One of the prospects who has seen his stock skyrocket over the final weeks leading up the 2012 NFL Draft is Boise State outside linebacker/defensive end Shea McClellin. The Boise State standout has gone from a second-day pick to a projected first-round prospect. His versatility is intriguing to teams throughout the top 32.
McClellin's high draft ranking was confirmed when he was invited to attend the draft in New York, which signals that he will be a first-round pick. The invite caught him by surprise, as he didn't expect to be a first-rounder.
"It felt good, but I never even thought about going to New York and then it kind of popped up out of the blue. It was really cool. I felt fortunate and blessed, and thankful. I was never thinking first round, and now it is another source of motivation. Before that I didn't have much of an idea, but knew it could be somewhere in the second. It is great to hear when I think about it."
McCellin has been one of the leaders of a Boise State program that went 24-2 over the past two seasons. He followed up a strong college career with a good performance at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. In Indianapolis, McClellin displayed his athletic ability with a fast 40 at 4.62 and had a great showing in the field drills.
At 6-foot-3, 260-pounds, 4-3 teams consider McClellin a candidate for defensive end and outside linebacker. He was even playing some 4-3 Will (weakside) linebacker during the Senior Bowl.
For traditional defensive end, McClellin may put on more weight for the NFL.
"Yeah I think so, it would just depend on where the team would need me at that is where I'd go. If that want me to be lighter or heavier I can do either one. I think the Senior Bowl helped me out. Them putting me at Will. I didn't play much like that in the box, I mean a little bit, but not like I did at the Senior Bowl. I definitely didn't do it against that quality of talent. It felt normal and natural actually. I think I have instincts for it, but I would need to learn more on the technique and that kind of thing, but I think I could be good at it."
McClellin's size and blitzing ability from linebacker could have an appeal to attacking style 4-3 defenses. For that reason, it isn't surprising that a team that is rumored to be interested in him is his Senior Bowl coaching staff, the Buffalo Bills.
With that being said, McClellin is a perfect fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He moves around the field and can be used in a wide variety of ways. Aside from playing as a traditional defensive end, he lined up as both a stand-up rush linebacker and an inside linebacker.
McClellin showed the ability to drop into coverage and play in space. That is a big desire for NFL teams, but didn't necessarily help his sack totals in college.
"Yeah I think I definitely did [lose pass rushing opportunities]. I saw one stat that said I averaged 35 plays and compared to some other guys that is hardly any. Definitely I lost some rushing opportunities, but overall I just wanted to help the team and help the team win. In any way I could, I wanted to do that."
Moving around in the front seven helped prepare McClellin to play in a 3-4 defense in the NFL. In the study of McClellin's game, 3-4 teams have been able to see him operate in space, drop into coverage and play some inside linebacker. That versatility is tailor made for many 3-4 defenses.
"It definitely has helped. I think even though I lost some pass-rushing opportunities, it definitely helped me out in the long run. Like you were saying Charlie, it shows how versatile I was in moving around and learning different positions."
McClellin said he has learned a lot from coaches on his pre-draft visits, and the 3-4 staffs envision a lot of carry-over from college.
"A lot of the teams that I met with look at me and see a big role for me. That's why they like me because I can move around and they say they can do different things with me. It shouldn't be too much different from college."
McClellin has gotten a lot of interest and has racked up his frequent-flyer miles crisscrossing the nation with multiple team visits. Teams have been secretive about their interest in McClellin, and he honored their wishes to keep his visit locations private.
"Yeah it is has been a lot visiting both 3-4 and 4-3 teams, but I don't want to get into specifics and just want to keep that confidential."
There are a number of teams that are said to be interested in McClellin. They include Buffalo, the New York Jets, San Diego, Chicago, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Baltimore and New England.
The Senior Bowl saw McClellin confirm his ability to play against a high level of competition, and McClellin's skill set was evident against the All-Stars. He was fabulous as a blitzer in practice and showed the ability to play in space. His instincts were clear as well. McClellin plans on making a quick impact in the NFL.
"I just want to play. Of course everybody wants to play on defense or offense at their respective positions. I have those goals in mind, but I want to help the team out in any way I can really. Wherever they need me at I'll play."
Don't be surprised if McClellin has an impact in his rookie season. He could thrive as a pass-rusher off the edge in a 3-4 defense. As much as McClellin is excited to land with his new NFL team, he also is eager to see where some college teammates end up. Boise State is sending a number of players into the NFL this year including: running back Doug Martin, defensive tackle Billy Winn, defensive end Tyrone Crawford, wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker and quarterback Kellen Moore.
"It is going to be a lot of fun to see where all my teammates go. I think all those guys are going to have great careers in the NFL. They just need an opportunity and they're going to get it. It'll be a lot of fun to see where they go. Maybe some of us will end up on the same team. You never know."