Chicago Bears: What to Expect Out of New LB Matthew Wells


On Monday, the Chicago Bears swung a deal with the New England Patriots. The Bears gave up some of their depth on the interior offensive line by sending guard Ryan Groy to the Patriots in exchange for rookie linebacker Matthew Wells. Groy is a solid offensive guard who, but the Bears certainly got the player with more upside here.

Wells was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round (178th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft. He was mostly an unknown prospect by the masses throughout the draft process, but there is no doubting his speed, athleticism and defensive versatility on tape. Check it out for yourself:

Just by watching the video above, Wells’ upside on the football field is obvious. Now, clearly the college game is different from the NFL, but Wells was prepared in the tough SEC while playing at Mississippi State.

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On the field, Wells showed an impressively versatile skill-set. He showed the ability to defend the run both by taking on blockers and knifing in the backfield and making plays. Wells also showed the skills to rush the passer from the outside. He has an extremely quick step that allows him to beat slower offensive lineman with regularity.

Wells’ best skill as a defensive football player is his ability in coverage. At Mississippi State, he showed the ability to cover backs, tight ends and even wide receivers in man-to-man coverage. He has obvious speed and athleticism that allows him to keep up with pretty much any offensive skill position player. Now, in the NFL he will probably not be able to cover elite level wide receivers, but he could certainly cover the slot, and will be a weapon against skillful backs and tight ends.

Nov 15, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs linebacker Matthew Wells (22) breaks up a pass for Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver ArDarius Stewart (13) in the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

In college, Wells primarily lined up as a wide outside linebacker. From that position he would either drop back into coverage or rush the passer about equally throughout the game. While he typically played that OLB position, Wells also saw plenty of time at inside linebacker, safety and even cornerback.

Probably what caught the Patriots’ eye and caused them to draft him was his performance at the Mississippi State pro day. Wells was not invited to the scouting combine, but he did not miss his opportunity to shine at his pro day.

According to Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger, Wells ran an official 4.41 40-yard dash at his pro day, with some scouts clocking him as low as 4.33. He also put up an impressive 35.5″ vertical leap and a broad jump of 9-feet 10-inches. Simply put, Wells put on a show at his pro day, forcing scouts to put him on their radar.

My guess is that Bears general manager Ryan Pace and his staff had Wells on their radar, and were targeting him in the seventh-round or as a priority free agent. When the Patriots scooped him up, but soon realized that they do not have room on their roster for him, Pace was ready to swoop in and take a chance.

Oct 11, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs linebacker Matthew Wells (22) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the game against the Auburn Tigers at Davis Wade Stadium. Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated the Auburn Tigers 38-23. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

It will be very interesting to see what the Bears plan to do with Wells. He is listed as a linebacker by the Patriots, but at only 6-foot-2, 215 pounds with a frame that does not appear to be able to support much more weight, I would be surprised if he actually ends up being an NFL linebacker. Personally, I think the Bears see him as a possible safety.

New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio typically likes to play with one deep safety, and one who roams the field from inside the box. To me, Wells’ skill-set would fit perfectly into the down-safety position in Fangio’s defense. His speed and versatility would appear to work well with freedom and space to run around and make plays.

If nothing else, Wells is a good special teams player with elite upside. He could contribute on coverage teams right away.

I can see why both sides made this deal, but I like the move for the Bears. Groy was unlikely to move the needle much even if he did receive some time on the offensive line. While he is far from a sure thing, Wells is a player who has the upside to help the Bears defense tremendously. Fangio needs to find horses to fit his 3-4 defense, and Wells has the talent to become one.

Next: Five Players to Watch in Bears Training Camp

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