Fixing the Bears Defense (Part 5: NFL Draft / D-Line)

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Defensive End

While it’s a good draft overall for defense, the defensive end position is pretty weak. Ja’veon Clowney is obviously the big name, but he only had 3 sacks last year. Clowney has a world of potential, but he’ll be long gone by the time the Bears pick at 14. A few other DEs have Pro Bowl potential, but all of them have some question marks. The Bears definitely need help at DE.  There is a strong chance the Bears will waive Julius Peppers and his $18M cap hit, which only leaves McClellin, Bass, Washington, and maybe Wooten (if re-signed) at DE. That’s a scary thought. I expect they will add a DE or two in free agency (Houston, hopefully) but I will be shocked if they don’t at least draft one DE prospect. Here are a couple options:

Round 1:

Stephon Tuitt (6’6, 315) ND: Got off to a slow start in 2013 due to an extended recovery from a sports hernia but still finished with 7.5 sacks and 9.5 TFLs. Tuitt may have been playing at less than 100% for most of the season because he looked a little stiff and not quite as explosive as he did in 2012 when he led the Irish with 12 sacks as a sophomore. Tuitt has ideal size and strength for a DE with surprising speed for a big man. Tuitt doesn’t have the explosiveness of a pure speed rusher, but compensates with exceptional strength and a myriad of polished pass-rushing moves that should allow him to get to the QB at the next level. He plays the run well, showing the ability to maintain gap responsibility and containment. With his size, speed, and skill vs the run and pass, Tuitt could excel in either a 4-3 or 3-4 alignment. In a 4-3 he could even more inside on passing downs and provide pressure up the middle. I’ve seen Tuitt going to the Bears in a few different mock drafts and would be pretty happy if that happens.

NFL comparison: Lamarr Houston

Highlights

Round 2:

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Trent Murphy (6’6, 261) STAN: It’s hard not to wary of any DE/OLB tweener after the lack of production from Shea McClellin so far, but just because they share similar physical attributes doesn’t mean that Murphy is going to mimic McClellin’s struggles in the NFL. Murphy is a well rounded DE prospect with adequate size, strength, and speed to be an solid NFL edge rusher. What sets Murphy apart are his instinctive pass rushing moves. He has flashed a quick spin move, powerful bull-rush, and the ability to get surprisingly low coming off the edge despite being 6’6. Murphy has a non-stop motor as well but is much more than just an “effort guy”. His long arms allow him to keep separation from blockers and close off lanes in the running game and he’s surprisingly decent in coverage though that skill probably won’t be utilized as a 4-3 DE. Overall, Murphy is just a good football player and would be an asset coming off the edge for the Bears in 2014.

NFL comparison: Patrick Kerney

Highlights

Round 3-4:

Aaron Lynch (6’6, 244) SFL: Was a freshman All-American at Notre Dame (5.5 sacks, 7 TFLs) before transferring to South Florida (homesick) and sitting out a year. Lynch was hyped as a potential All-American before his junior year but wasn’t as good for his new school, despite playing against considerably weaker competition. Lynch has ideal size for a speed rushing DE and his unusually long arms that allow him to maintain separation from blockers. He has showcased multiple pass-rush moves in his short college career and at times looks like a top-10 prospect. He finished 2013 with four sacks in his last three games and if Lynch had shown that type of production the whole year, he’s be a 1st round lock. All of the physical tools are there for Lynch but when the production isn’t, it’s a red flag. Speaking of flags, Lynch has had issues with keeping his emotions in check on the field and has been a penalty magnet in his two years in CFB. Despite a couple of concerns, Lynch has the tools to be great and is your classic boom-or-bust prospect. He is well worth the risk if he falls to the 3rd round.

NFL Comparison: DeMarcus Ware

Highlights

Jackson Jeffcoat (6’5, 250) TEX: Was extremely productive for Texas as a senior with 80 tackles (led team), 13 sacks, 21 TFLs, and an INT. Despite his elite production, Jeffcoat is considered only a mid-round pick because he’s a tweener, has been injured in 3 of his 4 seasons at Texas, and his pass-rush technique needs a lot of work. Jeffcoat has the frame to add weight, so he should eventually be big enough to be a 3-down DE. He made it through his senior season without injury so maybe the injuries were a fluke. Technique can be taught; The fact that Jeffcoat had 13 sacks by mainly relying on his athleticism is pretty impressive. Jeffcoat’s father, Jim Jeffcoat, had a 10-year NFL career and complied 102 sacks during that time. I think Jeffcoat has as much potential to be an impact DE as any mid-round prospect in the draft and I hope the Bears give him a look in 3rd or 4th round.

NFL Comparison: Brian Robison

Highlights

Round 5+

Larry Webster (6’7, 240) Bloomberg: Was a star basketball player at DII Bloomberg University before joining the football team his senior year. Webster only played 2 years of football at Bloomberg, but was dominant (26 sacks, 31 TFLs). The competition level is huge question mark, but Webster showed excellent speed and quickness for his size and some natural pass-rush ability. Webster needs at least a year of strength training and about 15-20 pounds before he can make an impact in the NFL, but he eventually could develop into a dangerous pass rusher. Some team will take a flyer on his size and natural ability late in the draft. His father, former NFL DL Larry Webster Sr, played 11 years in the NFL and won a super bowl with the Ravens in 2001.

NFL Comparison: Michael Johnson

Highlights

Schedule:

Defensive Coordinator (1/6)

Defensive scheme: 3-4 (1/7)

Current Bear Free Agents: (1/8)

NFL Free Agents: (1/10)

Draft Picks – Defense:

Defensive Line (1/15)

Linebackers (1/16)

Defensive Backs (1/17)

 Twitter: @MikeFlannery_

 

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Topics: 2014 Nfl Draft, Chicago Bears

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