The Chicago Bears lost Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton this offseason and have yet to replace him. On the roster, the club has 33-year-old Jeremiah Ratliff, the untested Nate Collins and the oft-injured Stephen Paea.
Earlier this offseason, we broke down the early-round defensive tackles in this year's draft. Now let's evaluate the mid- and late-round DTs that can help Chicago's defense.
Caraun Reid, Princeton (6-2, 302)Reid is a two-time, third-team All-American and three-time All-Ivy League player. He accumulated 20.5 sacks during his collegiate career and has experience rushing from the edge as well as the interior. He's a penetrating 3-technique who showed well at the Senior Bowl. A torn pectoral his freshman year stunted his physical development (his 20 bench-press reps are very low) but he's only 20 years old, so he has time to rebuild his strength. He's not an athletic specimen but Reid is an experienced and intelligent defender who would be good value in the middle rounds. Projected: 3rd-4th round
Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech (6-2, 334)Ellis is a pure nose tackle who can eat up blockers with the best of them. He has a heavy base and is very hard to move at the point of attack, even with double teams. He anticipates the snap well, something he demonstrated at the Senior Bowl. Ellis isn't a pass rusher by any means and struggled with his weight in college, leading to foot and ankle injuries. If he can maintain his weight, he'd be a gem for the Bears, who are in desperate need of a nose tackle that can clog run lanes on first and second down. Projected: 3rd-4th round
Daniel McCullers, Tennessee (6-7, 352)McCullers is a behemoth of a human being. When he keeps is pads low, his pure size and power is very difficult to stop. His bull rush can be unblockable at times. Yet other than a bull rush, McCullers doesn't offer much as a pass rusher. His size makes it difficult for him to keep his pads underneath opposing blocker's, which often saps him of his power and leverage. McCullers is likely best suited in a 3-4 system and wouldn't be a great fit for the Bears. Projected: 3rd-4th round
Deandre Coleman, California (6-5, 314)Coleman is a big, heavy nose tackle who is tough to move off the ball. He can anchor inside and he forces double teams. He's a powerful pass rusher who can rip past blockers when he keeps leverage. Coleman was impressive at the Senior Bowl, showing good agility and balance. He had just 2.5 sacks last year, so he'll come off the field on third down, but as a first- and second-down lane stuffer, the Bears could do a lot worse than Reid in the fifth. Projected: 5th round
Zack Kerr, Delaware (6-1, 326)Kerr began his collegiate career with two seasons at Maryland before transferring in 2011 due to academic issues. He's a wide-bodied, long-armed nose tackle who can split double teams and be disruptive against the run. Kerr tends to wear down easily and will need to play in a rotation. He's strong but he doesn't play with a lot of power, so he's not a pure two-gap NT. He'll likely fit best in a 3-4 system but his finesse style could make him a decent fit for the Bears as Paea's backup. Projected: 5th-6th round
Khryi Thornton, Southern Miss (6-3, 304)Thornton has the body type of a 3-technique player but he's more of a nose tackle. A three-year starter, he can anchor against the run and has strong hands to disrupt blockers off the snap. He has experience at every position along the defensive line, a trait Bears GM Phil Emery covets. Thornton is a one-dimensional, developmental player who doesn't bring much as a pass rusher. He has limited upside but in the sixth round, his positional versatility makes him worth a flyer. Projected: 6th round
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Jay Bromley, Syracuse (6-3, 306)Bromley led the Orange with 10 sacks last season. He's a high-effort, hardworking 3-technique who was team captain in 2013. He moves very well, allowing him to avoid blockers and hit gaps. He lacks ideal intensity and he doesn't have a large pass-rush arsenal but his potential as a rotational DT in Chicago's system will be very attractive on the third day of the draft. Projected: 6th round
Shamar Stephen, Connecticut (6-5, 309)Stephen played in 45 games (20 starts) for the Huskies during his collegiate career and piled up 60 tackles, 10 for loss, as a senior. He's long and is very athletic for his size. He has solid character traits and was a team captain. Stephen appeared to underachieve in college and disappeared far too often. He lacks ideal instincts and intensity. He had just 5.0 sacks in four years but he has the tools to develop into a potentially productive rotational player at the next level. Projected: 6th-7th round
The Pick: Justin Ellis
The Bears finished 32nd against the run last year, yet they still lack a pure space-eating nose tackle to clog lanes along the interior. Ellis could help cure that problem, as he's an athletic big man who can occupy blockers and allow Chicago's linebackers to make plays in the backfield.
With the team's first two picks, Emery could address the issues in the secondary, then snag Ellis in the third round. His ability against the run, even if he never picks up a sack, would give him value from Day 1.
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.