Bears Day 2 Draft Prospects: D-Line

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /
3 of 3
Matthew O
Matthew O /

Austin Johnson, Penn St (6’4 | 314 | 5.32) 

Big enough to play multiple spots on the Bears 3-man front and put up impressive tackle stats in college for an interior linemen. Johnson plays with a non-stop motor and the strength to hold his ground against double teams. He also showed a knack for reading plays and always being around the ball, which should get him on the field early in his career. As a junior he reached his career high in sacks with 6 and won’t be an impact pass rusher at the next level, but can get enough push to collapse the pocket and may win the occasional 1-1 match-up and pick up a few sacks per season.

The knocks on Johnson are that he too often is satisfied with holding his ground against double teams and hasn’t develop any pass rush moves. The majority of Johnson’s plays were due to his above-average effort level and awareness instead of explosion off the line or pass-rush technique. That might not be as effective at the next level.

Johnson is strong enough to play right away, there is no worry about his effort level, and he has the versatility to play anywhere in the Bears front three or move inside in four man fronts. He’s a bit of a reach in round two, but would be a great value in the third round.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Shawn Oakman, Baylor (6’8 | 287 | 4.87) 

On paper Oakman would be a first round pick as he has ideal size, strength, and athleticism, but the production and consistency just weren’t there often enough in 2015 for a team to risk a first rounder on the mercurial Oakman. Despite the ability to dominate physically, Oakman had just 4.5 sacks last season.

It’s hard to believe a guy with his elite physicality could make that little of an impact at the college level while reportedly being 100% healthy.  Oakman is an absolute freak athletically and has been productive in the past like in 2014 when he had 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He’s shown he can dominate, but his 2015 performance was a red flag.

If Oakman was taking his foot off the gas to avoid injury, why not just declare for the draft after the 2014 season? Oakman would have been a lock for the first round if he had. The Bears could get a steal on Oakman if he falls to the third or he could be out of the league in a few seasons. It’s a dice roll, but Oakman’s upside is as high as any defensive linemen in the draft.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports /

Jihad Ward, Illinois (6’5 | 297 | 5.07)

Two time All-BIG honorable mention in his only two years on an awful Illini squad while rotating between playing DE and DT. Ward has the size, strength, and athleticism to play both inside and out at the next level as well. He wasn’t very productive (4.5 sacks in 2 years), but the former high school wide receiver moves very well for a big man and is understandably raw with just a few seasons playing on the d-line.

Ward’s athleticism stood out at the combine and he gave offensive linemen as hard of a time as any d-line prospect in Mobile and most of those guys are projected to guy much higher in the draft. His long arms (33 5/8″), mold-able talent, and natural ability could make him a favorite of Bears DC Vic Fangio, who could develop Ward into a stud 5-tech for the Bears. It may take a few seasons, but Ward has the upside to be an impact player as a 3-4 DE.