Height: 6' 1"
Arm Length: 32⅜"
Hand Size: 10"
40 Yard Dash: 4.36
Bench Press: 25
Vertical Jump: 42"
Broad Jump: 130"
3 Cone Drill: 6.91
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.21
Last summer during Training Camp, when asked what his coaching staff is looking for as they determine which players will survive the final cuts to make the 53-man roster, Head Coach Chip Kelly stressed that versatility is an attribute of the utmost importance.
Versatility has been stressed time and again from Coach Kelly. At the Maxwell Awards in Atlantic City on Friday night, where Kelly was accepting his 2014 Maxwell Club's NFL Coach of the Year Award, Kelly alluded to the importance of versatility in personnel decisions when commenting on the recent acquisition of free-agent Safety, Malcolm Jenkins, "…We thought all along that he was the right guy we were looking for because of his versatility."
In a two-gap 3-4 defensive scheme, which the Eagles run, versatility is most critical at the OLB position. OLB's in the Eagles scheme must be able to rush the passer, set the edge, and drop into coverage on both sides of the football. With such a wide range of responsibilities, the position requires an athlete with a gifted and diverse skillset to be successful.
Connor Barwin and Trent Cole took most of the snaps at OLB in 2013. While Barwin fits the mold for versatility at the position, Cole unfortunately does not. Cole spent his entire career playing DE in a 4-3 scheme, and was forced to transition to OLB in 2014 with the change to a 3-4.
Although Cole held his own rushing the QB, tallying 9 sacks on the season, and stopping the run, scoring a +11.0 Run Defense score as measured by Pro Football Focus (2nd best on the team), he struggled in pass coverage. During the 2013 season Cole allowed 7 receptions on 8 targets for 143 yards (20.4 avg), and a perfect Passer Rating of 158.3 for passes thrown to his coverage area.
Not only is complete versatility a weakness at OLB for the Eagles, but depth is a major concern as well. According to Snaps tallied by Pro Football Focus, Brandon Graham is the only player on the Eagles roster to take snaps at OLB in 2013 other than Barwin and Cole.
Due to the lack of versatility in pass coverage from Cole, and lack of depth at the position overall, it is clear OLB is an enormous position of need heading into the 2014 season. A player that would bolster the OLB position and add versatility for the Eagles in the 2014 Draft is, Ryan Shazier.
Chip Kelly was in attendance at Shazier’s Pro Day where he blazed a 4.36 40-yd dash. (Kelly can be seen wearing a black shirt and jeans in the picture below)
His 40 time makes him the 4th fastest player in the entire draft class, behind only RB Dri Archer, WR Brandon Cooks, and WR John Brown. In case that doesn’t already blow your mind, to put into perspective just how absurd a 4.36 40-yd dash is for an OLB, DeSean Jackson ran a 4.35 at the NFL Combine in 2008. Let that sink in for a second…
Power and Explosion
Shazier doesn’t only possess startling speed, he also possesses uncanny power and explosion. Power and explosion can be quantified by combining a prospect’s Bench Press, Vertical Jump, and Broad Jump measurements. Typically, a prospect that scores higher than 70 in this metric, has demonstrated NFL caliber power and explosion. Shazier’s power and explosion score is 77.8, which would rank him 1st at his position among 2014 prospects, and 2nd overall among every OLB drafted in the first round since 2010.
There is no question Shazier is a gifted athlete. He finished his career at Ohio State with 306 total tackles. Of those 306 tackles, 201 were solo tackles, and 44.5 were tackles-for-loss. Had he decided to stay at Ohio State for his senior season, he may have set the school record in both categories, as he was on pace to do so.
Shazier is also in elite company at Ohio State by leading the team in tackles for two consecutive seasons (2012, 2013). He is among a list of Buckeyes to accomplish that feat which includes: James Laurinaitis, A.J. Hawk, Chris Spielman and Pepper Johnson.
Rushing the Passer
Rushing the QB is in Shazier’s arsenal as well. He led all LB’s in the Big-10 with 7 Sacks in 2013, which becomes even more impressive when considering that he predominately played Inside Linebacker at Ohio State.
Speed is often what gives Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, and Running Backs an advantage when lined up against Linebackers on pass plays. In Shazier’s case, he is faster than nearly every opponent he will ever matchup against throughout his career. Shazier demonstrated elite coverage ability in 2013 by leading all Linebackers in the Big-10 with 11 Passes Defended. Although Passes Defended is typically a statistic dominated solely by Defensive Backs, Shazier ranked 8th in that category amongst all defenders in the Big-10 in 2013.
Setting the Edge
Although Shazier predominately played Inside Linebacker at Ohio State, he has chosen to enter the NFL Draft as an OLB because of his weight. He currently weighs 237lbs, which is slightly undersized at the NFL level. Being undersized is obviously a weakness which could be exploited when run-stopping, shedding blocks, and setting the edge for the Defense. Adding size shouldn't be ruled out however, as Shazier mentioned at his recent Pro Day that he is capable of gaining another 10lbs leading up to the 2014 season if needed. I imagine he will be asked to do exactly that by the team that drafts him. More mass will be helpful when facing off against NFL Offensive Tackles, and will allow Shazier to be more effective at setting the edge at the point of attack. As you can tell from his lean body mass in the picture shown above, gaining an additional 10-15lbs of mass doesn't appear to be an issue.
1st Round Pick
I think Shazier would be a great selection for the Eagles in the 1st Round. Not only would he likely be the best player available with the 22nd selection, but he also fills a position of need. I’ve embedded a highlight reel of Shazier below for you to check him out yourself. Let me know what you think of Shazier as a member of the Eagles in the comments section.