Bears

NFL Draft Profile: Michigan OLB Jake Ryan

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NFL Draft Profile: Michigan OLB Jake Ryan

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of 200 prospects, including what the scouts around the league are saying and video interviews with each player.

Jake Ryan (OLB), Michigan

6’2” | 240 lbs.

2014 stats:

112 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles

Projection:

5th round

What scouts are saying:

"A two-year captain and the 2014 Michigan team MVP, Ryan is a self-made prospect who eats, drinks and breathes football, and while he has some athletic limitations, he is the type of player who will make his coach smile and cry when describing how important he is to the team. After a standout sophomore season, Ryan battled through an injury-plagued junior year and looked lost at times when he moved inside as a senior. He has a great feel for the game with natural instincts to close on the action, but the farther from the ball, the less comfortable he feels. Ryan competes with an overachieving attitude and is the type of player who will outplay his draft slot — projects best on the outside where he can blitz, leverage the field and use his strengths." — CBSSports.com

"Good-sized frame for the position with adequate length. Terrific play speed with a motor that is always revving — high-effort player. Finds the quickest route from A-to-B with excellent pursuit skills, seeing plays develop before it happens with read/react awareness. Anticipates well as a run defender to blow up run lanes and blocks, sacrificing himself for the greater good. Sets the edge and understands field leverage with NFL take-on strength to give blockers a handful at the point of attack. Processes information quickly with decisive movements to cover a large area. High football intelligence and an assignment-sound player. Good timing as a blitzer, doing a nice job playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Top-shelf competitor and often has the dirtiest jersey on the field." — Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com

"He's got the size, physicality and commitment to film work to play inside, but his instincts still need work. Ryan is a little stiff and stays blocked for too long, but his disengagement from blocks will improve with more reps inside. Faster than quick, he is scheme versatile and can fit inside or at the SAM linebacker spot in a 4-3. Ryan's productivity comes from toughness, play demeanor and physical tools. Teams could pigeonhole him as a 'try-hard' linebacker, but they shouldn't." — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Fit for the Bears:

There's no doubt that the Bears need to improve at the linebacker position after the past two seasons, and that's what new general manager Ryan Pace has already tried to do this offseason with the free-agent additions of Mason Foster and Pernell McPhee. Given his later-round projection, Ryan could be a depth selection for the Bears, but surely he'd need to convince them he could play in the new 3-4 defense being installed by new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Ryan certainly impressed at Michigan last season, accounting for more tackles per game than all but one player in the Big Ten. And he landed himself among the top linebackers in the country in the postseason awards discussion. But the Bears already have a lot of linebacking depth on the roster, and the Bears would have to see something in Ryan to select him in a draft where they have a lot of needs to address.

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Bears Free Agent Focus: Eric Ebron

Bears Free Agent Focus: Eric Ebron

Stop me if you've heard this one before: The Bears need a tight end.

It's a narrative that started bubbling since the middle of the 2019 regular season when it became apparent that neither Trey Burton nor Adam Shaheen was the answer at the position for the Bears. Coach Matt Nagy was forced to turn to undrafted rookie Jesper Horsted and little-known veteran J.P. Holtz to find production for his offense. It was a big problem for Nagy, whose system calls for a playmaking tight end like Travis Kelce to hit its maximum potential.

To be fair, there's only a few at that level (Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz) in the league right now. But the Bears have to do their due diligence this offseason to try and find a 'lite' version of that guy. One player in free agency who has a resume of recent production as a pass-catcher to maybe be 'that guy' is Eric Ebron, who's coming off of a down year with the Colts.

Ebron appeared in just 11 games last season and finished with 31 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns. It was a stark contrast from 2018 when he scored 13 touchdowns and was one of the NFL's best playmakers at the position.

RELATED: Bears Free Agent Focus: Case Keenum

The problem with Ebron as a viable target for Chicago is that his tenure in the league produced more seasons like 2019 than 2018, but his pedigree as a former top-10 pick with high-end athletic traits warrants at least a look for a possible one-year prove-it deal.

At 26 years old, Ebron still has a lot of good football left in his legs. His market value should come in lower than Burton's $8 million per season; according to Spotrac, Ebron's expected contract this offseason will pay him around $7.5 million per year. Compared to the likely cost for players like Austin Hooper (Falcons) and Hunter Henry (Chargers), Ebron will be a bargain.

Ryan Pace will be bargain shopping in March, and Ebron may end up on the discount rack after the first wave of free agency concludes. Teams will be hesitant to offer him the kind of multi-year deal he's going to seek, which will give the Bears a chance to swoop in and lure him with the prove-it theory. He's young enough to earn a lucrative contract in 2021 if he posts big-time numbers in 2020, which Nagy's offense will give him the chance to do if he stays healthy.

Even the worst version of Ebron is better than the best of what Chicago has on its roster right now. He should rank highly on their offseason wish list, assuming his market remains where it logically should.

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Bears Free Agent Focus: Case Keenum

Bears Free Agent Focus: Case Keenum

The Bears have been connected to all of the big-name free agent quarterbacks this offseason. General manager Ryan Pace is expected to add competition for the starting job in free agency or the 2020 NFL draft after incumbent and former second overall pick, Mitch Trubisky, regressed mightily in his third season last year.

But rather than focus on players like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and even Marcus Mariota, it makes more sense to pay close attention to the next tier of free agent passers who could offer a potential upgrade from Trubisky while not necessarily creating shockwaves through Halas Hall upon signing.

One quarterback who fits that description perfectly is Case Keenum, the journeyman starter who's entering his 10th season in the league. 

Keenum is coming off of back-to-back forgettable seasons with the Broncos and Redskins, but it wasn't long ago when he was one of the better storylines in the NFL after leading the Vikings to 11 wins in 14 starts in 2017. He threw for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions that year and earned himself a respectable two-year, $36 million contract with Denver in 2018. His tenure as a Bronco lasted just one season (he finished 2018 with a 6-10 record) and his time as the Redskins starter was short-lived in 2019. He started just eight games for Washington.

For his career, Keenum's completed 62.4% of his passes and has thrown 75 touchdowns compared to 47 interceptions.

Keenum's resume isn't overly impressive, which is why he's a great fit for what Pace should try to accomplish over the next two months. He has to find a competent starter who can take advantage of everything else the Bears have going for them (namely, a championship-caliber defense) and who can be aggressive enough on offense to score enough points to win the close games. Keenum proved in 2017 that he can do that, especially when he has a good supporting case around him.

Keenum also qualifies as a solid bridge quarterback in the event Trubisky crashes and burns in 2020. At 32 years old, he's young enough to keep the starting job for a couple of seasons while Chicago attempts to find a younger long-term answer under center. 

Last but not least, he's going to be cheap. He didn't have a good year in 2019, and he was making just $3.5 million with the Redskins. There will be a limited market for his services this March, which means the Bears should be able to land him at a backup's salary despite his starter's upside. And that matters, especially for a team that's trying to free up salary cap space for other positions of need along the offensive line and secondary.

Keenum won't move the needle much for Bears fans in March, but landing a player of his caliber could ultimately be the difference between the Bears missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season and making a deep playoff run.