Shea McClellin, meet Mike Mamula.
McClellin was the Chicago Bears‘ first-round draft choice in 2012, the first pick ever made by Bears GM Phil Emery. The Bears drafted him with the No. 19 overall selection and had high hopes for him. Most projected him as a mid-round pick, but he shined at the NFL Draft Combine and skyrocketed up to a first-round pick. Many times general managers put too much stock in the NFL draft combine, and McClellin is the perfect example.
Perhaps the most famous of all combine stars is Mike Mamula, who went from a relative unknown out of Boston College and jumped all the way up to the No. 7 overall pick of the 1995 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Mamula was considered a bust and was out of the league after six seasons. The comparisons between Mamula and McClellin are plentiful. They are both of similar size, play a similar position and of course both jumped well past their collegiate accomplishments to become first-round picks.
If McClellin wants to avoid the same “bust” label that Mamula carries, this is the year to do it. He only has two years left on his contract, and his first two years can be described as mediocre at best. In the Bears’ revamped defense, they had high hopes for McClellin after moving him to outside linebacker, thinking that perhaps this position would better fit his skill set.
If the preseason opener against the Eagles is any indication, the experiment will not work. McClellin looked frequently lost in the open field, taking bad pursuit angles on ball carriers and missing multiple tackles as well. He also was bottled up and struggled to avoid blockers on multiple plays.
The Bears coaching staff has nothing but positive things to say about McClellin including defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. They continue to discuss how great he has looked in OTAs and in training camp. That should come as no surprise, because if we learned anything from the draft combine, he’s a great practice player. However will this ever translate into becoming an elite defensive player?
We have heard how hard McClellin works in practice, and we know that his in-game performances have been inconsistent at best. The Bears coaching staff needs to stop talking about his practice performances and focus on his game performances.
On a defense that was historically bad in 2013, McClellin was being counted on as one of the players who could help improve it greatly in 2014. If McClellin doesn’t show huge leaps forward Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the coaching staff needs to start assessing not if he’s worth being a defensive sub, but if he’s worth keeping on the roster at all.
If the first preseason game is any indication, the Bears might be better off signing Mike Mamula.