As we race toward the NFL Draft, now seems like a good time to pump the brakes and give the bigger picture a good look.
Pro Football Focus’ final draft board is out, and their top-250 sets up to feature a ton of intriguing prospects outside of the first round. This would be good news for a team like the Chicago Bears that has needs at so many positions, and could use the draft to add the necessary young talent to rebuild out of a 3-13 season in 2016.
Defensive lineman fill up the top, including Tennessee edge rusher Derek Barnett as PFF’s third best prospect. He is a highly-ranked pass rusher who could end up being the best of the group if all goes right. Pro Football Focus ranks him higher than any of the draft’s defensive back prospects (including safeties Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker, as well as cornerback Marshon Lattimore) and only Myles Garrett and Jonathan Allen are rated higher among front-seven defenders.
As important as getting it right with the third pick will be to the Bears’ future, the players chosen in the rounds that follow have a certain amount of intrigue and shouldn’t be ignored. To that end, it’s interesting to look at what players show up in PFF’s rankings in the range of later round Bears picks.
For example, four quarterbacks fall in the 100-200 range, making them ideal developmental prospects. The Bears’ coaching staff took a good look at Pittsburgh’s Nathan Peterman (105) and Cal’s Davis Webb (195) during Senior Bowl week. Peterman took a vast majority of the snaps for the John Fox-coached North squad, while Webb threw for more yards en route to winning the game’s MVP honors. Miami’s Brad Kaaya (115) and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs (194) are also the kind of prospects who could be in play late.
Earlier in the draft, the Bears could capitalize on a deep class of defensive backs with their second-round pick which is 36th overall. Players such as USC dual threat cornerback/return specialist Adoree’ Jackson (37), Clemson cornerback Cordea Tankersley (39), Texas A&M safety Justin Evans (42), and Colorado corners Ahkello Witherspoon (48) and Chidobe Awuzie (50) could be in play for a team that addressed short-term needs in the secondary in free agency, but could stand to add more talented depth via the draft.
Of course, the Bears could afford to wait on addressing the defensive backfield and instead choose to upgrade at wide receiver by drafting Zay Jones (52), a player they are familiar with after showing out at the Senior Bowl.
ECU's Zay Jones saw 216 targets in 2016, 45 more than any other FBS receiver. He caught 158 of those, 21 more than the next-highest figure. pic.twitter.com/nocU2mAa7z
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) April 21, 2017
Moving on to possible third-round candidates with the 67th pick, and you’ll see some players who could be playmakers in the trenches. Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker (67) profiles better as a potential interior defender, while Florida Atlantic’s Trey Hendrickson (69) put up big numbers against lesser competition as an edge rusher, but is still an intriguing prospect. On the other side of the line, the Bears already visited with top guard prospect Dan Feeney (68), while Florida State’s Roderick Johnson (72) has the size of a game-changing offensive tackle, but is too raw to play on the left side.