Game tape will always be the most important aspect when evaluating players in the draft, but we already know that Bears GM Ryan Poles also highly values Senior Bowl performances. Last year, the Bears drafted four players who participated in the Senior Bowl: Braxton Jones, Velus Jones Jr., Dominique Robinson, Ja’Tyre Carter. They also claimed Sterling Weatherford off waivers after the Colts cut him to trim their roster to 53 players. This year, Poles and his staff may lean on the Senior Bowl even more, since they’ll have unique intel from offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who acted as a head coach during the game. If so, here are five names to keep an eye on, after impressive showings throughout the week of practices and the game itself.
IVAN PACE - LINEBACKER - CINCINNATI
The Bears need lots of help at linebacker, and aren’t likely to spend big free agency dollars at the position. Pace won Senior Bowl defensive MVP with a game-high 10 tackles. He’s got a knack for rushing the quarterback, which the Bears sorely missed when Roquan Smith left. The big knock on Pace is his size since he’s barely 6’0”, but he can play.
KARL BROOKS - DEFENSIVE LINEMAN - BOWLING GREEN
Brooks is a versatile defensive lineman who played both tackle and end at Bowling Green. He’s earned praise for his ability to shed blocks with his hands, and his pursuit through the play. Brooks had 10 sacks for the Falcons last year and notched another in the Senior Bowl.
TYJAE SPEARS - RUNNING BACK - TULANE
If the Bears don’t re-sign David Montgomery, or spend on another running back, they’ll have to find a backfield partner for Khalil Herbert in the draft. Spears was one of the buzziest players in the Senior Bowl due to his big play ability. Others noted his pass pro improvements in practice, and similar bounceback performances drew Ryan Poles to Ja’Tyre Carter last year.
JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ - CENTER - MINNESOTA
Whether or not the Bears view Lucas Patrick as their starting center of the future, Schmitz could be a Bears target. According to NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, Schmitz was impressive in interviews with teams who believe “his character is off the charts.” Schmitz was equally impressive on the field.
TANK DELL - WIDE RECEIVER - HOUSTON
It’s no secret the Bears need more playmakers, and Dell showed great ability to create separation with a blend of speed and quick twitch. Some wonder whether he’ll fall in the draft since he’s listed at 5’10”, 165 pounds, but with Chase Claypool and Equanimeous St. Brown on the roster the Bears aren’t locked into finding another big-bodied WR. Dell gets extra points for his work as a return man, too.