The Bears addressed their need at defensive tackle in an aggressive manner through the 2023 NFL Draft, selecting both of Florida’s Gervon Dexter and South Carolina’s Zacch Pickens on Day 2.
Dexter projects best as a 1-technique, whereas Pickens fits the 3-technique alignment a bit better. However, both are versatile defensive linemen who can and likely will be moved around, as Chicago values versatility along its defensive front.
Film studies galore have already been done on some of the Bears’ rookies, both by me and many other content creators in this online Chicago football-sphere. However, with the increasing presence data is playing in how NFL teams select players, I figured I’d take a look at what some of the advanced analytics say about both Dexter and Pickens, as well as the rest of the Bears’ 2023 draft class.
Relative Athletic Score
The athletic testing is incredibly encouraging with both Dexter and Pickens, which is reflected heavily in the tape both players displayed at the SEC level.
Pure athleticism and encouraging physical attributes are hallmarks of each of their profiles. Of the defensive tackles invited to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, Dexter and Pickens placed fifth and seventh in terms of Relative Athletic Scores, respectively.
Dexter ended up with tremendous marks across the board, finishing with an elite speed grade and great size and explosion numbers.
Pickens isn’t as tall or heavy or Dexter, but his agility was better, as was his 10-yard split by a slight amount. It’s also interesting to note that Pickens has much bigger hands and longer arms, despite being nearly two inches shorter and almost 20 pounds lighter.
Pickens’ lengthy frame indicates there’s probably some more room for him to add weight on, whereas Dexter might be a bit closer to what his playing weight will be in the NFL. Regardless of the different body types the two have, both are very athletic defenders with some impressive testing numbers.
Though the advanced analytics were incredibly friendly towards Darnell Wright in 2022, the same cannot be said for Dexter and Pickens.
Both defensive tackles are raw and showcase that they’re works in progress on tape, particularly in terms of pad level and weight distribution consistency. Dexter is particularly raw in terms of processing and converting his raw athleticism into get-off speed, while Pickens offers a more vanilla pass-rushing plan at this stage.
There are some encouraging flashes of data among the two defensive tackles the Bears drafted on Day 2, but neither particularly tore it up. Here’s how they each ranked at their position in advanced data categories:
- 0.057 Points Saved per run play (T-79th)
- 6.374 Points Above Average per run play (47th)
- 46.5% Positive run play percentage (T-48th)
- 0.025 Points Saved per pass rush (T-111th)
- -0.009 Points Above Average per pass rush (100th)
- 43.6% Positive pass rush percentage (T-58th)
- 5.6% pressure rate (T-146th)
- 0.5% sack rate (T-144th)
- 0.045 Points Saved per run play (T-128th)
- 2.699 Points Above Average per run play (110th)
- 52.2% Positive run play percentage (T-6th)
- 7.18 Points Saved per pass rush (T-96th)
- -0.007 Points Above Average per pass rush (T-91st)
- 35.5% Positive pass rush percentage (T-176th)
- 6.6% pressure rate (T-109th)
- 1.0% sack rate (T-99th)
To put the pressure rate into perspective, all of Calijah Kancey, Jalen Carter, Bryan Bresee and Keeanu Benton finished with pressure rates above 10% — the former three were all in the top-7 among defensive tackles, too.
The data generally shows what the tape displays with Pickens and Dexter: they’re both pretty raw. Given the lack of proven collegiate efficiency with each of them, it wouldn’t surprise me if both factored into the Bears’ defensive line rotation off the bench to start the 2023 regular season. Granted, neither Justin Jones nor Andrew Billings have necessarily lit the NFL world on fire at defensive tackle, but there’s no need to rush the development of each player.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though! You’re taking a shot on physical traits with both defensive tackles, and with the upside they possess, you’re not necessarily betting on them to excel at the NFL level right away. The profiles each of these players possess indicate both selections are long-term plays for Ryan Poles and the rest of the Bears’ staff.