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College Prospect Preview: ACC

With college football getting set to start, we’re keeping tabs on a few players we think (or hope) might play for the Bears next year.

NCAA Football: Florida State Spring Game Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we admitted that it’s hard to watch college football without thinking about how good some of those players might look in a Bears uniform. This week, we’re going to continue the discussion by looking at the ACC.

The defending national champions of college football reside in the ACC, and since the playoff format was introduced, the ACC (in the form of Clemson) has done as much as anyone. The conference had 43 players taken in the 2017 Draft, and four of those were taken in the first round. Most notably, one of those went second overall to the Chicago Bears. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the ACC is home to a lot of quality football players, many of whom will soon be playing football on Sundays.

Top Targets:

Josh: I happen to think that Pace will go after impact players regardless of perceived need, and I do believe that the Bears have invested heavily at defensive back in free agency. I just don’t think any of those moves preclude getting better.

Tarvarus McFadden-CB, Florida State (6”2, 198lbs). McFadden currently looks like one of the two best corners likely to become available in the 2018 NFL Draft, and I love his instincts for the ball (8 Ints in 2016 to go with 6 PDs in just 13 games) and his combination of height and speed. I am less thrilled with the fact that he still needs to learn how to use that length and size at times, but if the worst thing that I can find to say about a guy is “he doesn’t use all of his physical gifts yet,” I’m okay with it. I’ve seen him slotted as going somewhere around 10 or 12, and if the Bears have 6 or 7 wins, that sounds about right for their draft position.

Jacob: I’m also going to choose a Florida State defensive back. However, this player happens to be a safety.

Derwin James - S, Florida State (6’3”, 211 lbs) missed time last season due to an injury, but he has flashed potential of being an All-Pro caliber talent. He is a fantastic athlete with tremendous size and range. He is also a solid tackler and an effective blitzer. He has only had one interception in his 14 games with Florida State, but he can easily fix that by staying healthy this year. Free agent addition Quintin Demps appears to be a stop-gap option at safety for the Bears, and Eddie Jackson is unproven at the professional level. If even one of Demps, Jackson or Adrian Amos fails to impress this year, then James should definitely be worth a look.

Hoping They Slide:

Josh: I think Leonard Floyd is great, but I think he’d benefit from having a fresh edge-rusher opposite him.

Harold Landry-Edge, Boston College (6’3”, 250lbs). Currently listed as a Top 5 prospect on a number of boards, Harold Landry has the sort of flare as an edge rusher that the only way a football fan dislikes watching him play is if he’s playing against your favorite team. If Landry follows up his 16.5-sack season (with 7 forced fumbles) from 2016 with anything like that in 2017, then he could be gone before even the Bears pick. However, given the number of quarterback prospects and solid offensive linemen who could be in the draft, there is a real possibility the Bears could find a way to get him.

Jacob: I’m going to follow this one up with another edge rusher.

A lot of people think of the aforementioned Landry or Arden Key to be the best edge rusher in the 2018 draft class. Bradley Chubb - EDGE, NC State (6’4”, 275 lbs) belongs in that conversation, as well. When I watched him on tape, I struggled to find a real weakness in his game. He is an explosive and powerful edge rusher with a pro-ready frame. Despite his size and strength, Chubb also manages to have an impressive first step and quick hands. He can also drop back in coverage with relative ease. He put up 10 sacks last season - along with 21 tackles for a loss - so expect him to build upon that.

The Bears currently have their speed rusher of the future in Leonard Floyd. They could use another young edge rusher who compliments him with power and strength. Chubb could be that guy.

Later Round Hopefuls:

Josh: I have nothing against Eddie Jackson, but I’ll only believe the secondary is improved when I see results on the field. Additionally, even if Jackson is great, he could use a younger partner.

Quin Blanding-Free Safety, Virginia (6’2”, 205lbs). Blanding was originally considered a highly-rated prospect for the 2017 draft, and it’s easy to understand why. Blanding is capable against the run and against the pass, with an ability to make a play on the ball (6 career interceptions and 14 pass deflections) while still being competent against the run. I usually see him him listed outside of the Top 50 (but only barely), and with the Bears lacking a third-rounder it would take a bit of a slide for him to be available. Still, after teams spent a year stocking up at the safety position, Pace might be able to bargain shop next year.

Jacob: The Bears could use some depth at the inside linebacker position. Jerrell Freeman, while fantastic, isn’t necessarily a spring chicken, and Danny Trevathan is coming off of a serious injury. Micah Kiser - ILB, Virginia (6’2”, 240 lbs) could be a very good option for them. Although he isn’t the greatest athlete in the world, his tackling skills, physicality, nose for the football, production and intelligence all make up for it. He had 133 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season, as well as a 117-tackle, 7.5-sack sophomore year. It’s safe to say that Kiser is a true tackling machine who would fit well in the MIKE spot.

He would likely sit for a while under Jerrell Freeman, who has a somewhat similar playing style to his. After a while, it would be Kiser’s turn to man the middle linebacker spot for the Bears.

That’s it for us. How about the rest of the Windy City Gridiron community? Who are you looking forward to watching in the ACC this year while hoping they don the Orange and Navy in 2018?