This much we know: former Chicago Bears linebacker Nick Roach will be playing for the Oakland Raiders next season. Roach was the strong-side starter in Chicago the last two seasons, while also serving as the primary backup at middle linebacker. He wasn't a flashy player but Roach was an intelligent, experienced veteran whose loss will have an impact on the defense.
That is unless the team can find a capable replacement in this year's draft. Of the Bears' top four linebackers last season, only Lance Briggs is under contract, so it's safe to say the front office will be targeting LB in the early rounds.
Here is a full break down of the outside linebackers expected to come off the board in the first three rounds of this year's draft.
Jarvis Jones, Georgia (6-2, 245)
After a neck injury and the departure of Pete Carroll, Jones transferred from USC to Georgia following his freshman year. After redshirting his sophomore season, Jones exploded on the scene his junior year, leading the SEC in tackles for loss (19.5) and sacks (13.5.). As a senior, he led the nation in sacks (14.5), tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (7). Jones is arguably the most dominant pass rusher in this year's draft and will likely be a double-digit sack producer in the NFL for years to come. He may not be able to play in a 4-3, as he's likely best suited to be an OLB in a 3-4.
Projected: Round 1
Arthur Brown, Kansas State (6-0, 241)
Brown began his career at Miami (Fla.) before transferring to Manhattan following his sophomore season. He made an immediate impact for the Wildcats, earning Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year and All-Conference honors in 2011. As a senior, he racked up 100 tackles, seven for loss, and one sack. He has very good closing speed and is a sure tackler. In coverage, he shows solid awareness and is very quick to react to plays in front of him. He's not strong at the point of attack, so most feel he's best suited as a weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, where he could better utilize his speed and athleticism.
Projected: Round 1-2
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Khaseem Greene, Rutgers (6-1, 241)
Greene is another converted safety who moved to linebacker his junior season at Rutgers. He led the conference in tackles (141) that year and was named co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year. His senior year, he tallied 136 tackles, 12 for loss, with six sacks, five pass breakups and six forced fumbles. Greene looks the part of a prototypical 4-3 OLB. He's a chase linebacker with good tackling skills. He'll struggle at the point of attack, and doesn't have the thick frame to take on big blockers, which is why he'd be great on the weak side, where he can utilize his speed.
Projected: Round 2
Sio Moore, Connecticut (6-1, 245)
Moore was a three-year starter for the Huskies who improved each season. In 2012, he notched 72 tackles, 15.5 for loss, along with 7.5 sacks and 11 pass breakups. He's not an explosive playmaker but he's a smart, disciplined player who is very good in coverage. He doesn't possess elite athleticism or speed but his experience and intelligence should make him a consistent OLB in the NFL.
Projected: Round 2
Trevardo Williams, Connecticut (6-1, 241)
Williams was a three-year starter at UConn who was used both as a down rusher off the edge and as an outside linebacker. His was named All-Big East first-team his senior season after racking up 42 tackles, 13.5 for loss, and 11.5 sacks. He has great speed and pass-rush ability but he's undersized and will have trouble playing the run in a 4-3. He's a bit of a tweener who will likely fit best as an OLB in a 3-4 system on nickel downs.
Projected: Round 2-3
Jamie Collins, Southern Miss (6-3, 250)
Collins is a converted safety who had 92 tackles, 10 for loss, along with 10 sacks, four forced fumbles and five pass breakups during his All-Conference USA senior season. He's a long, lean pass rusher who will likely work very well as a standup player in the NFL. His experience at safety helps him in coverage, where he can keep pace with most running backs and linebackers. Collins has very good speed but lacks the strength to take on blockrs and set the edge against the run. In a 3-4 system, he'll be a solid mid-round pick.
Projected: Round 2-3
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Devonte Holloman, South Carolina (6-1, 243)
Holloman was a two-year starter at strong safety before being converted to a hybrid linebacker/safety position his senior year. He managed 55 tackles, eight for loss, with two sacks and three interceptions. In coverage, Holloman is easily the most adept of all the outside linebackers in this class. In addition, he's a powerful hitter who can blow up plays, despite a lack if ideal strength. He's a work in progress but Holloman has the potential to develop into a solid strong-side linebacker. Projected: Round 3
Zaviar Gooden, Misouri (6-1, 234)
Gooden was converted from safety following his freshman season and started the next three years at weak-side linebacker. Injuries hampered him his senior year but overall, Gooden was very productive against both the pass and run. At the combine, he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, which was tops amongst linebackers. He also finished fourth best in the bench press (28 reps) and was a top performer at almost every other drill. Gooden has extreme athleticism but he showed a narrow skill set in college and will likely be limited to the WILL in a 4-3 system. Projected: Round 3
Best fit for the Bears
If the Bears can trade back in the first round and grab a third-round pick, to replace the one lost in last year's Brandon Marshall trade, then Holloman is the selection. He's athletic and disruptive, and has the strength and willingness to be stout at the point of attack. As a bonus, the former safety is outstanding in coverage, so he could stay on the field in nickel situations. He's raw but he'll be worth the time it takes to develop him.
If Chicago has to use a second rounder, Greene is the pick. He's better suited for the weak side, where Briggs plays, but if Greene can add a few pounds of muscle, he should be able to hold up on the strong side. His overall athleticism and outstanding production in college (he totaled 277 tackles his final two years at Rutgers) could allow him to flourish in Chicago for the next decade.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.