College: Ohio State
Speed/Atheleticism: Speed. Speed. Speed. There is no way around it, speed is the name of the game for Shazier. An athletic freak that claims to run a 4.35 40 time Shazier is the quickest player within five yards of the line of scrimmage at any given time and might not be just the fastest linebacker, but faster player in all of college football. He uses his quick burst and instincts to get behind the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball (22 tackles for loss). His range from sideline to sideline is special to say the least and his explosivness through running lanes like lightning is a trademark attribute. Combine his fast first step with his closing speed and it's lights out for opposing running backs and quarterbacks of all kinds.
Pass Rushing: Shazier's athletic ability and speed translates perfectly into elite pass rushing ability. His burst and quickness off the snap of the ball is second to none and allows him to reach the quarterback in a blink of an eye blowing past book end offensive tackles and tight ends. One of the best pass rushing linebackers in the country Shazier is at his best when he is turned loose of the edge to rush the passer.
Block Shedding: Shazier's biggest strength can at times turn into his biggest weakness. Too fast for his own good, Shazier will overrun the play at times and take himself out of the play altogether. When attacking blockers its isn't always pretty as he relies on his speed far too much and will try to bend or dip around them instead of taking them head on with strength. These types of plays often end up with him being picked up from the ground by a fellow teammate long after the play is over. Overall he has been inconsistent when teams key in on him by double teaming him and showing the ability to free up from his blockers.
Coverage: Another question mark to Shazier's game is coverage. Not necessarily a weakness but just too incocnsistent to rely on at this point on an every down basis. Showing flashes of brilliance at times in large part of his athletic ability and quickness bailing him out and disguising his poor technique. Route recognition is something that he has shown to lack while dropping back in zone coverage while often being asked to cover short routes by tight ends, drag routed by wide receivers, and flat routes by the running backs. Its important to keep in mind that Shazier was a defensive end in high school and transitioned to the linebacker position for the Buckeyes, which in turn asked him to drop back in coverage much more than he was asked to before.
Technique: A common theme with Shazier is his willingness to rely on his speed and quickness to overshadow the right fundamentals and technique. Although he led the Big Ten in tackles Shazier needs to improve his tackling form if he wants to be a consistent three-down linebacker in the NFL. Failing to execute the proper fundamentals when tackling Shazier has been known to slide off his opponent at times and attempting arm tackles instead of squaring his hips up and wrapping up. This lack of ideal technique often gets overlooked due to his quickness into the backfield and his knack for splash plays, but Shazier far too often will miss tackles in the open field because of his poor form.
NFL Player Comparisons
Considering the majority of his game is built off relying on his speed, athelticism, and quickness, Shazier will go into the NFL in a Lavonte David type mold (Tampa Bay weak-side linebacker). Another highly athletic pass rushing linebacker off the edge that lacks the power and block shedding ability. At his best when he can use his speed to run down ball carriers and opposing quarterbacks.
Shazier has plenty of inconsistencies in his game that coaches and scouts will factor into their evaluation of him. Things like inability to shed blocks, inconsistency in coverage, and his overall raw technique at the position. However, his first step quickness and athletic ability are second to none at his position and from a physical stand point his possess all the ideal traits from a weak-side linebacker. Being mocked in the early portion of the second round as of now, Shazier will shine in Indy where his freakish numbers will come out and shine. Scouts will be drooling over the different ways to use his tools and the weapon he could ultimately turn into. In a league that covets speed and pass rushers, Shazier will see his draft stock rise like no one else's at the combine and will hear his name called on day one.
With his athletic ability and speed almost any team could have their eye on him to add another pass rushing linebacker and weapon as you can never have enough in todays pass happy league. Ideally, Shazier will hope to be drafted by a 4-3 team in need of a weak side linebacker to maximize his strengths and instincts at the position and make a smooth transition to the next level. The NFC North is hungry for linebackers where the Bears, Lions, and Vikings all run a 4-3 scheme and have aging or lack talent at the position. Other possible scenarios are the Giants, Rams, Bengals, and Broncos.
Follow Luke Inman on Twitter @Luke_Spinman