The Chicago Bears invested heavily in defensive linemen this offseason, re-signing two defensive tackles and nabbing four defensive ends in free agency. Yet there is still work to be done, particularly along the interior where age and injury leave many unanswered questions.
At defensive tackle, Jeremiah Ratliff is 33, Nate Collins is recovering from ACL surgery and Stephen Paea, a former second rounder who has yet to reach his potential, is coming off a season marred by a turf toe injury. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will likely rotate his defensive ends inside, particularly Lamarr Houston and Israel Idonije, but that doesn't alleviate the need for a long-term interior defender.
As a result, GM Phil Emery could be targeting a defensive tackle in the first two rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. One player being attached to the Bears is former Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman, one of the top players at his position.
Let's go to the film room to see what Hageman could offer as the newest member of Chicago's defensive line.
Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota (6-6, 310)40-yard dash: 5.02
Bench press: 32
Vertical jump: 35.5
Broad jump: 9-6
Pros-Explosive and powerful off the snap. Stays low and jolts blockers.
-Against the run, he won't get pushed backward. Just too strong.
-Very effective bull rush. Commands double teams.
-Length will help knock down a lot of balls.
-Experience dropping into short zone on zone blitzes.
-Good closing speed. Moves well in a straight line.
-Scheme versatile. Can play in 3-4 and 4-3.
Cons-While he's tough to move, a smart, technique-driven blocker can angle him out of plays.
-Lacks vision. Loses ball carriers.
-Not much of a pass-rush arsenal. Relies on strength to bully linemen.
-Doesn't change directions well. Once a play is behind him, he's a non-factor.
-Leaves plays on the field. Appears to be in position for impact tackles yet runner flies right by.
-Struggles to disengage. Too easily blocked at times.
-Wears down late in games.
-Has ideal size and skill set but is yet to put it all together.
David Banks/USA TODAY
At the snap, Hageman is one of the most explosive players in this draft. When he leverages and drives, he snaps back the heads of opposing linemen. Few players possess his cannon-like get off.
He's also extremely strong and has the ability to physically manhandle smaller blockers. His 32 bench-press reps were third most amongst defensive linemen at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. That type of power, combined with a body type most would consider ideal, surely has NFL defensive coordinators salivating.
Hageman is a former tight end that switched to defensive tackle his freshman season at Minnesota. His potential is through the roof and if he ever hits his ceiling, he'll be a bona fide Pro Bowler. Yet his film leaves a lot to be desired, showing he's still very much a work in progress.
While he often explodes into blockers, buckling knees in the process, he rarely takes advantage and is far too easily blocked. He struggles to get off blocks and relies too much on his pure power. If he could learn how to rip past blockers, he can be elite, but he all too often stays locked up with the guy across from him.
In particular, Hageman must learn how to track the ball. On film, too many ball carriers run past him within arm's reach.
If a defensive line coach could mold a player as a perfect fit at defensive tackle, he'd use Hageman as the prototype. He has great length and extreme power, and his potential is through the roof. Yet Hageman has yet to put it all together and his production on the field did not match his combination of size and power.
The team that drafts Hageman is banking on his potential, not due to what he accomplished in college, which was minimal. He has the look of a dominant player but has yet to play like one.
Hageman is a versatile player in a couple of ways. He can fit multiple systems, although he might be best fit as a 5-technique in a 3-4 system. He can also play 3-technique in a 4-3 or nose tackle. That will be appealing to the Bears and Emery, who is always looking for players who "transcend schemes."
Yet Hageman is a huge question mark, one who could easily boom or bust. There's no denying his pure athleticism but there's also no denying how raw he is at the defensive tackle position.
For the Bears, selecting Hageman with the 14th overall pick appears to be a big reach. He's a borderline first rounder due to his upside but with a Top 15 selection, it makes more sense to grab a finished product, rather than a work in progress.
He's worth the risk if he falls to the second round but his limited production, despite being an athletic monster, makes him very risky in the first round.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth 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.