Ryan Shazier was one of college football’s top linebackers for the Ohio State Buckeyes this past season. He showed a terrific amount of athleticism and has been able to make a ton of plays both against the run and as a pass rushing option. While Shazier has been used in coverage, his overall ability in that was still largely unrefined as with the rest of the Buckeyes was somewhat exposed this past season.
For the NFL, Shazier is a terrific weak side linebacker prospect with the prototypical speed and quickness that could make him a weapon at the next level. He is a great run and chase linebacker who can make plays all over the field, but needs to get better in coverage. The tools are there for Shazier to be a three down option and an impact player but needs to get more refined in pass coverage. Shazier warrants a top 75 pick but could go earlier because of his physical ability and potential.
Vitals & Build
Shazier is listed at 6’2” 230lbs and his official measurements will be key. There is no question that Shazier has terrific speed and burst for the position. He has good agility when going the same way hips are facing but can have more trouble changing direction efficiently. Shazier has shown he can generate a decent amount of power but his overall size and strength could affect how teams view him position wise in the draft. There is still potential to fill out his frame and get more efficient with his body control.
Shazier has displayed the ability where he can be an effective and consistent tackler. When he wraps up, drives his feet, he can make a pretty good hit and put the opponent on the ground. The problem is how often this does not happen.
Shazier gets himself in trouble when he lunges and tries to throw himself at the opponent, making himself narrow and often misses what he is trying to hit as a result. In those situations, he is trying to shoulder bomb too often and go for a highlight play, which too often misses for him.
The issue Shazier seems to be trying to cover up is his size, but that does not help him. The times he has issues with size are when he is catching an opponent run into him or trying to get by him, where he can get dragged a little bit. Throwing himself at opponents when on the move will not change that fact.
Shazier needs to take time to consistently keep his feet under him, break down and make the right tackle. He can do it and has shown it, but needs to trust his technique on every play. Additionally, Shazier has shown the willingness to try to cause fumbles and look to rip at the football when he tackles. He has seen success in that regard, which is all the more reason for him to trust his technique.
Shazier is a fantastic run and chase linebacker. When he is protected and able to run free, he is an impact player that has virtually unlimited range. He is generally able to read well, catch tendencies and adjust to plays on the move. At times, he will overrun plays and have trouble planting his foot and changing direction, but these are not often. Shazier shows good instincts for the most part and when he is right, he can get to the play with incredible speed and efficiency both in between the tackles and going out wide.
When it comes to taking on and shedding blocks, there is an element of skill that Shazier has successes and failures with from a technique standpoint, but mostly comes down to his will. The times when Shazier has decided he is going to take on a block, he can and has done it with the ability to get to the play. As with many speed linebackers, there are plenty of examples where Shazier tries to avoid blocks or run around them, not wanting to have to slow down and being able to fly to the play. There are times when Shazier does a nice job of avoiding but can time himself out of the best position to make the play. When he is caught by an opposing blocker trying to avoid, he can get driven backward or out of the play without too much problem.
There are going to be situations where Shazier is simply engulfed by opposing linemen that are simply too big and too strong for him, but he is able to nullify some of that when he is able to generate momentum before getting into the block. He also shows the ability to swim and rip to avoid being fully engaged and keep running.
Shazier has all the tools to be a great coverage linebacker but has not really blossomed in that role on the field. He gets into his drops at a decent rate, but with how gifted he is, it seems like he could get there quicker. Shazier can have trouble reading the play and having an idea of where the play is going, so he can get caught taking false steps or having trouble getting into the play.
He certainly has the speed to fly around the field and when he breaks on the ball, he can get there incredibly fast and eliminate yards after catch. Shazier has his hands on an underwhelming amount of passes. There is an element of comfort that needs to happen before Shazier gets better in zone packages.
He is far more comfortable in man coverage and his speed and agility make him a real weapon to cover tight ends or running backs coming out of the backfield. Not only can he engage and run with opponents in man but his explosiveness allows him to close in and get to coverage in the first place quickly even if it is slow to develop or has an unexpected angle.
Pass Rush & Blitz ability
Some of Shazier’s lack of comfort in coverage comes as a result of how often he is used to rush the passer. Whether a declared pass rusher on the blitz or a delayed attack, Shazier can get to the quarterback quickly. He is best at attacking in a straight line and can be a great option on an A or B gap blitz.
Shazier does have experiencing lining up on the edge as a standup defensive end. He does not have a real developed array of moves and here more than anywhere else, Shazier seems to want to avoid the block rather than take it on and win. As a result, Shazier will try to win on speed and use a dip move to maintain his momentum going up the field.
Shazier’s best fit is as a pure weak side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. He is a big time player when the defensive line can keep him clean and he can just flow all over the field and make plays. Shazier needs to get better and more confident in pass defense to become a three down player.
He could also end up playing a leo backer for a few teams. His size is a concern that needs to be addressed, but his explosiveness and ability to fly off the edge or on the blitz could make him a weapon in that regard, though he has a ways to go in that respect.
Lastly, Shazier could be an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme that is able to shoot gaps and make quick plays as well as blitz the A gap. Again, protected, he can fly around and make plays, but he would need to get better at taking on and shedding blocks.
While the conventional wisdom might suggest that Shazier would be more able to contribute on passing downs early, he is actually a more effective run defender. His ability to help a pass rush and his potential in coverage gives him a good amount of upside going forward.
In a lot of ways, Shazier’s game is similar to that of Zach Brown of the Tennessee Titans. Brown came out of North Carolina with a little more size which Shazier is probably working to add, but that speed and range and potential to contribute on three downs make them comparable. Brown has gotten much better in coverage and has been able to make a bigger impact in that part of his game, which is something that Shazier needs to continue to work and improve.
Ryan Shazier is a terrific, athletic prospect who has been able to make a number of big plays in his career at Ohio State. He is a rangy player who can fly all over the field, but needs to avoid the missed tackles, take on and shed blocks more effectively as well as get better in coverage. His potential is high and he could become a full service player in the NFL in time, but there is some development still needed to smooth out some rough edges. Shazier warrants a top 75 pick and could go earlier based on his physical tools and potential.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com