong or medium linebacker size at 6-4, 243, he made five interceptions, three forced fumbles and used his size well in cover for 10 pass breakups. He also had 299 tackles, including 12 1/2 for losses, and three sacks. The real question here is his speed, and rumor has it he must be a downhill guy, but is called an “excellent tackler” by the NFL Draft Bible.
Drew Sanders, Arkansas
At 6-3, 244, he’s a player who was deployed as an edge rusher while he was in Alabama, then switched to middle linebacker after the transfer and his productivity soared. One almost wondered what Nick Saban was doing to him on the outside, he was so much better. A solid tackler with good instincts and the ability to move from sideline to sideline. He made 103 of his 136 career tackles at center for the Razorbacks, including 14 for losses, and had 9 1/2 sacks of the 10 1/2 he had for his career blitzing for Arkansas. He forced three fumbles, deflected five passes and had one interception in his senior year.
THE MOCK DRAFT RECOMMENDS THAT BEARS WEAKSIDE LINEBACKER BE AT NO. 7
Scouting reports from the NFL Draft Bible, NFL Draft Network, Walterfootball.com and NFL Draft Buzz.
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