The NFL Draft is a lot like Wall Street; you have to sell — or in this case, leave — when your stock is high. Such is the case with Ohio State outside linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Coming off a junior season in which he racked up 143 tackles, the third-highest total in Buckeyes history, and 22.5 for loss, it’s no shock that Shazier earned All-American honors. In just 29 games as a starter in Columbus, Shazier led the team in tackles each of the past two seasons, tallying 315 tackles and 44.5 for loss.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound backer is long and lean, and is projected to slide into a weakside slot on the next level. He has quickness to get to the edge with superb closing speed. He can also drop back into coverage well, with an ability to track tight ends and running backs all over the field.
Shazier is a tad undersized, and some scouts call him more of an oversized safety, but nobody envisions him making a position switch or that his talents won’t translate to the NFL. He’s been compared to Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, and been mentioned in the same breath as the San Francisco 49ers All-Pro Navarro Bowman as a smaller-sized backer.
Shazier comes in as Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 19 overall prospect, and ranked No. 15 by Rotoworld and No. 33 by CBS Sports. Generally, he’s considered the third- or fourth-best linebacker in this year’s crop.
Shazier was excluded from he first round in Kiper’s second mock draft, though he’s still largely being viewed as a first-round talent by him and others. And there are four possible landing spots where Shazier could fit in well.
The first of which is with the St. Louis Rams, who could add Shazier alongside Alec Ogletree and Lames Laurinaitus to create a formidable trio in the second layer of their defense and arguably the best defensive front in the league. Jo-Lonn Dunbar currently holds that spot, meaning the position needs an upgrade.
The Arizona Cardinals could also surprise us all and go defense with the No. 20 pick. Like St. Louis, the Cards have Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington in two of their three backer spots, and could round out the unit by adding an athletic backer like Shazier.
The Cincinnati Bengals are a fit. The defense will need to find a pass rusher if and when Michael Johnson walks in free agency. Or he could go to the New Orleans Saints. They could grab him at the end of the first round and finally round out their linebacking corps.