Chicago drafted a player to help fill its void at linebacker in the sixth round. The Bears selected LB J.T. Thomas with the 195th overall pick. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are the only two ’backers under contract with Chicago through 2011. Here is PFW draft expert Nolan Nawrocki's scouting report on Thomas from the 2011 Draft Preview book:
Notes: Prepped in Florida before redshirting in 2006 — was bothered by an ankle sprain, though did earn Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year recognition. Arrested in August ’07 for transferring and receiving stolen property (laptop), although charges were dropped upon completion of a diversion program. A reserve in the fall, tallied 19 tackles, three for loss and zero sacks in 10 games. Started all 39 games at weak-side linebacker his final three seasons — totaled 65-10-3 with three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick in ’08; tallied 76-7-½ with five pass breakups and two interceptions in ’09; had 73-7-2½ with four pass breakups and two forced fumbles in ’10. Dealt with neck pain during ’10 spring practice and fall camp. Team captain.
Positives: Good speed, athletic ability and hip flexibility. Nice agility to slip and avoid blocks. Chases hard and ranges to the sideline. Good coverage instincts — blankets a lot of ground. Tough, blue-collar worker who will play hurt. Vocal on-field leader. Durable, three-year starter with special-teams experience. Good work ethic.
Negatives: Has very short arms and marginal take-on strength. Lacks bulk strength and struggles to provide resistance against the run — engulfed by larger blockers. Not explosive. Average change of direction and closing burst. Recorded only a 30½-inch vertical jump, the lowest of any outside linebacker at the Combine. Character needs to be evaluated.
Summary: Average-sized, athletic, run-and-hit weak-side linebacker who would be best protected and free to roam in a fast-flowing “40” front. Will have to prove his worth on special teams.
NFL projection: Priority free agent.