June 14, 2024

Bears Analysis

NFL Combine preview: 5 pass rushers for Chicago Bears to keep an eye on

Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness, who played high school football at Barrington, reacts after making a tackle against South Dakota State, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Iowa City, Iowa.

The NFL Scouting Combine is less than two weeks away. All 32 NFL teams will converge on Indianapolis with a chance to watch 319 of the top prospects show off their talents.

The Bears, who have the No. 1 draft pick, are in prime position to grab one of the top defenders. That discussion largely has been centered on Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter and Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson Jr. Taking either one of those players at No. 1 overall would be completely defensible if general manager Ryan Poles believes that player would be a game-changer for his defense.

But if Poles does trade down, he could still draft Anderson at No. 2 or No. 4. If he trades down further, or picks up an additional second-round pick, there are some other names who will be in play as well.

Here’s a look at five pass rushers the Bears could be taking a closer look at during the combine in a couple weeks.

Will Anderson Jr., Alabama

Anderson (6-foot-4, 243 pounds) was a two-time All-American at Alabama and finished second on the school’s all-time sacks list with 34.5 in three seasons. He totaled 62 tackles for loss in three years. Anderson had 10 sacks in 13 games last season. He’s one of the elite defenders available in this draft. His college production speaks for itself.

Myles Murphy, Clemson

Murphy (6-5, 275) finished his Clemson career with 17.5 sacks in 38 games over three seasons. He totaled 37 tackles for loss and forced six fumbles. Murphy has incredible size for the position and uses it to barrel through offensive tackles. He doesn’t have the résumé of a Will Anderson, but he has a high floor and a potentially high ceiling. Murphy could be the second pass rusher off the board after Anderson.

Nolan Smith, Georgia

Smith (6-3, 235) didn’t produce the jaw-dropping numbers that others on this list have. He never totaled more than 3.5 sacks in any one season at Georgia, but he did have three sacks last season in seven games before a season-ending injury. Smith has some impressive explosiveness and flexibility. NFL teams will be curious about his medical evaluations after a pectoral tear in late October. Smith could be a first- or early second-rounder.

Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

A Barrington native, Van Ness (6-5, 275) is a high-ceiling prospect who is relatively new to the pass rusher position after switching from defensive tackle ahead of the 2022 season. He finished last season with 6.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 13 games. Van Ness might not be an impact player right away at the NFL level because he’s so raw, but his ceiling is high. He could be a first-round selection.

Keion White, Georgia Tech

White (6-5, 286) began his college career as a tight end at Old Dominion before transitioning to defensive end ahead of the 2019 season. Last year at Georgia Tech, he had 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He has great size and athleticism, although he’s still relatively new to the position. If the Bears net an early second-round pick in a trade, White could definitely be in play.

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.