If the draft history of the Indianapolis Colts is any indication, Matt Eberflus is going to target front seven players who are exceptionally fast with long arms. In four years with Eberflus as their defensive coordinator, the Colts drafted six edge players and six linebackers. The sheer number of players at those positions in four years should be enough to raise eyebrows, but he also seemed to have a specific type, which could key Bears fans into some prospects after the NFL Scouting Combine this week.
Bears fans would be wise to begin familiarizing themselves with the linebackers in the 2022 draft. The Colts almost always took one and that’s surely because Eberlus — a former linebackers coach — prioritizes the position. (We saw in the mid-2000s how important having Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher were to the Bears.)
- The Colts seemed to prioritize the ability to cover a lot of ground as their linebackers were, for the most part, long and fast. Both of Indianapolis’ top linebackers have arms that are longer than 34 inches.
- Three of their picks were below 32 inches, but all were barely six-feet tall, meaning their limbs were still long for their frames.
- What was most interesting about the linebackers is that the slowest still ran a 4.7-second 40-yard dash. The next slowest clocked in at 4.63.
- They all had broad jumps of at least 10 feet and vertical of at least 33.5 inches.
- While heights ranged from 6’0 to 6’4”, the Colts drafted players on the lighter side as none weighed even 240 pounds.
Edge rusher may not seem like a real need for the Bears in 2022, but the fact that the Colts kept hitting the position tells you that Eberflus wants to make sure it’s a strength. And one of the Bears top up-and-comers may not fit what the team is looking for. None of the edge rushers had arms shorter than 33 inches, but that isn’t new to the Bears. Ryan Pace also seemed to have a 33-inch threshold for edge players and defensive linemen.
While they came in at different heights — ranging from 6’2” to 6’5”— and weights — 250 pounds to 276 — they were all exceptionally fast for their position. Among those who tested, the slowest defensive end the Colts drafted ran a 4.69 40-yard dash time. They all had verticals of at least 35 inches.
Trevis Gipson had a breakout season with seven sacks and five forced fumbles, but it’s entirely possible that Eberflus won’t see him as athletic enough for what he wants to do. Gipson ran a 4.73 40-yard dash in 2020 when he came out of Tulsa and had a vertical jump of 34 inches. Perhaps Gipson’s tape will win out, but there’s little question that Eberflus would prefer more athleticism.
Three technique is expected to be a priority for the Bears too. The Colts draft history didn’t reveal much about their preference there. The only defensive tackle drafted while Eberflus was the defensive coordinator is Rob Winsor, a 6’4”, 290-pounder who ran a 4.9 40. The team did trade for DeForest Buckner, who isn’t exceptionally athletic, but is 6’7” with 34 3/8-inch arms.
There weren’t enough draft picks to get a consensus on the priorities at defensive back, though none were exceptionally athletic.
- The highest-drafted was second rounder Rock Ya-Sin, who had a 4.51 40-yard dash, but measured in at nearly six-feet tall with 32-inch arms.
- The only other cornerback the team drafted was Isaiah Rodgers, who isn’t quite 5’10” and weighed 170 pounds. Rodgers was mostly drafted to be a return man but has found his way onto the field for the defense.
- The team also drafted Marvell Tell III, who was a safety in college, but was converted to cornerback with the Colts. He is 6’2”, 198 pounds with arms longer than 33 inches.
- The team’s starter opposite Ya-Sin was Xavier Rhodes, a former first rounder who was 6’1” with 33.75-inch arms. It’s probably safe to assume Eberflus would prefer taller/longer corners, but he was willing to play Rodgers and we saw this scheme succeed with shorter corners like Tim Jennings and Nathan Vasher.
- The two safeties the team drafted were both nearly 5’11”. Shawn Davis weighed 202 pounds and Khari Willis was 213. Davis barely played for the team, while Willis became a good starting strong safety. Willis ran the 40 in 4.55 seconds and had a vertical jump of 34.5 inches.
With Eddie Jackson locking down the free safety spot, the Bears could look for a bigger, more physical strong safety, similar to Willis.