Bears

NFL Draft: Top 5 defensive lineman prospects

NFL Draft: Top 5 defensive lineman prospects

As the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago quickly approaches, CSNChicago.com is releasing a list of the Top 5 prospects at each position leading up to Day 1 of the draft on Thursday, April 28 . Next up is the defensive line.

1. DeForest Buckner, Oregon

6’7” | 291 lbs.

2015 stats:

83 tackles, 17 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 5 PD, FR

Scouting Report:

"Where He Wins: Has the tools to be extremely disruptive versus the run and rushing the passer. Right now Buckner shines against the run thanks to his size, length and strength to shed. Those tools can work as a pass rusher, but right now the awareness to shed and create space is not there on a consistent basis. He could play a variety of alignments up front based on personnel packages. He played on 85.5% of the school’s snaps this season." - Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com

2. Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

6’1” | 299 lbs.

2015 stats:

58 tackles, 13 TFL, 6 sacks, PD, 2 FR

Scouting Report:

"Where He Wins: A true interior disruptor. Rankins was asked to play next to the center, guard and outside of the tackle this year. He’s at his best getting upfield off the snap with explosion and agility, then uses a variety of moves to win one on one. He’s quite strong for a compact defensive tackle. Disruptors like Rankins can be difficult to find in any class. Rankins was on the field for 79.4% of the school’s snaps." - Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com

3. Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech

6’4” | 323 lbs.

2015 stats:

50 tackles, 10 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 PD, FR

Scouting Report:

"Where He Wins: Butler moves differently than most interior defensive linemen. He can be slippery on counter moves or off the snap, even at 6’4/325 lbs. Butler has displayed the ability to win through his opponent and around them. Don’t go too far with this comparison, but Butler can win in the same ways as Mo Wilkerson. A “leap of faith” candidate due to poor athletic testing." - Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com

4. Robert Nkemdiche, Mississippi

6’3” | 294 lbs.

2015 stats:

26 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks, PD

Scouting Report:

"Where He Wins: Production was definitely minimal, but Nkemdiche offers plenty of disruption potential. After playing outside early in his career, Nkemdiche looks at his best inside. His natural athleticism is an advantage there, winning around heavy footed offensive linemen off the snap or through weaker opponents. He lacks backfield vision and awareness." - Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com

5. Jarran Reed, Alabama

6’3” | 307 lbs.

2015 stats:

57 tackles, 4.5 TFL, sack, 2 PD, FR

Scouting Report:

"Where He Wins: An extremely stout run defender who can play from outside or over top of the center, guard or even tackle on some snaps with a specific role. The question is if he can be more than just a run defender, or if that strength can be coupled with upfield ability to be an asset as a pass rusher." - Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith has more sheared sheep than tackles on his stat sheet as a pro football player.

Smith and several other Bears rookies participated in a hands-on community event at Lambs Farm in Libertyville, Illinois on Monday where he assisted farm staff with the sheep's grooming. Smith said it was a first for him despite growing up around animals. 

"It's like on the norm for me though, playing linebacker you're in the trenches," Smith said of the experience.

"Shaving a sheep, I never really envisioned myself doing something like that," Smith said via ChicagoBears.com. "I was around animals [growing up], but it was more so cows and goats here and there and dogs and cats. I've petted a sheep before, but never actually flipped one and shaved one."

Bears rookies got up close and personal with more than just sheep.

Smith was selected with the eighth overall pick in April's draft and will assume a starting role opposite Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker this season. Here's to hoping he can wrangle opposing ball-carriers like a sheep waiting to be sheared.

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

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USA Today Sports Images

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”