With the departure of Nick Roach and the choice to not pursue Brian Urlacher, most everyone assumed correctly that the Bears would look to improve the linebacker depth in the draft. Phil Emery did just that by reaching out and drafting two linebackers of the future in both the second and fourth rounds of the draft.
Emery first addressed the middle linebacker position by drafting Jon Bostic from the University of Florida. He then proceeded to address the linebacker position again in the fourth round by drafting Khaseem Greene from Rutgers. While the Bostic pick raised some eyebrows with Arthur Brown still on the board these two picks essentially cancel each other out in terms of value.
While some people didn't project Bostic as a potential second round draft pick, Greene was considered to be a second round pick who fell to the Bears in the fourth round. If Bostic can be considered a third or fourth round value, then the value is evenly distributed within the draft.
Khaseem Greene is a two-time Big East conference defensive player of the year. That means for two straight years the coaches within the Big East agreed taht Greene was the best defensive player on the field. That achievement in and of itself is impressive, but it doesn't nearly tell the entire story about his play-making ability.
The value of a linebacker can't be equated simply in the total number of tackles he makes, that statistic can be completely misleading. The most common way to gauge a linebacker is by how many tackles for a loss he racks up, how many turnovers he's forced. These simple stats give you an idea of the type of play-maker this linebacker is, but there are new metrics which give a much clearer picture.
One of these new statistical metrics is known as impact tackles and the definition is a much better way to gauge the true success a linebacker is making on the field.
Impact tackles by definition are "tackles that result in a gain of one or two yards by an offensive player and the play does not result in a first down or a touchdown." In other words if it's 3rd and 1 and that player makes a tackle after a two yard gain, that would not count as an impact tackle. However if it's third and two and the running back gains only one yard and Greene makes the tackle short of the first down, that would count as an impact tackle. As would any tackle on 1st and 10 that results in a gain of either one or two yards. These are the types of tackles you want out of your defenders, not tackles five or six yards down the field from behind.
Out of all the linebackers in the 2013 NFL draft Khaseem Green made an incredible 27 impact tackles during the season. That number is 10 more than the next closest player who had a total of 17 impact tackles, which belongs to Kevin Reddick of North Carolina.
To put it simply Greene was a dominating force in the Big East during his career at Rutgers. In addition to those 27 impact tackles, a total that nearly doubles the rest of the impact totals of player coming out for the NFL draft, Greene accounted for 19 turnovers during his career at Rutgers. Greene forced 12 fumbles, picked off six passes and recovered another fumble during his career.
Adding more to the linebacker stew according to STATS Inc Greene had a "11.83 –The incredible Successful Snap % Difference of Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene. This metric is determined by looking at a team’s success % on snaps when a player is in the game minus the team’s success % on snaps when that player is not in the game. Greene also recorded 7 tackles for loss, 13 non-sack pressures, 18 QB knockdowns.
Keep in mind that Greene played the weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 defense and wasn't asked to rush the passer like Jarvis Jones was out of a 3-4 defensive alignment. Greene's game is not that of a natural pass rusher, and yet when he blitzed he made a big impact for a player playing a different role that edge rusher.
Simply put, the football cliche that is often thrown out there is "a linebacker must have a nose for the football." Well when you can metrically quantify precisely the definition of nose for the football and making an impact, Greene was one of the top linebackers in the country.
If Phil Emery is looking to develop an eventual replacement for Lance Briggs as the weak-side linebacker, (it won't happen in 2013) he appears to have found that player in Khaseem Green. While middle linebackers typically make the most headlines in a 4-3 defense, the responsibility of a weak-side linebacker is of equal importance. Most often the weak-side defender has the clearest path to the ball, and is also back-side contain against zone rushing teams.
Most Bears fans I think realize just how important a great weak-side linebacker can be, because no player has played the position better than Lance Briggs has over the last decade. Right now at least it appears that Phil Emery has found an extremely viable player to step in and eventually replace Briggs and possibly carry on his legacy.
Emery may have made some very questionable picks over the last two drafts, but getting a player like Khaseem Greene in the fourth round may turn out to the best draft pick Emery has made during his first two years as GM of the Bears.