I'll admit my initial reaction to the Shea McClellin pick was a resounding, "meh". After weeks of research into the Bears 1st round draft pick, I wrote one lone sentence about McClellin and that was just to say he's a fast riser. The only WCG writer that even had an inkling that he could be a Chicago Bears pick was our weekend warrior Steven who gave him the Video Of The Day treatment in mid April. And even that was before the 1st round buzz starting about the Boise State defensive end.
I'd say at least 75% of the stuff I read or heard immediately after the pick was negative. And much of the positive stuff was along the lines of, 'he's our guy now we have to support him', not a lot of actual football reasoning behind the positive or the negative chit chat. So it was time for me to get to work on some more draft research.
After the pick, I immediately went back to scouting reports and checked out more film on him. I looked at a bunch of mocks to see where he was rumored to be going and I checked out his combine stats. And then I heard Bears GM Phil Emery talk about McClellin and it really piqued my interest. Emery didn't mention the measurables, he instead used coach-speak (which excites me in a way it probably shouldn't) to describe McClellin.
"He plays with a very low pad level," Emery said. "He finds the ball quickly, [gets] through blocks, which is a skill in itself. He reads pressure well. He can feel where the ball's going and he has very natural ability to find the right path to the ball off blocks to make the tackle as quick as possible."
Watching him play you get a sense that he's a very instinctual player. Not a lot of wasted movement. See ball, get ball. More from Emery;
"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."
One of the worries from scouts is that he may not be as good against the run, but that's a concern for most DEs coming into the league. Emery again mentions pad level when discussing his ability to set the edge as a left defensive end.
"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."
No matter what level of football you play at you're sure to hear, 'low man wins', and it's true in the NFL. McClellin is very good at dipping his shoulders, both to gain leverage in the run game and to get under the blocker for the pass rush.
Some of the concern from Bears fans that I've heard point to him being a better fit for a 3-4 team as a rush outside linebacker, but what you have to understand is the 3-4 OLB is fairly equal to a 4-3 Tampa 2 DE. Julius Peppers at 287 pounds is the exception, he has the quickness of a man 25 pounds lighter, and the Bears defense is all predicated on speed. In fact many of the top college DEs available in the draft were looked at by 3-4 teams to play OLB. Quinton Coples may play some as a stand up edge rusher for the Jets. Melvin Ingram will probably line up as an OLB for San Diego, as will Chandler Jones for the Patriots, Whitney Mercilus for the Texans, and Nick Perry for the Packers. All of these players, had they ended up in Chicago, would have played 4-3 DE for the Bears. Shea McClellin at 6'3" 260, is nearly identical to Mercilus (6'3" 261), he has 13 pounds on Chandler Jones, and two inches on Ingram.
But he only knocked out 19 reps on the bench you say. And to that I'd say, he has to increase his strength. You'd like that number to be at least in the mid 20s for a defensive lineman, but that's what an NFL Strength Coach is for. McClellin is described as 'country strong', and that tells me he has good core strength, something that really isn't measurable. But about those measurables...
Would you believe the first discussion I had about the pick was about his speed. A friend told me that he was too slow for the NFL. He must have missed his 2nd best among all d-linemen 40 time of 4.63. Or his 6th best time in the 3 cone drill or his 12th best 20 yard shuttle time. The last two are good indicators of change of direction quickness. When looking at a players explosion, you have to note his 8th best broad jump at the combine.
But an even better indicator of explosion and first step quickness is his 10 yard split time. McClellin ran a 1.57 10 yard split, and according to long time NFL talent evaluator and former V.P. of player personnel for the Cowboys Gil Brandt, you want your defensive linemen to be at least sub 1.7 seconds. Another article on the 10 yard split categorizes a great time as being under 1.55 and a good time being between 1.55-1.59. McClellin not only has a good 40 time, but coupled with an explosive 10 yard split and you can see the potential to be a relentless pass rusher.
Phil Emery claims that McClellin was the highest rated player remaining of the seven the Bears were targeting, and whether you believe that or not, you can't deny that he would have gone in the first round. Maybe you wanted to see Emery trade back and acquire an extra pick or two and still draft his guy. He could have tried, but there's no guaranteeing he would have been there. As soon as the Bears drafted McClellin the Patriots moved up to the 21st pick to snag Chandler Jones. Some experts believed that the Pats wanted McClellin and then Jones with their original pick, and as soon as they saw McClellin fall off the board they had to move up to ensure they got their edge rusher. The Packers were also rumored to want McClellin to pair opposite Clay Matthews, but with him gone they went with USC's Perry.
He was in the NFL Draft Green Room because most experts believed him to be a solid round one prospect. His lofty status came around later than some of his peers, but some pro personnel guys were simply late to see the total package that McClellin offers. Emery was only ahead of the curve because he scouted him as a 3-4 edge rushing OLB when he was still employed by the Chiefs. He dropped weight to play strong side OLB at the Senior Bowl, and that may have actually hurt any buzz he had after college, because he wasn't able to showcase his pass rushing skills.
Only time will tell if Shea McClellin was the right choice, but I'm at least willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the Bears new GM and at least let the kid put on his new #99 jersey before I concern myself with what could have been.