The excellent scouting opportunity for the Chicago Bears comes to a close with this afternoon’s climactic Senior Bowl game. It’s been a productive and worthwhile venture for the Bears who figure to be selecting more than a few of the players on hand in Mobile, Alabama. After all, six of general manager Ryan Pace’s thirteen previous draft picks appeared in this college All-Star game. General due process would mean Chicago will pick more from guys they were able to gain a closer look at, but scouting isn’t done in a vacuum.
Nonetheless, today should offer great insight on many players that could help the Bears from safeties and cornerbacks, to wide receivers and tight ends. Here are some focus point guys to keep an eye out for.
Desmond King, CB/S, Iowa, North Team
King is one of the more polished secondary players in this year’s draft. He’s smart, physical, and has the necessary range and speed to play either cornerback or safety. It’s difficult to find any weakness in his game. With 258 career tackles and 13 interceptions, King has all of the attributes you look for in a star defensive back. He may project better as a safety as a center fielder, but regardless will surely be a quality addition to any team’s secondary.
Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan, North Team
1. Jourdan Lewis' incredible interception against Wisconsin. pic.twitter.com/eEm3KIj22a— DGB (@DETGoBlue) January 3, 2017
The only reason Lewis is an unlikely first round pick is because of size concern. At 5’10” 188 pounds, he projects more as a nickel or slot cornerback in the NFL. Nevertheless, the two-time First Team All-American is one of the best pure cover corners in this year’s draft and has phenomenal ball skills as evidenced above. He’s rarely out of position. For his size, he’s a good tackler too, although that will be a concern at the professional level. A rightfully hyped player that may have been at times overshadowed by teammates such as Jabril Peppers. That’s no longer the case.
Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut, North Team
Getting my first real look at S Obi Melifonwu (UConn, 6'3", 216lbs). Good closing speed, vision to find gaps to shoot. Roams well @ FS. pic.twitter.com/jv2mZxIx2H— My Colts Account (@MyColtsAccount) January 18, 2017
Melifonwu enjoyed one of the best weeks at the Senior Bowl and earned himself quite a bit of money. A man with freakish size for a safety at 6’4” 219 pounds can both play as a free safety and well in the box. This is a player that you can stick on a big receiver or star tight end and figure him to erase that offensive output because he’s capable. When you’re long and athletic as Melifonwu is, you become a Swiss Army Knife of sorts. Wherever team he plays in the NFL, his defensive coordinator will deploy him in all sorts of fashion.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington, North Team
Much like Melifonwu, Kupp was one of the most talked up players this week. This is a receiver who did nothing but produce bonkers numbers with 6,464 yards and 73 touchdowns in four years at college. Every movement Kupp makes is deliberate and fluid. He’s a solid and patient route runner with excellent hands that figures to be a steal in the mid-rounds.
Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina, South Team
Now here’s a slot receiver. Switzer has everything you need in explosiveness, solid hands, and in making plays after the catch. He excels at making defenders miss and is a nice security blanket on third down situations. In college, he was also used as a punt and kick returner so he’s an asset on special teams to boot. In a running joke, Switzer is the perfect “New England Patriots receiver” but don’t discount his potential with other squads.
Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss, South Team
Ole Miss TE Evan Engram is a special player. Runs a good seam route and makes finger tips catch holding on at contact pic.twitter.com/VrHgUbgJCR— Jordan McNamara (@jsmcnamara2) December 26, 2016
Engram is a far cry from traditional in-line blocking tight ends. In fact, sans guys like OJ Howard, there aren’t many polished blockers at this position in the draft. However, what Engram makes up for in his deficiency, is as an electric talent as more of an H-back tight end. He’s a true weapon in the pass game that can slot out wide and be used as a utility receiver in all facets. Engram also possesses some of the best hands in the draft, and is smart and adept about his route running.
Corn Elder, CB, Miami, South Team
Corn Elder is much better in press man. Good rep here. pic.twitter.com/FGem8LhGeM— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) January 25, 2017
Much like Lewis, there are concerns of Elder’s size at 5’10” 179 pounds. Without size in consideration, he’s another one of the underrated corners in the draft. Elder plays a physical brand of football at corner and as evidenced above, is excellent in press coverage. While a better athlete may take advantage of Elder’s deficiencies, he’s mostly technically sound and more often than not in the right place.
Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State, South Team
Again, the common referendum among many of these corners is size concern. Kazee checks in at 5’10” 183 pounds and is likely more of a slot corner because of it. However, he’s among the quickest players in this entire draft class and has one of the best noses for the ball. 17 career interceptions - with eight and seven in his last two years, respectively - speaks of a player with excellent awareness and playmaking ability. This is a true flash player with a penchant for excitement.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.