How would this prospect fit the Bears? Florida State edge Jared Verse

Would the Bears go for an edge rusher at No. 9?

Florida State defensive lineman Jared Verse reacts after a play during the second half of the team's Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against Louisville, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C.

While Caleb Williams to the Bears at No. 1 overall in the NFL draft feels like a formality at this point, what the Bears do with their second draft pick at No. 9 overall is up in the air. It will depend heavily upon what the teams ahead of them do.

With the No. 9 draft pick, general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus could look to fill needs at receiver, edge rusher or offensive tackle. Those are three premium position where the Bears still need to improve. They also could look to move up or down the draft board through trades.

Shaw Local is taking a look at a number of potential prospects who could fit the Bears’ needs at No. 9. Here’s what Florida state edge rusher Jared Verse brings to the table and how he might fit in Chicago.

Position breakdown

Chicago Bears defensive end Montez Sweat looks to tackle Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner during their game Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Probably the most important move that Poles made in the past year was trading for defensive end Montez Sweat. The Bears surrendered a second-round pick in the trade deadline deal (which wound up becoming the No. 40 overall pick in this year’s draft), but in the process the team acquired a monster of a pass rusher. In nine games, Sweat led the Bears with six sacks. Even when he wasn’t sacking the opposing quarterback, his presence helped the Bears improve their turnover rate. He was the biggest reason why the Bears were among the best defenses in football during the second half of the season.

And now he needs a running mate.

Veteran DeMarcus Walker probably would be the other starter at defensive end if the season began tomorrow. But Walker totaled only 3.5 sacks in 17 games last season, and the Bears undoubtedly want to infuse some youth at the position. Veteran Yannick Ngakoue started 13 games for the Bears last season, but he is a free agent.

The Bears could be poised to add a pass rusher with one of their premium draft picks later this month.

What Verse brings to the table

Verse is a fun story. During high school in Pennsylvania, Verse played as a tight end who occasionally contributed on the defensive line. He had only one scholarship offer out of high school, to FCS program Albany. During the pandemic, he put on 40 pounds and converted to edge rusher full time. He developed into Albany’s sack leader by 2021. He then transferred to Florida State and immediately stepped into a big role for the Seminoles. He led Florida State with nine sacks in both 2022 and 2023. He added a combined 29 tackles for loss over those two seasons with the Seminoles. He was voted a first-team All-American in 2023.

At 6-foot-4, 254 pounds, Verse doesn’t have elite length. His 33 1/2-inch arms are not particularly long for the edge rusher position. That could be important for Poles and Eberflus, who love to talk about length for their edge rushers and offensive tackles.

All that said, Verse makes up for it with his elite athleticism and motor. His 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump was among the best for edge rushers and could be a good indication of an explosive first step. He has the athleticism to drop into coverage once in a while (he had three passes defended last year). He’s quick off the snap and he has a variety of different pass rush moves.

Will Verse realistically be on the board at No. 9?

Most likely. There’s some debate about who the top edge rusher in this draft is, but it usually comes down to Verse or Alabama’s Dallas Turner. It seems like Turner is the favorite to be the first one taken. Turner is two years younger and has a more lengthy frame.

If Verse is the edge rusher the Bears want, they likely will have the opportunity to take him. It’s also possible they could trade down a few spots and still land him.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.