Chicago Bears – Undrafted Free Agent Targets (Defense)

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I covered some undrafted free agent targets on offense yesterday and now I’ll get to the defensive players. This is one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, so the Bears have a legitimate shot to pick up a few NFL caliber players after the draft this year. They haven’t had much luck with UFAs in the past , but other teams have (Vontez Burfict, Arian Foster, Wes Welker, James Harrison, Antonio Gates) so it isn’t that far-fetched. Here is a breakdown by position of some players that might be available after the draft and would fit the Bears needs. I used my most recent mock draft, NFL.com’s player grades, and multiple mock drafts (CBS Sports, Walter Football, Drafttek) to determine who might be available as undrafted free agents. If you have a potential undrafted player who you think is a good fit for the Bears that isn’t mentioned here, post it in the comments.

Defensive Tackle

Lack of depth at DT was the primary reason for the collapse of the Bears defense last year. There’s no way Emery makes that mistake again (hopefully). I was tempted to draft two DTs for the Bears in my mock because they probably need a third 3-tech DT. Nate Collins has never made it through a full season without missing at least a few games and as promising as Aaron Donald is on paper, sometimes rookies need a year or two before they can compete at the NFL level. I think the Bears will add a free agent DT before the end of the off-season but even if they do, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add a couple of rookie DTs as well even if they end up on the practice squad. It’s the most important position in the Bears scheme so there is no such thing as too much depth. They should never have to sign guys off the street like they did last year. That was embarrassing and probably Emery’s biggest mistake so far (McClellin is a close 2nd).

Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss (6’3, 304): Raw technique, but good strength (28 reps) and quickness. Thornton played against weak competition in college but was the best player on the field in the NFLPA bowl. He has a quick first step and NFL athleticism. He’s ideally a practice squad guy in 2014, but with some coaching he could be a valuable rotation guy at the 3-technique position in 2015 with starter upside in a couple of years.

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Gaston, Purdue (6’2, 308): Gaston caught my attention during the week of the East / West Shrine game and I was surprised that he didn’t receive a combine invite. He had a bit of a down year in 2013 after Purdue switched to 3-4 scheme. Gaston was more effective in 2012 as a 4-3 DT showing surprising lateral quickness and the ability to get off blocks.  He had a solid pro day with a 4.95 40-time, 34 bench reps, and a 34″ vertical. His bench output would have been 3rd among D-linemen at the combine and his vertical 8th, which isn’t bad for a 308 pounder. Gaston would be good depth at the 3-tech for the Bears and potentially more with some added strength and experience.

Chris Whaley, Texas (6’3, 269): Former running back at Texas, who outgrew the position and switched to DT. Great speed and quickness for the position, but has raw technique and needs to gain weight to hold up against the run. Sound familiar? Whaley is a Henry Melton clone as a prospect and like Melton would take a few years of development before he is ready to contribute, but has similar upside.

Defensive End

You can never have enough pass rushers. I love the Houston, Allen, and Young free agent moves but don’t have much faith in the DEs from last season’s roster (Bass, Ozougwa, Washington) so bringing in some young competition seems like a good idea to me. Unfortunately DE is probably the thinnest position in an otherwise extremely deep draft.

Zach Moore

Zach Moore, Concordia (6’5, 269) – Small school prospect with great physical tools, but raw technique. Moore has an intriguing combination of size, agility and strength but would be making a big jump up in competition from DII Concordia University. Moore had 33 sacks in 33 games in his college career and flashed natural pass rush ability while still being a solid run stopper. Moore needs a lot of technique work and needs to get stronger, but has more upside than most of the D-lineman taken on day 3 of the draft. The Bears are stacked with veteran pass rushers right now, but can’t give up on developing some young talent at the position. I think Moore will get drafted, but the majority of draft sites have him being available as an undrafted free agent.

Kasim Edebali, Boston College (6’2, 253) -  Has an extremely quick first step, but that’s about it right now. Edebali is too thin to be a 3-down DE and not fluid enough to be an OLB. He came over from Germany as a 19 year old, so is relatively new to the game and will be 24 as a rookie. Edebali’s best chance to stick in the NFL is to utilize his explosive first step as a 3rd down pass rush specialist. He has some potential as a Mark Anderson type pass rush specialist.

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Tags: BooBoo Gates Boseko Lokombo Brock Vereen Bruce Gaston Caleb Lavey Carrington Byndom Chicago Bears Chris Whaley Khryi Thornton Marquis Spruill Mock Draft NFL Draft Nick Addison Nickoe Whitley Pierre Warren Travis Carrie Zach Moore

  • FJ doreza

    Here’s my list of late round or UFA’s, Dontae Johnson, Aaron Colvin, Walt Aikens, Dexter Moody, Travis Carrie, I agree with you on that for sure, Qua Cox, Lamin Barrow, Derron Furr, Larry Webster, Jesse Dickson, Ed Stinson, Kevin Pierre Louis, QB Dray Joseph, Dustin Vaughan C Matt Armstrong, Gabe Ikard, TE Xavier Grimble, AC Leonard, FB Trey Millard, Gator Hoskins, DT Deandre Coleman,Zach Kerr, Caraun Reid. FS Tre Boston, Jamea Thomas, Jonathan Dowling, Ty Zimmerman.

    • Mike Flannery

      That’s a big list! I think Dontae Johnson, Walt Aikens, Carun Reid, & Tre Boston will be gone by the end of the 4th round. Colvin, Barrow, Webster, Stinson, Coleman, and Dowling somewhere in rounds 4-6. Deron Furr, Pierre-Louis (as a safety), D Vaughan, and Qua Cox just missed making my list.

      • FJ doreza

        Yeah, I was going by a couple different scouting sites as some had guys like Zach Kerr going before the 3rd and others between 6-7th. It’s a big list because this really is a deep draft, especially for the DB’s. Good value with some surprising athletes and very good speed and size that are projected to be 4-7th rounders. Dontae Johnson, Walt Aikens and Travis Carrie I really like, they’re all big, fast and athletic. Johnson and Carrie are both sub 4.5-40 guys and about 6-2. Walt is a a step slower but played well at the Senior Bowl. Some had him go from 5-7th, and Carrie and Johnson, who was ranked as the 7th best SS and projected 5-7th. I know people love Dix and Pryor but I don’t think they are worth first round picks Pryor disappointed at the combine but honestly his hype is all about big hits that get a lot of flags, and hitting defenseless guys who don’t see you coming is not really a talent. He is good but not great. I think SS Craig Loston, who was a preseason player to watch is a better all around safety from a solid program at LSU. I have just recently watched a bunch of LSU games and Loston highlights. I like his game, he can hit big but I prefer a guy who can wrap them up and knock out the ball or range to cover and intercept passes. He, and the other FS I like Ed Reynolds, who has a similar all around game, both have their things to work on but they were very productive, consistent and trusted members of their respective defenses. Some have them going in late 2nd to 4th round. If you haven’t seen Trey Millard FB, OK 6-3 247 . FB Gator Hoskins 6-2 245 and TE AC Leonard 6-2 250 are all Impressive athletes with good hands and speed for men of their size. They can block, run very well and since they have very good hands, can also be used as a TE. A.C. Leonard TE was formerly a Florida guy, had some issues. He is one of my BIG sleeper picks. He recently ran a 4.43-40 !!!???. He has very good hands with a big catching zone. He runs like a power RB and at 250 lbs is faster than most of them, and is projected as a 7th – UFA. Any of these guys can be a WMD and fill the power back role that M Bush once had, and if they can be picked late or as UFA’a,they are little risk, high reward. Check out their highlights. I still would love Van Noy or Shazier in the 2nd and Zach M in the 3rd unless he might go up or down. Every time I watch the LSU vs Texas game, I’m not even an LSU fan, I can imagine Zach throwing high point and back shoulder throws to our guys. The game also shows me the other immature, wanna- be who can’t run an offense very well, and chose to run instead of passing to wide open receivers from the pocket. My buddy Johnny Douche Bag, Johnny Frat Boy, Johnny Trademark, Johnny Pay Me, Johnny No Pockets, Johnny Should a Run, and Johnny Loves ChaChi…yeah I don’t care for him much..I will now pray for Aaron Donald…Thanks, and sorry to run on Mr. Flannery, I appreciate that you even replied, for some reason I’m really into this years draft…maybe it’s because of some polarizing players that are getting people more involved then ever. I need new job, maybe if I learn to speak and write in English I might give it a whirl.

        • Mike Flannery

          Aikens ran a 4.46 at his pro day, so he’s got the speed. I watched almost every game he played as a freshman at Illinois and he was impressive. I think he’s a 3rd round talent.

          I think Dix is a 1st round talent, but in the 20-30 range. I agree with you on Pryor, I think he is a little overrated at his point and have him graded as an early 2nd rounder.

          I like both Reynolds and Loston quite a bit and would be fine with the Bears drafting both of them in rounds 2 & 3. I like Deone Bucannon and Jimmy Ward more than Loston, but think both of those guys will be gone by the end of round 2.

          I have wrote about AC Leonard a couple times since watching him at the combine. I was very impressed and think he would be a high upside addition to the Bears as a late round pick or UFA.

          http://beargoggleson.com/2014/04/02/chicago-bears-undrafted-free-agent-targets/

          Van Noy & Shazier are two of my favorite players in this draft, but I’m pretty sure they will both be gone by the time the Bears pick in round 2.

          I am higher on Z Metterberger than most. I have him going early in round 2 and think he has more upside then all but the top 3 guys. He needs a good o-line cause he’s not mobile at all, but he has a special arm. Check out my latest 7-round mock draft if you get a chance:

          http://beargoggleson.com/2014/03/27/nfl-mock-draft-2-0-7-rounds/

          Finally found something we can disagree on. I think Manziel is going to be a good (possibly great) NFL QB. Though I do agree that he is douchy off the field.

          Aaron Donald is a top 10 talent and a perfect fit for the Bears. Let’s hope he’s still around at 14!

          • FJ doreza

            OMG both you and Skip Bayless…UhhhG…Just Kidding, that’s good to know that someone understands Zach’s talent. I was watching FIrst Take when Merrill Hoge gave his assessment of J Manziel, and for the exact same reasons that I observed, he also felt that JM would be a huge risk, especially in the first round. His reasons mirror my own. Besides his height that effects his ability to see the field, or his build, I don’t care what he weighs because once he’s in the NFL he’s going to appear more like a boy in a mans game even more so. Hoge also pointed out that he had a hard time finding a series when he was able to run plays, check downs and make throws from the pocket with any structure or discipline. He often forgoes making a throw to a wide open receiver on a crossing route, nor does he attempt any back shoulder, sideline outs, digs etc. Why didn’t he make the throw instead of tucking and running? Can he make plays? Sure..He thrives in chaos but often times lady luck is often there to bail him out, and when he played LSU, a team with a solid defense and game plan, he looked lost and incapable. He routinely throws to one guy, Evans and maybe a couple times to whomever. His numbers are inflated because they had no running game. Now I don’t know if it’s by design, or if his coach gave him too much rope to hang himself with, which is what will happen in the NFL.To be fair, I won’t judge him on his frat-tard-ness, which is something that NFL management would take very seriously. I have watched his games and highlights and he does one thing well…run..away..draw defenders and make a short throw to a wide open, stationary receiver. Yes, once in a while they’re moving, but really, when you look at a highlight film of a possible first round drat pick you’d expect to see some sharp passes from in and out of the pocket…I’m not saying he can’t succeed in the NFL, but as a Bears fan, I wouldn’t think you would be all too thrilled for the Bears to draft in in the first round knowing that a legitimate NFL QB like Zach would be available later on. I guarantee if the Bears drafted him their would be mutiny. But hey maybe the Vikings will draft him so Allen, Young, Houston and hopefully Donald, can knock the…French Fry’d Pa taters out of him…Maybe we have to rip on Mettenberger, make him look bad. He’s too slow, his arm sucks..he looks a bit like Kutcher….booo Zach…don’t pick him.

  • Jacquelin

    Randy Ponder from the University of Missouri is going to be a steal for some NFL team in this year’s 2014 draft