Chicago Bears: 4 Potential Linebacker Prospects
In recent drafts, the Bears have not done a great job at adding depth to their linebacker core, bringing in guys like Jamar Williams, Michael Okwo and Nick Roach. Roach is one of the few who have survived, but after him it has been a revolving door in terms of linebacker depth.
If the Bears want to help their defense not only this coming season but also in the future, linebacker will be a key position to look at in next week's NFL draft.
Here is my list of four potential linebackers the Bears could target in the 2012 NFL draft.
Keenan Robinson, Texas
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Viewed as one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in this year's draft, Keenan Robinson will be a hot commodity come the late second or early third round.
A solid pass-rusher and above average in coverage skills, Robinson possesses the traits that make an outside linebacker successful in a 4-3 defense.
Where Robinson lacks is that he's not always being the most instinctual player and has to rely on his speed to make up for his missteps. He often plays a bit too tall and will need to work on bending more at the waist and become more fluid with his motions.
Robinson is an ideal replacement for Nick Roach, and the Bears may need to reach for him in the second round if they feel he best fits their plan moving forward.
Nigel Bradham, Florida State
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After leading the Seminoles in tackles for a third straight season, Nigel Bradham hopes his game can translate to the NFL.
Bradham possesses a bit of lanky frame for an outside linebacker, standing 6'2" with long arms and high hips. He is often a bit of a kamikaze on the field, possessing an unrelenting motor, shedding blockers and charging the hole.
One big knock on Bradham's game is his lack of pass rushing skills, but he makes up for that with his great tackling ability as well as being quick and fast enough to cover tight ends.
Bradham could find himself going as high as the third round, and the Bears could develop him to eventually become Lance Briggs' successor at weak-side linebacker.
Tank Carder, TCU
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A top performer on one of the nation's best defenses at TCU, Tank Carder is known as a leader and a smart, heads-up football player.
A two-time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, Carder has the speed and quickness to play outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. If he were to bulk up a bit more, he could also find himself playing the middle linebacker position.
Excellent in pass coverage, Carder also excels in shedding blockers and finding the football. Despite his ability to get to the runner, he often plays a bit too aggressive and overruns a play.
If the Bears were to take Carder in the draft, he could find himself competing with Nick Roach at the strong-side linebacker position and could eventually succeed Urlacher in the middle if he is able to gain more weight.
Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State
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Few players in college football have become more polarizing than Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict. Known for his brash style of play on the field and even harsher personality, Burfict, who was once a projected first-round pick, finds himself likely going as late as the fifth or sixth round.
Despite his bad combine performance and discipline issues, Burfict's talent and potential is through the roof. No matter what a player has done in the past, a team will always be willing to give a guy a chance if the talent is there.
If the Bears find themselves in a situation in which Burfict is still on that board when picking late, his upside may outweigh the negativity that seems to follow him.
Not the best in pass defense, Burfict thrives in stopping the run and can lay a punishing hit on the opposing ball carrier. Burfict would likely find himself as Brian Urlacher's backup and a contributor on special teams if the Bears were to take a chance on him.
He possesses all the necessary skills to be an above-average middle linebacker in the NFL if he can learn to control his bad behavior.