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Editor’s note: Our analysts are constantly talking to NFL and college sources about prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. This week, NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein shares some of what he’s hearing from NFL folks about two of the draft’s top defensive prospects.
The scoop: “Good luck with your player comp on this one. They don’t come like him. I don’t think there has ever been a linebacker that has had his size and speed. You’re better off comping him with a basketball player.” — NFC scout on Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds
The skinny: There is no denying that Edmunds is one of the most unique linebackers we’ve ever seen when you take into account his rare combination of size and speed. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, it’s close to impossible to find another linebacker with his physical traits. However, I feel like I came pretty close with Brian Urlacher.
Urlacher measured nearly 6-4, 258 at the combine when he was a prospect out of New Mexico in 2000. Urlacher is a member of this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class, so any comparison to him is a lofty one, but Edmunds has the traits and talent to become one of the best linebackers in the game.
The scoop: “He’s only going to play for 4-3, upfield teams as a three-technique. That’s the only place that works for him. He’s got a get-off that is crazy fast and if he gets with the right coordinator, he’s going to be tough to block.” — AFC scout on Michigan DT Maurice Hurst
The skinny: I doubt we will find anyone who disagrees with this scout when it comes to a fit for Hurst. There are mock drafts, including my first mock of the year, that have the Cowboys taking Hurst at No. 19 overall, which would make sense considering their needs and the pairing with Rod Marinelli, who loves upfield, disruptive tackles. My only concern for Hurst is that he lacks mass and can get bounced around a little bit along the interior. However, as long as he’s penetrating up the field and wreaking havoc, I think defensive coordinators can live with those issues.
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For a second, forget whether Brian Urlacher will go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
A less pressing question on the minds of many Chicagoans is easier to answer: Whenever Urlacher gets enshrined, will the bronze bust in Canton, Ohio, reflect him with or without hair that returned thanks to a recent transplant?
“If I go in, there will be no hair on the bust,” said Urlacher, the face on all those “Restore” billboards along I-294. “I played my whole career bald, so it would be bald. That would be a nice problem to have.”
Urlacher will find out Saturday, when a panel of 48 voters meets to select five players among 15 finalists for the 2018 Hall of Fame class. In 13 seasons for the Bears from 2000 to 2012, Urlacher revolutionized the middle linebacker position in coach Lovie Smith’s Cover-2 defense. If anybody deserves induction in his first year of eligibility, it is the franchise’s most significant player in the post-1985 era.
Not that Urlacher gets caught up with labels or calendars.
“When people say you’re a Hall of Famer, they don’t always say he’s a first-ballot because, to me, if you’re in the Hall of Fame, that’s a pretty freaking big deal, regardless,” said Urlacher, who will be in Minneapolis in case he receives good news. “It’d be sweet to go in on first ballot, but any time would be awesome. Whatever happens, happens. I’m not really nervous. My numbers aren’t going to change.”
Putting those numbers into context for the selectors falls on the shoulders of longtime NFL writer Dan Pompei, the former Tribune staffer who now works for Bleacher Report and The Athletic. They huddled last month.
“I have complete trust in Dan,” Urlacher said. “He was there for my entire career and asked me what I wanted to be said. If it comes down to my presentation, I feel good about getting in.”