Special Players Can Mean Taking Special Risks

Purdue's Rondale Moore and a few other players are perceived in this draft as possessiing special qualities but they come with an asterisk attached.
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NFL teams sort through talent and look for special players in the draft.

If they can find special, it's sometimes worth the risk of drafting the player before everyone else thinks they should be taken.

Andy Reid and Co. thought this about Patrick Mahomes and jumped up in the draft 10 spots to take him. Obviously none of the first nine teams drafting that season thought this about Mahomes.

The 49ers just made a simliar move for someone, and we'll know who on April 27 if not sooner.

There are several players in this draft who could be special but they are potential risks due to injuries or other issues. Three are players at positions of need for the Bears.

Rondale Moore

The Bears have done their homework on Moore as much as any team. They've spoken to him and closely monitored his play over three seasons.

For three years, Matt Nagy has needed that special speed weapon at wide receiver to help trigger the passing game. He needs his own version of Tyreek Hill.

Bears receiver Darnell Mooney is fast. Purdue's Rondale Moore is fast on an entirely different level. He's in Hill's speed range, having run 4.29 for the 40 at the Purdue pro day. He also did a 42.4-inch vertical leap. He'll need that kind of leaping ability in the NFL at times beacuse he's only 5-foot-7, 180 pounds.

"If you're not the tallest you have to compensate somewhere else, whether that be knowledge of the game, speed, strength, whatever," Hill said after his pro day. "I think I possess a lot of those qualities."

Hill is 5-10, 185. However, Moore has Hill's speed and the same type of open-field ability.

At least head had it a few years ago. At midseason of 2018 as a freshman, Moore punished Ohio State's standout slot cornerback Shaun Wade and led a shocking 49-20 drubbing of the Buckeyes. He had 170 receiving yards on 12 catches with two TDs.

He went on to score 14 TDs and led the nation with 114 receptions. Making 114 catches in a shorter college season is not something to be taken lightly. It shows his durability.

And he's played in only seven games since then. Hamstring injuries each of the last two years limited his participation, speed and cutting ability.

"I had two grade-one hamstrings. No strains, no tears, no surgeries, no knees," Moore said. "Had two grade-one hamstrings. Of course, it's been a little hard and frustrating, but for me it's just about continuing to have the same approach and do everything I can on the back end and it'll take care of itself."

Whether it will after two straight years, and at a much higher level of competition remains to be seen.

NFL Draft Bible gave six receivers first-round grades in this draft class, including three slot receivers. Moore is among them.

Would the Bears take a risk in Round 1 on a smaller receiver who had hamstring issues for two years and only showed that special quality for one season? 

Could they wait and get lucky he would still be there at No. 52 in Round 2? It seems unlikely he'd last so long if other teams see him as capable of playing against bigger and faster players in the NFL as he did in 2018 against college competition.

Caleb Farley

The Bears need a cornerback and it's possible the player graded as the top one in the draft by NFL Draft Bible could fall to them in Round 1. 

Virginia Tech's Farley did not play last year as an opt-out and then had to miss the final two games of 2019 with back spasms. It's possible this would influence where he's taken in the draft.

He has had to undergo a microdiscectomy due to back issues, but agent Drew Rosenhaus told Adam Schefter of ESPN this week that his client will be ready for training camp. 

Back issues can be tricky, and then there's a full year away from the game in 2020 because he opted out.

When he did play, Farley used his 6-2, 207-pound frame well to blanket receivers. He had six interceptions and 19 pass defenses in two years.

Perhaps teams are not concerned about these back issues, but maybe they will be. Farley also tore an ACL in 2017 but bounced back for two big seasons after that injury.

Walker Little

It's possible if the Bears wait past Round 1 for a tackle, then there could be a talented one later on Day 2 or 3 who displayed special talent two years ago. That's Stanford's  Little.

At 6-foot-7, 309 pounds, Little has the ideal size to be a left tackle. He has a long reach, hand technique and footwork first-rounders often show according to NFL Draft Bible reports. However, no one has seen him play extensively since 2018.

After an outstanding 2018 season, Little suffered a torn ACL against Northwestern in the 2019 season opener. Then he opted out in 2020.

Like many opt-outs, Little might have convinced scouts he belonged in the upper tier of tackles in this draft. He didn't, and now it's anyone's guess where he'll be drafted.

NFL Draft Bible gave him a fourth-round grade now, but after two years away perhaps he's at the level he was in 2018.

Still, missing two seasons deprives a player of growth and development. He'd most likely be a player who needs a while to fit into an offense and adjust to the NFL level. A team already with a left tackle in place might be the best option.

Charles Leno Jr. is in place at left tackle in Chicago, so it's possible Little would be a good fit to learn and play later.

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