Across The Middle: Bears Big Board 2.0

| April 18th, 2018

I consider myself the top Ryan Paceologist on the Bears writer landscape. My resume:

Trying to figure out who they’re targeting in the 2018 draft has me stumped. I came to the three conclusions above by looking at all of the evidence I could find and asking what made the most sense.

Picking eighth, the Bears surely aren’t going to be able to get the player they surely want and need most, edge Bradley Chubb. One must also operate under the assumption that running back Saquon Barkley will be gone.

There seems to be a good chance that four quarterbacks go within the first seven picks, but if they don’t, the top guys on this list might be gone. It’s also possible that the Bears trade back, which is why the list is more than eight players deep.

There are some good players that are going to be available. The problem I’m having is that I can construct a really strong argument against all of the top candidates. Still, one sticks out as the most likely simply because it makes the most sense.

The list:

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Across The Middle: Does Vic Want To Play Chess?

| April 4th, 2018

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio hasn’t shown a lot of creativity when it comes to how he uses his players, but that just might change if the draft breaks the way many expect. Because if three quarterbacks are taken ahead of the Bears – with Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson and Saquon Barkley also going – the best players Ryan Pace might be looking at are versatile defensive backs Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

It isn’t really fair or accurate to pigeon hole James or Fitzpatrick as safeties. They both played in the box, as slot corners or nickel linebackers, a significant amount. (An argument can be made that’s where they were at their best.) The Bears would be able to start either player at safety and move them down in sub-packages.

They’d be closer to the line of scrimmage more often than not, but the Bears have never used a player like them under Fangio.

Fangio has had chances to use extra safeties. He just hasn’t.

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Da Saturday Scout: Derwin James, S, FSU

| October 21st, 2017

Player: Derwin James, Safety, Florida State

Game: vs. Louisville, 11:00 AM CT


What They’re Saying

  • CBS’ Chris Trapasso on Oct. 10: “As usual, James was good against Miami, yet I’m not seeing the variety of game-altering plays this season he had in 2015. He was a true difference-maker as a freshman at all levels of the field. This year, not so much. James is a gargantuan safety prospect who runs like a slot cornerback, and when he’s rolling, he’s a tackling machine who also flies to the football in coverage.”
  • From USA Today: “I think he’s every bit as good as anybody we’ve ever played against,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said of the Seminoles safety, via the Orlando Sentinel. “This guy’s just a very aggressive player.”
  • Chad Reuter of NFL.com: “James in an enforcer, pure and simple. Everyone expected him to return to form after missing most of last season. James doesn’t appear to have lost any closing speed, and he’s certainly not afraid of contact. His length will help him play in the box on Sundays, likely in the hybrid linebacker/safety role that’s currently in vogue.”

I Think…

  • …the Bears will win too many games to pick James at their actual draft position. With that kind of athleticism, one has to believe he’ll blow minds in Indianapolis and be gone by the fifth pick.
  • …I haven’t seen many defensive backs look as comfortable as James rushing from the edge. Then I see his coverage skills and wonder, “Is this kid going to change the safety position in the NFL?”
  • …I love that he’s owning this disappointing FSU campaign. A Tomahawk Nation blog post featured James explaining he could have done more in their recent loss to North Carolina State. That kind of stand-up behavior in the face of adversity will delight NFL scouts.
  • …the Bears should avoid drafting anybody who has an injury history.

Why Watch This Week

As Clemson QB Kelly Bryant struggles with injuries and FSU struggles to win enough games to get bowl eligible, there’s a good chance Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals will be the most explosive, multidimensional offense James faces the rest of this season. Against a run/pass threat like Jackson, safeties have to be at their most disciplined and their most aggressive. Over-pursuit can lead to big plays down the field and staying back on your heels can lead to the mobile quarterback sprinting by you down the sideline. With some believing Jackson will play on Sundays (not quite sure if I’m one of them) this is the right quarterback to evaluate James against.

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