The Chicago Bears arguably have the best linebacking pedigree in NFL history. Hall of Fame tough guys Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary are legendary, while a more recent star, Brian Urlacher, will probably be enshrined in Canton soon.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr., thinks one player in this draft class might be worthy of filling that trio’s shoes: Alabama’s Reggie Ragland.
“This is a team that’s had Butkus and Singletary and Urlacher, and he’s very comfortable playing in that 3-4,” Kiper said in a conference call Thursday. “That’s what he played in at Alabama. So I think he’s a plug and play type of guy at the inside linebacker spot.
“He’s a guy who can really, really handle the run responsibilities inside and be a great leader. He’s a run-stuffer. He’s got good range. He’ll be guy who works out very effectively.”
Kiper, who sent Ragland to Chicago at No. 11 overall in his latest mock draft, said the senior’s pass defense is his weakest aspect, but he has several special qualities that put him near the top of the board.
“Tremendous, tremendous intangibles with Ragland,” Kiper said. “All the physical qualifications you want. Would like to see a little bit of improvement in coverage, but he’s a heck of an inside linebacker.”
The expert thought junior linebacker Reuben Foster would follow in the footsteps of Ragland, who spurned the NFL last January and came back to greatly improve his draft stock.
“When you think about Rolando McClain and Dont’a Hightower and C.J. Mosley, the next in line is Reggie Ragland, and then Reuben Foster next year will be a first-round possibility,” Kiper said. “I think it was smart for him to go back and be the leader of that defense as Reggie Ragland was.”
Foster and other underclassmen will officially announce their plans at 3 p.m. ET Friday.