Ryan Shazier was the heart and soul of an Ohio State defense that went 24-2 the past two seasons. Shazier played the Will (weakside) linebacker position in Urban Meyer's 4-3 defense. The 2013 First-Team All-American registered 259 tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles the past two seasons. All in all, Shazier is a game changer and a playmaker from his linebacker position.
The ex-Buckeye is an elite athlete who dominated pre-draft workouts, posting a 42-inch vertical, 130-inch broad jump and a 6.91-second 3-cone drill at the NFL Combine. More impressively though, his unofficial 40-yard dash that he ran at Ohio State's Pro Day in Columbus clocked in at 4.36 seconds.
Against the run, Shazier uses his athleticism and instincts to make plays in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage. He moves well laterally and explodes towards the ballcarrier. Shazier shoots gaps instinctively and is a solid form tackler who delivers a pop, rather than catching the ballcarrier. His workout numbers aren't an aberration and he is not just a workout warrior (see: Gholston, Vernon); Shazier plays fast on tape, too. His elite quickness makes him great and standout amongst others, but it also sometimes leads to him over-running plays or losing backside contain on plays originally going the other direction.
Shazier had a four-game stretch at the end of the year that was legendary around the Big Ten, during which he posted some truly crazy numbers:
• 16 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss vs. Illinois
• 20 total tackles, five tackles for loss vs. Indiana
• 14 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss vs. Michigan
• 12 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss vs. Michigan State.
In coverage, Shazier uses his speed and quickness to stick to tight ends and running backs. He possesses good range coming from the weakside and diagnoses screen plays very well. He has excellent blitz instincts along with an explosive first step which makes him terrifying when blitzing the quarterback. His ability to drop into coverage, rush the passer off the edge or blitz through a gap makes his a valuable piece for NFL defenses.
The first half of the 2013 season, Shazier primarily lined up as a Will linebacker, with defensive coordinator Luke Fickell not moving him around much. As the season went along, Shazier was moved down to the line of scrimmage to work as a pass rusher coming off the edge on third-downs in an effort to help deal with the team's pass coverage woes. He responded with five sacks during the last half of the season, showcasing his ability to work as a dedicated pass rusher on top of a linebacker working in space.
Basically, your team just got a lot better on defense after drafting this former Buckeye. Based just on his elite athleticism, Shazier should make an instant impact for the lucky team that drafts him. He is best suited to be a 4-3 Will linebacker or an edge rusher in a 3-4 defense, but he's versatile enough to play in just about any system, inside or out.