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2020 NFL draft: Top sleepers at each offensive position

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The Bears have found some gems on Day 3 of the draft, and some of these offensive prospects could become exactly that.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Belk Bowl - Virginia Tech v Kentucky Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Bears’ disappointing offensive performance was a leading catalyst in the team’s regression in the 2019 season.

Whether it be lackluster quarterback play, a step back in the ground game or underwhelming offensive line unit, the Bears had a plethora of problems on offense that played a big role in their 8-8 record after going 12-4 the year before.

While Nick Foles and Jimmy Graham were brought in to help Chicago’s offense, they still have a bit of work to do on that side of the ball. Many have talked about potential offensive linemen, wide receivers and even tight ends that could be potential draft picks in the second round, but with five picks in the last three rounds of the draft—and the potential to obtain even more through trading back—the Bears will have to do their due diligence on some of the late-round picks in the 2020 class.

With players like Eddie Jackson, Nick Kwiatkoski, Jordan Howard, Adrian Amos and Tarik Cohen having been selected on Day 3 under general manager Ryan Pace, the Bears have had some luck late in the draft in the past. They will look to find some of that magic again in this year’s upcoming draft.

These six prospects are players many see as Day 3 picks but could potentially outplay their draft status. If the Bears want to look at the offensive side of the ball later in the draft, these players are among those they should consider.

Quarterback: Jake Luton, Oregon State

I discussed Jake Luton as a possible late-round option for the Bears in March.

Luton has one of the stronger arms in this year’s class, as his balls consistently have good velocity behind them. He plays with a good overall sense of touch behind his throws and can lead his receivers open with a well-delivered pass. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was fantastic in 2019, with 28 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. Carrying a bit of a gunslinger mentality, Luton isn’t afraid to take a shot downfield, but he doesn’t make too many bad decisions when stretching the field vertically. He can also execute RPOs well, as he does a good job of reading defenses to determine the right course of action. He’s also a sizable prospect at 6-foot-6 and 224 pounds.

He’s not an incredibly athletic mover in or out of the pocket, and he is an older prospect as a six-year senior. He could also improve at reading the field and looking past his first read, as is the case with most collegiate quarterbacks. However, Luton brings plenty of physical tools to the table as a Day 3 developmental prospect, and the Bears could be interested in that as a third-string backup to take in the sixth or seventh round.

Running back: Rico Dowdle, South Carolina

If the Bears want to find a running back to eventually spell Tarik Cohen—who hits the open market next offseason—then Rico Dowdle could be a very good fit.

A dynamic runner who excels at making defenders miss in the open field, Dowdle has the athletic tools to translate well to the NFL. When he gets into space, he makes smart cuts and has the vision to determine which moves will allow him to pick up the most yards. He hits the open lane hard and accelerates with plenty of burst in a straight line. He’s also a tough runner who fights hard for every extra yard he can get and has a well-built frame at 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds. His patience comes out of the backfield is impressive too, as he has shown the willingness to let the play develop and then strike when he identifies an opening.

Dowdle has an extensive injury history, which could drop him down boards a bit. He isn’t a very powerful runner either, and his hands are somewhat inconsistent. However, as a committee back at the next level, he could manage to carve out a niche for himself in the NFL. He could be an option worth considering in the sixth round.

Wide receiver: Lynn Bowden Jr., Kentucky

Many know Lynn Bowden Jr. for his work as a Wildcat quarterback for Kentucky, but as he proved early in 2019 and in his seasons before that, he’s a receiver at the next level, and a potentially good one, too.

As his 1,468 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns and 7.9 yards per carry would imply, Bowden is dangerous with the ball in his hands. He has fantastic agility in the open field and changes direction seamlessly. He also has good vision, both in space and coming out of the backfield, which gives him some versatility on jet sweeps, end-arounds or in Wildcat formations. As a receiver, Bowden accelerates off the snap very well and has shown some potential in regards to his ability to sell route concepts and alter his route to attack the blind spot of a defensive back.

Bowden’s fame earned as a quarterback came at the expense of developing as a route-runner, as he can improve the sharpness in his cuts and his technique in breaking free from press-man coverage. While the general consensus of Bowden’s demand among NFL teams is uncertain, he would be a versatile and electric option to consider starting in Round 4, so the Bears could snag him if they trade back with a second-round pick.

Tight end: Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

In a pass-first league, tight ends have taken on more duties that a wide receiver would have than they had years ago. So who better to draft as a late-round tight end prospect than a former wide receiver?

Giovanni Ricci finished second in the FBS in touchdowns for a tight end with 8 in 2019, and he placed in the top 10 in receptions and receiving yards with 51 and 642, respectively. I had this to say about him in an article in October:

Still a relative unknown in draft circles, Giovanni Ricci has quietly put up fantastic numbers at Western Michigan. The wide receiver convert ranks first among FBS tight ends in receptions, as well as second in both receiving yards and touchdowns. His background as a wide out is apparent, as he has very good straight-line speed for a tight end and good hip fluidity, as well as some potential as a route runner in terms of cut sharpness. For someone who has only been a tight end for two seasons, he is surprisingly good at sealing off lanes for his ball-carriers, too.

Ricci is understandably a major work in progress in his technique as a blocker, and he doesn’t have stellar value as a red-zone threat, given his lack of top-notch physicality and his shorter height for the position at 6-foot-3. He also wasn’t invited to the Combine, which could hurt his stock, considering teams are unable to work out players in person with the COVID-19 pandemic limiting operations. The tape shows, though, that he’s a talented pass-catcher who would bring some late-round or undrafted depth for a team like the Bears.

Offensive tackle: Justin Herron, Wake Forest

If the Bears want to find a developmental offensive tackle who has physical tools but wouldn’t cost a second-round pick, then Justin Herron could be worth a look on Day 3.

A four-year starter with experience at both tackle spots, Herron is an athletic blocker who can move around well laterally and mirror speedier edge rushers in pass protection. He has fluid hips and is able to adjust his set point and alter his angles to square up to a defender when he drops back in his kick-slide. He brings plenty of intelligence in his ability to pick up blitzes, execute combo blocks and help out on double-teams, and he excels at picking up good angles when blocking on the move.

Herron doesn’t have stellar power in his frame and could stand to improve his anchor strength and his ability to get his weight underneath him. He has a tendency to let defenders inside his frame and allow them to maintain ideal hand placement against him. He also tore his ACL in the opener of the 2018 season. Though he’s a work in progress, the tools are there for him to develop, making him a worthwhile look in the fifth or sixth round.

Interior offensive line: Yasir Durant, Missouri

The Bears need competition at guard and depth at tackle, so why not bring in a prospect who could potentially bring in both?

A three-year starter at left tackle for Missouri, Yasir Durant’s skill-set screams NFL guard. He’s a hulking blocker with a 6-foot-6, 331-pound frame that packs broad shoulders and doesn’t have significant fat on it. He brings plenty of power and nastiness to the field, driving his opponents backwards with intimidating grip strength and force behind his jabs, as well as a strong lower body. His frame allows him to counter power rushes with his anchor strength, and he has the strength to seal off defenders in the run game or knock edge rushers off their arc in pass protection.

Durant isn’t very agile or fast in the open field and struggles with mirroring edge rushers’ movements when moving laterally—his 5.52 40-yard dash at the Combine reflects that weakness. His hand placement could also improve a bit, as he misplaces his strikes from time to time. While he won’t ‘wow’ teams with his ability to run in a straight line, he’s a nasty blocker along the interior who could realistically be available around the fifth or sixth round.