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Chicago Bears 2017 Draft Preview: DE (Rounds 4-7)

Detailed analysis of the mid- and late-round defensive end prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft, with an emphasis on players who can fill needs for the Chicago Bears.

The Chicago Bears this week waived DL Ego Ferguson, which erodes even more depth along an already thin defensive line.

As a result, don't be surprised if GM Ryan Pace spends a pick or two in the later rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft to shore up the trenches on defense.

We’ve already outlined potential DE options for the Bears in the early rounds, so now it’s time to focus on the Day 3 players.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the mid- and late-round defensive end prospects in this year's class.

Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M (6-5, 266 pounds)

Hall started two seasons for the Aggies, lining up at 5-technique, 9-technique and outside linebacker. He’s got the length and size to be effective on the outside, while his initial burst off the line really stands out on film. Hall has the strength to anchor inside, although he needs to improve his awareness against the run. He has good height and 35-inch arms but he could stand to add about 15-20 pounds to his frame. Hall doesn't have the speed to rush off the edge, so his ability to line up at 5-technique for the Bears will depend on his ability to add weight, making him a somewhat risky third- or fourth-round selection.

Projected: 4th Round

Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova (6-7, 289)

For a player of his size, Kpassagnon has a unique combination of speed and athleticism. The Villanova product can really explode off the edge and has the power to fly past tackles and create havoc in opposing backfields (21.5 tackles for loss and 11.0 sacks in 2016). Mature and intelligent, Kpassagnon is still very raw and must overcome numerous technique flaws, particularly as a pass rusher, where his arsenal is limited.

Projected: 4th Round

Dawuane Smoot, Illinois (6-3, 264)

Smoot started 24 games for the Fighting Illini, racking up 30 tackles for loss and 13.0 sacks the past two years combined. A high-motor player, Smoot is very agile and light on his feet (he's a former track hurdler). He has good lateral quickness and the occasional ability to shoot gaps. Smoot doesn't have great burst or much of a pass-rush arsenal, nor the size to anchor at 5-technique. He has experience in both a three- and four-point stance, so he could provide some versatility and depth in Chicago.

Projected: 4th Round

Deatrich Wise Jr., Arkansas (6-5, 274)

Wise Jr. (son of former NFL player Deatrich Wise Sr.) only started one year at Arkansas and dealt with injuries for the majority of the 2016 season. He has a huge wingspan (35 5/8-inch arms) that allow him to shock blockers and create separation. After a promising junior year (8.0 sacks), Wise failed to take a step forward last season and lost early down reps. He does not have double-digit sack potential but Wise Jr. has the power to two-gap at the point of attack in a 3-4 system like Chicago's.

Projected: 5th Round

Josh Carraway, TCU (6-3, 242)

A two-time first-team Big-12 honoree, Carraway combined for 22.5 tackles for loss, 17.0 sacks and three forced fumbles the past two seasons. Speed is Carraway's biggest strength. He comes fast off the ball, with the ability to easily bend and turn the corner. In a 3-4 system as a pass-rush specialist, Carraway presents decent mid-round value. Just don't ask him to play the run, as he lacks the requisite toughness to fill running lanes.

Projected: 5th Round

Hunter Dimick, Utah (6-3, 268)

Dimick wasn’t invited to participate at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine but he made up for it with an impressive performance at Utah’s pro day (38 bench-press reps, 4.70 40-yard dash). He started 33 of 43 games for the Utes, tallying 29.5 sacks during his career. He led the Pac-12 with 14.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in 2017. His 31-inch arms are a serious concern, although Dimick was able to overcome it in college due his speed and hand usage. He also has experience dropping into coverage, which is a plus in Bears DC Vic Fangio's system.

Projected: 5th Round

Joe Mathis, Washington (6-2, 266)

Mathis led the Huskies with 5.0 sacks and 26 tackles through the first five-plus games in 2016 before a foot injury ended his season prematurely. A three-year starter at Washington, Mathis was inconsistent his first two seasons and did not produce at a high level, yet he looked very good before suffering the torn ligament in his foot, which required surgery. According to Pro Football Focus, Mathis was leading the country in Pass Rush Productivity before the injury. If Mathis is healthy, he could be a late-round steal for the Bears.

Projected: 5th Round

Keionta Davis, Tennessee-Chattanooga (6-3, 271)

A small-school prospect, Davis dominated at Tennessee-Chattanooga (24 sacks the past two years combined, 17 TFL in 2015, seven career forced fumbles). He was named the SoCon 2016 Defensive Player of the Year. Davis has heavy sand in his pants and a strong punch, which allows him to anchor and fill gaps against the run. He can stack and shed on first and second down, then push the pocket in the face of opposing quarterback on passing downs. He's not extremely athletic, fluid or quick, and he lacks burst off the ball. His lack of top-tier competition in college is a concern as well. Still, as a late-round  flyer, the Bears could do a lot worse than Davis. 

Projected: 6th Round

Bryan Cox Jr., Florida (6-3, 265)

Cox Jr. is the son of current Atlanta Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox Sr., who also played two seasons for the Bears. Cox Jr. was a standout for the Gators in 2015 (45 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 FF) but injuries derailed his 2016 season, which has caused his draft stock to plummet. Cox played standing up on the edge and with his hand in the dirt, so he has some versatility in his game. He’s a project and has to stay healthy to earn his way into the NFL, although in the seventh round, the risk is minimal.

Projected: 7th Round

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