Bears pick Boise State DE Shea McClellin in NFL draft
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org April 26, 2012 11:20PM
FORT COLLINS, CO - OCTOBER 15: Shea McClellin #92 of the Boise State Broncos rushes against the Colorado State Rams at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Fort Collins, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Rams 63-13. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Shea McClellin
Updated: May 28, 2012 9:12AM
Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin, who grew up on an Idaho farm off Chicken Dinner Road, is headed to Chicago.
And he isn’t the least bit intimidated.
One of the fastest-rising players leading up to the NFL draft, McClellin was selected by the Bears with the 19th overall pick, and he’ll have every opportunity to start at left defensive end opposite Julius Peppers.
Asked if he can make an immediate contribution, McClellin said, “I think I can, and I think that’s why they picked me up.
“I think they believe in me, and I think I’ll be able to get after the quarterback. I’ll be able to make an impact.”
Among the players invited to New York because he was projected as a first-round pick, McClellin insisted he’s not fazed by big cities, although he was in awe of his new teammates.
“It’s awesome,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s unbelievable, almost, to play alongside guys like Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher. It’s really great, and I can’t wait.”
Neither can the Bears.
New general manager Phil Emery said McClellin was one of the seven players the Bears targeted. And while they fielded offers to move up and down, Emery wanted McClellin on his roster.
“We’re very excited to have Shea become a Chicago Bear,’’ Emery said. ‘‘Obviously, it helped fill a need for us. We’re all excited about his all-downs ability, including special teams.”
Emery highlighted McClellin’s character and his versatility, pointing out that his special-teams coaches gave him a high grade. Emery also noted that McClellin has the potential to play linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
At the Senior Bowl, McClellin mostly lined up at strong-side linebacker, which Emery believed helped the Bears because teams didn’t get to see him as a pass rusher.
But here’s one long-term possibility: McClellin could become an option to replace Urlacher.
Urlacher, 33, continues to play at a high level, but McClellin has the athleticism and intelligence to possibly play middle linebacker.
For now, though, he’ll focus on defensive end, where the Bears badly need help. Last season, they were tied for 19th in the NFL with only 33 sacks.
“He plays through blocks,’’ Emery said. ‘‘Reads pressure well. He has a very natural ability to find the right path. We feel this was an excellent fit for us.”
The Bears had several options with the 19th pick, including highly respected offensive linemen Riley Reiff of Iowa and David DeCastro of Stanford. They also could’ve selected Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus, who led the nation with 16 sacks last season.
Asked to compare McClellin to Mercilus, Emery said, “I’m not going to compare against individuals like that.
“We felt good about his natural ability. He showed us some natural things that the other D-ends didn’t show us: his ability to bend, close the gap, instincts and quickness. We felt that was better than most of the rest.”
At the NFL combine, McClellin raised some eyebrows when he ran the second-fastest 40 time for a defensive end, clocking in at 4.63 seconds.
And, the last two seasons at Boise State, he recorded 20 ½ sacks.
At the Senior Bowl, McClellin impressed a former Bears great, Hall of Fame middle linebacker Mike Singletary.
“I get excited about what he can become,” Singletary said, according to the Idaho Statesman.
So is the new Bears general manager.
But there’s more work to be done by Emery.
The Bears still have a pick in each of the next six rounds, and they still have positions that could use an infusion in youth and talent.
“There’s a couple different ways we can go in the second round especially in the third, fourth and fifth rounds in terms of having flexibility the rest of the draft,” Emery said. “Getting a d-end makes the rest of the scenario work for us the best possible way.”