Bears Could Add DL Depth in Supplemental Draft

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports
Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports /
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Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports
Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s not quite official, but multiple media outlets are reporting that Purdue defensive tackle Ra’Zhan Howard will be eligible for the NFL’s supplemental draft in mid-July. Howard was expected to transfer and finish his career elsewhere due to academic issues at Purdue, but he should be available in the supplemental draft which is one of the only NFL-related events that hasn’t become a media circus.

Surprisingly the supplemental draft is done over email. Teams send an email to the league that includes any player they want and what round they are willing to take him in. If that player is available in that round when that team picks, then they are awarded the player and lose a pick in the corresponding round of the real draft next year. It’s a relatively stone-age process compared to the rest of the league’s functions.

Even the draft order isn’t done normally. Teams are separated into three pools based on records and then selected randomly amongst their respective pools. So if a team has the 10th worst record, they have an equal chance of getting the first overall pick as the worst team in the league. I imagine the process will be updated soon, but there are so few players selected in the supplemental draft that it might not be.

In last year’s supplemental draft OT Isaiah Battle out of Clemson was selected by the Rams in the 5th round. I thought the Bears should have taken a late round flyer on Battle due to their lack of depth at left tackle, but he was cut by the Rams so apparently the Bears made the right move.

Before the Battle pick, QB/WR Terrelle Pryor (Raiders, 2011) and WR Josh Gordon (2010, Browns) were the last players of note to be selected in the supplemental draft. Despite the infrequent use of the league’s “2nd chance” draft, the Browns got a Pro Bowl caliber receiver in round two when he would have been a first-round lock in the standard draft.

Gordon is a good example of the players sometimes available in the supplemental rounds. Players with academic issues (Howard), eligibility issues (Pryor), suspensions (Gordon), transfer problems, or extreme financial conditions (Battle) may warrant the league to allow a player to be eligible for the supplemental draft. Other successful NFL players that have been taken in the supplemental rounds include: LB Ahmad Brooks, DT Jamal Williams, WR Rob Moore, WR Chris Carter, LB Brian Bosworth (The Boz!) and QB Bernie Kosar. It doesn’t happen often, but every five years or so a Pro Bowl talent ends up in the supplemental draft as do other useful depth players.

As for the Bears, the only player they have selected in the supplemental draft lately was RB Harvey Unga (2010). The Bears new regime seems more willing to exploit market inefficiencies and may be willing to roll the dice and grab a talented player a few rounds after he would be projected to go in the actual 2017 NFL Draft.

Next: Ra'Zahn Howard