We are just a month away from the NFL Draft in Chicago and the excitement and anticipation continues to build. The Chicago Bears will enter the draft in good shape, following a free-agent period that has been praised by many experts.
With the Bears addressing certain needs already this off-season, it gives GM Ryan Pace some more flexibility with the 11th overall pick.
If the Bears decide to go defense with the pick, there will be a playmaker available for their choosing. That playmaker could come in the form of edge rusher Noah Spence, as the team looks to fill a void along the defensive line.
Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky (6-2, 251) Junior
Spence was a five-star prospect named to the Parade Magazine All-American team in high school. The defensive end committed to Ohio State and he appeared in 11 games his freshman season. In 2013 he started 13 games for the Buckeyes. He finished second in the Big Ten with 8 sacks that season and sixth with 14.5 tackles for loss. His play earned him First-Team All-Big Ten honors, as voted by the media.
After transferring to Eastern Kentucky from Ohio State, Spence picked up right where he left off. In his junior season he recorded 11.5 sacks and was named a First Team All-American.
40-yard dash: 4.80
20-yard shuttle: 4.35
3-cone drill: 7.21
Bench press: 25 reps
Vertical jump: 35 inches
Broad jump: 121 inches (ranked 3rd among defensive lineman)
-You often hear the term “high motor” a lot when discussing defensive linemen prospects, but Spence has just that. He doesn’t slack and rarely takes plays off no matter the situation.
-Very intelligent player. Knows the game well and gets into good situations on the field.
-Quick lateral movement.
-Solid speed for a defensive lineman off the edge. Has solid rip move to get by tackles and pursue the quarterback.
-Gets up the field quickly and has shown the ability to close in fast on the ball carrier. Solid tackler.
-His strength benefits him in the running game as he can hold up against offensive linemen. Great positioning against opposing linemen.
-Doesn’t engage too quickly in pass-rushing situations. Keeps his leverage against linemen.
-Tested positive for Ecstasy at Ohio State and failed another drug test that led to a ban from the Big Ten. Has the talent to be one of the better defensive linemen in the draft but this is a big issue for teams.
-Has been caught anticipating the snap count wrong, which puts him in bad positions from the start. Needs to show more discipline in that area.
-While he has solid moves off the edge, he sometimes is dominated by blockers far too easily. Getting stronger will fix this.
-His size doesn’t help him at times as he’s easily engaged with blockers early on. Struggles on run plays with his hands, fails to get good position against linemen at times.
Is Spence worth the 11th pick in the draft?
Last year, Nebraska defensive lineman Randy Gregory’s draft stock dropped significantly after he tested positive for marijuana. Spence is in a similar position.
The kid has all sorts of eye-popping talent that could attract some teams in the Top 10 of the draft but the drug abuse is a problem. If Spence has convinced enough teams during meetings that the incidents simply were mistakes, he could end up being drafted before the Bears pick at No. 11.
If he is there at 11, which seems likely, the Bears will have an interesting choice to make.
Spence’s edge-rush talent could be just the thing the Bears need to improve the overall pass rush. That’s something they have truly lacked the past couple of seasons. His best plays come when he rushes the quarterback and provides solid moves to get to the signal caller with the potential of a big play.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would love to have a player with a high motor like Spence to be an anchor for the Bears pass rush for years to come. Drawing comparisons to Whitney Mercilus, Spence could be just what the doctor ordered for the Bears defense.
The Bears will look at Spence and see a Top 10 talent still on the board but will they be able to live with the possibility his drug issues could come back, like they have with Gregory?