This does not make any practical sense. I fully admit that. In a column about the Chicago Bear's draft needs, highlighting an outside linebacker (OLB) should be one of the last positions on the list. It is one of the rare positions on Chicago's current roster actually occupied by at least 4 competent, NFL-starter level players. Pernell McPhee turned out to be an excellent free agent addition (when he was healthy) last season. Lamarr Houston and Willie Young both returned to form after injuries and were among the Bears leaders in sacks and QB pressures. Sam Acho is an underrated lunchpail-type pro who fully understands the 3-4 defense and willingly does all the little things necessary to make it work. With that lineup in place OLB would seem to be in a much better position talent-wise than almost any other unit on the roster.
I don't care. The Bears need talented football players and every team in the league needs a ferocious pass rush. "Joe the Show" from the Wisconsin Badgers can provide both of those things and he can do it right now.
Joe Schobert, Linebacker, University of Wisconsin
Surprises are some of the best things that come out of picking apart player's game tapes. Both good ones (where a player is better than advertised) and bad ones (where the hype doesn't match the reality of the situation) can be very rewarding to discover. It is one of the main things I enjoy about film work and certainly the thing that keeps me coming back year after year. Very rarely a player just flat out blows you away. Joe Schobert is one of those players.
After the draft last year Bears General Manager Ryan Pace revealed that the Chicago scouting board contained a unique addition. He told reporters that the team now had a "Bears Box" next to every player's name. Pace said about the box: "There are certain guys on our board that we'll check a ‘Bears box;' a little ‘Bear' that'll pop up. To us, that's a guy who has every trait we're looking for." Only about 20 players in last year's draft earned a mark in that Bears Box. If there isn't one next to Joe Schobert's name this year I would be stunned.
Schobert is a 6' 1.5" tall, 247-pound senior OLB at the University of Wisconsin and he simply reeks of being a Bears linebacker. He is tough, fast, technically proficient, consistent, tenacious and amazingly productive. He is the man on his team and fully deserves his nickname, Joe the Show. He is clearly the best player on his team and everybody knows it. The opposition knew it too and Schobert still made plays; often and in every game. All 3 films I watched (Iowa, Alabama and Nebraska) were filled with impact plays. It is rare to see full game films that look like highlight reels because the featured player has so much impact, but Schobert pulls it off time after time.
Wisconsin LB Joe Schobert led the nation in pass rush productivity each of the last two seasons.— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 24, 2016
88 pressures on 325 rushes#PFFDraft
Over the last 2 years Schobert has been a beast for the Badgers. His production has increased every year, in every category. His totals for the last 2 years include: 31 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, 7 passes defended, 6 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception. His production is even more impressive when you realize he amassed those numbers largely by himself. If you can name another player in the Wisconsin front 7 (without Google's help) you are a better analyst than I am. He also did it in only 25 total games (12 in 2014, 13 in 2015). He's a force on the field no matter who his opponent is, and that's clearly evident from the moment you start watching the tape.
The game against Alabama was impressive in many respects. Joe's Badgers were clearly outmatched against one of the best college football rosters in the country and the eventual national champions. That didn't slow him down one bit. In the first quarter he beat the left tackle one-on-one, made it past Heisman Trophy winner Derek Henry's block and corralled fairly mobile QB Jake Coker for a sack. A completely solo effort against 3 of the top players in the nation and he made the play. Later in the same quarter he faced up to Derek Henry on a rushing attempt in open space. Henry weighed in at the combine this week at 247 pounds. I have been watching film of some of the best defenders in the country bounce off of him for weeks now. Schobert calmly broke down on the ballcarrier with perfect form and hauled him to the ground, again by himself.
Not even a quarter later Schobert knifed into the backfield and caught RB Kenyan Drake from behind. For those of you that don't know, Drake is very fast. He will likely run the 40 yard dash in the high 4.3 to mid 4.4 second range this week in Indianapolis. Later in the game Schobert mirrored Drake step for step on a wheel route out of the backfield. Coker did not even attempt the throw. Lastly, Schobert is not a sheltered star defender, afraid of the dirty work that wins football games. He plays special teams as well. In last week's Draft Bytes column I listed off the best return specialists in this years draft and Alabama's Cyrus Jones topped the list with 4 punt returns for TD's this year alone. You can guess how this story ends. Schobert broke through the middle of the line, raced down the field and snared Jones around the ankles after a 1 yard gain... again all by himself. Just in case that wasn't enough, Schobert added another sack of Coker before the game ended. Regardless of who the competition is, Schobert will make plays and affect the outcome of the game.
One of the aspects that impressed me about Schobert the most is how well he does the little things; all the time. Examples include:
- His ability to keep offensive lineman at bay with 1 arm and keep his outside arm free to make the tackle if the back runs through his gap.
- How quickly he locates the ball and how hard he is to fool
- Patience to not overrun plays and maintain defensive integrity to prevent cutbacks
- The ability to rush very quickly but under control and always moving towards the QB
- Ability to play well and perform a variety of roles from multiple defensive alignments
One of the best illustrations of how technically proficient Schobert is can be seen when he runs an inside looping stunt on a pass rush. Most players who start outside loop back over the charging defensive tackle with a wide arc to ensure they get clear of him. Not Joe; he knifes inside like a surgeon scraping directly behind the DT cutting off every extra inch on his path to the QB. This reduced path combined with his natural burst allows him to appear directly in the path of the QB and close the gap between them almost instantly. This almost always causes the QB to panic and the play ends quickly in favor of Wisconsin.
After watching his tape and going back to look over his stats I am having trouble understanding why there is not more (any?) buzz around Joe heading towards the draft. I certainly feel like he is being overlooked and I'm at a loss to explain that. I have not seen his name on a single top-50 player list and many lesser players (Dadi Nicholas from VT comes to mind) are getting mentioned much more often despite less impressive resume's. If the NFL falls asleep on Schobert during the draft, the Bears could benefit. If he lasts until the 3rd round I'd run his ticket to the podium without hesitation. If he is still there in the 4th it would represent grand larceny, but I'm fine with that... because there would be one more monster on the Midway.