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Shea McClellin Will Continue to Grow at Defensive End

Shea McClellin had a mixed rookie year but showed plenty of promise and flashes of first round talent - and in 2013, he should be more productive.

David Banks

Shea McClellin cost the Chicago Bears a first-round draft pick last season in Phil Emery's first draft, and spent the year in rotational duty to go with a concussion. He played in thirteen games, picking up two and a half sacks and seven tackles.

During the offseason, some fans wanted to move him to full-time linebacker. He lined up in some roaming defensive end packages (standing up, of course), and with the departure of Urlacher, some fans continue to want to move McClellin to linebacker.

Shea McClellin is not a busted draft pick at defensive end. For one, it's too early to toss the "bust" label around so casually with a player just out of his first year. For two, labelling McClellin a bust would mean he hasn't played well when we knew McClellin would take some growth to fully adapt to playing an NFL-caliber defensive end, mostly in strength.

What happened to McClellin last season isn't so much a waste of a draft pick on a player - in fact, it might have accomplished its goal without the player's stats. Take, for example, one Corey Wootton.

Last year absolutely was a make-or-break year for the Bears' third-year defensive end and 2010 fourth-round draft pick, and for starting the season as the third end he earned seven starts and picked up seven sacks. ProFootballFocus was sour on those games he started but prior to assuming that starting role, Wootton had three games rated above +2.0 (including +3.9 against Jacksonville, picking up two sacks and a pair of hurries). What happened was Wootton was playing well and took starts and snaps, along with Israel Idonije remaining above McClellin on the depth chart. Wootton, for instance, played 582 snaps last year. McClellin played 368, and in those snaps was credited with 22 hurries. Wootton was credited with 18.

McClellin was taken with three players ahead of him on the depth chart. Would Chandler Jones have forced aside Wootton or Idonije? Would Bruce Irvin? Would Whitney Mercilus? More rhetorical questions?

With Idonije taking interest from the 49ers, the load in front of McClellin would lighten and he'd continue to get snaps. And with 2013 being Wootton's final season of his rookie contract, McClellin will have an opportunity to show why he deserves competition to start in 2014.

By the numbers, there's plenty of room to show McClellin can continue to develop into a pass-rushing defensive end. And in 2013, he should get more of an opportunity to show his development.