On Tuesday, the NFL Combine begins. One of the biggest names on mock draft boards, Evan Neal, will reportedly abstain from running drills, but for the other incoming rookies it’s an excellent opportunity to show off physical and mental traits for all 32 teams. Each team will be looking for different types of players at various positions, but with a wide range of positional needs the Bears will likely cast a wide net with their team of scouts. If you want to follow along at home, here’s a short list of prospects who Ryan Poles may target when the team is on the clock for their first few picks of 2022.
BRIAN ASAMOAH - ILB - OKLAHOMA
Matt Eberflus’ defense thrives with smaller, speedy linebackers and Asamoah fits that bill. He’s got excellent sideline-to-sideline speed, and can run back into pass coverage, which is something required in Eberflus’ defense as well. Further, when Asamoah’s not the first tackler to the ball, he’s often not far behind to help clean up the play. That’s something Eberflus preaches in his HITS philosophy. Asamoah led the Sooners with 90 tackles in 2021, and was named All-Big 12 Second Team.
DANIEL FAALELE - OT - MINNESOTA
Poles made it clear in his Bears introduction that offensive line will be an emphasis for him throughout his tenure as GM. Keeping that in mind, Faalele is a can’t miss prospect一 as in, you literally can’t miss him on the field because he’s an enormous human being. At 6’9” and 380 lbs, Faalele is a force who was named First-Team All-Big Ten by coaches. He’s got some trick play upside too, as he scored a two-yard rushing touchdown in Minnesota’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl game victory this season. He started 31 of his 34 games for the Golden Gophers.
KYLER GORDON - CB - WASHINGTON
Gordon has experience playing on the outside and in the slot, so he provides some versatility for NFL coaches. He also has experience playing in zone defenses, and does a good job of keeping the play in front of him in those situations. One of Gordon’s strengths is sure tackling, with a knack for stopping ball carriers before they reach the line to gain. Named All Pac-12 First Team in 2021.
ROGER MCCREARY - CB - AUBURN
In Cover 2 defenses, like Matt Eberflus’, cornerbacks are often asked to play press coverage, and this is where McCreary excels. He’s physical near the line and does a good job staying tight with wide receivers. In scenarios where he does play off the line a bit, he’s also shown good speed to close the gap and can leave his feet to break up passes. Named All-SEC First Team in 2021.
CHAD MUMA - ILB - WYOMING
Muma has a great blend of talents that could make him a day two draft selection this year. He shows great lateral speed, which is essential in Eberflus’ defense, and which helps him avoid blockers to stop opposing running backs. When he does get locked up, Muma has also shown the ability to shed those blocks to make a tackle. He led the NCAA with 142 total tackles last season, and chipped in three interceptions too. Muma returned two of those three interceptions for touchdowns, too.
JALEN PITRE - DB - BAYLOR
Pitre’s versatility was hugely valuable for the Baylor Bears, and it’s what could make him a coveted player for the Chicago Bears. He played both safety and slot corner, which are each big needs for Poles to address. Pitre also brings a wide range of skills to the table. He can play in the box to help stuff the run, and ranked seventh among all college players with 19 TFLs in 2021. Pitre has a knack for creating takeaways, too, with four interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries over the past two seasons. He also returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns. Pitre was awarded Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season.
JAMAREE SALYER - OT/OG - GEORGIA
Another intriguing offensive line prospect, Salyer played all over the line at Georgia. Salyer primarily played left tackle last season, but also notched many snaps at right guard. He played left guard in the 2021 Peach Bowl (the game following the 2020 season), and started at right tackle in 2019. Salyer was named All-SEC Second-Team this year, and was voted to be one of four Bulldogs captains by his teammates. If Poles decides to move on from either Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, or wants depth on the edges, Salyer could be a player to consider.
KHALIL SHAKIR - WR - BOISE STATE
The Bears are in desperate need of a big time playmaker, yet they don’t have a first-round pick. Shakir should be available on day two of the draft, and he carries huge upside. After a 77-catch, 1,117-yard, seven-touchdown season for the Broncos, Shakir has started drawing comps to Cooper Kupp, who also wasn’t highly-touted heading into the draft. There are some similarities on the field as well. Like Kupp, Shakir displays excellent quickness and elusiveness to generate yards after the catch, and turn intermediate passes into home runs.
JALEN TOLBERT - WR - SOUTH ALABAMA
Another man who’s a big play waiting to happen. Over the past two seasons, Tolbert has blossomed into a weapon who can win on the outside, or in the slot, and against various defensive coverages. Since 2020, he’s caught 146 balls for 2,559 yards and 16 touchdowns. Tolbert has great speed and can run past defenders for deep passes.
JAMESON WILLIAMS - WR - ALABAMA
Williams is arguably the top home run threat in this year’s class. He averaged 19.9 yards per reception last season, which tied for sixth-highest in the NCAA. Williams translated that big play ability into 15 scores, and he emerged as Alabama’s top receiving threat in 2021. He would’ve been a surefire first-round pick, but Williams tore his ACL in the national championship game. We don’t yet know if Poles is the type of GM to take a chance on an injured prospect, like Ryan Pace did with Eddie Jackson, either.