Special Talents Exist in Later Rounds

Bears meet some needs if they unearth players who are better than the scouts have been ranking them leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft
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Bears GM Ryan Pace has built a reputation for finding players in Rounds 4 and 5, and last year came up with possibly the steal of Day 3 in the NFL Draft with Darnell Mooney.

Mooney wasn't the league's only late-round success, and there were some really late-round successes last year. Pace hasn't really been able to accomplish this type of thing in Rounds 6 and 7, but it was done elsewhere last year.

Kamren Curl went to Washington with the second pick in Round 7 and became a safety starter with 63 tackles, two interceptions and three sacks. New England found right tackle Michael Onwenu in the sixth round, a 6-foot-3, 344-pound mauler who became the starter. The Rams took safety Jordan Fuller in Round 6 and he eventually started three-quarters of the season and two playoff games, making 60 tackles, five pass deflections and three interceptions. A passer rating against of 99 and 80% completions allowed showed he has work to do, but not a bad effort for a sixth-rounder.

The Lions found John Penisini in that round and the 6-1, 318-pound lineman made 35 tackles, four for loss, with 12 starts. 

So, it's possible to find gems down that far, the classic case being the Super Bowl MVP last year and for all years it seems. 

Sixth-round quarterbacks like Tom Brady are difficult to come up with these days, with so much scrutiny given to the position. It's the main reason why in the last 15 years Gardner Minshew and Ryan Fitzpatrick have been the only quarterbacks drafted in Rounds 5-7 who, over their careers, have started more than half their team's games.

Pace hasn't had the same sort of success in the last two rounds as with the fourth and fifth rounds at any position.

It would have been ideal if either seventh-rounders Lachavious Simmons or Arlington Hambright last year had stepped up and become a starter at right tackle or even right guard. Then some of the problems the Bears had at midseason when COVID and other injuries decimated the line may not have occurred.

They are on a same course with most sixth- or seventh-round picks under Pace. 

Wide receiver Javon Wims was a seventh-round pick who has started seven games in three years. Duke Shelley was a sixth-round slot cornerback in 2019 and has two starts. Simmons got a start last year during the aforementioned injuries and COVID situation. 

That's it for starts by Pace's six years of sixth- and seventh-round picks. He did get DeAndre Houston-Carson in Round 6 and he's been a useful special teams player.

"With eight picks in this draft, which is a lot for us, we're excited about that," Pace said.

The problem is, half of those eight picks are in the sixth round. So Pace is apparently going to get plenty of chances this year to break out of this funk. 

Two picks were compensatory selections. The Bears have pick Nos. 204, 208, 221 and 228. 

It's a situation which begs for a trade in an attempt to move up into Round 5, much like Pace accomplished last year. However, there are potential sixth- and seventh-round types who could be steals later. Here are some, and several have already been in contact with the Bears according to BearReport, Walterfootball.com and the players themselves via the Zoom conference calls they've had with media.

T Dan Moore Jr., Texas A&M

Some scouting reports seem divided on Moore, who is 6-5 1/2, 309. It seem it's largely because they see a need to improve his willingness to finish blocks. As a result, NFL.com's Lance Zierlein suggests he's a developmental type who could contribute after a while on the practice squad. NFL Draft Bible sees him as a possible tackle or a guard. The Bears have had a virtual visit with him.

NFL Draft Bible Projection: Fifth-round pick.

S Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech

A strong safety who is big enough to be a linebacker in pass coverage situations at 6-3, 223, he made 11 pass defenses in college. He started out as a wide receiver, so teams view him as a strong safety but not necessarily an in-the-box safety. Some view him as a key special teams performer who could fill in as a safety in a pinch. The Bears had a virtual meeting with him. He has the size to do what Josh Woods did and move from defensive back to linebacker. One pro day clocking had him in the mid-4.4s for the 40.

NFL Draft Bible Projection: Sixth-round pick.

CB Darren Hall, San Diego State

A slot cornerback who would fill a Bears need, and could compete with Duke Shelley and possibly Kindle Vildor to replace Buster Skrine. The Bears reportedly had a talk with him. At 6-foot, 190, he has good length to be a corner inside or outside, and had six career interceptions to go with 25 pass defenses. He started off as a safety before moving. "Hall emerged as one of the top zone coverage corners in the conference last season," Pro Football Focus said.

NFL Draft Bible Projection: Sixth-round pick

TE Tre McKitty, Georgia

The Florida State tight end who transferred to Georgia for four 2020 games had 50 catches for 520 yards with the Seminoles for his career. He shows decent hands, willingness to block and excellent run-after-the-catch skills. As a result, scouts have called him a very good choice as a "move" tight end. The Bears would call this the "U" tight end and they have a need for such a player as Cole Kmet plays the "Y" tight end. Jimmy Graham is the "U" and he's in the second year of a two-year contract. The Bears have been reported to have spoken with him at the Senior Bowl.

NFL Draft Bible Projection: Seventh-round pick

NT Naquan Jones, Michigan State

A 6-4, 340-pound two-gap road block for any running game. He is a Chicago area native and will not be on the field for passing downs but can make sure there are passing downs by shutting down the run. Scouts from NFL Draft Bible noted the extreme power he displays with his body but also with his hands as he fights off double teams. The Bears didn't sign John Jenkins back and could use a backup to Eddie Goldman. He's about Akiem Hicks' size, so they could possibly let him learn the 3-4 end spot, as well.

NFL Draft Bible Projection: Seventh-round pick

G/C David Moore, Grambling State

This is a wide load to get around wherever he plays on the line. Not many Historically Black Colleges and Universities players get invited to the combine or Senior Bowl and he was one of two to get to the Senior Bowl this year. He is built like a block at 6-foot-1 1/2, 320. He has been as heavy as 350. A center and a guard, scouting reports have called him very aggressive as a run blocker and the question at the Senior Bowl was how he'd hold up against higher-lvel competition in pass pro. He did just fine. Initially scouts had him as a late Day 3 pick. He could be riding up the charts on a rocket now, so anything seems possible. The Bears have also shown interest in him even though they are well covered at center and guard

NFL Draft Bible Projection: Third-round pick

RB Pooka Williams, Kansas

Of course the Bears would be interested in a speedy running back from Kansas. OK, he's not Gale Sayers. NFL Draft Bible says he's only the 21st best running back. It's largely because of his build. He weighs only 175 pounds and is 5-9 1/2. Basically, he'd be a Tarik Cohen type of back, a change of pace. Williams confirmed he had a meeting with both the Bears and 49ers at his pro day. No one denies he's fast. He ran 4.38 seconds for his pro day 40. Can he take the NFL beating at that weight? Cohen, by the way, ran 4.42 at his combine 40. Williams averaged 5.7 yards a carry for 415 rushes and had 12 TDs. He also caught 66 passes for 534 yards and four TDs and returned 18 kicks for a 24.6-yard average.

NFL Draft Bible Projection: Seventh-round pick

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