The proliferation of the 3-4 defense around the NFL expands the Chicago Bears' available talent pool, increasing the prospects for the team to select a potential contributor at linebacker for 2011 in the middle to later rounds.
The situation bodes positively for the Bears considering their desire to add to the position.
“Yeah, it’s a concern,” said general manager Jerry Angelo about the Bears' lack of depth at linebacker. “But we feel real good with this draft class. It’s not because of our numbers [that] we’re starting to manufacture more guys on our draft board. I assure you, we’re not doing that. But it’s good.”
How’s that the case? Angelo explained the league’s cyclical nature in regards to defensive schemes, explaining that many of the players ranking high on the Bears draft board probably aren’t in consideration by other teams playing 3-4 looks.
“In the old days, 3-4 teams could get their pass rushers in the fifth, sixth round, and sometimes in free agency because nobody was playing that scheme,” Angelo said. “In part, it’s helped us defensively. There are more linebackers for us that we can get later, if we choose to go in that direction, and even in free agency. From my vantage point, that’s probably the most fertile position on the board for us in the mid to later rounds and to free agency. We’ll be able to find players to come in here with the traits we’re looking for.”
Here’s a look at some of those players, and where they’re projected to be drafted:
The next 10:11. Dontay Moch, Nevada, 6-2, 248; 12. Russ Homan, Ohio State, 6-1, 240; 13. Mason Foster, Washington, 6-1, 245; 14. Colin McCarthy, Miami, 6-1, 238; 15. Akeem Dent, Georgia, 6-1, 245; 16. Nate Irving, N.C. State, 6-1, 240; 17. Doug Hogue, Syracuse, 6-3, 235; 18. Casey Matthews, Oregon, 6-1, 231; 19. K.J. Wright, Mississippi State, 6-3, 246; 20. Lawrence Wilson, Connecticut, 6-1, 229.
Position grade: B-
Analysis: Age, injuries and his status as a free agent increases the likelihood that veteran strong side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa won’t be back in 2011, which potentially leaves the Bears without a starter opposite Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher.
Nick Roach started six games last season (30 over his career) and is the only linebacker with experience as a starter under contract for the upcoming season. Surely, the Bears won't just hand Roach the job without some type of competition at training camp. Right after the season the Bears attempted to re-sign Brian Iwuh, who started one game in 2010, and it appears he and the Bears will work out a deal once the sides can get back to the bargaining table. The team hasn’t yet approached free agent Rod Wilson -- who also has starting experience -- about a new deal.
So it’s clear that linebacker is a position the Bears need to address in the draft.
“This year, when you look, we don’t have a lot of linebackers signed,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We’re gonna have to bring somebody in. We’ll be [fine]. But you just have to keep in mind what we try to look for [at linebacker]. The linebacker [positions] -- [numbers] three through seven or [numbers] three through six -- have to be core special-teams players. Whoever we have in the mix, they’re gonna have to be core special-teams guys that we feel really good about.”