Senior Bowl best, worst fits for Bears

After a week's worth of practice in Mobile, Alabama, plus the Senior Bowl itself, here are the defensive players who can help the Bears going forward, and those who are best suited elsewhere.

After yesterday's 20-10 victory by the South team, the Senior Bowl is officially in the books. After a week's worth of practices and hard-fought competition yesterday, we now know a lot more about the incoming class of collegiate seniors in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The Chicago Bears scouts and coaches were on hand throughout the week, getting an up-close look at some of the best players in the country. Bear Report was also front and center, evaluating prospects with an eye toward Chicago's needs this year and beyond.

Here are the defensive players that we feel would best help the Bears going forward, and those who are better suited to play elsewhere.

Best Fits

DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh (6-1, 288)
Donald doesn't have "ideal" size for a defensive tackle in the NFL but there's no denying his athleticism and explosiveness. He was the standout of practice, dominating opposing blockers with his combination of power, quickness and active hands. No defensive tackle was quicker and showed as much strength off the ball as Donald. If Henry Melton bolts in free agency, which is very likely, the Bears will be in the market for a 3-technique pass rusher. Donald's performance this week likely propelled him into the first round, so if the Bears want him, GM Phil Emery may have to pull the trigger at 14th overall.
Projected: 1st round

DE Trent Murphy, Stanford (6-5, 252)
Murphy was inconsistent this week but the Pac-12's sack leader in 2013 flashed potential both as a pass rusher and a run stopper. He's quick off the edge but also powerful at the point of attack. If he can add a bit of weight, he could be a three-down defensive end for the Bears and a quality selection in the second round.
Projected: 2nd round

DT Will Sutton, Arizona State (6-1, 315)
Sutton, the two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year, showed outstanding quickness and an ability to one-gap penetrate in both 1-on-1 and team drills. He weighed in much heavier than most expected, with much of that weight in his midsection, which could give some NFL teams pause when it comes time to invest a 2nd-round pick. But if he can drop some weight, he'll be a playmaker as an under tackle for the Bears.
Projected: 2nd round

S Deone Bucannon, Washington State (6-1, 216)
The Bears need a physical, in-the-box safety and Bucannon could be a perfect fit. He's physically imposing and is arguably the hardest-hitting safety in the draft. His size and speed should give him the advantage covering opposing tight ends, while his effort against the run would be a huge boost for Chicago's 32nd-ranked run defense. If the Bears address the defensive line in the first round, Bucannon could be Emery's second pick of the draft.
Projected: 2nd round

CB Stanley Jean-Baptise, Nebraska (6-2, 215)
Jean-Baptiste was a junior college wide receiver who has only been playing corner for a season and a half. He's raw but he has ideal size and speed, and the natural athletic ability to grow into his position. He made a number of mistakes but he was also very physical at the line of scrimmage, showed great make-up speed and was active when the ball was in the air. He may not be a first-year starter but Jean-Baptiste could develop into an eventual replacement for Charles Tillman.
Projected: 3rd round

LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin (5-11, 245)
Borland is a throwback linebacker who is built like a tank. He's very good at the point of attack and filled running lanes better than any linebacker in Mobile. He's inexperienced in coverage yet showed good instincts in zone sets and solid quickness in man-to-man. Emery admitted after the season that last year's second-round pick, Jon Bostic, is a better fit at outside linebacker, meaning the club still needs a long-term middle linebacker. Borland is a smart, downhill player who would improve Chicago's run defense immediately.
Projected: 3rd round

CB Jaylen Watkins, Florida (5-11, 194)
No defensive back had more pass breakups during practice than Watkins. During Tuesday's practice, he was unstoppable, knocking down at least five passes and intercepting another. He breaks very fast on the ball and showed great awareness. He'll be a quality nickelback his first year and has the potential to be Chicago's long-term starter out wide.
Projected: 3rd-4th round

CB Lavelle Westbrooks, Georgia Southern (5-11, 195)
Westbrooks was inconsistent in Mobile but he made enough plays against big-name, top-tier talent to get my attention. He's extremely athletic but lacks ideal instincts and tends to use his hands far too much in coverage. He was solid in red zone 1-on-1 drills and showed good leaping ability. He's a third-day prospect with a lot of potential under the right coaching staff. The Bears could do worse than investing a late-round selection on Westbrooks.
Projected: 6th-7th round

DT Deandre Coleman, California (6-5, 315)
Coleman has nose-tackle size and showed good power at the point of attack. He also demonstrated an ability to get down the line and make plays outside the box. He's not all that explosive but he's a solid all-around defensive tackle that would fit well in Chicago's D-line rotation.
Projected: 6th-7th round

Worst Fits

DE Dee Ford, Auburn (6-2, 242)
Ford was named the Senior Bowl MVP after a two-sack performance yesterday. He is lightning quick off the edge and was a step faster than every other pass rusher during practice. He's a pure speed rusher and looks like a much better version of Shea McClellin. Yet he's only 242 pounds, so it's doubtful he'll be able to hold his own against the run as a 4-3 defensive. He appears much better suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker. And while no player in Mobile turned the corner like Ford, that was the only pass-rush move he showed. In addition, Ford struggled with injuries throughout his collegiate career, starting just 18 games in five years at Auburn, missing the final 10 contests in 2011 with a back injury. He has value in the NFL but he's a borderline fit for the Bears and he's injury prone. Let another team select him in the first round.
Projected: 1st round

DT Rashede Hageman, Minnesota (6-6, 318)
Hageman was arguably the most powerful defensive tackle at the Senior Bowl and routinely drove blockers into the backfield. He's explosive and strong, sending Miami guard Brandon Linden onto his back during 1-on-1 drills, yet Hageman was very inconsistent. He'll collapse the pocket on occasion but he's more of a nose tackle than a 3-tech, one who might be a better fit in a 3-4.
Projected: 1st-2nd round

OLB Telvin Smith, Florida State (6-3, 218)
Smith was the fastest linebacker in Mobile. The former safety can cover ground sideline to sideline and showed great instincts in coverage. For the Bears, that type of speed would have value, but his weight (218) is roughly that of receiver Alshon Jeffery. Chicago needs help stopping the run, particularly between the tackles, and Smith just doesn't possess the size to fill gaps in a 4-3 system.
Projected: 2nd round

DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina (6-5, 272)
Martin is a powerful defensive lineman who could be versatile enough to play both end and tackle in the NFL. He is stout against the run and has value in 3-4 and 4-3 systems. While the Bears could use a run-stopping defensive end, a player who can get after the quarterback is a much bigger need off the edge, an area in which Martin struggled. He was slow off the ball and did not demonstrate much quickness. Martin is a one-dimensional player, which would make him a reach for the Bears in the 3rd round.
Projected: 3rd-4th round

S Ahmad Dixon, Baylor (5-11, 204)
Dixon is a well-built, strong safety who can play in the box but he struggled in coverage. The Bears need help stopping the run but Dixon might bee too one-dimensional to be worth a third-round pick.
Projected: 3rd round


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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