Originally written on Midway Illustrated  |  Last updated 10/21/14
No Chicago Bears rookie in the last decade, may be under as much pressure to perform as defensive end Shea McClellin. The high expectations don't come from the need for McClellin to perform at a high level right away, they come from what he represents to the future. Rookie pass rushers selected in the first two rounds are not expected to produce at a high level.  McClellin shouldn't have high expectations of him as a rookie based on past rookie performance. McClellin will be judged based on future performance and what he means to the future of the franchise. With the Bears' defense filled with aging superstars, McClellin was drafted to be a cornerstone of the defense for the next decade.  In much the same way Bears fans are thinking about a replacement for Brian Urlacher, McClellin is eventually going to be called upon to replace Julius Peppers. Peppers enters the third year of a six year contract he signed with the Bears and most NFL players take three years to hit their stride in the NFL. McClellin enters his fourth year in the NFL in the final year of Peppers' six year contract with Chicago.  This means McClellin will have to prove his worth to the franchise in year four with the idea of perhaps drafting another bookend DE to pair with McClellin in year five. There is also no guarantee that the 32-year-old Peppers will still be playing at a high level by the time McClellin enters the third of fourth year of his career. While Peppers has not shown any signs of slowing down, and is an athletic freak, we can't predict his future.  This makes McClellin's development in the future all the more important. When a player is drafted in the first round the expectations are that he'll be a part of the franchise for the next 10 years. What has to happen in the first three years of McClellin's development is simple, he has to show he can produce at a level on par with some of the best DEs in the NFL. He does not have to be on Peppers' level, but he needs to be among the 10 best pass rushers in the NFL within the next five years. Specifically he needs to grab hold of the third DE role on the roster in training camp and not relinquish that role in 2012.  McClellin should arguably be pushing Israel Idonije to start by the end of the season, if not starting outright. By year two, McClellin needs to be the starter, and should be among the better defensive ends in the NFL. Year three will serve as the ultimate year to judge McClellin, it's the year that most player enter their highest performing and producing level in the NFL. By year three there's a chance that Brian Urlacher will have retired and the Bears have may have moved on from Lance Briggs. Years three to around year eight represent the prime of an NFL player's career and in that time frame all of the aging stars will have retired. While that may seem like a long time off, McClellin's development could determine just how quickly the Super Bowl window on the Bears' defense begins to close.
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