On the NFL
11:41 PM CDT, April 26, 2012
Shea McClellin wasn't born wearing shoulder pads, but he plays like it.
That's why the Bears general manager Phil Emery made him his first draft pick ahead of Whitney Mercilus, Nick Perry, Chandler Jones, Courtney Upshaw or any other defensive end who was on the NFL draft board at No. 19.
McClellin is a natural at the unnatural act of rushing the passer.
"He showed us some natural things that the other ends did not show us to as high a level," Emery said. "His ability to bend, his pad level, to get from blocker to ball, to close the gap as quickly as possible … we felt was better than most of the rest of the class."
McClellin will line up at left end, but that isn't all he can be. He can be a right end. He can even be a strong-side linebacker. He played middle linebacker on run downs at Boise State. And the Bears even graded him as a "blue" level special teams player, which is the highest grade a player can have.
"There is a lot of versatility to this player," Emery said.
There is a hidden advantage with McClellin. If the Bears change their defensive scheme, he will adapt.
He will fit in almost any defense. You can't say that about many defenders.
In the pre-draft process, he was linked most often to teams such as the Packers and Patriots, who could have used him as an outside linebacker in a three-man front. When Emery was with the Chiefs, he evaluated McClellin as an outside linebacker for a 3-4. At the Senior Bowl, most of his work came as an outside linebacker.
He has been compared to players like Mike Vrabel and Clay Matthews because of his feel for the game and relentlessness.
"He has great instincts and a big-time motor," an NFC college scouting director said. "He makes effort plays. He generates pressure."
If Emery was looking to put a stamp on the Bears with his first pick as GM, he did it with McClellin. This is a player who will not take a "brother-in-law" approach to practice. He will play every year, every game, every down as if his contract depends on it.
McClellin will keep the accountability level high at Halas Hall. Players like Quinton Coples or Bruce Irvin might have lowered it.
"He's a great character fit for us," Emery said. "He's a great teammate. He's very into football, very passionate."
McClellin also is seen as a safe pick. He might not have the same potential to be dominant that Coples, Irvin or Mercilus do, but the chance of him being a bust is minimal.
McClellin might not be quite as dynamic an athlete as Mercilus is, but their workout numbers were pretty similar. McClellin actually had a better 40-yard dash time, 4.63 to 4.67.
An AFC college scouting director said when the other pass rushers stripped down to their skivvies at the Senior Bowl weigh in, it was clear McClellin did not have the same kind of body.
Mercilus' arms are more than an inch longer. Coples has a couple of inches and 24 pounds on him.
The AFC director also classified McClellin as "an overachiever." Sometimes, that's a way of saying a player gets everything out of his abilities. That's McClellin.
The NFC college scouting director said he thought the 6-foot-3, 260-pound McClellin would struggle to set the edge against the run, which is critical for a left end. Emery sounds as if he is not concerned.
"He does it with a combination of instincts and leverage," Emery said. "He gets his pads very low. He has very good hands and that's a big key in being able to hold the edge — getting your hands in the right place, keeping your pads low and using your leverage to your advantage."
When Emery addressed the media earlier in the week, he made it clear he was looking for a player in the first round who could help the Bears win now. With 38 career college starts and a full arsenal of pass rush moves, McClellin should be pro ready.
Chicago is a long way from Idaho.
But for McClellin, it might not seem too far.
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