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Hula Bowl prospects for Bears to target in 2024 NFL Draft

WCG’s lead draft analyst looks at players in today’s Hula Bowl the Bears should keep an eye on.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Missouri vs Ohio State Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2024 Hula Bowl is taking place on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. CST in Orlando, Florida, and some really intriguing draft prospects will be participating.

With the end of the college football season comes collegiate all-star games, and the Hula Bowl is among the top options for players looking to enter the NFL level. NFL scouts and coaches do deep dives on these prospects, and the more hands-on they get to be in their interactions with them leading up to the draft, the better.

Through my preparations for the 2024 NFL Draft, there are a handful of Hula Bowl participants who particularly stand out. Here are some of the top Hula Bowl prospects in this year’s class whom the Chicago Bears would be wise to keep their eyes on.

Blake Watson, RB, Memphis

One of the best receiving backs in the 2024 draft, Watson had 90 receptions for 794 yards in his last two seasons between Old Dominion and Memphis. With two 1,000-yard rushing seasons to his name, he’s also been quite productive on the ground, too. He’s a twitchy athlete with great breakaway speed and good shiftiness coming out of his cuts. He also processes soundly in between the tackles. His 5-foot-10, 187-pound frame and lack of ideal physicality could prevent him from being an every-down back, but he’s a fun change-of-pace back who deserves to get drafted.

Hayden Hatten, WR, Idaho

The 6-foot-1, 209-pound Hatten is a well-built receiver who was a first-team FCS All-American in 2022 and a second-team All-American in 2023. He offers very good ball skills, demonstrating ideal body control when the ball’s in the air. He’s a good blocking receiver with good physicality along the perimeter, and he’s a reliable hands catcher. Though he won’t wow scouts with his track speed or his agility after the catch, he’s crafty, strong and coordinated and could outdo his eventual draft status.

Clark Barrington, OL, Baylor

Barrington started 40 games for BYU prior to starting at Baylor, making him an experienced collegiate starter with guard-center versatility. He’s an athletic blocker with ideal range as a blocker and good flexibility in his lower half. He’s a hair under 6-foot-7, and for such a tall guard, he does a good job of keeping his pads low. Play strength is a concern for him, and he graduated high school in 2016 as a result of his Mormon mission, so he’s much older than the average prospect. He doesn’t carry a draftable grade, but he could compete for a roster spot at the next level.

Matthew Jones, OG, Ohio State

Jones was a three-year starter at Ohio State with in-game experience at guard and center. He’s a stout interior lineman with a powerful style of play and ideal weight distribution. When he gets his feet set, running into him is like running into a brick wall. He also has ideal zonal awareness in pass protection. His lack of top-notch agility and strike location hurts him a bit, but his resume warrants late-round consideration.

Omar Speights, LB, LSU

Speights was a three-year full-time starter at Oregon State prior to transferring to LSU for the 2023 season. He’s an athletic linebacker with good burst coming out of his lateral movements and some pretty nice straight-line speed. His high motor is apparent when you watch him on tape, and he’s comfortable in shallow zones in coverage as a WILL linebacker. If he can work on his physicality against blocks, he could be a very good special teamer at the next level.

Jackson Mitchell, LB, UConn

With 432 tackles in the four seasons he’s played in college, Mitchell was a difference-maker for UConn’s defense as their MIKE. He’s a reliable form tackler who takes precise angles in run support. In between the tackles, he showcases good activity in his hands deconstructing blocks near the line of scrimmage and good awareness filling up gaps. Though his athleticism and length aren’t tremendous, he does the little things right and should be able to clean up tackles well at the second level in the NFL.

Demani Richardson, S, Texas A&M

A five-year starter at the SEC level, Richardson is a well-built safety at 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds. He has a wingspan of over 80 inches, and he’s a physical downhill defender who wraps up well as a tackler. His high motor and quick processing abilities made him a reliable playmaker for the Aggies. While his athletic upside isn’t top-notch, he projects as a valuable special teamer and a good Day 3 selection.