With former Ball State basketball star Franko House in tow, the Chicago Bears are employing a familiar strategy of attempting to transform a basketball player with size, leaping ability, and soft hands into a playmaking tight end. However, House isn’t the only college basketball standout trying to make the leap with the Chicago Bears.
Over at CBS Chicago, Chris Emma writes about the trek of another player trying to trade the hardwood for the green grass. Kansas State’s D.J. Johnson had previously tried out for the Kansas City Chiefs at tight end, but Emma reports that Johnson was trying out at a different position when he made his way to the Bears.
Instead of tight end, Johnson – who checked in at 6-foot-9, 237 pounds when he was a power forward for Bruce Weber’s basketball squad – will try his hand at outside linebacker. Perhaps now that he’s reportedly put on an additional 13 lbs, Johnson could make his way as a potential edge rusher – a position where you can’t ever have too much talent.
Before moving away from being a two-sport star (and focusing primarily on basketball), Johnson was a two-way player on the football field in high school, playing tight end and defensive end. He is a long shot to make the successful leap from college basketball to the NFL, but it’s a risk work taking from the perspective of the player and the team.
As Johnson told Emma: “It was just something I didn’t want to look back on and say, ‘Oh, I had an opportunity to do it but I didn’t take advantage of it.’ I want to take advantage of an opportunity. I want to come out here, impress somebody and make the team.”
The Bears’ depth at the edge rusher position is worth noting here. Returning from last year’s team are Willie Young, Leonard Floyd, and Lamarr Houston. Floyd is the youngest of the group and will turn 25 in September, but Young will play 2017 in his age 32 season, and Houston will be 30/coming off his second season ending injury in the last three years.
It was a bit of a surprise that GM Ryan Pace didn’t address more of the team’s defensive issues in the draft, and an argument could be made that depth concerns at this particular position should have been at the top of the list.
But maybe the Bears can find a diamond in the rough via the undrafted free agent market, because the position’s long-term future is something that should be accounted for sooner, rather than later.