The question on everyone’s mind in Chicago for the upcoming NFL Draft at the end of April is, “How do we replace Brian Urlacher?” It’s a very astute observation. How do you go about replacing a middle linebacker/ starter/ team captain/ defensive player of the year/ probowler/ face of your team? Well, the facts are simple: this year, you can’t.
Not all questions can be answered by the draft. Some teams (desperately) need a QB. However, there are only two possibly going in the first round. This isn’t a class for starting quarterbacks, nor it one for starting middle linebackers.
Pictured above is Kevin Minter (LSU), probably the best ILB talent in the draft; And he’s barely good enough to scratch first round. His issue? Can’t shed blockers which is basically an occupational hazard for MLB’s in the NFL. Next up in Manti Te’o (Notre Dame). Yes we’ve all heard of him for one reason or another, but football-wise he struggles in big games. He’s stocky and built for an open-field pop or two, but straight line speed? Not a chance. Second rounder at best. Next up are Kiko Alonzo from Oregon and Jon Bostic from Florida. Alonzo has great straight line speed but plays with reckless abandon on and off the field (arrests for DUI, burglary, trespassing, and criminal mischief). Bostic is a 2-down linebacker. Instinctive and aggressive, but can’t shed a blocker to save his life. Those four guys? Only gents who have a glimmer of a chance at the top four rounds.
Don’t misunderstand, it’s hard to judge a guy until he suits up and gets on the field. AJ Hawk (OSU) of the Green Bay Packers has never lived up to the hype he received from his college years. However he has become a solid piece of their defense and been a challenge for offensive coordinators to stop for many seasons.
With only five picks this year (Rounds 1,2,4,5 & 6), linebacker is not the way to go. Hopefully a stud like Luke Joeckel (OT, Texas A&M) or Eric Fisher (OT, Central Michigan) will fall into their lap at 20.
Guess we’ll find out in 18 days. Good luck Phil Emery.