Defense Gets a Look at the End

The offensive lean by the Bears continued into the sixth round before they finally went to address the cornerback position

The Bears like to think they have been able to find solutions to problems late in the draft process in past years.

This draft class really put them to the test, as more than half their picks came in Rounds 6 and 7 — and GM Ryan Pace has never been able to come up with a starter out of those rounds. His real success has been in Rounds 4 and 5.

On Saturday they made four selections in Rounds 6 and 7 after they spent the first and second day trading up, and they came away with wide receiver Dazz Newsome from North Carolina, running back Khalil Herbert from Virginia Tech and cornerback Thomas Graham from Oregon in Round 6. Then they finished with defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga of BYU with the 250th pick in Round 7 that they acquired by trading down in Round 6.

Round 6: Khalil Herbert

Herbert ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and did an outstanding 6.96 in the three-cone drill. He also showed some strength at 22 reps in the bench.

The 5-foot-9, 212-pound back should be among the players who get a crack at replacing Cordarrelle Patterson as kick returner as he averaged 24.8 yards on 18 kick returns in his career.

"I take a lot of pride in special teams," Herbert said. "That's one of the biggest things we pride ourselves in at VT. Being able to help out on special teams one way or another is big. I feel like I can help in any aspect of special teams."

Herbert never had outstanding numbers because of limited attempts at Kansas but at Virginia Tech in his final year he put up 1,183 yards rushing and 7.6 yards an attempt on 155 rushes. He scored eight touchdowns and also made 10 catches for 179 yards with a TD.

"Well, it didn't prove anything to me," Herbert said. "It's something that I've always known but I think a lot of people just weren't able to see it. I think I was just able to show everybody what I could do."

Herbert has a birth defect that he doubts impacts his efforts. He has six fingers on each hand and six toes on one foot.

"I mean, it helps, I guess. It doesn't really do anything different that I can tell," he said.

Round 6: Dazz Newsome

After Herbert, the Bears worked on the slot receiver position by drafting North Carolina's Newsome at No. 221. He was part of a high-flying offense as one of the most productive Tar Heels pass catchers with 188 career receptions, 2,435 yards and 18 TDs. He made 72 catches for 1,018 yards in 2019.

Newsome is 5-10 1/2, 192 and tested poorly at his pro day with a 4.59-second 40-yard dash after it had been expected he'd run close to 4.4.

One thing Newsome does which can earn him a spot on the team is return punts, and he does it well. He averaged 11.1 yards a return for 48 returns over his final three years of college.

"We spent a lot of time watching tape on Dyami Brown and we kept noticing this player, too," Pace said. "Again, we’re excited about his ability as a punt returner and just a lot of production in that area along with him being a good receiver."

Newsome has a good read on why he fits well in the slot.

"I would say for sure my ability to make people miss," he said. "And then I would say my second thing that people don't really talk about is I love to block. I definitely am a blocker who is willing to stick my head in there for anybody and against anybody."

Round 6: Thomas Graham, Oregon

Graham was the first defensive player they chose in the draft after five straight on the offensive side.

He had a highly productive career at Oregon with eight interceptions and 32 pass defenses made in his first three years before opting out due to the pandemic. The Bears took him with the 228th pick at the end of Round 6, a compensatory pick.

Graham is 5-10 1/2, 192 and ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash at Oregon's pro day.

Cornerback had been projected as a major Bears need after losing Kyle Fuller due to salary cap reasons but general manager Ryan Pace apparently thought otherwise by waiting until Round 6 to address the issue. His thinking is they have the defensive backs already on the roster to fill both the left starting spot and the slot cornerback spot, from among Desmond Trufant, Kindle Vildor, Duke Shelley, Artie Burns and now Graham.

Until then the entire draft had been about offense for the Bears, and after taking Missouri tackle Larry Borom in Round 5 they traded down in Round 6 and went for two more offensive players.

They traded the 208th pick for the 217th pick and a seventh-rounder (250), then picked running back Khalil Herbert from Virginia Tech, although he spent only one year there following four seasons at Kansas.

Round 7: Khyiris Tonga, BYU

Tonga is 6-4, 321 and about the size the Bears like for their defensive ends/nose tackles.

He wasn't just a block eater at the line as he made 8 1/2 career sacks and 16 tackles for loss as well as 68 total tackles.

He's the second-oldest player in the draft and turns 25 in July.

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