Henry Melton is one of the most interesting players on the Chicago Bears. A converted RB to DE who now plays DT, Melton has made a name for himself in just over two years in the NFL. In 2011 Melton showed flashes of brilliance, and his seven sacks were quite impressive, especially for a DT. With the 2012 season five games in, Melton has established himself as one of the elite 4-3 DT's in the NFL.
Thus far in the 2012 season, Melton has been a force. He has 14 tackles and four sacks through only five games. His four sacks are good for second among DT's, trailing only Cincinnati's Geno Atkins who has six. But Melton's excellence cannot be calculated from just statistics. At his pro day with Texas in 2009, Melton ran a ridiculous 4.64 second forty-yard dash while bench-pressing 225 lbs 23 times.
That level of athleticism and explosiveness is what first attracted the Bears to Melton. After drafting him in the fourth round in 2009 they converted him from DE to DT and asked him to bulk up 30 lbs. Melton did just that, going from his pro day weight of 265 to his current playing weight of 295 lbs. The craziest part is that Melton has not lost a step, he is still amongst the fastest DT's in the league.
On nearly every snap it is easy to spot Melton not only because of his size, but because he is so fast off the line and so powerful in fighting off blockers.
He is excellent in pass rushing situations, showing a variety of pass rush moves, and excels at block recognition in the running game, allowing him to consistently make plays.
In a league where youth is valued extremely highly, the Bears have a stud in Henry Melton. At just 25 years old, Melton has not even entered his prime yet. It's scary to think how good Melton will be in two years, hell, even next year.
Melton's age and talent level combined with his potential puts him in the conversation with a lot of other young talented players. His draft-mate, mentioned above, Geno Atkins is a monster for the Bengals. Then there is divisional foe Ndamukong Suh and the Bills Marcell Dareus.
Melton is performing with the best in the NFL as well. According to AdvancedNFLStats.com Melton has a Tackle Factor of 1.11, meaning that he makes 11% more tackles than the average at DT. That is good enough for fourth among all DT's. He is also in the top 25 for Win Probability Added as well as Expected Points Added.
And it should be noted that he was not even among the top 35 in any of those three statistics last season.
Melton has shown tremendous improvement since being drafted in 2009, and this appears to be his breakout campaign. The Bears defensive line on a whole is scary good, and if Melton keeps playing like he has, it should be expected to stay like this all year.
The Bears are excited about what they have in Henry Melton, and it's not hard to see why. His performance this year is turning a lot of heads, and he is forcing himself into the "elite" conversation. I think he has already been discussed.