So, every year (except for last) I've looked at some gamefilm of some DE's that are being tossed around in the next draft. It's basically draft time is my favorite time of the football season because of what I enjoy most about football, analysis, looking at games, gamefilm, and analyzing players skills and weakness.
Just some open questions to throw around: What interests you as a DE? Who's your favorites? Who am I missing that you feel the Bears should target as a DE? There's obviously much to talk about as I work through each of the positions of need of the Bears over the next few weeks, so. Might as well start with what may be the first pick in the draft by the Bears.
Quinton Coples - DE - North Carolina - Projected: 1st
Height: 6-6, Weight: 285
I like this guy. He separated himself from the shadows of Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn. He's got great size and power, and is effective enough to play the run very well. He's flexible enough to move inside on obvious passing downs (which would suit a peppers, melton, idonije, coples lineup... nom?). He's got a really powerful first step enough to break the balance of a OT. Inconsistent Effort. He's a really, really, really powerful tackler. You're just as likely to see someone break a tackle of Peppers as you would Coples. He projects to be more like a poor mans Mario Williams, without a lot of the speed and athleticism. But will he still be effective vs Tackles? About as blue chip as the draft gets with DE's.
Melvin Ingram - DE - South Carolina - Projected: 1st-2nd
Height: 6-2, Weight: 276
What I enjoy most about this guy is playing to the big stage. He hasn't been a consistant starter at SC. He's short. 6-2. That's tough if his arms don't allow him to shed tackles effectively, but he does play with low hips and a solid center of gravity, which grants him some solid flexibility. He might be better at his size to play OLB in a 3-4 opposite a speed guy. He's got great lateral speed and should be able to rip and spin off blockers but doesn't have a really strong speed rush. I think his ability to turn the corner and get around is probably underrated. When evaluating these top prospects (Ingram, Mercilus and Coples), the one thing that really strikes me is their lack of explosiveness off the ball. Ingram isn't any different, he is slippery enough to attack the pocket, but not fast enough to disrupt the pocket. He's a converted linebacker though. Part of this might be growing pains. His upside is a solid plus, but probably isn't a day 1 starter.
Whitney Mercilus - DE - Illinois - Projected: 2-3rd
Height: 6-4, Weight: 265
The only reason I really want to knock this guy is because of the base level doesn't match the upside enough to be a blue chip prospect. Maybe it's because I'm not an Illini fan, but, after watching some Illini games recently and how Blitz heavy their scheme is, I find it only natural for Mercilus to be able to rack up great numbers stunting inside (which is very common on the Bears line). His hands are solid (unlike Mark Anderson) and has good strength to push and dip into linemen for pressure. Good Motor, but he's not a supurb athlete (which is ok!), but I feel that he'd be better off not declaring and going back for another year... . He has a good size which will fit him in solidly on the line, but, it doesn't negate is mediocre speed and explosiveness. He might be playing next to talent as good or better than he is.
Jared Crick - DE - Nebraska - Projected: 2-4th
Height: 6-6 , Weight: 285
Played DT most of his time at Nebraska next to Suh, but was a highly recruited DE out of HS. Very, very, very versitile character on the line, could play all 4 positions on our line, and a 1 gap DE in a 3-4. He's been double teamed most of the year without Suh and still has produced. Again, to me, that's a big plus. He's coming off a pectoral injury. Probably one of the highest motors on this list, and his strength is pretty good. He has a real knack for the game and the intellegence to learn and play a complex scheme. Has great size, but might not be athletic enough for the Bears (but then again, considering who's on the other side, it's hard to be THAT athletic). He's a superior technician inside, and works well with his hands and strength, not necessarily through explosion. Plays to the ball very well and has a heads up, hard work mentality that's relentless. Relentless is probably the best word to describe him. He closes fast, gets good steps, but may be much better suited inside.
Vinny Curry - DE - Marshall - Projected: 2-4th
Height: 6-4, Weight: 260
Finally, a guy with explosion. He's fast, aggressive, plays hard against top talent (I think I posted a link to his game vs Ohio State and how he worked vs their OT Adams, a rd 1 guy). This would be my ideal pick out of everyone involved in the second or third (although, I think as the hot stove continues, I think that he's going to work his way up solidly into the second). He just screams out to me saying: I deserve to rotate nicely with Israel Idonije while I develop into a solid DE. He's a solid tackler, and going to be a contributer, but maybe not an every down guy from day 1. Conditioning and a pro atmosphere will help his game. I think based on our position in the draft, what we have going into it, that this may be a stellar way to move ahead and get more production from the DE spot. He's about as close to one dimensional as you get right now, but still manages to be a solid tackler. Really gets after the QB with impetus and speed. Was super productive in college, without being able to name another player on defense at Marshall. Yeah.
Andre Branch - DE - Clemson - Projected: 3-4th
Height: 6-4, Weight: 258
Branch has every physical tool you'd like. Great athleticism, good technique, a big set of hands that disengage well. Doesn't bend well at all, and has trouble beating guys outside and playing with solid leverage. But he has great reaction, doesn't overpursue, but struggles a bit with more mobile QB's and RB's who pop outside a lot. His upside? He closes fast, when I watched him play, when there was any size opening, he fought his way in very fast. He may have not always gotten there, but caused a lot of pressure. He wasn't as good with without Da'Quan Bowers (now with the Bucs), which I find to be worrysome.
Cam Johnson - DE - Virginia - Projected: 3-5th
Height: 6-4, Weight: 271
Played DMS for a while. Went from Safety/Reciever at Virgina to OLB in a hybrid 3-4, and then went to 4-3 LB in his senior year. He doesn't have a great set of leverage and plays to his superior upper body strength, but has excellent lateral movement that plays well to the agility that the Bears line goes for and allows for excellent strength in stunts. Not overly stout, but has some room to grow into the position. I like his ability pairing with Marinelli's coaching in the future. He doesn't have a solid move to get past OL outside of his strength. Can that be taught? That's a great question. If he appears quicker, lighter, faster throughout the winter, he might have a solid shot of moving up in the draft.
Shea McClellin & Tyrone Crawford - DE - Boise State
McClellin - Height: 6-3, Weight: 258 - Projected: 3-6th
Crawford - Height - Projected: 3-5th
I'm placing both of these guys together because their story intertwines very much. I normally don't like taking guys who have played their entire relevant career together (from Crawford's JC transfer on). Why Crawford is solid is that he's a physical guy, he's fast, he's great off the ball, great motor, but needs refinement in his technique. He's a coachable prospect that might fall right into our hands late. I'm not saying he's a blue-chip sure thing, but, Boise State has been producing some quality products lately, this guy? He does the little things right. He might need some time to get up to speed and develop a solid move to sustain a long career ala Alex Brown. Someone who's not going to be a #1 guy, but a really solid #2 who's able to command respect across from an elite guy. Is that what we need? At this stage of the game. Yeah, I don't see why not. We're not in a place to trade up for an elite DE at the time being, and the ones at the top, aren't any different than the same first round talent every year I think... McClellin on the other hand is a different prospect... he moves well in space, isn't overly fast, but he moves so much better on the field. I think that timed speed doesn't do real game speed justice, and how well his reaction time is off the ball, and his absolute control of gap assignements. I used relentless once before, but this guy, he's like KVB levels of relentless, no loaf, 100% on every play... and what makes it amazing is that for a DE, his stamina is fantastic. He's not overly powerful, but he's stupidly energetic. McClellin has probably the bigger upside, but the lower base. One of the things that I noticed when I watched the D-Line for Boise State against the run was how effective they were in preventing a lot of big plays, containing the edge and playing their responsibility. Boise State plays smart football, and there's something to be said about that. They play disciplined solid defense.
Out of all these players i've looked at, the guys I like the most are: Vinny Curry, Tyrone Crawford, and Jared Crick. I wouldn't be opposed to Mercilus if he made it well into the second, but the reasonable DE prospects in the first round aren't really spectacular for their position in the draft (which also means I feel that its unwise to trade up for one), but I do feel that there's solid role players that could accent Wooton, Peppers, and Idonije (and Davis) in the next year. Each of those three players all have significant upside and ability to rotate effectively Day 1 for the Bears.