By Bryan Dietzler
Over the past few weeks we have covered several different players that would be good fits for the Bears in the 2017 NFL Draft. We have looked at quarterbacks, safeties, cornerbacks and defensive lineman. We have looked at guys like Jamal Adams, Jonathan Allen and Marshon Lattimore. There has been speculation that the Bears could draft DeShaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes.
Not one single mock draft has the Bears taking any player but a safety, cornerback, quarterback or defensive tackle in the first round. And that’s for good reason. If you look at the players that rated to be worthy of that third pick, those are the four positions that seem to be the most sensible. Well sensible to take with the third pick in the draft.
You wouldn’t think that taking an offensive tackle with that pick would be feasible. In this draft, it wouldn’t be. There is not a top ten offensive tackle and the only one who might even be considered near top ten, Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, will probably not be selected until after the 15th pick in the first round.
It doesn’t appear that there could be a chance that the Bears would take an offensive tackle in the first round. Sure, it might happen if they trade down and grab one a little later but they won’t take one at number three.
An offensive tackle is not their number one need or top target in this draft.
But it is a need and one that should be addressed in this draft. But where in the draft? And who should they consider taking?
I am one to advocate taking a strong future starter at left tackle in either the second or third round of the draft. Depending on what the Bears decide to do at quarterback, they may even wait until the third round or fourth of the draft to take one. But maybe it’s just not a top priority to them?
But why all this talk of drafting an offensive tackle? Isn’t Charles Leno Jr., the 16-game starter from last season, good enough? Do the Bears really need to find a new left tackle in this draft?
Leno is solid but unspectacular player who gives up a lot of pressure on the quarterback. He is serviceable, for now, but the Bears need someone a little more dynamic at the position. If they can upgrade at left tackle, their line play would be better and they could do a lot more in a better way.
If the Bears were to take an offensive tackle, where should they take one? And who should they take?
Let’s look at three prospects that the Bears may be interested in at the tackle position. There is one prospect each for the second, third and fourth round. We will look at a little of their upside, a little about their downside and if they make sense being drafted by the Bears in their projected round.
Roderick Johnson-Florida State-His build is solid for the tackle position and he has long arms which allows him to keep defenders off his body. He can adjust quickly to the defender, keep him from disrupting the play and is quick to react. Johnson can run block well and finishes his blocks with authority.
There are times he bends at the waist when blocking which isn’t good for an offensive lineman. He can overreact struggle to correct and then take on the defender without good technique. Johnson’s footwork could use some fine tuning as well so hopefully a good coach can help him work through that issue.
Is Johnson worth a second-round pick? Most experts feel that he could be a low second to early third round selection so the Bears may not want to take him at 36. If the fell into the third round, where the Bears pick at number 67 then he could be worth taking. He could develop into a fine starter and may be better than Leno eventually.
Vanderbilt is not known as a football powerhouse but it has produced some decent talent in the past. We won’t mention the most popular Vanderbilt product who played for the Bears (Jay Cutler anyone?). But there is one guy coming out this year, an offensive tackle, that could interest Chicago. His name is Will Holden.
Holden is a monster standing 6-7 while weighing 311 pounds. He could play guard or tackle but the Bears need him to play tackle. His run blocking is pretty stout and is used to working in a highly efficient run offense. He is strong and can move defenders where he needs them to go (get them out of the way).
Pass protection is Holden’s weakness and the Bears can’t really afford to have someone that could hurt them in pass protection. Perhaps they can develop him into a finely tuned pass protector but that would take time. Do the Bears have time to develop a tackle? Of course, they do because Leno can still play while they let this guy get “NFL-ready”.
Although he is a project, Holden is worth looking at as a third or fourth round pick. The Bears make their pick early in the third round and then have the 111th and 117th picks in the draft. Many experts feel that Holden could go late in the third round but he could be there early in the fourth too.
He’s a project player with a ton of upside who could, quite possibly, develop into a starter later down the road.
Finally, Florida’s David Sharpe is yet another player that the Bears could look at in finding some help at the offensive tackle position. Sharpe, who stands six feet six inches tall and weighs 343 pounds, is another big-bodied guy . But does he have decent pass protection skills?
When looking at his upside, you will see that Sharpe is massive and well-proportioned with big legs and long arms. His initial punch is big and his hand technique is well-developed. Due to his bulk, he can grab hold and control defenders moving them where he needs them to go. Sharpe is very strong and can outmuscle many defenders he encounters. But can he do what he was able to do to college defensive lineman to NFL defensive linemen?
Sharpe doesn’t play with much fluidity and seems to be a little stiff. He will bend in the middle and will lunge at the defender sometimes. He doesn’t make quick lateral moves and is not very quick overall. His ability to get in and execute double team blocks isn’t that strong either.
A player like Sharpe could be a good pick up . He’s more like an early to mid-fourth round pick right and could be had by the Bears at 111 or 117. Of course, he would be another developmental prospect that could step in and play a little later down the road.
Every team needs a solid left tackle and the Bears haven’t had one for quite some time. If they can draft someone that could help them solidify the position that would be great. It’s doubtful they will take a left tackle in the first round and probably not in the second. Look for them to grab one and try to shore up a position that could use some more “punch”.