Linebacker isn't a deep position in this draft, but one athletic 'backer that now seems certain to go in the first round is Ohio State's Ryan Shazier.
NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport tweeted Monday that he is hearing "so much love" for Shazier this week that he believes he will be a first-round lock.
There were issues about Shazier's size -- he was listed as a 230-pounder by Ohio State in 2013 after playing at 222 as a sophomore in '12 -- but, at 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds, he seems to have put those concerns to rest. He was ultra-productive as a Buckeye, with 258 tackles, 39.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and seven forced fumbles in his final two seasons in Columbus.
Shazier did not run at February's NFL Scouting Combine because of a hamstring issue, but he led all linebackers with a 42-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 10 feet, 10 inches. Shazier ran the 40 once at Ohio State's pro day March 7, and NFL Media senior draft analyst Gil Brandt reported that the times recorded varied, "with a high of 4.41 seconds to a low of 4.35. Averaging out the best and the worst times, I'd give him a time of 4.38 seconds."
Former NFL GM Mark Dominik, now an analyst for ESPN, tweeted Monday that he watched additional tape of Shazier and that he "should be drafted ahead of (Anthony) Barr and (C.J.) Mosley." Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack is the consensus No. 1 overall linebacker in this draft, while Mosley is seen as the top inside 'backer. But where Barr (also an outside linebacker), Mosley and Shazier end up going will be a storyline to follow Thursday night.
Brandt has Shazier as his No. 3 outside linebacker and No. 17 overall player in his list of the draft's top 100 prospects, and he also is the No. 3 outside linebacker in analyst Mike Mayock's position rankings.
Shazier's playmaking ability should appeal to linebacker-needy teams such as Green Bay (which picks 21st), Philadelphia (22nd), New Orleans (27th) and Denver (31st).
Two mock drafts on NFL.com by analysts -- those of Charley Casserly and Daniel Jeremiah -- have Shazier going to the Broncos. Bucky Brooks has him going 24th to Cincinnati and Charles Davis has him going 30th to San Francisco.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.