The Bears front office came out swinging in free agency and reeled in some solid additions for both the offensive line and the defense. Those adroit signings (especially on the defensive side of the ball) free up the Bears to take a much less need-based approach to the draft than they could have last week. Does that mean we may see an offensive skill player selected in the first 2 rounds? That idea is certainly more plausible than it was before Ryan Pace and company added some serious talent to the defensive front 7. I'll also take a look at some of those scouting terms you hear over and over again this time of year that you might not truly understand. On with the show...
1.) If we are talking offensive skill players the Bears might consider, one dark horse possibility that makes more sense than many people think it might is a guy I profiled way back in October: Zeke Elliott. He is clearly one of the top offensive skill players in this draft and the Bears have shown serious interest this offseason in adding another quality running back to their roster. Lots of fans say that John Fox is a "running back by committee" coach as an argument against spending high draft picks on RB's. A more accurate statement is that John Fox is committed to the running game and will get talent however he can to ensure that part of the offense functions correctly. Fans forget that although he certainly does feature more than one RB he will spend high picks to acquire those players. His Carolina Panthers chose running backs in the 1st round in both 2006 (DeAngelo Williams) and 2008 (Jonathan Stewart), so Coach Fox is unafraid of paying the price for talented RB's.
I have heard some people argue that Elliott is not a "special" talent, which is kind of a silly term. Elliott is the best RB in this draft, an incredibly well-rounded player and as such is as pro-ready as any back coming out has been in the last few years. He is a gifted runner both between the tackles and on the outside, catches the ball extremely well (see the ridiculous video below from OSU's pro day for more on that) and possibly most importantly for a young RB, has very polished pass blocking skills. If the Bears are looking to fill Matt Forte's sizeable shoes Elliott will certainly be a consideration for them on draft day.
One more tidbit that adds a connection between Zeke and Chicago: the Bears current RB coach (Stan Drayton) spent the last 4 years with Ohio State in the same role. He was instrumental in landing Elliott as a Buckeye and knows him better than anyone in the NFL right now.
2.) This time of year you will hear about a lot of players, especially pass rushers, who can "convert speed to power". That can be one of the more difficult scouting terms to unravel. I saw a video this week that highlights a perfect example of a player converting speed to power and thought sharing it might help readers understand what scouts are talking about when they use that phrase.
In the video you see small-school (Campbell) DE Ugonna Awuruonye start a good outside rush on the offensive tackle (OT). He loops around the tackle after making contact and continues to drive his feet, eating up space towards the QB. This is the "speed" section of "speed to power". At the end of the rush we see that mystical ability scouts crave, as Awuruonye takes the momentum he's built up and transfers it through his right arm to literally jack the OT completely off his feet and toss him into the QB. That kind of move requires tremendous power, even if the OT was never truly able to set his feet. It is a rare trait in a valuable set of players, and that makes it highly sought after. The opposite end of this skillset is when you see very fast pass rushers who are able to get a good start on their rush but tend to get ground to a halt when they make contact with larger (and usually stronger) OT's.
3.) Speed kills. On a football field speed can break a game wide open on offense or defense, and because of that everyone wants to know exactly how fast players actually are. What many people fail to realize is that speed comes in (at least) 3 distinctly different forms: acceleration (a.k.a. "burst"), lateral speed (or "agility") and straight line ("long") speed. Different positions put different premiums on these very different skills. Some player have all three in equal measure, but not many. To get a look at what two of them look like in action, take a look at Texas Tech WR Jakeem Grant's 40 yard dash at his pro day last week.
Jakeem Grant running the 40 with the wind at Texas Techs pro day pic.twitter.com/XjSUi1mgbR— Nicholas Ryan Talbot (@NicholasRTalbot) March 11, 2016
There was some debate about Grant's actual time but what is not up for debate is that he is ridiculously quick and really, really fast. Times as low as 4.19 seconds were reported but most folks agree he was in the low 4.2 range, which is simply flying no matter how you look at it. It is one of the fastest football player 40 yard dash times ever recorded.
Ten yards into his run you can see Jakeem is already up to speed and has transitioned to a full stride. This represents the "get off" ability that WR's need to beat press coverage and move into their routes. He doesn't stop there though, he continues to drive his feet and add whatever speed he can over the next 30 yards. This represents a player with true "long" speed who is said to have a "2nd gear" that can help them run away from pursuing defenders in the open field. Although he doesn't show quite this much speed on the field Grant is certainly both elusive and fast with his pads on. Watch for a team to take a later round flyer on him as a 4th WR/deep threat/kick returner type player.
Player's Lounge - Every week I will look at a player who is trending in the draft process
This week I am going to highlight a player who isn't exactly trending... but that's not his fault. I've mentioned several times how stacked the defensive line is in this draft. That means that some players who would be highlighted in other, leaner years, will be flatly overlooked in this bountiful one. DJ Reader (DT, Clemson) is just such a player. I scouted one of the top pass rushers in this year's class (Shaq Lawson) this week and Reader made a legitimate number of plays in every tape I watched. While he is not on Lawson's level overall, he makes plenty of impact in his own right.
DJ is certainly more of an interior, penetrating type of lineman but he can anchor against the rush too. Where he really stands out for man of his size (6'3", 327) is his speed in pursuit. Watching him chase down mobile QB's in the ACC is awe-inspiring when you know he is well over 300 pounds. He exhibits good burst and change of direction for such a large human being. Some team will come away with a later round steal on draft day who could end up playing more like Eddie Goldman did for the Bears (a large DT with surprising potential as a rusher) as a 2nd rounder last season.
Reader Question of the Week - I'll pick a question from a reader each week and answer it here. If you have a question you'd like to be considered you can either leave it in the comments section below, or send it to me directly on Twitter (@thedraftsmanFB) with the hashtag #askEJ.
Back on March 2nd, well before Bobbie Massie was a Bear, WCG user zsweet asked: "EJ while on topic of OT - Have you looked at Le'Raven Clark? Massive OT who some are comping to Bobby Massie & could be available in 3rd rd"
Clark is built exactly how you would construct a modern offensive tackle if you were starting from scratch. He is tall (6'5"), weighs 315 pounds and has an amazing (36 1/8th inch) arm length capped off with hands that are nearly a foot wide (11 7/8"). You can file all of those measurements under the "prototype" category but as you know all too well, numbers don't play on Sundays, players do. Given his long arms and large hands most onlookers assume Clark is a pass protector first and may lack push in the run game. Keen observers have noticed something very different as they have studied his tape in more depth:
If you think Le'Raven Clark is just a finesse blocker in a spread O, check again. Lot of power there. Great guy to develop.— Doug Farrar (@SI_DougFarrar) March 13, 2016
So the Massie comparison fits a bit more when you take that into consideration. The big rub comes when Clark is asked to move his feet. They're heavy. He is the opposite of a player like Ronnie Stanley who is described as a "dancing bear". Le'Raven looks more like someone dipped his cleats in concrete, and is not a natural "mover".
So you are left with a player who has amazing physical traits, but also one who has major work to do if his game is going to be worthy on the next level. This is just one more connection he has to Massie, who started at the bottom in a lot of ways himself. Check out this photo comparison of Massie when he entered the league and what he looks like today:
LeCharles Bentley (@OLineWorld65) March 10, 2016
If Clark can put in the kind of hard work that Massie has to become the player he is today, then Le'Raven will be a steal in the later rounds. If he is not motivated enough to realize he is starting at the bottom all over again and has to rebuild his foundation, then he will likely see very limited success in the NFL.
Random players studied this week: Shilique Calhoun, Shaq Lawson, Dominique Alexander, Kendall Fuller, Artie Burns, Jalen Mills