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Getting To Know The NFL Draft’s Top Defensive Line Prospects

Analysis and Commentary, NFL Draft

The Chicago Bears’ critical offseason of talent acquisition has one more – very important – step: The Draft. 


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After GM Ryan Pace added several starting-caliber players to short-term deals in free agency, the organization’s focus now shifts back to the future and long-term health of the organization.

And because of the team’s many needs, we’re going to take a look at some of the best prospects at various positions of interest everyday leading up to the draft. 

Previously: Quarterbacks
Today’s Position:
 Defensive Line

Need: High

Opposing quarterbacks posted a 93.5 passer rating against the Bears in 2016, the 10th best number in football. One way the Bears could bring that number down is by pressuring the quarterback more in 2017. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio saw his team finish 12th in the NFL with 37 sacks, but his defense also allowed the sixth most rushing yards and eighth most rushing touchdowns. That won’t play in a town that prides itself on defensive excellence.

Currently on the roster (2016 Pro Football Focus grade)

  • Interior: Akiem Hicks (83.1), Eddie Goldman (80.0), C.J. Wilson (75.5), Will Sutton (74.8), Mitch Unrein (51.8), John Jenkins (44.8), Jonathan Bullard (42.4)

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  • Edge: Pernell McPhee (74.9), Willie Young (73.0), Leonard Floyd (65.1), Lamarr Houston (49.9), Christian Jones (45.1), Sam Acho (44.7)

Top 5 Interior Defender Prospects (Pro Football Focus Overall Rank)

  1. Jonathan Allen, Alabama (2)
  2. Malik McDowell, Michigan State (21)
  3. Caleb Brantley, Florida (53)
  4. Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama (59)
  5. Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State (63)

Best of the rest: Chris Wormley, Michigan (75), Tanzel Smart, Tulane (81); Montravius Adams, Auburn (93); Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA (96); Elijah Qualls, Washington (107)

Top 5 Edge Prospects (Pro Football Focus Rank)

  1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M (1)
  2. Derek Barnett, Tennessee (6)
  3. Solomon Thomas, Stanford (10)
  4. Carl Lawson, Auburn (14)
  5. Jordan Willis, Kansas State (15)

Best of the rest: Haason Reddick, Temple (20); Tim Williams, Alabama (26), Taco Charlton, Michigan (28); Charles Harris, Missouri (36); T.J. Watt, Wisconsin (41)

Team fit

Mitch Unrein was the team’s lowest graded regular in 2016, with a 51.8 grade that ranked 62nd among 127 interior defenders. Adding to the core of Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman would turn the defensive line into a strength.


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Finding a fit at edge rusher might be tricky for the Bears. Leonard Floyd flashed some potential as a rookie, but the group leaves much to be desired. Pernell McPhee didn’t play a full 16-game season again, neither did Lamarr Houston. Willie Young has been one of the Bears’ better defenders in recent years, but will play 2017 in his age 32 season. The Bears could stand to add some youth and upside along the defensive line.

Most Likely to be Available When the Bears Are on the Clock:

The Bears are in a position to take a highly rated defensive lineman or edge rusher with the third pick in the draft, but whether it will be Allen or Thomas is yet to be determined. There are 30 players who are categorized as edge rushers or interior defenders by PFF who rank in the top-100 on the site’s big board. So there could be a value pick in the middle rounds for the Bears if the team decides to go in a different direction in the first round.

If I Had to Pick One:

The dream of Myles Garrett falling into the Bears’ lap is still alive if you want it to be. However, if it doesn’t happen, the Bears could do worse than Alabama’s Jonathan Allen with the third overall pick.

His ability to rush the passer from the interior would be a major boost on the defensive line next to Eddie Goldman and on the other side of Akiem Hicks. Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker is a sleeper candidate for middle-round consideration. He is versatile enough to take some snaps as an edge rusher, but his future is most likely as a 3-technique in a 3-4 defense – which is a need the Bears currently sport.


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Luis Medina

Luis is the Lead Writer at The Ten-Yard Line, and you can find him on Twitter at @lcm1986.


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