By Bryan Dietzler
The Bears are in desperate need of help at the inside linebacker position and it’s a good bet that they might decide to reach for help there with their first pick, at number 11, in the 2016 NFL draft. There is some decent talent that could be available for the Bears when they make their pick and we are going to take a look at one of the players that is considered as possibly being one of the best at his position, Myles Jack. We will look at his strengths and his weaknesses and see if he would be a good fit for the Bears.
Jack played linebacker for UCLA while he was in school. He started his career there on a high note as a freshman playing both linebacker and running back in his first year. In his freshman year he was awarded All-American honors as he was selected to be the Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year, the first player in PAC-12 history to do that. Jack had an even better sophomore season on defense.
He comes into the 2016 NFL Draft as a true junior and he has three years of starting experience with UCLA. He played at several different positions while in school including safety, linebacker, running back and nickel back and was even used on kick returns.
Some of the upside to Jack includes his athleticism. He is a very solid athlete and is probably the best athlete at the linebacker position in the draft. It was this athleticism that allowed him to play multiple positions while at UCLA. This was both a blessing and a little bit of a curse because Jack didn’t settle into one positon truly and may have some more adjustments to make if he is going to play linebacker in the NFL which is the position he should play.
His build is compact and he is very muscular. He stands at six feet one inch and weighs 232 pounds. He is a bit in between when it comes to his size though and some feel he might not be the ideal height for the linebacker position. Jack is light and quick on his feet. When it comes to turning motion and movement, he has a fluid turning motion and displays no hesitation in his movement. Jack has very good natural ball skills and has rare agility that not too many players have.
When it comes to defending against the pass, Jack excels with that. He has above average speed to keep up with receivers, tight ends and running backs coming out of the backfield. His awareness in coverage is excellent and he has the fluidity to effectively cover backs, tight ends and receivers very well. Another thing that Jack does real well is that he anticipates routes well and will move away from his assigned receiver (if the ball is not coming his direction) and close quickly on the ball once it’s thrown.
Mechanically (in pass coverage) Jack is able to flip his hips to turn himself into the proper position to run down the field with the player and keeps from separating too far from the receiver. He uses his hands very well in pass coverage locking down receivers with his hands and can even bat balls down to prevent completions. Jack is able to read and react quickly in time to get to the receiver to either break up the play or keep the receiver from gaining a lot of yards (with his closing speed).
Using his quick feet, Jack is able to change direction quickly and doesn’t need to slow down when he does that. One other thing that Jack does well is that he is able to recognize what is going to happen on offense, get to the location of the ball and make the play when the offense is going to run the play out of the backfield.
There is some upside to Jack in regards to his pass rushing capability. His burst off the line make his edge rushing ability solid and when it comes to taking on blockers he doesn’t shy away from contact. His explosive pop allows him to get free of blockers and get to the quarterback. He also anticipates the snap very well and times his blitzes well enough to get to the quarterback and stop him from making a big play.
Other positive aspects that Jack possesses include exceptional hand/eye coordination that allows him to be very effective at breaking up passes as well as tackling ball carriers (to stop them from gaining a lot of yards). When it comes to his tackling ability, Jack breaks down on tackles well enough and wraps up taking the ball carrier down for minimal yardage after contact. When going towards the receiver or the ball carrier, Jack goes straight for them not allowing them to make a move to get away from him and brings the ball carrier down right away or holds them there until help can arrive. Open field tackling is no problem for Jack and he is very aggressive in taking down ball carriers in open spaces.
When it comes to run support, Jack is ever aggressive at the line of scrimmage, gets into the backfield to make the play and stop the ball carrier for a loss. He has good instincts and can read and react to the play getting in and stopping plays for losses and minimal gains. He has good closing speed when getting to the ball carrier and takes good angles making him an ideal pursuit specialist. He works sideline to sideline very well and is always hustling.
Some other minor qualities that Jack has include being violent at the point of attack, having strong hands with an ability to send a blocker backwards, good balance, natural bend and excellent instincts. Finally, his ability to play at several different positions could help him (or hurt him) in the NFL.
Every player has his drawbacks and Jack does have a few. In what might be his biggest drawback, Jack’s size may not be ideal for the linebacker position particularly at the inside linebacker position. He doesn’t have the length to quite possibly play at the inside linebacker spot and this is where the Bears would need him most. It has also been observed the Jack displays a lack of power at times and does have trouble sifting through traffic to make tackles.
When it comes to taking on blockers, especially defending against the run, he needs to try to use his hands better to try to shed blockers and avoid slamming into them. With that he could use some time in the weight room to get stronger to take on and shed those blocks as well as not try blow up the blocker. He needs to worry more about getting to the ball carrier than taking on the blocker.
One of the other concerns that some scouts may have about Jack is that he was never really settled into any one position at UCLA. He played in several different spots and has experience as linebacker, running back and safety. His preference is to play at linebacker and that is where he should be used in the NFL.
Some other things that Jack needs to work on include the need to get stronger and add more power when going up against runners coming straight at him so he can handle them better and take them down quicker. He does display some concerns in coverage as well. His coverage technique, while fairly solid, can be sloppy at times and he will sometimes turn the wrong way or not open his hips in time to stay along with the receiver. There are also times when he will grab at the receiver when going down the field and not get his head turned in time to find the ball (this can lead to pass interference calls in the NFL).
Some other, minor concerns that scouts may have about Jack include having some problems in the pass rush (mostly with taking on blockers as was previously described) as well as being too aggressive at times and overrunning tackles.
Finally, there is one big drawback to Jack that is going to have scouts concerned about him heading into the 2016 NFL Draft. He injured his knee this past year during a practice and played in just three games. With this, concerns may be raised about his smaller size and his ability to handle the punishment of the NFL. Following the knee injury, which will be heavily scrutinized by NFL teams, Jack decided to withdraw from UCLA to focus on his rehabilitation and his entry into the NFL draft. Is he going to be healthy enough to perform well in pre-draft drills and is he going to be able to play this coming season? Time will tell.
As you can see, there aren’t too many drawbacks to Jack and the positives clearly outweigh the negatives. He is going to be one of the best pass coverage linebackers to come out of the draft in several seasons if his knee holds up. The problem with him, though, is that his lack of size may relegate him to just being an outside linebacker (some are even floating around the idea that he may end up playing safety in the NFL) and the Bears may not want to take him if he is only going to be able to play outside linebacker.
The Bears could use a linebacker that could cover backs and tight ends coming off the line of scrimmage and if they feel that they could use Jack at outside linebacker then they would probably look at taking a look at him. If they are looking for strictly inside linebacker help then Jack may not be an option for them. The Bears may show some interest in him but due to his health and his size they may pass on him in the draft.