Bears go defensive on day three of NFL Draft

Bears fourth-round pick, OLB Joel Iyiegbuniwe of Western Kentucky.

Bears fourth-round pick, OLB Joel Iyiegbuniwe of Western Kentucky.

The Chicago Bears went the defensive route Saturday as the NFL Draft concluded. With picks in each round (four through seven), the Bears chose defensive players on three of the four picks.

Surprising many observers, the Bears selected speedy and athletic outside linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe of Western Kentucky with their fourth-round (115th overall) pick. The 6-1, 230 pound Iyiegbuniwe was unheralded throughout the draft process, but ran well at the NFL combine and at his pro day, raising interest from scouts.  His tape confirmed a run and hit prospect who is willing to throw his body around and displays the suddenness to impact at the next level.  Iyiegbuniwe was a tackling machine with the Hilltoppers, collecting 117 overall stops, including 11.5 for loss.

The defensive trend continued in the fifth and sixth-rounds. The Bears chose underrated DT Bilal Nichols from Delaware. Nichols 2017 season wasn’t as impressive as 2016, but the Blue Hens shifted defensive schemes and asked Nichols to occupy blockers in a “read and react” strategy rather than attack.  The 6-4, 300 pound Nichols is at his best where he can utilize his initial get off and quickness to attack upfield. He demonstrated those traits in the post-season, earning favorable reviews at both the Shrine game and Senior Bowl.  He’ll be counted on in Chicago to replace the departed Mitch Unrein, who signed in free agency with Tampa. READ MORE

Bears select rangy LB Smith with first-round pick

 

Bears first-round pick, LB Roquan Smith of Georgia.

Bears first-round pick, LB Roquan Smith of Georgia

After adding offensive skill position players during free agency, the Chicago Bears turned to bolstering its defense with the first-round selection of Georgia LB Roquan Smith during Thursday night’s NFL Draft.

Smith, 6-1, 225, bypassed his senior year to enter the draft after spearheading the Bulldogs attack unit during a season that culminated with a appearance in the National Championship game. He’s a productive and athletic defender with quick feet and keen instincts who’s always around the football. Smith’s sideline-to sideline playmaking skills earned him high marks in evaluator’s eyes, as he routinely sheds the trash and locates the ball.

Undersized by traditional NFL standards, Smith fits the mold of the modern NFL linebacker by mixing speed, footwork, and high football intelligence to make up for his lack of natural bulk. He rates as one of the better coverage linebackers to come out in some time, demonstrating an ability to run and mirror tight ends and backs. READ MORE

Mocking the Chicago Bears 2018 draft

Denzel Ward CB Ohio State

Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

 

The all-star games are long past, the combine is history, and pro days are in the books. With the NFL Draft right around the corner, the Chicago Bears and 31 other NFL teams are cross-checking their draft boards and scouting reports once more until draft night.

Here’s one observer’s guess how Bears General Manager Ryan Pace and his front-office react during the three-day talent grab bag.

Round 1 (8th overall)  Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State….Lacking the draft capital to move up and with top-shelf talents such as Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb, and Quenton Nelson off the board, the Bears think about trading down but ultimately boost their secondary with the selection of Ward.  Ward is a fluid press corner with long arms, quick feet and fine ball instincts.  He played in the shadow of fellow Buckeye pros Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, Eli Apple, but Ward emerged as a feisty defender who battles receivers with a mix of confidence and swagger.

Ward played three seasons with the Buckeyes before electing to forego his senior season to make himself available for the 2018 NFL Draft. This after he had an outstanding junior season in 2017, earning consensus All-America honors and first-team all-Big Ten accolades after recording 17 passes defensed with 15 pass break-ups and two interceptions, including one interception in the Big Ten championship game win over Wisconsin. The 17 passes defended is the fourth-highest single season total in school history. Ward had five pass break-ups, and six passes defensed, in the season opener against Indiana and he made one of the biggest plays of the year in the 39-38 win over Penn State: blocking a fourth-quarter punt with the Buckeyes down by 15. READ MORE