The 2018 Draft is coming upon us quickly. In less than three weeks we will know who the identities of the next Chicago Bears draft class. That means we are running out of time to discuss the prospects the Bears could draft who will quickly become irrelevant if the Chicago doesn’t draft them.
Last week, we introduced you to several potential edge rushers the Bears could target in the draft. Today, we discuss a few more, and raise some concerns about potential fits. Finally, we then weigh in on what non-edge players would help get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
3) Who’s an edge rusher you didn’t discuss in Part One who is worth the Bears’ consideration at draft time?
Patti Curl: Josh Sweat is someone to keep an eye on if he falls. He wasn’t thought of as a first round talent before the Scouting Combine, but a terrific athletic performance led a lot of evaluators to revisit his tape and decide his unimpressive college production was mostly due to not getting the right opportunities in his college defense at Florida State. He certainly flashes the ability to succeed off the edge with multiple moves and good hand usage. He may be less raw than people imagine and would be a prime value if he’s available in the second round or trade shenanigans find the Bears picking late in the first.
Andrew Link: If the Bears want to have a highly athletic edge to pair with their meaty interior, then adding Lorenzo Carter with Leonard Floyd would accomplish that. I think they have similar skill sets but Carter is stronger and should be able to hold up on the strong side. A guy that I like that should be available later in the draft is Ade Aruna from Tulane. Pop on tape of his and tell me he doesn’t remind you of Willie Young. He is newer to football and would have some growing pains, but the upside is a nice football player.
Jacob Infante: Andrew mentioned Aruna as a possible Bears target, and I have to agree with him in that regard. He’s a raw prospect, but he has the length and athleticism to be a threat if coached up well enough. I also like Jeff Holland out of Auburn as a Day 3 option. He doesn’t offer much against the run, but he’s an athletic and refined edge rusher who can be a valuable situational pass rusher at the next level.
Erik C. Duerrwaechter: As I alluded to previously, Boston College’s Harold Landry is a player I would be okay with selecting at No. 8 overall. He’s coming off a senior season that was derailed slightly due to an ankle injury. Despite that, he’s an extremely violent player who knows how to engage players with great leverage, explosiveness, and extension. His arsenal of pass rushing moves, and hand fighting techniques, is pretty extensive. In my opinion, when discussing edge prospects for a base 3-4 front, Harold is the prototypical fit. He has every requirements for a player to set an edge and be productive against both the run and pass.
Robert Zeglinski: He’s often forgotten but Wake Forest’s Duke Ejiofor is a technical and powerful mountain of a man. I suspect the only reason he’s not leading conversation of an overall weak edge class at the top is because of his recovery from labrum surgery in early February. Otherwise, the four-year player at Wake Forest is one of the most polished overall players in this entire draft. 43.5 tackles for loss along with 24 sacks over the course of his college career attest to that. The production and talent match up.
Ejiofor won’t be a star, but is a solid defender at the next level because he uses his hands well, has a consistently low pad level, and is a smart as well as instinctive player. These sound like simple attributes any defensive prospect should have but you’d be surprised. He reminds me most of former Bear Alex Brown, and that’s exactly what Chicago needs as a complement to Floyd. A dynamite and disciplined run defender built off of power, with the capability of six to eight sacks a season. Think of Ejiofor as a late Day 2 to early Day 3 prospect: an excellent value.
4) Of the prospects previously brought up, are there any you hope the Bears pass on?
Patti Curl: UTSA’s Marcus Davenport worries me the most of all the potential early-round picks. I’m skeptical when a player’s main selling point is size: especially if that size is unfortunately distributed on a tall and muscular frame rather than a short and round one. If Davenport were available in the second, I could be sold on his upside. But he won’t be and the bust chance more than outweighs the “upside.”
Andrew Link: I have made it no secret that I am not a fan of Landry. I don’t care for his motor and don’t view him as a complete player. If the Bears drafted him, I would be disappointed. I think you have to aim a little higher than a situational pass rusher with a top-10 pick. If the Bears managed to trade back and there was value there, that’s a different story.
Jacob Infante: I’m actually going to go with someone whom I mentioned: Arden Key. He left the LSU program before the start of the 2017 season, an absence which has since been discovered as a reason for him to go to rehab to cure a marijuana addiction. He has also had well-documented weight fluctuation issues, and he didn’t look nearly as athletic on tape as he did in 2016. The off-the-field concerns and on-the-field inconsistencies make Key a hard pass for me unless he somehow slips to Day 3.
Erik C. Duerrwaechter: Not to create another controversy, but I’m not a fan of Marquis Haynes’ game. His production at Ole Miss is impressive, that I’ll concede. However, I am alarmed at how passive he is in getting off blocks. He uses his speed, and only his speed, to get after quarterbacks. He hasn’t displayed much of an ability to establish an edge, nor can he drop his anchor against base blocks. Once he faced tackles or tight ends who are able to lock up with him one-on-one, he didn’t produce. His tackling leaves much to be desired as well. I didn’t notice “pop” with his pads when he created collisions with other players. He’ll need some seasoning and a good 30 pounds of muscle, for him to develop in the NFL. That’s if Haynes wants to avoid being a Shea McClellin type of player.
Robert Zeglinski: After a stellar freshman year at Rutgers where he had 7.5 sacks and showcased potential for growth, Kemoko Turay tailed off the rest of his career: accumulating a total of just seven sacks the next three years. Yes, various injuries derailed his sophomore and junior seasons, but even at full strength last season, he was underwhelming to watch because he doesn’t hold his ground well and doesn’t use his hands consistently.
Turay, more than most, is a giant projection to be a productive player in the NFL. He has almost the ideal size at 6-foot-5, 241 pounds to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. And, he is incredibly explosive and disruptive when given a chance. But otherwise, Turay is way too consistent to rely on for even a rotational player. I wouldn’t invest a draft pick in him because I don’t envision that projection of his success. I see a guy with those mentioned previous injury issues never having gone through proper development becoming a fruitless project.
5) If the Bears don’t draft an edge defender high, who’s a prospect at a different position that you think would make an important contribution to the overall pass rush?
Patti Curl: Minkah Fitzpatrick is an intriguing option to me in part because he’s an incredible blitzer: from his timing, to his awareness, vision, and ability to find the most efficient line to the quarterback. Bears’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has found success regularly with corner blitzes, sometimes even bringing in Sherrick McManis for a special blitz package. With Fitzpatrick, the Bears wouldn’t need to show their hand by implementing a special package to get pressure from cornerbacks. Add to his blitzing potential the improved coverage he can offer at the nickelback, and opposing quarterbacks will often find their hot read blanketed and be left helpless to suffer a smoosh sandwich from the likes of Akiem Hicks and Floyd.
Andrew Link: This is an easy answer because I don’t see another player that offers pass rush besides the ones already mentioned (Chubb, Landry, Davenport). Whether you view Tremaine Edmunds as an inside linebacker or as an edge, he improves the pass rush. I see him as an inside linebacker that has elite athletic ability and a good feel for blitzing through the A and B-gaps. Could he rush off the edge in sub-packages? Yeah, probably, but that’s not going to be his strong suit, at least initially.
Jacob Infante: Edmunds isn’t good at rushing the passer off the edge, but he is quite good at blitzing up the A and B gaps and getting to the quarterback. Fangio would likely salivate at the possibility of getting to use him as a Swiss Army knife on defense. Safeties such as Fitzpatrick and Derwin James are effective blitzers off the edge when asked to do so, as well.
Erik C. Duerrwaechter: If the Bears elect to go defense, outside of the edge positions, then Edmunds makes too much sense. You want to get Fangio his crown jewel at inside linebacker, and there he is. Not only could the Bears rotate him within their front seven, but he’ll bring an attitude and tremendous amount of athleticism at their disposal. Edmunds is precisely the type of player opposing offensive coaches will have to game plan for, as he’s a complete wrecking ball with plenty of opportunities for growth. As I mentioned earlier, he can launch from multiple positions: from the inside as a true backer, from the edge as a “rush” Sam against spread concepts, and even with his hand in the ground at the “9” in the Bears’ nickel packages. His versatility would allow for more creativity.
Robert Zeglinski: Edmunds is a lay-up if the Bears don’t go true edge pass rusher. He’s a player you can line up all over your defense. He would offer Chicago tremendous versatility in and potentially project well as a pass rusher down the line if put him along that track at 19-years-old. Edmunds is my preferred overall pick for the Bears at No. 8 because of everything he offers as a defensive dynamo. Defensive football in 2018 is about confusing matchup issues with athletic game-changers. If an offense doesn’t know where a game-changer will line up, a significant portion of the battle has already been won. Edmunds at his freakishly athletic best, will be a matchup issue at multiple positions.
Thus concludes this edge defender round table. I hope we introduced you to some intriguing new prospects and provided insight on ones you already heard of. My attempt to drum up controversy fell a short. Jacob showed a level of cowardice I didn’t know he was capable of by criticizing his own prospect rather than taking a colleague down a peg. Duerrwaecther on the other hand showed incredibly foolish courage by disagreeing with me a second time in this draft season. I will do my best not to rub it in his face when Haynes is 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year and Courtland Sutton is 2020 Rookie Farm Worker of the Year because he’s already washed out of the NFL.
WCG Contributors: Jeff Berckes; Patti Curl; Eric Christopher Duerrwaechter; Kev H; Sam Householder; Jacob Infante; Andrew Link; Ken Mitchell; Steven Schweickert; Jack Silverstein; EJ Snyder; Lester Wiltfong, Jr.; Robert Zeglinski; Like us on Facebook.