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Bears NFL Draft Prospects in the Post-Justin Fields World

Examining which remaining 2021 draft prospects the Chicago Bears have met with and how they project to the NFL.

Chicago Bears 2021 NFL Draft
Photo: Mfa1O52/Twitter

Things changed last night when the Chicago Bears traded up to draft Justin Fields. We now know that the team will be targeting draft prospects at the offensive line, wide receiver, and defensive back positions on Days 2 and 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft. After reviewing the list of draft prospects that the Bears have attended pro days for and held meetings with, I came up with criteria for ranking how interested the Bears are in each of the draft prospects.

Criteria to be a Target

Each of the criteria listed below represents a threshold. A prospect who meets three thresholds is a target. One who meets two thresholds is a potential target. One who meets one threshold is a wild card. In each threshold, the Bears either:

  • Attended the pro day
  • Held a virtual meeting with the prospect
  • Held a private meeting with the prospect at their pro day, Senior Bowl, or Hula Bowl
  • Sent their respective position coach to the prospect’s pro day

I would also like to point out how the Bears value players who served as team captains, earned academic achievements, and graduated with their degrees. It is a belief of mine that they also value players who have athletic bloodlines, but the support there is not as strong. Draft prospects who meet these criteria have that portion of the analysis bolded and italicized.

Information on each prospect is summarized from multiple sources, primarily:

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Targeted Prospects

The below draft prospects are players the Bears have had the most known interactions with (meeting at least three of four criteria) and are still available in the 2021 NFL Draft:

The above draft prospects are players I would consider to be the Bears’ primary targets. They each fit positional needs for the team and are expected to be available in the Bears’ upcoming picks.

D’Wayne Eskridge – WR

D’Wayne Eskridge NFL Draft
Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Bears held a virtual meeting with Eskridge, attended his pro day (wide receiver coach Mike Furrey was in attendance), and held a private meeting with him in person at his pro day. He meets four of the four criteria.

Background:

Eskridge is from Bluffton, Indiana. In high school, he starred in football as well as track and field. As a senior, Eskridge earned honorable mention all-state honors in football. He also earned the title of Indiana’s Mr. Tack and Field in his senior year, winning the state title in the 200m as a junior, and the 100m and 200m titles as a senior. He also finished second in long jump his senior year. Eskridge was a three-star recruit out of high school and ranked as the #30 all-purpose running back in his class.

Eskridge was unable to continue running track in college, as Western Michigan does not have a track team. In the 2019 season, Eskridge played on both sides of the football, starting at both cornerback and wide receiver. He was limited to only four games on the season due to a clavicle injury (likely related to tackling technique). In 2020, he earned first-team All-MAC honors at kick returner and wide receiver, MAC Special Teams Player of the Year, and second-team All-American, leading the MAC in receiving yards and touchdowns. He averaged over 200 yards per game in 2020. Eskridge graduated with his degree in 2020.

Via https://relativeathleticscores.com/2021/01/23/2021-draft-class-ras/

Strengths:

  • Developed physically with mentality of a defensive player
  • Track runner speed to threaten downfield, draws penalties at a high rate
  • Ability to snag catches away from his body coordinate body to the catch point
  • Runs the full route tree, capable of playing inside or outside
  • Special teams contributor as return man and kick/punt coverage units
  • High effort blocker with the strength to punish defenders
  • Doesn’t take plays off

Weaknesses:

  • Undersized, lacks ideal height, length, and potential for growth
  • While he runs a full route tree, the route details are still a work in progress
  • Takes too many steps to get into his route, can get caught dancing and off-balance
  • Small catch radius
  • Lacks size to get 50/50 balls, needs to operate in space
  • Durability questions paired with an aggressive mentality and high motor
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Walker Little – OT

Walker Little NFL Draft
Photo: David Bernal/isiphotos.com

The Bears held a virtual meeting with Little, attended his pro day (who attended besides the quarterback coach is not disclosed), and held a private meeting with him in person at his pro day. He meets three of the four criteria.

Background:

Little was born in Houston, Texas. Prior to high school, he played multiple sports including football, baseball, basketball, and lacrosse. He played running back and linebacker until the eighth grade when he moved to offensive tackle. Just one year after the position switch, Little was starting for his high school varsity team as a freshman. In his sophomore year, he helped lead the program to a state title. Little started at left tackle all four years of high school and earned all-conference honors in each of his final three years.

As a senior, he was named team captain and awarded team MVP. This is all the more impressive as his high school team included 2021 draft prospects such as DT Marvin Wilson, WR Jaylen Waddle, and WR Jhamon Ausbon. Coming out of high school, Little was rated as a five-star recruit and the #3 offensive tackle in the country.

Little became the first true freshman to start at offensive tackle for Stanford since 2000. He was named co-recipient of the PAC-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year in addition to honorable mention All PAC-12. In 2018, he started every game at left tackle and earned named first-team All PAC-12 honors. He also earned honorable mention for the PAC-12 All-Academic team. In 2019, he was recognized as a member of the PAC-12 Fall Academic Honor Roll. In the first game of the season, he suffered a season-ending knee injury — a torn ACL. Little elected to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. Little graduated with his degree in 2020. His father played NCAA Baseball (Texas Tech), his grandfather played in the NFL (offensive line; New York Giants), and his great uncle played in the NFL (offensive line; Baltimore Ravens).

Via https://relativeathleticscores.com/2021/01/23/2021-draft-class-ras/

Strengths

  • Big fluid mover with high football IQ
  • Good frame with proportionate body and length
  • Play with plus balance and agility
  • Shows vision and recovery quickness vs. spins and swipes, with ability to redirect inside
  • Technique consistently improved every year
  • Aware versus blitzes and twists
  • Tough and competitive demeanor
  • Mature prospect with strong leadership skills

Weaknesses:

  • Hot and cold with punch timing
  • Core strength concerns
  • Competes as a run blocker, but gets more push than drive
  • Over relies on outside foot, leaving inside open
  • Tendency to get out over his skis
  • Injury history (shoulder 2018, ACL 2019)
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Spencer Brown – OT

Photo: Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports

The Bears attended Brown’s pro day (offensive line coach Juan Castillo was in attendance) and held a private meeting with him in person at his pro day. He meets three of the four criteria.

Background:

Brown grew up on his family’s 100-acre cattle farm in Lenox, Iowa. He played five sports in high school; baseball, basketball, football, golf, and track. In football, his high school participated in an eight-man league. He played tight end and defensive end, missing some time his junior year due to a fractured femur. Brown earned All-State honors at defensive end his senior year and also earned All-State honors in basketball (20 PPG, 18 RPG) in addition to being a star pitcher for the baseball team (2.48 ERA his sophomore year). Brown was not heavily recruited out of high school as a zero-star recruit. This was partially due to him missing recruiting camps his junior season while he was recovering from a fractured femur as well as his high school’s location in a poor recruiting area.

Brown signed with Northern Iowa as a 225 lb tight end. Iowa State offered him a preferred walk-on spot, but he chose to stay with Northern Iowa. After adding weight in his redshirt season, he moved to offensive tackle and would go on to be a three-year starter. Brown opted out of the 2020 season by choosing not to transfer after the season was canceled. In his words, “I am not going to let someone else reap the benefits of what UNI did for me.”

Via https://relativeathleticscores.com/2021/01/23/2021-draft-class-ras/

Strengths:

  • Hulking frame
  • Moves with strong foot quickness and bend to mirror pass rushers
  • Possesses the recovery agility to make up ground after a false step
  • Plays with violence and strength, fully embracing the physicality of the position
  • Drives from the lower body in run game
  • Takes the task of finishing personally
  • Maintains a disciplined work ethic

Weaknesses:

  • Still growing into his frame
  • Elevated pad level needs to be a focus on every down
  • Technique is two-faced; takes a turn and breaks down against speed
  • Reactionary in pass pro, does not anticipate and get set up easily
  • Punch timing and target area needs work
  • Aggressive nature combined with his size leads to issues getting out in front of his skis
  • Durability; right knee (MCL; 2017), left knee surgery in HS (2015) to repair a defect under his kneecap
  • Inexperience, only three years of OL experience
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Divine Deablo – S

Divine Deablo NFL Draft
Photo: Ivan Morozov/Tech Sideline

The Bears attended Deablo’s pro day (assistant defensive backs coach Mike Adams was in attendance) and held a private meeting with him in person at his pro day.

Background:

Growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Deablo played mostly quarterback from youth football until high school. In high school, he moved to wide receiver while also playing wildcat quarterback at times. He also competed in track. Deablo was a three-star wide receiver recruit, ranking as the #70 recruit in his class. He held 17 offers, including Clemson, North Carolina State, and North Carolina.

Deablo ultimately chose Virginia Tech, where he played as a wide receiver and on special team as a true freshman. His sophomore year, he moved to defense and ended up taking a medical redshirt as he battled injuries. He played every game of his junior and senior seasons, being named team captain for his senior year. Deablo graduated with his degree in 2019. His last name is of Native American descent and roughly translates to “devil” in Spanish.

Via https://relativeathleticscores.com/2021/01/23/2021-draft-class-ras/

Strengths:

  • Filled out long frame; built like a LB
  • Instant reaction with closing speed once he reads a route, contesting the catch point
  • Shows awareness to bait throws
  • Has good ball skills as a former WR
  • Plays with a physical nature, and described as a vocal and humble competitor
  • “(He is) a `we’ guy. He changes positions and doesn’t bat an eye”
  • Special teams experience

Weaknesses:

  • Flat footed when squared up with runner, giving escape routes
  • Could clean up his run angles and anticipation to stay ahead of ball carrier
  • Tendency to get lost in the backfield while routes are developing
  • Lacks the burst to match and run with slot WRs
  • Only average range in coverage, limiting deep responsibilities
  • Bit of a tweener between LB and S
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Potentially Targeted Prospects

Rondale Moore NFL Draft
Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The below draft prospects are players that the Bears have had moderate known interactions with (meeting at least two of four criteria) and are still available in the 2021 NFL Draft:

In the draft prospect overviews below, I am not going to discuss running backs or tight ends, as they are not at the same level of need as wide receivers, offensive linemen, linebackers, and interior defensive linemen. I would consider this group to be draft prospects that the Bears are on the fence about, and will draft if the four targeted prospects are already off the board.

  • Rondale Moore (WR): Explosive playmaker who lacks polish and comes with durability concerns. Plays with a serious chip on his shoulder. Lacks ideal size, but makes up for it with play strength and elite athletic traits. Play strength and competitive nature are hallmarks of his game. Works like a pro. Projects as a starting slot receiver.
  • Liam Eichenberg (OT): Boring, in a good way. Although he lacks the athletic traits or length desired, his is strong and calculated at the point of attack with superior hand usage, technique, and intelligence. Can get overaggressive at times and miss hit punch, and struggles to recover from false steps. Only played left tackle in college. Projects as a serviceable starting tackle, or a good starting interior offensive linemen. 
  • Dillon Radunz (OT): Has talent and athletic traits to mirror pass rushers, staying light on his feet to cover speed off the edge. Moves fluidly, and shows ability to recover. Good field intelligence, as he is rarely tricked by stunts, and shows an ability to adjust on the go. Plays with a nasty streak, finishing through the whistle. Can be overaggressive at times, leading to balance issues and opening up opportunities for rusher to set up moves. Has a lean frame and needs to add mass. Less length than desired. Hand usage and timing could be improved. Projects as a starting offensive tackle on either side, or interior offensive line.
  • Nick Bolton (LB): Plays with speed and agile feet at the linebacker spot. Packs a serious punch, arriving with bad intentions. Decisive in his reads with no hesitation. Durable, highly productive, and a team leader. Shorter than desired, and frame is maxed out. Length becomes an issue when taking on blockers. Lacks makeup speed to recover from inability to shed. Doesn’t show anticipation in pass coverage. Projects as a three-down linebacker so long as he continues on upward trend.
  • Aaron Banks (iOL): Massive frame (6-foot-5, 325 lbs) with strength to match. Uses length to reset feet and anchor what’s in front of him. Strong grip to control his man. Experienced at both guard spots and has kicked out to tackle. Too upright in his blocks with varying knee bend. Just an average athlete. Needs to clean up hand usage, which are heavy but slow. Projects as a starting-caliber iOL, but needs to clean up hands and posture to reach potential.
  • Robert Hainsey (OT/OG): Strong and instinctive. Good enough quickness to mirror pass rushers. Shows ability to anchor and reset/recover, with violent hands. Takes his opportunities to bury opponents, and does a good job of finding work. Lacks ideal size, especially in the lower half. Has average feet and knee bend, but below-average length that may force him inside. Doesn’t use lower half to drive effectively. Projects as a depth swing offensive lineman, eventually competing for a starting role inside. 
  • Brenden Jaimes (iOL): Doesn’t flash on tape, but put out quality film as a left tackle. Is sufficient in most areas, but doesn’t excel at many. Blocks with a solid base and good balance. Below average length. Projects as immediate offensive line depth in a swing role, with potential to earn a starting job with opportunity.
  • Ernest Jones (LB): Uses length and tenacious nature to defeat blocks. Smart player who consistently reads play design and reacts to disrupt. Flashes a closing burst. A “football guy”. Upright and tight in movements. Lack of agility is a detriment to his ability to track opponent. Can run himself out of plays with a hot motor. Limitations in coverage could be a real issue at the next level. Projects as a quality depth piece with special teams unit potential. 
  • Israel Mukuamu (CB): Incredible length (6-foot-9 wingspan). Smooth in movements with good enough foot quickness. Good ability to press and ride assignments from the LOS. Long strider who can cover ground once he gets moving. Led culture change for South Carolina with teammate Jaycee Horn. Long stride delays ability to be sudden. Bites on fakes too often, and resorts to grabbing. Not an overly willing tackler, and needs to improve contact toughness. Raw with serious upside. Projects as a traits-based prospect with high upside as a press man CB/matchup defender.
  • Dan Moore Jr. (OT): Massive wingspan and quick punch when he times it correctly. Smooth hip movement. Big-time development in final year. Technique is moving in the right direction. Lacks pop in his punch, needs to heavy up his hands. Often wide and late with his punch and a catcher in pass pro. Tends to settle his feet leading to balance problems. Projects as a reliable reserve inside or outside.
  • KJ Britt (LB): Has adequate range as a run defender. A downhill tackler against the run with pro-level toughness and instincts. Athletically limited, especially in pass coverage. Projects as a reserve linebacker with special teams potential.
  • Tommy Kraemer (iOL): Plays with a competitive grit. Has upper body power to win inside, but is overly reactive and has a tendency to bend at the waist when outside. Durability questions exist. Projects as a developmental interior offensive lineman with limited upside beyond depth.
  • Pooka Williams (RB): Has special speed and balance, with footwork to slip contact. An elite athlete with special teams return experience, but major off-field concerns. Charged with domestic battery in 2018. Projects as a change-of-pace rusher, receiver, and return man if he can overcome off-field history.
  • John Raine (TE/FB): Limited scouting information. Ran 5.03 40-yard dash.
  • Jordyn Peters (S): A mainstay on special teams coverage units with four career blocked punts. Not much to see for starting potential, but projects as a reliable special teams contributor.
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Wild Card Prospects

Elijah Moore NFL Draft
Photo: Ole Miss Athletics

The below draft prospects are players the Bears have had the minimum known interactions with (meeting at least one of four criteria) and are still available in the 2021 NFL Draft:

I personally would consider the wild card draft prospects to be backup options if all other prospects listed fell through. The Bears met with these players once to get a feel for them but did not do the same degree of follow-up as they would for guys they are truly targeting. Or, given Pace’s history, these could be prospects that the team had a quick conviction on and they chose to throw off their scent.

  • Elijah Moore (WR): Athleticism shows out in his routes, as he is controlled in his movements and provides reliable hands. Shows strong acceleration out of cuts. Has a quick mind, adjusting to situations. Lacks ideal size, and is unproven on the outside. Few examples of him winning contested catches downfield. Inexperienced against press. Projects as a matchup piece that can be very productive with volume.
  • Asante Samuel Jr (CB): Twitchy with fluid athleticism, but lacks ideal frame. Plays with excellent confidence. Similar to Jaire Alexander as a prospect. Projects as an NFL starter inside or outside. Son of 11-year NFL veteran Asante Samuel Sr.
  • Jevon Holland (S): Highly competitive player. Obtains natural ball skills and versatility to play as a matchup defender. Raw in coverage and run defense. Projects as a potential starting nickel safety.
  • Tylan Wallace (WR): Route technician who plays with strength balance, body control, and solid catch radius. Ability to make plays in all three levels of the field, but only has average size and is just a guy when it comes to speed. Has battled multiple injuries. Projects as an NFL starter if he can avoid injuries.
  • Chazz Surratt (LB): Younger brother is Sage. Instinctive athlete who plays with competitive toughness. Must improve run fits and develop his overall technique. Projects to a volume tackler role/weakside backer.
  • David Moore (iOL): Physically gifted with several natural traits that are enticing. Short and compact stature, with oversized wingspan (6-foot-1 height, 6-foot-9 wingspan, 350 lbs). Naturally low pad level leads to easy leverage. Highly aggressive finisher. Needs time for technique and mental aspects of game to catch up to physical tools. Projects as a developmental interior offensive lineman with quality starting upside.
  • Dazz Newsome (WR): Good athlete who shows toughness attacking the middle of the field. Punt return experience. Competitive nature with explosive play potential. Must become more disciplined in his technique and craft. Projects as a slot wide receiver with added value as a punt returner.
  • Austin Watkins (WR): Strong ball skills, size, and physical presence on the field. An average athlete. Could serve a role as a possession wide receiver with limited upside.
  • Josh Imatorbhebhe (WR): An excellent athlete, with ability to make acrobatic plays on the ball. Lots of inconsistencies in his game. Needs development across the board as he is a raw athlete at this point. Could have trouble sticking unless he pairs with the right coaching staff and develops.
  • Darren Hall (CB/S): NFL-ready press-man skillset, plays with toughness, athleticism, and ball skills that will prove valuable at the next level. Needs to clean up body positioning, footwork, and hip discipline. Strong developmental prospect with chance to start.
  • Jack Anderson (iOL): Strong, light-footed interior presence. Plays with a mean streak and a mean mustache. Lacks length, and tends to play too upright. Projects as a potential backup interior offensive lineman in a zone-based scheme. Could find chance to start eventually if he prefects his hand usage to mitigate lack of length.
  • Ta’Quon Graham (iDL): Flashes good twitch and power to stack and shed. Has an NFL frame, and can be effective when he uses his length and leverage correctly. Consistency is an issue, as he can become methodical and predictable in his attack. Lacks a pass rush plan, and has limited quickness. Projects as a developmental subpackage interior defensive lineman.
  • Robert Jones (iOL): Competes with violence and a strong punch. Considers it his job to finish every block. Squared-frame with natural power. Lacks range in his kick slide and fluidity in his movements. Lunges too often, and needs development. Projects as a developmental interior offensive lineman with starting potential.
  • Brandon Kennedy (iOL): Lacks ideal weight (286 lbs). Sufficient arm length, and generally average athlete. Limited scouting information available.

A deeper look at some other available OT, WR, and CB draft prospects can be found in the below links.

Offensive Tackle

Wide Receiver

Cornerback


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