One Scouting Team Ranks Akiem Hicks as the NFL’s Best 3-4 Defensive End

Following a breakout season is never easy, but Akiem Hicks did that and more in 2017.

After reaching career bests in sacks, tackles, and forced fumbles, Hicks set new career highs in sacks and tackles for a second consecutive season. It all added up to another stellar year in which he was one of the league’s most productive 3-4 defensive ends despite not getting Pro Bowl recognition.

HOWEVER, the Bleacher Report NFL scouting staff wasn’t going to let it slide completely.

BR’s NFL1000 series breaks down the best of the best at each position and named Hicks the NFL’s best 3-4 defensive end.

Lead Scout Doug Farrar compared Hicks favorably to Justin Smith, a dominant defensive force Vic Fangio coached while with the San Francisco 49ers. Smith started 62 of 64 games from 2011-14 when Fangio was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator. He picked up 22 sacks, forced six fumbles, and recovered three during his time as an anchor on the defensive line. He made three straight Pro Bowl appearances (2011, 2012, 2013) and was a first-team All-Pro member in 2011. This is high praise, no doubt.

Defensive Line Scout Justis Mosqueda called Hicks’ 8.5-sack season “elite” for an interior defender, while his 19.5 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage were more than fellow defensive linemen Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard, and Mitch Unrein, who combined to produce just 17. Hicks had 15 tackles for loss in 2017, which were the third most among defensive ends who play in a base 3-4 alignment.

Now, how is THAT for following a breakout season? And to do it after signing a big contract extension makes it that much sweeter.

Hicks was the Bears’ best and most consistent defensive player in 2017. One could make the argument he was the team’s best player on either side of the ball. Hicks proving his 2016 wasn’t a fluke proved to be a significant development for Chicago’s defense, which ranked in the top 10 in scoring and yards, and will also see the return of its defensive coordinator for the next three seasons.

written by

Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

more bears news

Justin Fields Trade Watch: Falcons, Steelers, Raiders Reportedly “Expressed Interest”

Finally, we're starting to see some teams fingered and directly connected as having interest in trading for Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields. USA Today NFL reporter Tyler Dragon shares this bit of information that piques my interest as three teams...

Of Course Teams Have Checked In on the Bears Asking About the No. 1 Pick

At this time last year, Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles essentially put a "FOR SALE" sign on the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and outlined what he was looking for in return. Chicago's general manager is taking...

Matt Eberflus Details What He Wants in a Quarterback

The new beard is filling in quite nicely for Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus, who had a lot to say during his media availability on Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. But let us be honest with...

Around the NFL: 49ers Interview Brandon Staley, Patriots Scouting Director Talks QBs, More

The Chicago Bears aren't the only team within striking distance of a top quarterback in this year's draft class. The Patriots hold the third overall pick in the draft and their scouting director knows that this is a deeply talented...

Ryan Poles Press Conference: Jaylon Johnson Extension Optimism, Justin Fields Situation, Offseason Timeline, More

No, Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Poles didn't shock drop his master plan for the team's offseason. But he gave us some nuggets. So rather than piece together a wordy intro, let's just dive right in. Ryan Poles shares hope...

Johnny Football Backs Fields, College Football Freaks, Another Cap Update, and Other Bears Bullets

Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Poles and Head Coach Matt Eberflus are scheduled to speak to the media at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. We'll put share updates once the good stuff hits our feed. This stat from ESPN's...

The Whopping Price Difference Between a Justin Fields Extension and a Rookie QB’s Contract

If you thought the $25.6 million price tag for the fifth-year option on the Justin Fields rookie contract was an eye-opener, then I hope you're sitting down for the projected cost of a long-term extension for the Chicago Bears quarterback....

The Quarterback Tapes: Caleb Williams vs. Notre Dame (2023)

The game everyone has been waiting for is here: The Notre Dame game. It was Caleb Williams' worst performance in college so far, and for many, it's why they don't see Williams as the top quarterback prospect in this year's...

Chicago Bears Will Be *THE* Story at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine

For the second straight offseason, the Chicago Bears have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. And for the second straight season, they'll be the talk of Combine Week as General Manager Ryan Poles and friends stroll into...

Here Comes the Combine! Peter King Retires, Matt Pees Joins Bears, and Other Bears Bullets

I don't know anyone who looks forward to Monday morning, but I always look forward to Monday nights in the NFL offseason because it is the one time every week where I make sure to make time for friends. This...

Latest News

Cavaliers vs. Bulls Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats and Best Bets – Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Central Division foes meet when the Cleveland Cavaliers (38-19) visit the Chicago Bulls (27-31) at United Center, beginning at 8:00 PM ET on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. The Bulls are 4.5-point underdogs in the game, the fourth matchup between the...

Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats and Best Bets – Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Memphis Grizzlies (20-38) visit the Minnesota Timberwolves (41-17) after losing four road games in a row. The Timberwolves are heavy favorites by 12.5 points in the contest, which begins at 8:00 PM ET on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. The...

Mavericks vs. Raptors Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats and Best Bets – Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Toronto Raptors (22-36) will attempt to build on a three-game win streak when they host the Dallas Mavericks (33-25) on Wednesday, February 28, 2024 at Scotiabank Arena as only 3-point underdogs. The matchup airs at 7:30 PM ET on...

Pacers vs. Pelicans Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats and Best Bets – Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The New Orleans Pelicans (35-24) visit the Indiana Pacers (33-26) after winning three road games in a row. The Pacers are favored by 5.5 points in the contest, which begins at 7:30 PM ET on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. The...

Western Illinois vs. Eastern Illinois: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

The Eastern Illinois Panthers (14-16, 8-9 OVC) aim to end a three-game road losing streak when they visit the Western Illinois Leathernecks (18-11, 11-5 OVC) on February 29, 2024.In its most recent game, Western Illinois beat Southern Indiana on Saturday,...

Georgia Tech vs. Florida State: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12-16, 5-12 ACC) host the Florida State Seminoles (15-13, 9-8 ACC) in ACC play at McCamish Pavilion, tipping off at 12:00 PM ET on Saturday, March 2, 2024.On Saturday, in its most recent game, Georgia...

Eastern Michigan vs. Miami (OH): Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

MAC action features the Eastern Michigan Eagles (12-16, 5-10 MAC) at home against the Miami (OH) RedHawks (14-14, 8-7 MAC) on Saturday, March 2, 2024 at 1:00 PM ET.In its previous game, Eastern Michigan topped Western Michigan on Tuesday, 70-67....

Loyola Chicago vs. Dayton: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

The Loyola Chicago Ramblers (20-8, 12-3 A-10) will host the Dayton Flyers (22-5, 12-3 A-10) after winning five straight home games.Loyola Chicago dropped its most recent game to Saint Bonaventure, 79-64, on Tuesday. Philip Alston was its leading scorer with...

Kentucky vs. Arkansas: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

SEC action features the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats (20-8, 10-5 SEC) at home against the Arkansas Razorbacks (14-14, 5-10 SEC) on Saturday, March 2, 2024 at 1:30 PM ET.Kentucky was victorious in its most recent game against Mississippi State, 91-89,...

How to Watch Ohio Bobcats vs. Bowling Green Falcons: Live Stream or on TV

The Ohio Bobcats (16-12, 10-5 MAC) will try to build on a three-game winning streak when they host the Bowling Green Falcons (17-11, 8-7 MAC) on March 1, 2024 at Convocation Center (OH).Ohio was victorious in its most recent game...

more bears news