Everyone is looking for the next Lavonte David, and every linebacker like Ohio State's Ryan Shazier will get compared to him. David is the ultra-productive Buccaneers linebacker who has 219 tackles in two pro seasons. He doesn't have stereotypical size for a linebacker, but he's highly athletic and has good instincts. Shazier is similar in many ways. In the 2014 NFL Draft, he's the token David comparison.
At Ohio State, Shazier finished a three-year career with 315 tackles, with more than 200 of them being of the solo variety. He led Ohio State in tackles the past two seasons and garnered numerous first-team All-American honors. He's a linebacker who can play inside or outside, and should do well at both.
That versatility makes Shazier a valuable prospect. He's a true three-down linebacker who will stay on the field even when teams opt to just play two linebackers. He's a fast-flowing athlete with good blitz moves and the type of agility that allows him to stick with receivers out of the backfield.
Coverage: Considering the natural athleticism he possesses, Shazier has the natural ability to succeed in coverage. He's capable of running with any tight end or running back, and has the flexibility to keep up with misdirection. Shazier does have a tendency to get over-aggressive in pass coverage and will bite on routes.
Instincts/Recognition: Shazier finds himself in so many plays because of his instincts. He can read a play in a hurry and has the athleticism to turn instincts into production. Has a penchant for making places. Forced four fumbles in 2013, to go along with 23.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. It would be nice to see Shazier get a better understanding for taking on blockers. He seems to have a move in mind and won't change it based on what the blocker is doing against him.
Pass rush: As draft cohort Matthew Fairburn said on an MtD podcast, Shazier is a good blitzer, but he's not a good pass rusher. What does that mean? Shazier isn't the type of outside linebacker who should be relied on to rush the passer on a consistent basis. He's not Von Miller. However, he can really fire off the edge and get to the quarterback, particularly if it's just a running back trying to block him. A defensive end in high school, Shazier does display some decent pass rush moves, namely a dip. Ohio State also lined Shazier up with his hand on a few times in 2013. He's just not strong enough to consistently be relied on as a pass rusher.
Pursuit/Quickness: This is what helps Shazier grade out so highly and earns him the comparison to David. Shazier is obviously fast running straight line and will catch ball carriers from behind. Shazier's burst is what is most impressive. In short areas, Shazier closes on the ball carrier in a hurry to stuff a play.
Run defense: Some may look at Shazier's size and question his skill against the run. Those people would be wrong in doing so. Shazier is quick to locate the ball and closes on a developing play in a hurry. Although he's lacking sometimes as a tackler, he has shown he can take down the ball carrier in a variety of ways. Against the run, Shazier relies on shooting through gaps or beating the runner to the edge. He has trouble when he's playing the run inside and has to beat a blocker.
Strength/Tackling: Although Shazier is capable of delving a devastating hit, there are times when his tackling technique leaves something to be desired. Particularly in the Michigan State game in 2013, Shazier lunged to stop the ball carrier and fell off tackles. He's not a bad tackler necessarily, but needs to continue improving in this area. Would do well with more strength throughout his frame. When Shazier isn't getting underneath linemen, he's not strong enough to shed consistently. Still, it's hard to completely fault a player who had 144 tackles last season.
Final word: There is a lot to like about Shazier. He was a captain at Ohio State. He led the team in tackles two straight seasons. He was an All-American and semifinalist or finalist for all the big defensive awards. He's a good athlete for the position, capable of dropping into coverage or blitzing the quarterback.
Why, then, is he just a late-first or early second-round prospect?
Part of it is positional value, or lack thereof. There are some power issues with Shazier. Unless he can get stronger, it's hard to see him getting much better then he is right now. Shazier struggles to shed blockers and has some tackle technique lapses. Regardless, whatever team drafts Shazier will get a player who can step in immediately and be productive as a pro.