By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) — Today we continue our look at the top 20 NFL Draft prospects who could be on the Bears’ radar, based on projected availability, position of need and player skill:
View: Hoge’s Big Board
LB/S Telvin Smith, Florida State
Hand: 10 1/4
Arm: 32 1/2
College Career: A four-year player, Smith didn’t become a full-time starter until his senior season because of depth in front of him. Despite that, he was a very productive player (214 career tackles and 29 career TFLs). Smith led the Seminoles with 90 tackles as a senior at weak-side linebacker while also adding 9.5 TFLs and two interceptions returned for touchdowns. He had remarkable production as a backup middle linebacker in 2011 and 2012, piling up 42 tackles and 8.5 TFLs in 2011 and 64 tackles and 9.5 TFLs in 2012.
Strengths: A smart, instinctive player who plays with emotion. Finds the ball and takes the shortest path to get there. Dangerous blitzer who wills his way into the backfield. Closes fast and tackles with good form. Very experienced at multiple positions with high production. Good in coverage. Can take on both tight ends and wide receivers. Very durable.
Weaknesses: Thin frame for a linebacker. Tends to get stuck in traffic. Aggressiveness leads to some missed tackles, although he’s generally a good open-field tackler. Reluctant to change positions.
Bears Outlook: Few teams will have Smith this high on their draft board, which is understandable because he doesn’t have the ideal frame to play linebacker in the NFL, and he doesn’t have the tape to guarantee a seamless switch to safety. Smith also hasn’t embraced the idea of moving to safety, which probably has hurt his draft stock a bit. But the reality is that he’s built like an NFL free safety with the skills of a weak-side linebacker, which could make him a dominant force in an NFL secondary. His coverage skills are what make such a transition promising, and he plays much better in space, so getting him out of traffic closer to the line of scrimmage would help him at the next level. His blitzing skills could still be utilized at safety, as he’s very good at running up, timing snaps and getting into the backfield. Right now the biggest thing holding Smith back from being a very good NFL safety is his own reluctance to embrace the idea, but money has a way of changing minds. There’s a good chance Smith will still be available at No. 51 in the second round, and he would be worth taking there.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.