2018 was the year that Akiem Hicks finally got the recognition many felt he deserved.
After quietly being a key catalyst in the turnaround of the Bears’ defense, Hicks was named to his first Pro Bowl following last season. Now, as he heads into the 2019 season, he can add another first to his résumé: No. 39 on the 2019 NFL Top 100 list.
Hicks finished the year with 7.5 sacks, 55 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 16 quarterback hits, and three forced fumbles; however, his impact goes beyond the stat sheet. The 6-foot-5, 332-pound defensive lineman is a force of nature who combines strength, speed, technique, and intelligence to become one of the best interior defenders in the league. He is powerful at the point of attack, and he is capable of stuffing holes as a run defender and driving back blockers. He has an extensive array of hand techniques as a pass rusher and excels at getting leverage and playing with his weight underneath him. For someone as gargantuan as he, Hicks also fires off the snap with impressive explosiveness, making him a nightmare for opposing teams to block.
Hicks is the first Bears interior defensive lineman to make the list since its incarnation in 2011. He is also the first defensive lineman to make the list since Julius Peppers made it as an edge rusher in Chicago’s former 4-3 scheme in 2013.