Let me preface this by saying that analyzing an NFL draft pick 12 hours after it was made is like getting a final grade on the first day of class. Although ESPN’s roster of football experts may lead you to think otherwise, it’s impossible to make a definitive conclusion about a player before he’s smelled an NFL locker room.
That said, speculating on a guy’s NFL future shouldn’t be barred. In the case of Shea McClellin, the Bears’ first round selection and number 19 overall, I find myself a little dumbfounded.
The team’s need for a pass rusher to line up opposite to Julius Peppers was glaring, so I’m not knocking GM Phil Emery for taking a defensive end. I’m just not sold that McClellin, Boise State’s best defensive player last season, is the right guy.
The most obvious knock on McClellin is that in college, he spent much of his time at outside linebacker. Boise State used him as a third down pass rusher, a role he was effective in—he had 20.5 sacks in 43 career games. Turning a part-time linebacker to become a three-down NFL lineman is a lot to ask, especially for McClellin, who recorded the fewest bench press reps of any defensive lineman at the combine.
Bench press reps aren’t a direct indicator of how successful a player can be as a pro, but there’s no doubt that McClellin will line up against bigger, stronger, more athletic tackles in the NFL. Anyone who thinks McClellin faced pro-level talent against Wyoming, Nevada, and the rest of the Mountain West Conference wouldn’t pass a drug screening.
McClellin’s biggest upside is his speed—he ran a 4.66 in the 40, which is receiver-like. It seems like the Bears love affair with speed has carried over from the Jerry Angelo era, which isn’t totally bad. The Bears prefer drafting standout athletes and coaching them up, which will be the case with McClellin. Doing this is always a calculated risk, but Emery is hedging his bet on McClellin’s intangibles. Pro Football Weekly calls him “smart, aware and assignment-sound,” as well as having “terrific character and work habits.”
Still, I have my reservations. If I’m Phil Emery, I draft Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus without hesitation. Mercilus lead the nation in 2011 with 16 sacks and 9 forced fumbles, and he did so against better competition—the Big Ten had two O-linemen drafted in the first round compared to the MWC’s zero. He’s a little less polished than McClellin, but he’s only a hair slower and considerably stronger, at least in the weight room. The Bears are undoubtedly looking for a sack-producer, and it’s hard to argue with 16 of them in 13 games.
Also, the dude’s last name is Mercilus. HE SHOWS NO MERCY!
Shea McClellin may very well end up proving me wrong because next-day-draft-analysis is no exact science. What’s certain is that McClellin will forever be measured next to Mercilus, who fell to the Texans at 26th overall. Until McClellin out-produces Mercilus on Sundays, I’ll keep my doubts.