Chicago Bears Draft Preview: Linebacker tiers
In which round should the Chicago Bears grade out these linebacker prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft?
With less than two weeks to go in the 2018 NFL draft, I am going to step into the chair of Ryan Pace and rank some of the positional groups. With the Chicago Bears being mocked Tremaine Edmunds often and having Nick Kwiatkowski penciled in as a starter it makes sense the team may explore linebacker in the draft. When should the team pull the trigger on each prospect?
Before complaining remember a few things:
Yes, I know some of these players will not be there at their respective round. This is where Pace would value that player if he asked me. This is also a valuation of the players round in relation to the Bears. If he is not worthy of the Bears eighth overall pick, he is not a first-round prospect in this ranking system, and so on.
Yes, that also means I know the Bears do not have a third-round pick. Some of these players in that gap of lower second and third round prospects likely just will not work out for the Bears plans unless they trade up, which is unadvised. Still, if one of the names in the third round tier is there in the fourth round, this is a pick I would value highly.
It is a way to see how need meets value in terms of best player available at the position. Who are some of the linebackers who also could fit into the Bears draft plans?
1. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
Bears Tremaine Edmunds Draft Profile
2. Roquan Smith, Georgia
Bears Roquan Smith Draft Profile
Film Room: Roquan Smith vs. Tremaine Edmunds
As highlighted above, if the Chicago Bears were to take a linebacker at pick number eight, the preference would be Edmunds. However, unlike popular belief, it is his upside in coverage that makes him more intriguing than his versatility as a pass rusher. Edmunds is a true off-ball linebacker, but his upside in that position unbelievably high. Smith is a finished product who uses instincts and understanding to make huge plays. However, physically, his ceiling falls below Edmunds, making Edmunds a better pick.
3. Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Leighton Vander Esch Draft Profile
How Vander Esch to Bears works: If the Bears trade back anywhere into the middle of the first round, Vander Esch is in play. Vander Esch is Edmunds-lite. He is equally as explosive, but Edmunds plays with more power and physicality. However, if Vander Esch can fill out, the upside in his ability to roam sideline to sideline is sky high.
4. Rashaan Evans, Alabama
How Evans to Chicago Bears works: Evans is the best fit next to Danny Trevathan of the bunch. He is the inside bruiser who can blitz and stuff the run. However, athletically, he is not a Ryan Pace first round pick. If he fell into round two, the team would have to consider.
5. Malik Jefferson, Texas
How Jefferson to Chicago Bears works: Jefferson is one of those players who are too high for the second round pick, but will not be there for the fourth round pick. His upside is high, but his questionable run instincts and angles likely take him off of the Bears target list.
6. Fred Warner, BYU
Chicago Bears 5 Mid Round Targets: Fred Warner
How Warner to Chicago Bears works: In our recent 7-round mock draft, Warner fell to the fourth round via Matt Miller’s board. That is a time to strike. Warner is going to impact early as a sub-package player but showed run stuffing ability between the tackles as well.
7. Genard Avery, Memphis
Chicago Bears 5 Mid-round Targets: Genard Avery
How Avery to Chicago Bears works: Avery is another player who could fall into round four due to his questionable upside. However, he can rush off of the edge, and defend the run inside. Plus, he has special teams value. Avery could be a solid mid-round add.
8. Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
How Leonard to Chicago Bears works: Darius Leonard is another player who may end up in the space of too high for the fourth round, but not worth the second round pick. He is essentially the small school Malik Jefferson. A long and rangy linebacker who can find ways to get on the field in coverage. However, his instincts are what had him in a lower level of competition, and while he made up for them due to his athleticism there, he still has more to show to get on an NFL field.
9. Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
Chicago Bears 5 Mid-round linebacker targets: Jack Cichy
How Cichy to Chicago Bears works: Cichy is a dark horse and a player who likely will go lower than this projected round. He has injury question marks, but when healthy is an impactful linebacker. He was healthy enough to show up and put up great athletic testing numbers so in a lower round when still available, the Bears should find great value in Cichy.
10. Josey Jewell, Iowa
How Jewell works on Chicago Bears: Jewell is a bit older and is limited in range. However, next season he is competing to start over Nick Kwiatkowski. Jewell is instinctive and showed well against Saquon Barkley in coverage. That says something.
11. Micah Kiser, Virginia
How Kiser to Chicago Bears works: Kiser is a player a bit too small to bang between the tackles, but does not have the quick twitch and change of direction to roam sideline to sideline. However, he is an instinctive player who just finds himself near the football. When he put up some combine numbers to match it is tough to doubt Kiser after his college career. Kiser’s stock ranges depending on where you find him, but the Bears should only take him in the fourth or fifth round, and likely should pass on him with their first fourth-round pick as well.
12. Mike McCray, Michigan
How McCray works with Chicago Bears: McCray is an old-school linebacker in a new school NFL. Still, 3-4 teams, like the Bears will be interested in his run stuffing in the middle. He can fit in next to Danny Trevathan. His value is only to a few teams and his questionable range of coverage could see him slipping into the fifth round or later. This makes him in play for what the Bears are looking for.
13. Shaquem Griffen, UCF
How Griffen works for Chicago Bears: I think we all know the story of Shaquem Griffin. A first-round athlete and a second-round talent will fall into the fourth round range because some are unsure how he translates to the NFL without a hand. It is a bit unprecedented, but his hustle plays, instincts and athleticism make him a special teams asset at the least. In the fourth round, I have no problem with Shaquem Griffen.
14. Oren Burks, Vanderbilt
How Oren Burks works for Chicago Bears: Burks is essentially a bigger safety. he is limited in his run defense but is a instinctual and fluid in coverage. As a mid round pick he has a limited ceiling but can get on the field early in sub-package football.
15. Jerome Baker, Ohio State
How Baker works with Chicago Bears: Burks and Baker can be looked at in a similar way. Baker struggles with getting through blocks, even in the second level, but his athleticism and speed can get him on the field early due to sub-package football.
16. TeGray Scales, Indiana
How Scales works for Chicago Bears: Scales is a more instinctive player who is better at shedding blocks and understanding angles. However, like Baker and Burks he is a player who is here mostly for passing downs due to his size.
17. Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson
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Chicago Bears 5 mid round linebacker targets: Dorian O’Daniel
How O’Daniel works with Chicago Bears: immediately O’Daniel is a stud on special teams. However, his speed and closing ability can be utilized early into his career. He is a role player who should be able to see the field, despite a limited ceiling.
19. Christian Sam, Arizona State
How Sam works for Chicago Bears: Christian Sam has the strength and size to find himself a spot as a depth linebacker who can step in for two downs. However, he is not natural in space. They can get a strong special teams option here, but the upside of a starter may be limited.
18. Andre Smith, Kentucky
How Andre Smith works for Chicago Bears: On tape, Smith grades out a bit better than Sam, mainly because he is more instinctive. However, Smith has had multiple knee surgeries and is coming off of season-ending knee surgery as well. He ran well, but his lateral agility is what will be questioned and what may limit him to special teams.
20. Shaun Dion-Hamilton, Alabama
How Dion-Hamilton works for Chicago Bears: Shaun Dion-Hamilton was once a relied on, up and coming linebacker in the Alabama tree. However, an ACL and knee fracture limited most of what he could do in the past two seasons. That also completely limits his upside. All reports point to his character, work ethic and smarts so to bring his presence in and to add to the special teams unit with Dion-Hamilton is not a bad option at this point.
21. Frank Ginda, San Jose State
Chicago Bears 5 mid round linebacker targets: Frank Ginda
How Ginda fits on Chicago Bears: Ginda led the country in tackles and could not get an invite to the combine. He is a bit undersized, but he is instinctual and still has burst. At this point, it is time to bet on the production.
22. Skai Moore, South Carolina
How Moore fits Chicago Bears: Moore is an instinctual run defender with high praise of his work ethic. However, like Dion-Hamilton and Smith, multiple season ending surgeries limit his athletic upside and ceiling in the NFl.
23. Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State
How DeLuca fits Chicago Bears: Along with playing at a lower level, DeLuca also has a few injuries in his past. However, he was a praised special teamer early in his career and has the same locker room achievements as the others in this tier. The tier essentially shaped out to be the injury prone, special teams locker room guys.
24. Matt Thomas, Florida State
How Thomas fits on Chicago Bears: Thomas was a promising freshman who never ascended that year. He has a great athletic profile but has not seen it transfer to the field in some time. He is a project who you hope to stash on the practice squad.
25. Chris Covington, Indiana
How Covington fits on Chicago Bears: Covington was a quarterback before coming to Indian and even player quarterback there in 2014. Needless to say he is filling into a linebacker body and is raw in instincts. He is another player in which you draft and hope to get on the practice squad.
Tier 8 UDFA
26. Chris Worley, Ohio State
If the team sees Worley as a special teams asset, they could draft him. However, he is likely an undrafted free agent.
27. Azeem Victor, Washington
Victor will be 23 when the season starts, he broke his leg in 2016 and has put on weight and been suspended twice since then. Another team can take a chance on him.