Chicago Bears’ Kyle Long, right, works with Jonathan Bostic (57) during an NFL football rookie camp at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., Friday, May
Chicago Bears' Kyle Long, right, works with Jonathan Bostic (57) during an NFL football rookie camp at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., Friday, May 10, 2013. (Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press)

Linebacker Jonathan Bostic is a prime example of the value of prospects being in the eye of the beholder. While NFL scouts were concerned about his sideline-to-sideline speed, Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery saw a smart, versatile athlete capable of helping his team in a variety of roles from Day 1.

Primarily, the Bears needed a young linebacker to develop in the middle after parting ways with Brian Urlacher, who announced his retirement Wednesday. The team signed veteran D.J. Williams, who has significant experience playing inside and outside. But he also comes with a long history of off-field baggage and the Bears couldn't put all their eggs in a basket that is one more incident away from a year-long suspension.

Bostic also provides versatility. While all 32 of his career starts at the University of Florida came at middle linebacker, he did begin his Gators career on the weak side. If he initially loses out on the starting job to Williams, Bostic will increase depth at all three linebacker positions.

Bostic displayed good athleticism during the pre-draft process, running a 4.61-second 40-yard dash and a 4.24 20-yard shuttle. He also comes from good football bloodlines as his father, Jon Bostic, was a defensive back for the Detroit Lions from 1985-87.

The 6-1, 245-pound Bostic was the No. 8-rated outside linebacker prospect by NFLDraftScout.com entering the draft and the No. 84-rated prospect overall with a third-round projection. The primary concern for NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang was Bostic's inconsistency in quickly shedding blocks and losing sight of the ball while doing so.


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Rang compared him to New Orleans Saints linebacker David Hawthorne - an effective run-stuffing linebacker capable of racking up big tackle numbers in the middle. The Seattle Seahawks didn't attempt to re-sign Hawthorne as a free agent during the 2012 offseason, however, because he lacked great sideline-to-sideline speed, and the Bears may find the same shortcoming with Bostic.

Emery valued Bostic's upside and versatility enough to select him in the middle of the second round. Bostic does display good instincts and has the potential to warrant the faith Emery showed in him if he proves to be faster to the ball than he might appear in a 40-yard sprint in shorts.

Bostic finished his Gators career with 237 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and five interceptions - so he has certainly proven to be productive. Chicago hopes he can fulfill Urlacher's former role come training camp. If not, weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs will turn 33 this season and new strong-side starter James Anderson has a one-year contract, so Emery is confident the Bears will reap long-term rewards from his selection.

"The reason we like Jon (is) he's a three-position linebacker," Emery said after the draft. "We felt that it was very important that if we were going to take a linebacker in the second round, that we get somebody who could immediately fill in (at) all three spots; that we would have a good football player in place right now. Obviously he'll be given an opportunity to earn a starting job. We see him as a future starter."

A defensive back in high school, Bostic said he's comfortable lining up pretty much anywhere the Bears need him.

"It really doesn't matter to me," Bostic said after he was drafted. "I went to college (having played) corner and safety and I knew I was going to be a linebacker going in. I went to college to play Will (weak-side linebacker).

"But (coaches) slid me over to Mike (middle linebacker). It was kind of just natural for me. Linebacker is linebacker. It's just where you line up, so it's not really that big of a difference to me."

At the very least, Emery expects Bostic to be a core special teams player as a rookie and to also make a contribution on defense. After the Chargers made Manti Te'o the first linebacker taken in the second round (38th overall), linebackers Kevin Minter and Kiko Alonso were taken at 45 and 46 before the Bears grabbed Bostic at 50. The Patriots took linebacker Jamie Collins two picks later.

Emery preferred Bostic to those taken in the same vicinity for several reasons.

"One is intelligence," said Emery. "He's a guy that can line up others. We brought him in for a visit, we felt very good about his football aptitude and his ability to line everybody else up on the field. Two, he's fast. He's one of the fastest linebackers in the class. Three, was his positional flexibility, and four, special teams. He fit the bill."