Combine 101: Bears seek playmakers

Tremaine Edwards, LB, Virginia Tech

Tremaine Edwards, LB, Virginia Tech

As the countdown to April’s NFL Draft moves into its next phase with the annual scouting combine, Chicago Bears front office staff and coaches head to Indy hoping to clarify their needs with possible solutions.

Here are some prospects to watch based on possible Bears interest from boots on the ground:

CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State, 5-10, 191…Ward isn’t the biggest or most physical corner, but he is a tenacious defender when the ball is in the air. Plays like the football belongs to him, displaying quick feet, keen instincts, and the athletic skills to mirror receivers. Feisty and determined style. Drag down tackler. Film review from last year’s Buckeyes opening win over Indiana showed Ward beaten badly early in the game as Ohio State and the Hoosiers slugged it out offensively in the first half. However, when he was targeted in the second half, Ward rose to the occasion, shutting down and frustrating a talented and much bigger receiving corps. Ward uses his hands well, anticipating throws and timing his jumps well.

LB Tremaine Edwards, Virginia Tech, 6-4, 250…Edwards doesn’t turn 20 until May, so he’s an ascending player with his best football ahead of him.  Scouts intrigued by his size/speed/physical traits, and a few have compared him to Bears Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher in build.  A rangy defender with a thick trunk who diagnoses well and sniffs out the ball. Good bloodlines as his father was a pro and older brother plays for the Saints. Another brother starred at Virginia Tech as well and is also entering the draft.  Tremaine displays an aggressive streak and is nimble on his feet to maneuver through the trash. Projects as more of an inside backer which might not be best fit for the Bears needs.  Limited use as a pass rusher, but possesses enough initial quickness. For all his positive athletic traits, Edwards turnover production was modest.

G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame, 6-4, 330…Early entry prospect who has the talent to step in day one as a starter. Notre Dame’s MVP in 2017.  Nelson combines raw strength and power with the instincts and intelligence to become a team leader right away. Mauls defenders in the run game by using his strength and sturdy base. Plays with an aggressive mentality, searching and destroying opponents at the second-level.  Good athlete who moves well laterally.  Takes pride in his work….didn’t give up a sack the last two seasons. Rarely are guards enticing top ten picks, but Nelson is a rare exception. Productive, experienced lineman with fine intangibles.

WR James Washington, Oklahoma State, 5-11, 210…High-flying wideout for the Cowboys with top-notch speed and production. Possesses good hands and hand-eye coordination. Washington tracks the ball well with little wasted motion….looks effortless. Electric in open-field with run after the catch skills. Not the biggest receiver, but solidly built frame. Gains easy separation with his speed, but unrefined route runner who played in a simplistic, wide-open offense. Scored points during Senior Bowl workouts by displaying improved concentration to assignments and nuances of becoming a professional receiver. Top intangibles…team captain, durable, strong work ethic. Washington isn’t a first-rounder, but some team will get a bargain in round two and benefit from his big-play ability and potential.

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