The Chicago Bears’ need for an impact pass rusher is no secret, but how the team will go about finding one in the NFL Draft remains a mystery.
One solution could come via LSU’s Arden Key, a player on which the Bears will use one of their 30 pre-draft visits in an attempt to get to know the talented outside linebacker/defensive end/edge defender.
Key could stand to add some bulk to his 6-6, 238-pound frame, but is still viewed as one of the draft’s most gifted pass rushers. Basically, he has all the tools (strength, length, athleticism, versatility and a few moves) but no tool box. He comes with a unique set of baggage, too, as he left LSU for four months for “personal reasons’ in spring 2017 and had shoulder surgery while he was away. As a junior, his play was inconsistent and it kept him from reaching his potential.
Prior to the start of the college football season, Key was believed to be a potential top-10 pick. While he certainly didn’t play like one in 2017, he is just one season removed from picking up 12 sacks as a sophomore in 2016 – which earned him first-team All-SEC honors. Key was also a freshman All-American in his first year on campus, starting nine of the 12 games he appeared in and picking up five sacks as a true freshman.
Key has first-round size and attributes, but his inconsistent play and somewhat troublesome background could drop his stock and make him a second-round selection.
The Bears aren’t alone in wanting to meet with Key. NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread reports the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints are among the teams who have shown the most interest in the LSU product, who teams will kick the tires on plenty between now and draft weekend. Key also plans to visit Washington, Tennessee, and Dallas – a trio of teams that could use some pass rush help.
In the end, Key sounds like the type of player who could reach high potential under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, whose hands-on, tough-love style could be just what the doctor ordered for a skilled defender. And while Key isn’t polished enough to take in the top-10, he could slide into the second round and be a steal for the right team.