The 2014 NFL Draft is now just two days away and as teams are going through their final draft day preparations, so is the Packers Guru and after much consideration, I now believe that Ryan Shazier is the first-round option that makes the most sense for the Green Bay Packers in round one.
There is no question that I have wavered at times on Shazier. Don’t get me wrong I have always been high on his talent and athleticism, after all, he is a 6-1, 237-pound linebacker that runs a 4.57 in the forty-yard-dash.
My concern with Shazier has never been about his talent or his playmaking ability because after posting 45.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks over this three-year career at Ohio State, it’s clear that he is the definition of an impact player.
Yet, the third-year junior, is not without his issues, particularly if he is going to play in the Packers 3-4 defensive scheme run by Dom Capers. My biggest concern with him has always been his ability to take on blockers like he would need to if he played the inside linebacker spot for the Packers.
To be frank, taking on blockers isn’t Shazier’s game, he is more of a run and hit linebacker. He is not the biggest or the strongest linebacker in the world and I can definitely see scenarios where he gets washed in plays thanks to bigger, stronger offensive lineman.
However, after evaluating and re-evaluating, I can’t get past the fact that when I watch Shazier play, he always seem to pop out on the screen. His athleticism and explosiveness is eye-popping. He has a knack for making plays in the backfield and pressuring the quarterback. Yet, he is also comfortable in coverage and is the ideal three-down linebacker.
Shazier certainly has his flaws but as long as the Packers defensive line can hold its own and eat up blockers, he would have the ability to roam free and make plays for a defense that is in desperate need of impact players. The ability of the former Buckeye to do so many things also makes him a more attractive prospect than the other top inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Mosley is a very good player and would be a great fit in the Packers defense. He would certainly be an upgrade over Brad Jones but at the end of the day, would Mosley ever be anything else than just a solid player? Would he just be a slightly better version of A.J. Hawk?
At the end of the day, Mosley may be better right away and may fit better as a 3-4 inside linebacker but the biggest thing the Packers defense has lacked over the past few years has been speed, athleticism and impact.
Mosley will be solid, may even contend for rookie of the year but in the long-term, Shazier has a higher upside. Look at the player who has tormented the Packers more than any other over the past two seasons — 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick — who would you rather have trying to chase him down Mosley or Shazier?
To me the answer is clear, it’s Shazier.
Thinking back to when Green Bay has played the 49ers and Seahawks over the past few seasons, the thing that to stands out is the speed and athleticism of those two teams. Their defensive speed catches your eye and it’s an area where the Packers defense has lagged behind.
Therefore, if the Packers want to get back to the Super Bowl, they need to figure out a way to beat their NFC West rivals and the best way to do that is by adding more speed and athleticism to the roster, starting with Shazier, who could very well end up being Green Bay’s selection with the 21st pick in the 2014 draft.