As we all know, one of the top priorities for Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Poles this off-season is to upgrade the defensive line. That can be done a few ways, through veteran free agency, drafting some defensive linemen, or a combination of the two. If I were a betting man, I would say it's a combination of the two.
The Bears play in a version of the Tampa-2 4-3 scheme. In that scheme, the most important player is the three-technique defensive tackle. Without a high-quality 3-tech, the scheme is just another scheme. Last year, the 3-tech was handled by Justin Jones, who is a good player but not the quality 3-tech the defense needs. I feel that Jones would be better of at the 1-tech and in the rotation at the 3-tech. That means the Bears have to find that dominant player in the Draft or free agency.
If the Bears can't find the player they want in free agency, that leaves the Draft, and there are some very good players who have the traits to become excellent 3-Techs in this scheme. The first is Georgia's Jalen Carter, and the Bears might have to use the first overall pick in the Draft to get him. They could trade down a few slots and still have an opportunity to select Carter, but there is also the possibility that they will select an edge rusher over Carter.
If that is the case, the Bears are going to have to find one in the second or third round. In my opinion, the next best 3-Tech is USC's Tuli Tuapolotu, and in order to get him, they may have to find a way to get back into the back end of the first round or the top half of the second. Many feel that Clemson's Bryan Bresee is the next best defensive tackle, but he cannot play the three. In the Bears scheme, he is a 1-Tech. A player who jumps out at me is Northwestern's Ade Adebawore.
I first began to study Adebawore back in July, and though he played defensive end in the Northwestern scheme, his body type and play screamed 3-tech. While he played mostly outside for Northwestern, there were situations where he did line up inside. When he played inside, he looked like a natural.
Adebawore is not the biggest guy, having measured 6014 – 284 with 34" arms at the Senior Bowl. Before you start screaming, some of the best 3-tech's to even play this scheme were about the same size.
Tommy Harris, who was a perennial Pro Bowler in the same scheme for the Bears, played most of his career at 6024 – 285. At times Tommy got as heavy as 290 but never heavier. When Tony Dungy was perfecting the Tampa-2 as the Head Coach in Tampa, he had two great 3-techs. The first was Warren Sapp, who was all of 6010 – 281 with 32 ¾' arms. Sapp was followed by a similar player in Booger McFarland, who stood 6005 – 298 with 33 3/8' arms. The important traits a smaller 3-tech needs is strength and power, and Ade has that in abundance.
Adebawore is a solid 284 and will probably play most of his NFL career in the 290-295 range. What excites me about Ade is his explosive quickness, relentless play, and excellent hand use. He is a snap-to-the-whistle player on every rep, and he makes plays!
Over the past two seasons at Northwestern, Adebawore had 74 total tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks. As an inside player in the Bears' scheme, his sack total should increase, as he was not a great fit to play defensive end in college.
Two weeks ago, Ade played at the Senior Bowl, and if anything, he solidified my feelings about him as a player. He absolutely dominated the one-on-ones both with pass rushing and run defense. The bad news is every club in the NFL saw that domination. His bull rush was outstanding, and twice he pushed back Notre Dame's Jarrett Patterson at least seven yards. He showed very quick hands and good moves to go along with his explosive initial quickness. To be honest, I think he may have lost only one 1-on-1 rep, and there were at least a dozen reps.
Adebawore is an excellent athlete, as Northwestern would occasionally drop him into coverage. I feel he will run in the 4.7s at Indy in a few weeks.
So where does Ade get drafted? Because of his smaller stature, he will not be for everyone. The teams that play a similar style of defense as the Bears will be the teams most interested. It's a good bet that the 3-4 clubs will have no interest. Right now, I feel that the lowest Adeboware will go in the top half of the third round. Some clubs may have him stacked as a low second-round type. He may be one of the best players you haven't heard much about.