The last time the Bears used a first-round pick on a defensive player from a small town in the West, they did pretty well.
Brian Urlacher still is roaming the middle of the field for the franchise, 12 years later. No one is suggesting Shea McClellin will have that kind of impact, but if he is anywhere close to the player Urlacher has been, Phil Emery will have done quite well with his first NFL draft pick as general manager.
The Bears selected McClellin, a defensive end from Boise State with the 19th overall pick Thursday night, bolstering a line that had a sizable hole while leaving some quality offensive linemen on the board. McClellin is expected to begin at left end behind starter Israel Idonije and he should be a major part of the rotation that includes Julius Peppers right away.
He was the fourth defensive end taken in a run that started at No. 15 when the Seahawks surprised everyone when they chose West Virginia's Bruce Irvin.
McClellin had 161/2 sacks over the last two seasons for the Broncos and the Bears have struggled with their third end over the last five seasons. Since Mark Anderson was released 28 regular-season games ago, the third end has produced only two sacks, one by Chauncey Davis last season and the Corey Wootton shot that ended Brett Favre's career in 2010.
Emery said the Bears were looking for players who could make a difference immediately.
"That's why they picked me up," McClellin said. "They believe in me, and I'll be able to get after the quarterback."
McClellin hails from Marsing, Idaho, a small town of 1,000 in the Southwest corner of the state about 35 miles from Boise. A sign on Main Street reads "The Home of Boise State's Shea McClellin #92." Now, maybe they will change the school name to Chicago Bears. We'll see if one day Bears fans refer to Marsing like they do Lovington, N.M., the dusty oil rig town from which Urlacher hails.
"I came from a small town," McClellin said. "But I really consider myself a big city guy."
Emery originally scouted McClellin as an outside linebacker for the Chiefs. He cited McClellin's athleticism, football savvy and instincts in saying the 6-foot-3, 260-pounder will be a fit for coach Lovie Smith's 4-3 scheme.
The Bears sent defensive line coach Mike Phair to Boise to put McClellin through a private workout. McClellin had dropped down to about 250 pounds for the Senior Bowl to show teams he was versatile as an outside linebacker and that is where he played that week. He ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash among defensive ends at the NFL scouting combine in February, clocking at 4.63 seconds and trailing only Irvin.
"If there is one area that stand out for me as an evaluator and our coaches and our scouts, we all came away from looking at him as having high-level football instincts," Emery said. "This is a very natural football player. He plays with very low pad level. He finds the ball quickly through blocks, which is a skill in itself, he reads pressure well. He can feel where the ball is going. He has very natural ability to find the right path to the ball.
"He's a small-town guy and a great character fit for us. He is relentless in terms of his motor. He's a great teammate."
Emery said there was a lot of activity in the round with teams looking to trade back to where the Bears were and clubs looking to jump up in the round. But the Bears had McClellin targeted and got the player they wanted at a position they needed to fill.
McClellin was in New York for the draft, his first trip there, and the Bears will bring him to Halas Hall on Friday. Just weeks ago, he said he didn't expect to be a first-round selection. Now, he's with a team that has a plan for him to play immediately.
"It's unbelievable to play alongside guys like Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher," McClellin said. "It's really going to be great and I can't wait to get out there."
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