Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears 2016 Draft Preview: Defensive Ends (Rounds 1-3)

Detailed analysis of the top defensive ends in the 2016 NFL Draft, with a focus on which players can fill the needs of the Chicago Bears.

Don't be fooled, the Chicago Bears run a hybrid defense. 

When folks talk about coordinator Vic Fangio, they almost always refer to his 3-4 system. Yet in reality, the Bears used 4-3 looks on more than 50 percent of snaps last season.

The NFL is a passing league, where sub packages are a necessity against the prevalence of three-receiver sets. Those nickel sets are little more than 4-3 Over formations, so the idea the Bears must find players who fit a 3-4 scheme only is shortsighted. 

So, when approaching the 2016 NFL Draft, defensive end is an all-encompassing term with the Bears. The team needs 5-technique run stoppers, yet it also needs long, athletic edge rushers who can get after the quarterback in sub sets. 

With that in mind, let's take a look at the top defensive ends in this year's class, those projected to come off the board in the first three rounds. 

Joey Bosa, Ohio State (6-5, 259)

Bosa racked up 26 sacks in three seasons for the Buckeyes and was named Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2015. He's a powerful edge rusher who can play with his hand in the dirt or in a two-point stance. He physically gifted and intelligent. He has a wicked bull rush and the power to fill gaps in the run game. Bosa isn't likely to fall to the Bears in the first round but if he does, GM Ryan Pace would moonwalk to the podium to select him.
Projected: Top 10

DeForest Buckner, Oregon (6-7, 291)

Buckner is a rare athlete, one who transcends scheme. He has the size and power to occupy gaps as a 5-technique, yet the pass-rush ability to be an effective edge rusher as well. He would be a perfect fit in Chicago's hybrid system, yet it appears unlikely he'll fall out of the Top 10. View our full scouting report on Buckner here.
Projected: Top 10

Shaq Lawson, Clemson (6-3, 269)

Lawson is a one of the most powerful defensive ends in this year's class, yet he also has the agility to play from a two-point stance. He posted elite numbers for the Tigers (24.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks his junior year) and showed great speed at the scouting combine (his 4.70 40-yard dash was one of the top times at his position). He's a quality edge rusher but he can also set the edge against the run. He compares favorably to Pernell McPhee. View our full scouting report on Lawson here.
Projected: 1st Round

Kevin Dodd, Clemson (6-5, 277)

Dodd has the size and athleticism to be a Top 15 pick in this year's draft. In addition, he got better late last year, his first full season as a starter, and finished 2015 with at least one sack in his final five games. Most believe Dodd hasn't even approached his ceiling. He's best suited in a 4-3 role where he can get after the quarterback and he may not be able to hold up as a 5-technique at the next level. View our full scouting report on Dodd here.
Projected: 1st Round

Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State (6-4, 273)

Ogbah is the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and was named an All-American by numerous outlets following a 2015 campaign in which he totaled 17.5 tackles for loss and a conference-high 13 sacks. When Ogbah flashes his potential, he's scary. He can be a dominant pass rusher when he wants to be but his effort is questionable. He takes far too many plays off and runs extremely hot and cold. His low motor is concerning, although his ceiling is very high. View our full scouting report on Ogbah here.
Projected: 1st-2nd Round

Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky (6-2, 251)

Spence is one of the better pass rushers in this year's draft. He's very agile and has the flexibility to bend and turn the corner. In terms of pure potential, he could be a 10-sack-per-year player in the NFL. Yet concerns about drug use, which resulted in him being kicked off the Ohio State team, are a serious concern. If Spence, who had a full clean year at Eastern Kentucky, has put the drug issues behind him, he'll be a draft-day steal. View our full scouting report on Spence here.
Projected: 1st-2nd Round

Jonathan Bullard, Florida (6-3, 285)

Bullard was a three-year starter for the Gators. He tallied 17.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks his senior season. Bullard is a quality run stuffer who can two-gap at the point of attack and occupy blockers. He's tailor made for a 5-technique role in the NFL. He's quick off the snap and has more pass-rush potential than his collegiate numbers indicate. Bullard would be very good value for the Bears in Round 2. 
Projected: 2nd Round

Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State (6-4, 251)

Calhoun, who has a basketball background, was a very productive three-year starter for the Spartans, where he totaled 128 QB pressures and 26.5 sacks combined. He has good up-field burst and the ability to turn the corner. His speed rush is hard to stop when he comes off the ball low and hard. While he was effective against the run, he needs to get stronger if he's going to fill gaps at the NFL level. Calhoun has a lot of pass-rush upside and could find success at outside linebacker in Chicago's 3-4 sets. 
Projected: 2nd Round

Carl Nassib, Penn State (6-7, 277)

A former walk-on at Penn State, Nassib developed into an elite pass rusher and led the nation with 15.5 sacks his senior year in 2015. He's very long and powerful, and plays with an all-day motor. Coaches and teammates alike have lauded his work ethic. Yet, in terms of pure athleticism, Nassib is not top-tier. He's stout against the run but he doesn't project as a double-digit sack producer at the next level. He's a gritty, team-first player who may be able to fit as a rotatational 5-technique for the Bears with pass-rush upside on 3rd down, particularly if he falls to the third round. 
Projected: 2nd-3rd Round

Charles Tapper, Oklahoma (6-3, 271)

Tapper has a lot of potential but he was never able to hit his ceiling with the Sooners. He's not stout against the run because he lacks the technique, particularly hand usage, to stack and shed. He had some success as a pass rusher (7 sacks in 2015) but he relies too much on his bull rush and doesn't have a full edge-rush arsenal. Tapper is a solid all-around player with an NFL body but he isn't great in any phase of his game. With some coaching and a little added weight, he could develop into decent rotational 5-technique. 
Projected: 2nd-3rd Round

Shawn Oakman, Baylor (6-8, 287)

In terms of measurements, Oakman looks like an NFL first-round prospect. He has elite size and a massive wingspan (35 3/4 inches). He's an athletic specimen, yet he never made the most of his physical talents at Baylor. He had 19.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks his junior year but his production dropped off considerably last season (14.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks). Oakman has an extremely high ceiling but his struggles at the Senior Bowl, as well as an underwhelming senior season, will give teams pause before making him a high-round selection. 
Projected: 3rd Round

Bronson Kaufusi, BYU (6-6, 285) 

Kaufusi began his BYU career playing both basketball and football. A coach's son, he totaled 20 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in 2015. He has NFL-level size and athleticism, and he plays with a high motor. Yet he's not a natural bender and shows some stiffness on film. He also doesn't generate a lot of power at the point of attack, which could hurt him against the run. Kaufusi is an intriguing prospect, as he doesn't fit any preset mold. If an NFL team can figure out a way to tap into his potential, he can be a quality 5-technique or outside linebacker at the next level. 
Projected: 3rd-4th Round

The Pick

Jonathan Bullard: If Buckner falls to the Bears in the first round, he's an obvious selection, but the odds of him falling out of the Top 10 are slim. The same goes for Bosa. Lawson and Dodd wouldn't be horrible choices but it's questionable as to whether either player warrants the 11th overall pick. 

If the Bears can find a quality all-around player in the 1st round, then Bullard would be an ideal selection in the second round. He's not elite pass rusher, nor is he an unstoppable force against the run, but most scouts believe he's yet to reach his potential. 

Bullard has the positional flexibility to line up at 5-technique in base 3-4 sets, where he can be effective if he's able to improve his technique. On passing downs, he can slide inside to defensive tackle, where his ability to one-gap penetrate would have a lot of value. Or he can stand up on the edge, where his downhill, hard-effort playing style will give him an advantage. 

Bullard is a project but his ceiling is very high. If he ever develops into a full-blown NFL player, his ability to play multiple positions would be a big boost to Fangio's defense. 


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