Leading up to the NFL draft on May 8-10, Shutdown Corner will examine some of the most interesting prospects in the class, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.
6-foot-1, 237 pounds
2013 stats: 134 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
40-yard dash: 4.36 seconds (unofficial time at pro day)
The good: Shazier is explosive to the ball and violent when he gets there. It's impressive watching his film, because he's so fast through the line. You expect a top-flight linebacker to rack up solo tackles in college, as Shazier did. He had 208 in three years and was on pace to break the Ohio State record for tackles had he not entered the NFL draft a year early (and the Buckeyes have had a few great linebackers). But he also was on pace to break the school record for tackles for loss, and that's generally a stat dominated by pass rushers. Only 14 of his 44.5 career tackles for loss were sacks. He's a master at hitting running backs behind the line. If it wasn't obvious from his college film he was a great athlete, he had an outstanding combine. He had the best vertical jump among linebackers (42 inches), best broad jump (10-foot-10), and fifth-best three-cone drill time (6.91 seconds). Then he ran a 40-yard dash that was unofficially timed at 4.36 or 4.37 at his pro day. To put that in perspective, wide receiver pick Sammy Watkins, a potential top five pick, ran a 4.43 in the 40. Shazier is one of the most explosive athletes in this draft, and he's a heck of a football player too.
The bad: Here's where we should be talking about his weight, because in college he said he played last season at 228, and appeared to be lighter earlier in his career. That's a little small for an NFL linebacker. But he showed up for the combine at 237 pounds, which is even more than C.J. Mosley, the top middle linebacker prospect. Shazier is not known for his coverage, and will have to learn how to play man schemes in the pros because he wasn't asked to do that a lot in college. But given his athletic ability, it doesn't seem like that will be too tough of a task. Heck, his dad is even the team chaplain for the Miami Dolphins and he spoke at the combine about how important his faith was to him, which would seem to be a positive if you're looking for a high-character player. There's not much "bad" to find with Shazier.
The verdict: Most mock drafts have Shazier going late in the first, but that might be too conservative. What is there not to like? The athleticism and production are clearly evident, and he did it against top competition. He doesn't have an extensive injury history. He's best suited for weak-side linebacker, but at 237 pounds he's big enough to play in the middle. Luke Kuechly, the reigning defensive player of the year, was just five pounds more at the combine two years ago. You're telling me the NFL is going to let him slip down to the point where a playoff team like Green Bay or maybe even Denver gets a crack at him? I don't buy it. Someone is waiting to take him higher than anyone is projecting right now. And that team will be right.
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- Ryan Shazier