Thanks to Windy City Gridiron being part of SB Nation, we have access to hundreds of other experts that cover both the NFL and college football.
This series of Five Questions With... will focus on not only the 2015 draft class for the Chicago Bears, but some of the undrafted free agents as well. This series of articles has become one of my favorites to do here at Windy City Gridiron, as I feel it gives us an added insight to the new players on the Bears.
This time out we're speaking with Melissa Triebwasser, Associate Editor of Frogs O' War, the SB Nation site that covers the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, about Chicago 6th round draft pick Tayo Fabuluje.
Before you check out my Q&A with Melissa, I wanted to make sure you were aware of Fabuluje's back-story. SB Nation has a great piece about him and we had his post-draft teleconference transcript right here.
Windy City Gridiron - Last year the Bears added TCU's James Dunbar as an undrafted free agent, but he wasn't able to make the team. How much better of a player is Tayo Fabuluje?
Frogs O' War - Tayo has all the measurables - the height and frame that you want in an offensive lineman. He carries his weight well and has long arms, crucial for holding blocks and overpowering defenders. He has surprisingly nimble feet for a man that size, and explodes off the line with the ability to push opponents to the second level. He can flat out overpower a rusher, which makes him excellent in run blocking, and has a strong core to buy time in pass pro, too. With the right coaching and scheme - and John Fox seems like the perfect fit - he can be a dominant offensive lineman in my opinion.
Dunbar was a really good college player, who had probably maxed out his potential by the time he graduated. Fabuluje seems to have only scratched the surface of what he can be, having only played two years of college football with just over a season's worth of starts on the offensive line. It's those unknowns that make him such an intriguing prospect, and if Fox and Co. are willing to be patient with him and coach him up, he could anchor the line for a long time for the Bears.
WCG - Fabuluje claims he can play at whatever weight the coaches ask of him. He weighed in at 353 at the NFL Combine, so did TCU's coaches want him that heavy and how much did weigh during his first stint at TCU?
FOW - Tayo's weight has been all over the charts in the last few years - he was a 260 pound D end coming out of high school, settled in around 315 when he made the switch to offense at TCU, and saw his weight balloon to close to 400 pounds when he was out of football in 2013 - a sabbatical that was forced upon him due to some unfortunate family circumstances - but managed to get down around 335 for his Pro Day last month.
His first season on the offensive line he was in the 320 range; three years later he came in to camp overweight (375) - something (TCU Head Coach) Gary Patterson reminded him of often, which led to a lot of false starts as he worked his way back in to playing shape. By October he was down in the 350's, where he played most of the season. He dropped the extra weight after the combine, when he was told by the NFL people that was what he needed to do to get drafted.
WCG - Any injury history Bears fans should be concerned with in regards to Tayo?
FOW - He had back spasms that kept him out of parts of two games early in the season, something that seems to have been directly related to his weight. Once he got down to 350-360, it didn't seem to be an issue, and he shouldn't have any health concerns going forward - if he sticks to his diet.
WCG - How would you rate Fabuluje's football smarts and did he take on a leadership role as a 5th year senior?
FOW - Tayo is a very smart, instinctive football player who seems to be universally liked and respected by his teammates and coaches. This is a kid who made the switch to o-line and became an all conference performer in his first season at his new position. He gets the game and works hard to maximize his natural potential. He was on the Headmaster's list in high school (at a very academically demanding college preparatory school) and has his degree from TCU. He has a good head on his shoulders and is an excellent citizen. He surrounds himself with the right people and seeks out strong mentors.
Tayo wasn't asked to take a leadership position this season at TCU, there were strong leaders littered up and down that lineup, but you can tell by the way that he was welcomed back after coming and going and coming back to TCU, that he was respected by his teammates. He was technically a fifth year senior, but he had such a circuitous route to get to that point (read the SB Nation link above for more on that) that this past season was only his second year playing college football and being with the team. He has leadership ability and was the elder statesman on the o-line, but he's not a guy that's going to get loud in the huddle or call someone out for a blown assignment very often.
WCG - Do you think Fabuluje has what it takes to make an NFL roster?
FOW - I hope so. It's almost impossible not to root for the kid - he really is a great citizen and incredibly hard worker. To survive what he has - his father being deported, his mom going to jail for basically trying to feed him, following his surrogate brother to BYU only to feel like an outsider, coming back to play at TCU - and do so at a very high level - only to have to leave after a season to try and support his older sister, moving back to Utah to live with that surrogate family so he could work three jobs and send the money back to that sister, then finally being able to come back and play his senior year, get his degree, and become an NFL Draft pick... he obviously has the perseverance and work ethic to succeed.
For Tayo, who had football taken away from him once, you can bet he will do everything in his power to not let it be taken away again. One of the best things Fabuluje has done since the season ended was to seek out a relationship with former TCU player Marcus Cannon, who is with the Patriots, for advice and mentoring. Cannon would have been a high draft pick but was diagnosed with cancer at the combine and fell to the fifth round, so he certainly appreciates the struggle in a way that Fabuluje can somewhat relate to. Cannon advised him to go on a very specific diet, and Tayo has been losing weight successfully since then with the help of a nutritionist.
He has the ability, he has the heart, and he has the singular focus to succeed and make the roster of the Bears. I don't know what the depth chart looks like in Chicago, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him crack it by the end of camp. And if he continues to grow and improve at the rate he has over his two seasons of actual football, he could be a starter in short order.
Thanks again to Melissa Triebwasser of Frogs O' War for helping us out today!