College football bowl season is officially underway. If you are like most NFL fans, you know some of the top NFL draft prospects but that is about it. Since the Bears season has been over for awhile, I’ve been looking forward to the draft for a few months now and have gotten an early start on my scouting for the 2017 NFL draft.
Like last season, I will be breaking down the potential NFL players in most bowl games to give you an idea who to watch. I’ve tried to list at least one player on each team who has a shot at hearing their name called in the draft or at least getting a training camp invite.
If relevant, I’ll discuss how the player may fit in the Bears future plans. So if you end up watching the Camping World Independence Bowl, here are some players to keep an eye on.
Camping World Independence Bowl: NC State vs Vanderbilt
Monday, December 26, 5 p.m., ESPN
#9 DE Bradley Chubb (6’4 | 284 | 4.75)
Team captain who was named 2nd team All-ACC after a dominant season with 9.5 sacks and an FBS-leading 21 tackles for loss (1.8 per game). The cousin of star Georgia running back Nick Chubb, Bradley has been a force off the edge all season.
Chubb came to the Wolfpack as a linebacker but switched to defensive end last year and made significant strides in 2016 as a junior. He played well in conference play, but his biggest game this year came against Notre Dame with three sacks and three and a half tackles for loss.
Chubb has the size, speed, and power to play multiple roles in almost any defensive scheme. He has the strength to be a 4-3 defensive end with enough speed to beat most tackles off the edge. Chubb is also agile enough to be a 3-4 OLB, though he will need some work in coverage before playing on three downs at the next level.
He is a perfect fit for a hybrid scheme (like the Bears), that switches between three and four man fronts. He could even move inside as a 3-tech DT in the right situations. Chubb almost doubled both his sack and TFL totals this year, so is a bit of a late riser on NFL draft boards, but his 2016 tape is worthy of at worst a day two selection.
Chubb has the ability to line up in multiple spots on the front seven and be a force against both the run and pass. He’s been improving every week and might just be scratching the surface of his eventual ceiling. Projected to be a mid-round pick, Chubb would be a steal if he falls anywhere past the third round.
The Bears have the makings of a very good defensive line and adding a versatile piece like Chubb could replace the loss of free agent Cornelius Washington and questionable effectiveness of rookie Jonathan Bullard.
Chubb should probably go back to school for his senior season to fine-tune his pass rush skills, but if he declares for the draft he’s projected to be an early to mid-round pick. If he falls to the draft’s third day, Chubb would be a steal and a great addition to the Bears defensive line.
Projection: 3rd-4th round
#21 RB Matt Dayes (5’9 | 203 | 4.47)
A slightly undersized back, but runs with surprising power between the tackles. Dayes can hold up between the hashes, but excels as an outside runner. He’s had somewhat of a down season with his yards per carry dropping from 6.5 in 2015 to 4.7 this season, but still gained 1,119 yards. His touchdowns also dropped from 12 to 10 this year.
The decrease in numbers not withstanding, Dayes has still been a very effective runner for the Wolfpack. His team didn’t have as much talent on the o-line or at other skill positions which is probably the main reason for the decrease in efficiency.
Dayes shows good patience as a runner and on screen passes, good burst as a one-cut runner, and enough wiggle to make people miss in the open field. He also runs low to the ground and doesn’t shy away from contact, but doesn’t have the bulk to move the pile in traffic at the next level.
Dayes does a little bit of everything for the Wolfpack with 97 career receptions, 28 kick returns, and solid blocking in pass pro. His skills translate best as a third-down back in the pros, where his natural hands, ability to pluck the ball at its high point, and toughness to make contested catches will all play well.
It’s a deep running back class in this year’s draft which will drop Dayes farther than most years, but he has the potential to be a solid third-down back and maybe more at the next level. The Bears have been trying to make Jeremy Langford a 3rd down back, but I don’t think he’s the answer.
The Bears should be looking for a reliable receiving back in this year’s draft and could get good value from Dayes if he drops to the middle of day three.
Projection: 4th-5th round
#29 CB Jack Tocho (6’0 | 200 | 4.53)
Four-year starter and team captain who has ideal length for teams looking for a big corner. Luckily for Tocho, that’s pretty much every team in the league.
Tocho hasn’t put up big numbers with just five interceptions in four years as a starter, but his size is an asset, he has enough speed to run with most receivers, and is aggressive against the run with 121 total tackles.
He doesn’t have any skills that stand out, but Tocho wouldn’t have started for four years if he wasn’t a competent cover guy. He’s big and quck enough to hold his own in man coverage on the outside at the NFL level, strong enough to contribute against the run, and has good enough awareness to play in zone schemes.
Tocho’s ceiling is probably a sub-package corner in the NFL, but with passing offenses more prevalent than ever a tall, competent, sub-package corner has significant value. With the Bears looking for both corner depth and size at the position, Tocho could be a name on their radar.
Projection: 6th-7th round