Thanks to our being a part of the SB Nation network, we have access to a lot of neat things, one of which is our ability to talk with the college sites that covered the newest members of the Chicago Bears.
In this series of Five Questions With..., we'll try learn a little more about the 2016 rookie class, both the draft picks and also some of the undrafted free agents.
Today we're talking with Andy Hutchins (@AndyHutchins), the Managing Editor of Alligator Army, the SB Nation site that covers the University of Florida. You can follow them on Twitter @AlligatorArmy. We asked Andy some questions about Bears' 3rd round draft pick, defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard.
Windy City Gridiron - I've seen some scouts that had Bullard pegged as a late 1st round prospect, so depending on who you ask, the Bears got tremendous value by grabbing him in the 3rd round. Were you surprised he went in the 3rd?
Alligator Army - I'm a bit surprised, but little about Bullard's game strikes me as the sort of thing that makes an NFL personnel expert say "Okay, yeah, this guy's gotta be our top pick." His absolute best characteristic, to my mind, is his reliability, and that doesn't make for a splashy first-round pick, and so he fell -- maybe even further than I was anticipating.
WCG - Scouting reports for Bullard are often schizophrenic in nature when discussing what he does best. Some laud his ability to hold the point of attack against the run, others question that same ability. Some call him an explosive pass rusher, others wonder if he has the quick twitch athleticism to consistently rush the QB. (This will be a 2 part question) The Bears most likely plan on playing him as a 3-4 defensive end in their base D, so do you think he can hold the point of attack from that position?
AA - I think he can do all of those things, and think that film from his time under Will Muschamp, especially as a freshman and sophomore, can show him playing well as a 3-4 end. I think he's probably slightly better at getting upfield push than holding the edge, and might need to add some strength to do the latter against NFL linemen with consistency, but I trust Bullard to take to coaching and training and improve.
WCG - ...and when the Bears play nickle, Bullard will probably rush the QB from the interior, so do you think Bullard has the quickness and power to win consistently from the inside?
AA - Definitely, especially if he can show the anticipation and burst that he flashed throughout 2015. Bullard wasn't really an explosive rusher prior to last year in my mind, but he was good for a play every other Saturday that just took my breath away, and he certainly convinced me that he has the potential to pick up sacks at the next level.
WCG - I read that he often played through nagging injuries during his time in Florida, while this shows toughness, I wonder if the injuries have the potential to be problematic down the road. Were his injuries more joint or muscle related?
AA - The most serious injury I recall for Bullard was a knee injury that sidelined him for most of Florida's last cupcake game of 2015, then limited him against Florida State. It wasn't a catastrophic one, and it didn't seem to have any true lasting effects, but I wouldn't worry too much about Bullard's toughness.
WCG - In your opinion, what kind of impact can Bears fans expect from Bullard in year one? And do you see him as a possible Pro Bowl type of player down the road?
AA - I think Bullard can be a solid rotational defensive end/tackle as a rookie, with a ceiling perhaps slightly higher than that and a floor only slightly lower. I'd be a bit surprised to see him make a Pro Bowl, but if he hovered at a level just below that for a longish career, I would be utterly unsurprised -- and not at all disappointed.
Thanks again to Andy Hutchins for giving us the down low on Jonathan Bullard.