At the Scouting Combine, Connecticut linebacker Lawrence Wilson ran a 4.71 40-yard dash – far slower than many expected. Yet that didn't stop the Bears from conducting and individual meeting with the former Huskie. Chicago scouts got an even better look at Wilson during UConn's pro day last week.
Wilson was a first team All-Big East selection his senior season after leading the conference in tackles with 123. He also added 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Among his many highlights in 2010 was a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown against South Florida. Wilson started 50 games for the Huskies the past four years and leaves the school ranked second all-time in tackles (449). He had five career interceptions and returned three of those for touchdowns. He registered six tackles in the Senior Bowl.
He was projected as a third- or fourth-round pick heading into the combine. In the eyes of many observers, his stock dropped a bit after his performance in Indianapolis. He may have boosted his value though at UConn's pro day, running 40 times in the 4.6-range.
At 6-0, 229-pounds, Wilson is on the small end of the linebacker scale. On film he shows outstanding instincts and quick feet. He moves well in traffic, is solid in man coverage against tight ends and running backs, and is very good at recognizing screens. His ability to redirect and move side to side is one of his biggest assets.
Wilson needs to work on his tackling, as he often shows bad technique and lacks pop. He is not very stout when teams run right at him and can be swallowed up by bigger blockers. In addition, he has a tendency to freeze on play action and is often caught out of position.
His size makes him better suited as a middle or weak-side linebacker, the two positions for which Chicago already has Pro Bowl starters. If he can bulk up, he could start on the strong side, but he'll need to work on filling and being stouter at the point of attack. He has a lot of experience though, and his quickness in pass coverage would be an asset.
Wilson isn't overly impressive on tape and will need some time to develop. He would make a very good special teams player at minimum and could work into a starting role in the not-too-distant future. The Bears will definitely consider him if he's available in the fourth or fifth round.
Two other UConn linebackers, Scott Lutrus and Greg Lloyd Jr., were also on display. Lutrus (6-2, 241-pounds) has the perfect build to play strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 system. He ran 4.68 40 at the combine but didn't participate in the bench press due to a hand injury that is still healing.
On film, Lutrus shows good awareness and range. He's a good tackler who packs a punch. He's very physical and not afraid to stick in nose in at the point of attack. In pass coverage he needs a lot of work. In zone coverage he looks lost at times and he's not fluid enough to cover running backs and tight ends one on one. He also has an injury history.
Lutrus is smart and skilled but doesn't have the intangibles to come in and start right away. He'll have to make his mark on special teams for a few years while learning the pro game. The same goes for Lloyd, who lost his starting position his senior season and will most likely go undrafted.
On the other side of the ball, guard Zach Hurd is a player Chicago will be considering in the middle rounds, assuming the team doesn't address the position the first two days of the draft. At 6-6, 316-pounds, Hurd is a top-10 prospect at guard. He was a first team All-Big East performer the past two seasons and blocked for four 1,000-yard individual rushing seasons during his career. He started all 13 games for the Huskies in 2010 and started all 39 games over the past three years for UConn, while appearing in a school-record 52 games during his career. He missed the Senior Bowl with a calf injury.
Hurd has plenty of experience and is very durable. He's a powerful drive blocker and uses his bulk and strength to create lanes in the run game. He shows good balance and an ability to engulf linebackers at the second level. When pulling and trapping, he shows good footwork and athleticism for his size, and does a good job finding player to block when leading through a hole.
On the downside, Hurd is mediocre in pass protection. He has a hard time recognizing blitzes and stunts, and often looks lost. He tends to catch the defender when pass blocking instead of initiating contact.
Chicago needs an inside presence in the run game, which Hurd could offer right away. Matt Forte would love running behind him. But he would be a liability in pass protection. His size is hard to overlook though. Under the tutelage of offensive line coordinator Mike Tice the former Huskie could develop into a contributor, but it's not going to happen right away.
I like Hurd. Guys with his size, power and run-blocking ability don't come along too often. If he's available for the Bears in the late rounds, he would be worth the gamble.
Finally, Chicago got an up-close look at RB Jordan Todman. The 5-9, 203-pounder ran a blistering 4.40 40-yard dash at the combine and displayed good strength, posting 25 reps on the bench press. He doesn't have the bulk to necessarily be an every down back in the NFL and his pass blocking needs work.
He's a very powerful runner though who runs with his pads low and isn't afraid to dish out punishment on defenders. He is patient waiting for blocks and has breakaway speed. Overall, he's a very well-rounded back who will fit great into a two-back rotation.
He's projected as a third-round pick, which is too early for Chicago to grab a running back. Yet were the Bears to pull the trigger on him though – if they were to, say, trade out of the first or second and pick up an extra third – they would be getting one heck of a runner who would make a great compliment to Forte.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.