Bears combine confidential

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Here are five players to keep an eye on as possible Chicago Bears targets when the NFL scouting combine kicks into high gear with on-field workouts beginning Friday.

1. Danny Shelton, DT, Washington….Shelton fits the bill as the prototypical nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme. He’s a massive wide-body whose girth belies his ability to chase plays down all over the field. Uses his strength and under-rated athletic skills to split double teams and become a disruptive force. Shelton doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, instead relying on a bull rush to force his way into the backfield, and can get tied up on occasion. The thing that sets him apart is a high football IQ and never give up approach. Shelton often finds the ball and makes plays all over the field, thanks to his relentlessness and savvy.

2. Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida….Fowler is an intriguing rush man who combines size/speed/instincts to find the quarterback. Really came on in 2014, displaying the type of consistent play and effort that excite NFL evaluators. Fowler boasts an excellent first step and the ability to finish. Long arms provide him the wingspan to take advantage of opposing offensive lineman who are slow out of their stance. Versatile enough to rush from different angles and projects as either a 3-4 rush backer or a 4-3 defensive end with his hand in the dirt. Can even kick inside on some alignments, further complicating an offense’s blocking schemes.Motor runs hot, witnessed by his effort in a meaningless bowl game after he announced his early entry into the NFL. Fowler dominated the game, earning MVP honors in Florida’s win over East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl.

3. Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State/Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke….Smith is a slender, speedster who excels at getting separation and making the big catch downfield, but isn’t consistent with intermediate routes. Some suspect his hands aren’t reliable enough, but anyone who watched the Buckeyes march toward the national championship views Smith as a big-time playmaker with rare, explosive speed.

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Crowder, meanwhile, is an undersized wideout who doubles as a punt returner. His forte is the craftiness to find open spaces, run precise routes, and demonstrate dependable hands. Crowder has a high football IQ, not surprising given his Duke pedigree, and plays much larger than his size. While not the fastest, he possesses quick feet and the instincts to find open spaces in the secondary. Crowder’s punt return skills give him another avenue to crack a team’s roster and contribute.

4. David Cobb, RB, Minnesota…..Cobb is an inside the tackles runner with little shake and bake but the strength and vision to locate creases and power through tacklers. Good size and solidly built with thick tree-trunk legs, Cobb produced for the Gophers and displayed the skills to handle a full workload. Shows promise as a receiver with soft hands and is generally reliable out of the backfield. Runs with his pads low and won’t be brought down by the first defender. Though not an outside threat, Cobb has deceptive speed and the quick feet to elude the trash at the line of scrimmage. Like most college backs, he’ll need a tutorial in pass protection, but should prove an effective short-yardage runner who can eventually work in

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to a solid rotation and perhaps start for a team focused on the ground attack.

5. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA….Hundley is a confident, fluid athlete with the requisite size, mobility, and arm strength that teams wish for in a pro QB. Despite his gifted athletic skills, Hundley didn’t seem to progress as much as many evaluators hoped for in 2014. He doesn’t always see the field well, and can suffer through lapses of inconsistency. Hundley was asked to show off his running skills more in 2014, and while he can be a threat outside the pocket, some observers felt the play selection wasn’t conducive to his overall growth.

The Bruins were frustratingly up-down throughout the season, and Hundley mirrored that. When he was good, he was very good, and when he struggled, UCLA often faltered. On the whole, Hundley possesses the background, skill set, and character that lend to a pro career. With a good performance at the combine, he likely would elevate into a top 40 pick.

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