The Bears will presumably meet with hundreds of prospects leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, but most of them go unseen by the public eye.
Among those players whose meetings with the team has been confirmed, though, is Oregon defensive back Jevon Holland.
Widely perceived as an early Day 2 prospect and one of the top defensive backs in this year’s draft, Holland confirmed to Windy City Gridiron on Monday that he has had conversations with the Bears in his pre-draft process.
Holland opted out of the 2020 season, but his tape from his previous two seasons speaks for itself. He finished with 9 interceptions and 10 pass deflections in his two years with the Ducks, solidifying himself as one of the best ball-hawks in the nation.
Born in Canada while his father played and coached in the Canadian Football League, Holland is one of a handful of prospects in the 2021 class to hail from the Great White North. As fellow Canadian-born stars like Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and Minnesota cornerback Benjamin St-Juste also make the jump to the NFL this month, Holland takes great pride in representing his country.
“Being a Canadian in the NFL process, I feel pride to represent Canada,” Holland told Windy City Gridiron. “I feel pride to represent where I’m from, because I don’t really hear a lot of people coming from Coquitlam [Holland’s hometown] going to the NFL. I feel proud to be the one to rep the community. I’ve been training with Chuba down in Proactive [Sports Performance], so me and Chuba have had this conversation, but to be able to rep that type of country, in my eyes, it’s the closest thing I’m going to get to the Olympics, how people represent their country. I feel great pride in being that person, that spokesperson for the country.”
Holland is one of numerous Oregon prospects who had the chance to speak to the media in their post-Pro Day press conferences on Monday. Perhaps the most notable of the bunch is offensive tackle Penei Sewell, who is regarded by many as one of the top overall prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The 6-foot-5, 331-pounder also opted out of the 2020 season, but after winning the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best offensive or defensive lineman at just 19 years old the year before, Sewell’s tape speaks for itself.
“I like to play real physical,” explained Sewell. “I like to use my body type to my advantage and to really get up under people’s chin and to really showcase my mentality, also, along with my physicality, that I’m coming off the ball every play with violent intentions and that nothing less is coming from that.”
Going up against Sewell and other talented Oregon offensive linemen every week in practice, defensive lineman Austin Faoliu has been able to sharpen his game tremendously over the course of his four years in Eugene. He showcased plenty of versatility along the defensive line, which is something he touts as a selling point for NFL teams.
“I just think that being able to play nose guard, 3-tech, d-end, it makes me more marketable,” Faoliu said. “I can play not just primarily one position, but multiple positions on the d-line, and I think that with having that in my arsenal of play, it definitely helps out a lot. I think it’s going to be good.”
In addition to Holland, Oregon features numerous other talented defensive backs entering the draft this year: four members of their secondary in total will be looking to get drafted this month.
Thomas Graham Jr. was another opt-out of the 2020 season, but like Holland, his production during his time with the Ducks stands out. With 8 interceptions and 32 pass deflections over the course of his three seasons in college, he showcases very good route recognition and ball skills on tape.
“It’s just what personnel they’re in,” started Graham of how he identifies plays and route concepts. “Every year I’ve been here, we had a card up, so there was always a card that would show the personnel that they’re in. Then the formation matters: where the running back is set, if he’s [strong-side], [weak-side], what type of formation are they in, where is the tight end at if he’s on the field? It dictates what type of pass play I’ll get.”
“The pre-snap and post-snap for me is mainly about breaking down the film earlier in the week to know what I’m getting into and what to anticipate from this team. All teams are different, but there are some teams that are similar. Everybody has their own niche. Post-snap, it’s just once I’ve broken down the film, [knowing] who’s in front of me: is this their deep threat, or is this their real route runner? So know who you’re up against, and that makes a big difference. That makes everything so much easier.”
Getting to play alongside such talented players has helped each of the four prospects enhance their own games and get better as players. When asked about playing with a group as talented as the secondary Oregon has had in recent years, all of them were complementary of their teammates.
“It just kept me elevated,” said cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, who had 6 interceptions and 21 pass deflections in four seasons. “I wanted to bring a better part of me everyday. Playing with them made my job easier as an Oregon football player.”
“Oregon’s always been known for having really good defensive backs,” stated safety Brady Breeze, who had 2 interceptions and 62 tackles in 2019. “And I feel like we had a really good group of DBs when I was there, and we took it upon ourselves like, ‘hey, we got to keep this legacy going.’ There are going to be guys that are going to be counting on us to continue to promote a good defensive back group. I feel like our DB group did a good job of trying to keep that culture going and keep that DB group continuing to get better.”
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