This is a pretty strong inside linebacker class, with some definite "A-list" players at the top and some good players in the middle and later rounds as well.
We'll take a look at a few from "column A" and a few from "column B" for this early look at some players who could be the next Urlacher.
Keep in mind we're early in the process and this can change at any time, especially with the combine just a week or so away.
The Bears look like they will continue to run a 4-3 base defense under new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, so there won't be too much of an adjustment overall and we have an idea of what kind of prospect will fit in this defense.
Day One Prospects
The following guys are players the Bears will only get one shot at, if that. If they don't grab them with the 20th pick, they are unlikely to be there in the late second.
Kevin Minter, LSU
Minter is a bit undersized but more than makes up for it in overall aggression. What's more important are his instincts, which are top-notch. He shows great anticipation for where the ball is going to be and makes sure he gets there to make a play. He's got the right kind of mind to take over for Urlacher long term in the middle of the field.
Minter does need to work on his tackling technique a little and isn't in possession of world-class speed by any stretch, relying more on a keen sense of approach angles and his overall instinct.
Minter looks very much to me like a first-round guy at this point and someone who could fit into the Bears' scheme very quickly.
Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
OK, let's put aside the really ridiculous fake girlfriend thing, because ultimately, it shouldn't make a difference on the field.
Te'o was absolutely destroyed against Alabama in the national championship game, but he still brings a lot of talent to the table. He has tremendous range and can move sideline to sideline to cover a play. Like Minter, he can read a play and figure out where it is going, and he has enough strength and speed to get there.
He's a smart football player (if not Internet dater), and my biggest question isn't whether he is a safe pick—he is, more than people give him credit for right now—but whether we've already seen the ceiling on him. On the other hand, the Bears are a solid spot for him, especially with the talent around him, and he has the football IQ to excel in their scheme.
Arthur Brown, Kansas State
Another slightly undersized linebacker, Brown plays a lot bigger than he looks and, like the previous two linebackers here, has excellent football instincts. He can read and diagnose plays swiftly and has the explosiveness to react instantly and get to the play. Brown can quickly move sideline to sideline and is a tremendous open-field tackler.
He did struggle when he played at Miami, so the Bears would have to find away to address the concerns that he can't play up to the level of competition he'd see in the NFC North.
While he isn't a big-time playmaker, Brown is rock solid and does all the little things you like to see in a linebacker.
I've seen him listed as both an outside and inside linebacker prospect, but I believe that he'd be a better fit in a defense like the Bears are running, locked inside.
Day Two and Three Prospects
These players are good, even if not the cream of the crop. There is upside here, but the ceiling might be low, and the holes in their games are a bit larger.
Jon Bostic, Florida
Bostic does a great job holding his position against blocks and sliding off them to get to the ball-carrier, and his ability to read and react makes him play faster than he will time. Bostic is also a very vocal member of the locker room and on the field—combined with his ability to key in on a play, he would be able to develop into a good leader for the Bears defense.
While he does a good job sliding off a block, he can't always completely shed them and on occasion seems to lose track of the ball when he's engaged with a blocker. Bostic will need two work on splitting that focus in order to be effective at the next level.
Bostic should be available in Round 3 or 4, and he's someone who could produce very well for the price.
Kiko Alonso, Oregon
Alonso is a very versatile prospect who moves quickly and does a good job hanging with the ball-carrier on runs and in coverage vs. pass plays. Early on in his career, he was plagued by injury and off-the-field issues, including a torn ACL, but he became a playmaker by the end of his career at Oregon.
The biggest questions with Alonso are whether he can remain focused and avoid the issues he ran into early in his collegiate career as well as be more consistent in his reads of the offensive plays. His health and overall ceiling are both question marks as well.
However, Alonso is likely to be a Day Three player, and once you hit that fourth round, the downside to a player with his physical skills isn't steep.
Added for Clarification:
Just thought I would drop back into the article to clear up why Alec Ogletree, fantastic linebacker from Georgia, is not on this list.
He isn't because I have him fitting best as an outside linebacker. Can he play inside? For sure, but I think he's much better outside. I understand, some sites have him as an Inside Linebacker (Draft Countdown's Scott Wright is a good friend whose opinion I respect and has Ogletree inside). On the other hand, CBS Sports has Ogletree ranked as their number two outside linebacker and I also respect Rob Rang and Dane Brugler a ton as well.
And of course, I do my own work, which is how I came to like Ogletree more outside. But I'm not alone and just wanted to share that I like Ogletree, and even like him for the Bears—just outside.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!