The 2022 NFL Draft is fast approaching. And even though new GM Ryan Poles doesn’t have a first-round pick, he is set to usher in a new era of Bears football with Assistant GM Ian Cunningham, Head Coach Matt Eberflus, and a host of other newbies. Starting today, we’re looking at some of the best prospects at various positions leading up to the Draft in search of fits for the Bears’ needs.
Need: Roquan Smith is holding it down, but LB partner Nicholas Morrow is here only on a one-year deal. In other words, a new defensive scheme should have the new front office targeting a different type of linebacker to pair with Smith moving forward.
Currently on the Roster (2021 PFF Grade):
Roquan Smith (46.3), Nicholas Morrow (N/A), Noah Dawkins (68.2), Joe Thomas (79.0), Matthew Adams (60.6), Caleb Johnson (37.5)
BN’s Composite Ranking
Ranking prospects is difficult, in part, because no one publication has the same set of fundamentals or preferences. In an attempt to work through that noise, we’re using a composite ranking based on opinions from PFF, ESPN, CBS Sports, and NFL dot com, and adapting them to a points scale. The best of the top-10 prospects gets 10 points, the 10th ranked prospect gets 1, and prospects outside the top-10 get 0. From there, the prospects are ranked by total points.
Here’s how the linebackers stack up (points in parenthesis):
1. Nakobe Dean, Georgia (39)
2. Devin Lloyd, Utah (36)
3. Leo Chenal, Wisconsin (25)
4. Christian Harris, Alabama (21)
5. Quay Walker, Georgia (20)
6. Chad Muma, Wyoming (19)
7. Troy Andersen, Montana State (16)
8. Channing Tindall, Georgia (13)
9. Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma (12)
10. Damone Clark, LSU (9)
Also receiving Top-10 consideration: Aaron Hansford (Texas A&M – NFL), Brandon Smith (Penn State – PFF, ESPN), JoJo Domann (Nebraska – NFL), Micah McFadden (Indiana (CBS)
After adding depth at the position with some fringe players, I suppose the Bears could target a linebacker who could pair as a long-term fit next to Roquan Smith. Because of how the NFL has evolved, I wouldn’t consider inside linebacker a premium position any more. I’d even go as far as to sayinside linebacker is becoming an outdated term. And yet, Head Coach Matt Eberflus values the position a ton:
“(Brian) Urlacher and (Lance) Briggs were big components to the great defense that they’ve had here in the past and that’s going to be no different,” Eberflus said, via NBC Sports Chicago’s Alex Shapiro. “We’re looking for those same type of guys. We want a pair of guys in there that are really dominant, and we’re going to work towards that.”
Not gonna lie. Finding the next Urlacher-Briggs combo would be pretty dope.
Most Likely to be Available When the Bears Are on the Clock:
Choosing three players who project to be available when the Bears go on the clock with each of their picks.
Round 2, Pick 39: Leo Chenal (Wisconsin), Quay Walker (Georgia), Brian Asamoah (Oklahoma)
Round 2, Pick 48: Chad Muma (Wyoming), Troy Andersen (Montana State), Christian Harris (Alabama)
Round 3, Pick 71: Channing Tindall (Georgia), Brandon Smith (Penn State), Damone Clark (LSU)
Round 5, Pick 150: JoJo Domann (Nebraska), Micah McFadden (Indiana), Malcolm Rodriguez (Oklahoma State)
Round 6, Pick 186: Jack Sunburn (Wisconsin), Jeremiah Moon (Florida), Jake Hansen (Illinois)
• An Adam Hoge mock draft in February sent Wyoming’s Chad Muma to the Bears with the 39th pick. We explored that possibility (among others) here.
• Chicago has also made inquiries regarding defensive linemen from Missouri State (Eric Johnson) and Montana State (Daniel Hardy) because there’s nothing wrong with going the extra mile (even if that mile leads you into Montana and/or Missouri)
• Top-30 visit: Brian Asamoah (Oklahoma)
Zack Pearson of Bear Report does a tremendous job compiling Bears prospect visits. You can follow his work here.
If I Had to Pick One:
The Big Ten hands out the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year award annually. It is named after Bears/Illinois legend and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal was the award’s recipient in 2021. And if you’re good enough to win an award named in honor of Dick Butkus, then you’re good enough to play for me: