It only makes sense to move down the draft pick line, so next up we'll look at linebacker Jonathan Bostic, the second-round pick out of Florida.
Bostic's a hard-hitter with the ability to play both the middle and strong-side linebacker spots. Every scouting report I've read indicates he's good at moving other defensive players into their proper positioning, and he'll find ways to fill run lanes and make hits. His tackling's a little rough though; he doesn't always use proper form and doesn't quite have the initial quickness in his game.
|Weak-Side LB||MLB||Strong-Side LB|
|Lance Briggs||D.J. Williams||James Anderson|
|Khaseem Greene||Jon Bostic||Khaseem Greene|
|J.T. Thomas||Khaseem Greene||Jon Bostic|
|J.T. Thomas||Blake Costanzo|
The Bears' linebacker chart hit quite a bit of turnover this season, especially on the top. They brought in D.J. Williams and James Anderson, two guys who have started with success at the middle and strong-side, respectively - and they can hold down starters' spots for a season. Lance Briggs has the weakside locked down until he drops off (or demands more money again). So, with the two draft picks thrown in, that makes five linebacker spots pretty much locked in (unless someone snaps an ankle and hits IR or something). Bostic can play two positions and Khaseem Greene all three, and if Blake Costanzo sticks around to play special teams, keeping J.T. Thomas means keeping seven linebackers. It'll be an interesting end-of-the-roster decision.
1) Developmental Backup in Year One
I've written previously that Bostic could stand to use a year to develop, and the additions of Williams and Anderson provide that year - unless one or both have a great year and can return next year at reasonable deals, neither will be in Chicago beyond 2013. Bostic has holes in his game that could be well served by a year of reserve duty, and could step into a starting role at either position in 2014.
2) Starts at Middle Linebacker
This would be an upset to me, as this would mean that he outperformed Williams or Williams took himself out of contention for a job.
3) Starts at Strong-Side Linebacker
Likewise, this would mean he outperformed Anderson or Anderson took himself out of the job.
Regardless of which spot he earned, if he started at either spot, he'd definitely need to not take himself out of plays, which he was prone to do at Florida, and he'd need to improve his tackling reliability instead of trying to make tackles with shoulder hits, especially in the open field. He finishes with enough pop to make good, solid tackles, and he knows where he needs to be - but as primarily a run-lane filler and hitter, he needs to learn how to handle NFL coverages, especially when it comes to receiving backs and some of the tight ends out there.
The Bears have undergone an immense turnover at the linebacker spot, and if Bostic (and Greene) pan out, the Bears have two starting linebackers for a few years. With Briggs possibly nearing the end, a third linebacker will eventually be needed, and the Bears could have three starting linebackers each on their rookie deals, which could set them up nicely for the long-term.
On the one hand, I like Bostic's ability to play the run game in the muck; on the other, I like Greene better in pass coverage up the middle. That's not to say that Bostic can't play the pass in the deep middle, but Greene possesses better range to make those plays. Bostic will need to learn to adjust his attack angles to not get juked out of his pants by some of the shiftier backs and receivers in the NFL, but if he can, he can be a pretty good interior linebacker.