INDIANAPOLIS – With the 11th pick overall in the 2016 draft the Bears would typically be in excellent position to add a defensive playmaker, among the top objectives of GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox this offseason.
Based on information from the NFL Scouting Combine and myriad sources, the consensus area of greatest need – admittedly not the first factor in determining a draft selection – has been linebacker, ostensibly inside linebacker, where the Bears went through five different starters in the course of 2015.
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The Bears will not take an inside linebacker based solely on need. But even though several linebackers in the upcoming draft are projected to have talent grades justifying that 11th pick, complicating factors abound:
Myles Jack, UCLA: Missing most of ’15 with a knee injury meant being probed and twisted and everything else at the Combine, but the “problem” for the Bears is that he may be (pun intended) jack-of-all-trades, master of necessarily one at the NFL level. “I’ve heard safety, ‘Mike,’ ‘Sam,’ ‘Will,’ inside ‘backer. Some teams joked about running back… . I’ve heard it all, pretty much, in the back seven.”
Reggie Ragland, Alabama: Ragland ran an official 4.72 seconds in his 40-yard dash, not elite-level time (Ray Lewis ran 4.58, Brian Urlacher 4.57 and Patrick Willis 4.51, by comparison). But teams at the Combine, which include the Bears, generally project Ragland in the spot those Pro Bowl’ers filled in various 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. “They see me as a Mike and making the calls,” Ragland said. “A lot of teams like me playing off the edge but they’d love to see me being a true Mike and making all the calls.”
Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame: His knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl game compromises everything. One report that he was walking at the Combine without a brace was not furthered by medical evaluations that suggested he will not play at all in 2016. But MMQB's Peter King spoke with one NFL GM who said of Smith,“ No chance he won’t play at some point, and play well." Trumping that, however, is Smith himself stating in his media session, I’ll be back 100 percent. We just don’t know when.”