Now that the Bears have a new head coach, perhaps it’s time to turn our focus to some players who could be on GM Ryan Pace’s draft board for Matt Nagy to lead in 2018.
The 2017 college football seasons ends tonight when Georgia goes for its first national championship since 1980, while Alabama looks to bring home its fifth championship in nine years. Once the game goes final, we’ll start turning our eyes to the 2018 NFL Draft.
But first, here are four players to watch for on Monday night while keeping in mind the Bears’ needs moving forward.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Minkah Fitzpatrick is a two-time All-American, a winner of the Jim Thorpe (college football’s best defensive back) and Chuck Bednarik (college football’s best defensive player) awards, and Alabama’s best/most versatile defender.
He plays the run well, can cover a variety of different pass catchers, and even rushes the passer from time to time. Fitzpatrick has been deployed in deep zones as a free safety, in the box against the run as a strong safety, covering receivers lined up in the slot, and tight ends who run patterns into the secondary. According to Pro Football Focus’ research, Fitzpatrick was used in 19 different spots along the defense.
Calvin Ridley is one of the wide receivers whose name will be connected to the Bears throughout the draft process. The difficulty in assessing his play lies in Jalen Hurts, his lackluster quarterback. The sophomore signal caller’s accuracy hasn’t caught up to his athleticism and that keeps his receivers from having monster games.
Ridley is a good route runner and a playmaker with the ability to score on any play in which his quarterback throws an accurate ball. Considering Alabama is at its best when running the ball, I’ll be curious to see how he blocks in the running game. His size is seen as one of his few weaknesses.
Linebacker Roquan Smith is one of the most decorated defenders in college football. Smith earned All-American honors in 2017 and came home with the Butkus Award (given to college football’s top linebacker), the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year, and the SEC Championship Game MVP. After a monster performance against Oklahoma, I can’t wait to see what Smith has in store for tonight’s title game.
Smith has excellent instincts, is a sure-handed tackler, and is an ace run defender who is also superb in pass coverage against running backs and tight ends alike. He looks like the kind of linebacker who could fit 3-4 or 4-3 schemes.
Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown was the best lineman to take the field in the Rose Bowl game, but Georgia’s left tackle held his own. We’ll be keeping a closer eye on Isaiah Wynn, who helped push the pile and helped spring the Bulldogs’ running game in their double-overtime win. Wynn projects to be a second or third round pick, but could be a valuable player for the right team. He has prior starting experience at left guard and might be better off playing interior lineman in the NFL. No matter where he plays, Wynn is an exceptional run blocker who is also steady in pass protection.