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Chicago Bears 2017 Draft Preview: Defensive Tackle (Rounds 1-3)

A detailed look at the top defensive tackles in the 2017 NFL Draft class, focusing on early-round prospects that fit the Chicago Bears needs.

The Chicago Bears defensive line was one of the brightest spots on the team in a disappointing 3-13 season in 2016.

But if there is a place the team can improve in the trenches, it's at nose tackle.

Nose tackle Eddie Goldman couldn’t stay healthy in 2016, after an impressive rookie year in 2015, which severely hampered the run defense. While Goldman will be back in 2017, Will Sutton’s career in Chicago might be in jeopardy and the jury is still out on Jonathan Bullard, a 3-technique who failed to impact the pass rush as a rookie. 

As such, Chicago could look to add another nose tackle, 5-technique or 3-technique in the 2017 NFL Draft. If GM Ryan Pace decides to go this route, here are the early round defensive tackles from which he'll choose. 

Jonathan Allen, Alabama (6-3, 286)

Allen is not only the best player at his position, but he’s one of the best overall players in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Alabama defensive lineman is a serious choice for the Bears at number three in the upcoming draft. At Alabama he played inside when rushing the passer but also lined up as an end in some formations. His power and quick hands allow him to get off blocks and find his way in the backfield. The major concern comes in the form of an injury. It was revealed at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine that Allen has moderate arthritis in his shoulders. Will that scare the Bears away if he’s there at third overall?

Projected: Top 5

Malik McDowell, Michigan State (6-6, 295)

McDowell might be the best nose tackle in the 2017 class. He has great size for the position and his long arms are ideal. McDowell gets off the snap well and has the strength to push centers and guards back. His versatility is also a positive on his scouting report. While McDowell played primarily inside, he also recorded snaps on the outside. The former Spartan isn’t expected to be a Top-20 pick, but he might not be there when the Bears pick in the second round.

Projected: 1st Round

Caleb Brantley, Florida (6-3, 307)

The Bears took a former Florida defensive end in the 2016 NFL Draft when they selected Bullard in the third round. Will they look at Brantley in a similar spot? What stands out most about Brantley is how quick he gets off the ball. He's the type of player that can blow up plays in the backfield. His upper body strength allows him to put opposing linemen on their heels and shed blocks. Brantley’s power and quickness at the 3-technique might be something that catches the Bears’ eye in the draft.

Projected: 2nd Round

Larry Ogunjobi, North Carolina Charlotte (6-3, 305)

Ogunjobi has played in every game for Charlotte since the program started in 2013. At 6-3, 305, Ogunjobi has an average frame for an interior defensive lineman. While he's quick off the ball, he needs to get stronger to raise his game at the next level. While his size might be an issue moving forward, his speed certainly is not. It’s something that really stands out on tape, as he has the ability to chase down runners in the open field.

Projected: 2nd Round

Chris Wormley, Michigan, (6-5, 298)

Wormley spent four seasons at Michigan and really developed a nice skill set for the Wolverines. He’s got a positive frame and moves well latterly. On tape Wormley showed that he doesn’t bite for play action or misdirection plays often, as he stays disciplined. He’s improved during his four years at Michigan and has stayed relatively healthy despite tearing an MCL in 2012. If Chicago wants to go defense in the third round, this Wolverine could fit their plan.

Projected: 2nd-3rd round

Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama (6-3, 310)

Tomlinson played alongside Allen for the Crimson Tide and really held his own on a talented defense. Playing in a defensive scheme like Alabama’s, Tomlinson did what he was asked to do. He gives a full effort on plays and has a high motor, allowing him to get into the backfield and find the ball. If the Bears don’t take Allen at number three, they could look at his former teammate in the third round.

Projected: 2nd-3rd round

Montravius Adams, Auburn (6-4, 305)

As a sophomore, Adams played both inside and on the edge for the Tigers, who had a crowded line. A big concern on Adams is the lack of effort. After being a veteran on the line in 2015-16, Adams sometimes slowed down a bit. He certainly helped his stock with a nice performance at the Senior Bowl, where he showcased his explosiveness, but the lack of effort might be a concern for a lot of teams.

Projected: 3rd round

Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State (6-3, 304)

The Oklahoma State product is very strong inside. Taylor can shed blockers and find his way into a backfield to create some havoc. He’s got a high motor which coaches will love and his long arms allow him to get into passing lanes and knock down passes. Taylor’s does need to work on some technique in the passing game, as he's sometimes redirected by blockers too easily. Landing Taylor in the middle rounds could provide quality depth for the Bears defensive line.

Projected: 3rd Round

Elijah Qualls, Washington (6-1, 313)

Qualls played alongside Cleveland Browns nose tackle Danny Shelton at Washington and was named first team All-Pac-12 in 2016. His powerful upper body allows him to control his leverage and win against blockers in the trenches. But his lateral movement off the ball needs some work for him to succeed at the next level. He’s got a 300-pound frame and showed off some versatility by rushing off the edge at times at Washington but the short arms and stubby legs are something that might concern teams.

Projected: 3rd Round

Jaleel Johnson, Iowa (6-3, 316)

Johnson had a nice season for the Hawkeyes in 2016, leading the team with 7.5 sacks and earned All-Big Ten honors. The defensive tackle had a nice performance at the Senior Bowl, which might have raised his stock. His motor is an upside and a strong upper body allows him to push back blockers and get into the backfield. His frame is ideal for him to succeed at the next level and he’s shown the ability to shed blockers. With a lot of upside, Johnson could be a target for the Bears in the third round.

Projected: 3rd Round

Bear Report Pick: Jonathan Allen

The Bears will surely consider one of the top quarterbacks in the first round but if Pace isn't enamored with the top crop of passers in this class, then Allen makes a ton of sense at No. 3 overall. 

Allen's shoulders are a concern but he's only 22, so arthritis shouldn't be an issue for him until well down the road. 

If the Bears doctors gave Allen the OK at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, a big if, then he's the type of immediate-impact player Chicago's defense needs. Allen is stout against the run and holds up very well against double teams. He's also a quality interior pass rusher (5.5 sacks last season) who can push the pocket in the face of opposing quarterbacks. 

Allen's disruptive ability would make him a Day 1 starter for the Bears, where he'd have the ability to excel alongside Goldman and Akiem Hicks. 

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