The Bears enter Thursday’s NFL draft with a clear understanding of their deficit in team speed. And as they consider selecting an edge rusher in the first round, Clemson’s Shaq Lawson and Georgia’s Leonard Floyd present an intriguing comparison in that area.
The relatively wiry Floyd is known as a speed rusher, while Lawson built his reputation more on power. Lawson is the more proven prospect, while Floyd carries the boom-or-bust label.
Lawson, who is in Chicago for the draft, insisted Wednesday he would be a dynamic outside linebacker. And though he weighed 269 pounds at the combine and played at more than 270 last season, he believes he could get leaner to help meet the Bears’ speed requirement.
“I’m comfortable at any weight,” he said at the NFL’s youth football clinic in Grant Park. “I’m a guy who’s going to rush off the edge and set the edge on the run. You’re going to get a two-dimensional player. I feel explosive.”
Lawson said he played half of his defensive snaps last season in a two-point stance and would be comfortable doing that in the Bears’ 3-4 front.
Coach connection: It’s widely expected Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott will be drafted before the Bears pick 11th overall. But if he’s still available, they could be drawn to him in part because of his relationship with running backs coach Stan Drayton.
Drayton helped recruit Elliott to Ohio State before joining coach John Fox’s staff last offseason. Under Drayton’s guidance, Elliott starred on Ohio State’s 2014 national championship team.
“It’s a very special relationship,” Elliott said Wednesday. “He pushed me. We’ve literally almost gotten into physical altercations because of how hard he has pushed me. I respect him because of what he has brought out of me.”
The Bears have leaned on familiarity in making several roster additions this offseason. Free-agent inside linebacker Danny Trevathan played for Fox in Denver. Free-agent defensive lineman Akiem Hicks was drafted by the Saints when Bears general manager Ryan Pace was in their front office.
Similar bonds link Elliott to the Bears. Drayton challenged him to become the best blocking running back in the country and, sure enough, that’s the reputation Elliott carries into the draft.
“He forced me to be that, even if at times I didn’t want to be, he forced that out of me. Just the thought of me being able to reunite with him and him being able to continue to help me grow as a football player, it’s special to me.”
Rush lane: Alabama defensive end A’Shawn Robinson has heard the questions about his pass-rush ability, and he believes he’ll answer those in the affirmative if he’s afforded “the free range to be able to rush,” he said on Wednesday. “Not having to just push the pocket and control our rush.”
At Alabama, he said, he didn’t have freedom to get out of his rush lane and go after the quarterback. The Bears had a private workout for Robinson in Tuscaloosa last month, he said.