The combine as has been the case in recent years has produced some amazing workout numbers attached to some amazing athletes. Men of these sizes are not supposed to move and jump like these large men do. Now that the athletic scores are in the draft picture became a little clearer. Now the next two phases will be pro days and of course post-Free Agency. However, most of this year’s picks will be taken from this group of athletes and just like the draft I’ll be selecting most of these guys from this group.
8th overall: Josh Jackson-Cornerback-Iowa: If you were to ask most Bears fans what the biggest improvement the Bears have to make in order for their defense to be one of the best 5 in the NFL, to a man, they’d likely respond more interceptions. Now you can arguably cause more interceptions through pressure but you’d still have to have the back 7 to be in position and catch the errant passes caused by pressures and batted balls at the line of scrimmage. Ballhawks! Most ballhawks come out of the secondary and one of the best ballhawks if not the best ballhawk in this draft is Iowa’s, Joshua Jackson. Jackson has both the tape, the production and the athletic profile that make him a perfect fit in Chicago.
He measured in at 6’1″ 192 lbs, ran a 4.54 and a 4.49 40, pumped out 18 reps on the bench press, jumped 38″ in the air, broad jumped 123″ and ran a 3 cone time of 6.86 at the combine. That’s elite athleticism. His production fits the physical profile. Jackson had only 14 career starts at Iowa as he is relatively new to the position starting out his collegiate career as a Wide Receiver and finally started at Cornerback after getting moved. He has a lot more upside as he learns even more about the position with the aid of pro coaching. Especially under the tutelage of Ed Donatell one of the best position coaches in all the NFL.
In his first season as a starter, he came on like gangbusters putting up eye-popping stats. In 13 games he had 8 interceptions with 26 pass breakups, 48 tackles, a forced fumble and even contributed a blocked kick. That was good enough to earn first team All American and of course first-team all-Big Ten honors. If this is what his first full season at cornerback after converting just a couple years ago to the defensive side of the ball produced, we can all be excited for what to expect in his NFL career once he actually plays the position with a higher developed instinct for the position after some more years of experience.
39th overall: Lorenzo Carter-Edge/OLB-Georgia: For the second time in three years the Bears select an Edge Defender out of Georgia high in the draft. This time reaching into the top half of the second round to secure their guy. If the scouting report sounds familiar to you it’s because it nearly mirrors that of current Bear Leonard Floyd. They both have similar physical profiles. Both are long and lean with tremendous athleticism. Carter is a bit thicker than Floyd was coming out at 250 but both are 6’6″ with 34″ arms and 10 plus inch hands. Carter is even a little faster than Floyd posting a 4.5 flat at the combine at 250 pounds. Floyd a tenth of a second slower at 4.6 flat 5 pounds lighter than Carter. Floyd jumped nearly 40″ on his vertical to 36″ for Carter but Carter jumped 3″ longer in the broad jump 130″ to Floyd’s 127.”
Carter like Floyd had disappointing numbers during their careers but also like Floyd Carter was used a lot off the ball and in coverage as well as being asked to play disciplined and hold contain. Both are similar in that regard. More complete Edge players. However, with both aboard, it’s assumed that one or the other can concentrate on bending the edge to pressure the Quarterback while the other holds contain or drops back in coverage on Zone blitzes. Of course, there’ll be snaps where both rush the passer. With a good interior push by the Bears front, this should result in a lot of pressures and sacks which will aid the back 7 as they play complimentary ball. Carter, like Floyd, is not a complete pass rusher but with Vic Fangio aboard as the Defensive Coordinator development figures to happen at an accelerated rate. This could be quite an exciting Edge Tandem for years to come for the Bears.
105th Overall-Dorance Armstrong-Edge Rusher-Kansas I’m not 100% that Dorance Armstrong is the pick here, but I do think there’s a better than 50% chance they’ll go Edge Rusher here. They purged their OLB situation and there are questions on whether Ocho Returns and Floyd’s recovery. Not just his recovery, but even if he is recovered can he stay healthy. One of the concerns with Floyd for many (myself included) was not whether he’ll be good on the field, but whether he can stay healthy due to his slight basketball player body type/frame. So far the answer is no. This is why the Bears go back to back picks with edge Defenders.
Armstrong is a lot like Lorenzo Carter. his production took a precipitous dip in production due to being asked to play more of a run first pass second 4-3 Edge setting Defensive End role than a 3-4 balls to the wall rush the Quarterback with your hair on fire mindset. Kansas had a coaching change from his Sophomore season to his Junior season and with it the philosophy on featuring the run defense to matchup with teams strengths in their conference. As a Sophomore, Armstrong started all 12 games and was honored with a first team all Big-12 designation. It was well deserved. He posted numbers of 10 sacks, 56 tackles (20 TFL’s), with 3 FF. last season his production dropped to 1.5 sacks with 9TFL’s but still was a 2nd team all big-12 selection with 63 tackles, 4 PBU’s, and 3 Forced Fumbles. He had an excellent Freshman season too, starting all 12 accumulating 23 tackles, 5 TFL’s, 4 pass Breakups and 3.5 sacks.
A lot of people are down on his combine performance but they look plenty impressive to me. I mean he may not be freaky like Myles Garrett but had very good scores that confirm what you see on tape and can translate to the NFL game. At 6’4″ 257 running a 4.87 40 isn’t terrible. He showed pretty good strength benching 20 reps which are pretty good for a guy with 34 3/4″ arms. He has big strong 10″ hands attached at the end of those tentacles he calls arms. He had good agility scores too, but the biggest reason to make this pick is his impressive tape. Especially 2016. he just looks like an NFL starting Edge defender with an all-around game.
115th Overall-Tony Brown-Cornerback-Alabama: Brown Is a football player version of a swiss army knife. He likely plays the slot in the NFL as he’s a stiff-hipped athlete, but has the size to play outside based on either situation and matchup or if he needs to move there to spell someone or cover for an injury. He can also play either safety spot too. He’s kind of built like one too. Does not mind supporting the run or getting physical with receivers and should match up well against some Flex Tight Ends as well as Slot types. He’s also an excellent special teams player. He can run as his 4.35 40 and past track experience proves so he has the potential to be an excellent gunner.
He did not have great production at Alabama but with the slew of NFL players on that roster, he was far from one of the most featured. There are some character concerns as there were a couple incidents that had him being sent home before their 2015 bowl game and there was a 4 game suspension who many believe was due to a drugs test fail. Nothing appears to be too serious that it would preclude the Bears or anyone form drafting him at this slot.
145th Overall-Cedrick Wilson-Wide Receiver-Boise State: Wilson has good size at 6’2′ 197 LBS. He has big strong 9 3/4″ hands he uses to snatch the ball out of the air. Needs to work on his strength as he only put up 9 reps on his bench press. he doesn’t have blazing speed but is plenty fast with a 4.55 40.He can get up in the air and get it as his 37″ vertical tell you and plenty of explosion with a 12″ broad jump.
He comes from a football family as his dad played for San Francisco and the Steelers winning a SuperBowl with the Cowher led group. He transferred from a community college in his Junior season and had a great season with the Broncos catching 56 balls for 1,129 yards and 1 scores. He was even better in 2017 being named first-team all conference with 83 catches and piling up 1,511 yards and 7 scores. Wilson is a great value pick in the 5th round as he comes with the physical and mental makeup to be an instant contributor and become a possible #2 option right off the bat. He is polished with a high IQ, great hands, timing on 50/50 balls and gets separation with sharp precise cuts and can win on all 3 levels at all 3 WR spots and run any route you ask of him. Makes big plays as he had 26 % of his grabs go for 25 yards or more.
181st Overall-Jordan Akins-Tight End-Central Florida: Bears find a pretty good move Tight End prospect in the 6th round. Akins has good size at 6’3″ 249 yards with 32 1/2 inch arms and 9 1/2″ arms. He did not participate in the drills due to a pulled hamstring but his speed and quickness, as well as overall athleticism, are evident on his tape. He originally came on campus as a Wide Receiver. He did have a torn ACL his Sophomore season and bulked up during his rehab to be able to make the switch to Tight End. He was named to the First-Team All-ACC in 2017 with 32 receptions for 515 yards. He is 25 and will be 26 during the season as he tried his hand in baseball first being drafted by the Texas Rangers in the third round. So that’s a big reason why a talented guy like this dropped to the 7th round.
Akins is a natural pass catcher catching balls away from his frame and plucking it out of the air. He brings a lot of speed and gets great separation on his routes which he runs with great precision and skill. Won’t block all that much but has the frame to be a pretty decent one out of the H-back position. Akins is a big play threat on all three levels as evident by 43.7 % of his catches going for 20 plus yards in 2017.
224th Overall-Chase Edmonds-Running Back-Fordham Last pick for the Bears is small school Running Back Chase Edmonds. Edmonds is a shorter stout back with a lot of explosion as testament to his athletic scores. He doesn’t bring sprinter speed but has good enough speed running a 4.55 40. His game is more about quickness and power. His 19 reps at 5’9″ 205 on the bench show his upper body strength and his agility scores show his quicks off.
Edmonds was very productive right from the get go. As a freshman he amassed 1,838 yards rushing with 23 TD’s on 294 carries and caught 19 passes for 121 yards and a TD. As a sophomore, he put up more crazy numbers with 1,648 rushing yards and 20 TD’s on the ground on 251 carries. Showed off his receiving abilities with 31 receptions and 383 yards along with 5 TD’s through the air. He was named first-team FCS All-American in his junior season by producing 1,799 yards on the ground with 19 TD’s on only 257 carries which gave him an average of 163.5 yards per game. Had leg injuries in his senior season which limited his production to only 7 games and 136 carries for 577 yards and 5 Td’s. Also managed to get 11 catches for 129 yards receiving.
So the Bears get great value here as Edmonds likely goes much higher in an average Running Back class and not one as deep and talented as this years. He also likely drops by having an injury plagued senior season. Edmonds offers a good change of pace for Howard who can also lower the shoulder for the tough yards and at the goal line who can also catch the ball and contribute as a returner as well.
Coda: In my first 2 mocks I had the Bears going heavy on offense. As you can see I kind of changed my tune. Mostly because of the rumors about Bears going heavy in Free Agent offensive talent. This makes a ton of sense as the Bears have a lot of raw inexperienced players on offense and experienced players on tgat side of the ballvwould help accelerate the success ofctge new system. Defensively they have a lot of established veteran leadership. Also the defense purged many of its vets. So after going mostly offense in last year’s draft they will need to replenish their young talent.