The Chicago Bears decision makers are on hand in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl this week and they are making the rounds. To this point, we know of five players with whom the Bears have had discussions.
DE Jihad Ward, Illinois (6-5, 296)
Ward is a versatile defender who played both defensive tackle and defensive end for the Illini. He's a big-bodied defender who is solid against the run. He finished his senior season with 54 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Yet Ward doesn't offer much as a pass rusher and had just 1.5 sacks last season. Due to his one-dimensional skill set, as well as a recent knee surgery that forced him out of the first two contests in 2015, he's projected to fall to the 6th or 7th round in this year's draft. As a depth player at the 5-technique position, he'd be worth the late-round pick.
DE Quinton Jefferson, Maryland (6-4, 289)
Jefferson was a very productive player for the Terrapins last year, accumulating 39 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, a blocked kick, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He's a penatrating defender who doesn't fit the typical mold of a 3-4 defensive end, yet the Bears run a hybrid defense and lacked interior pass rush on passing downs last year. Jefferson is ideally suited to play 3-technique, yet the Bears could use his disruptive ability in their 4-3 sets, especially from a player projected to fall to the 6th or 7th round.
ILB Antonio Morrison, Florida (6-1, 232)
Morrison is a physically gifted inside linebacker whose level of on-field intensity was unmatched in the SEC last year. He's a smart defender who reads plays well, one who can transfer that intensity to big plays on the field. Morrison has 2nd- or 3rd-round talent but there are serious concerns about a knee injury he suffered in Florida's bowl game last January. He returned quicker than expected and played very well his senior year but the health of his knee, and how it checks out during the scouting combine, will be the deciding factor in what round he's drafted. If his knee doesn't meet NFL standards, he could drop all the way to the 6th round.
FB Dan Vitale, Northwestern (6-1, 240)
It's been a long time since the Bears had a pure fullback but Vitale may end that trend. The former Wildcat can lay the lumber as a lead blocker and he's also very adept as a pass catcher. He's a late-round selection whom the Bears may gobble up with one of their three 6th-round picks in the 2016 NFL Draft.
ILB Reggie Ragland, Alabama (6-1, 259)
Ragland is a pure North-South inside lienbacker who has the size and quickness to be a force as a run defender at the next level. He's not a special athlete and most likely won't blow everyone away at the combine, yet Ragland can play. He's physical at the point of attack and can shed blocks, and he improved in coverage his senior season. He even rushed off the edge as a defensive end in obvious passing situations and lined up at both ILB and OLB this week in Mobile, showing off his versatility. Ragland's lack of straight-line speed is concerning but as a 3-4 thumper on run downs, he's exactly what the Bears need. He's projected as a Top 20 pick in this year's draft and could be GM Ryan Pace's first selection.null