June 19, 2024

Bears Analysis

NFL Combine preview: 5 defensive tackles for Chicago Bears to keep an eye on

Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter waves to the crowd before the national championship game against TCU, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif.

The NFL Scouting Combine begins next week. 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 widely believed to be in search of an elite defensive lineman. They have a serious need at the defensive tackle position. General manager Ryan Poles and his team keep being linked to Georgia stud defensive tackle Jalen Carter because Carter looks like a can’t-miss prospect.

Carter is one of a handful of players the Bears might realistically use the No. 1 overall pick on. He also might be available if they trade back a couple of spots. Either way, he has to be on their radar.

So, too, do other tackles throughout the draft. If the Bears trade down further and miss out on Carter, they still will have a gaping hole at the defensive tackle position. Here’s a look at five defensive tackles the Bears could be taking a closer look at during the combine next week.

Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin

Benton (6-3, 312) became a starter as a true freshman in 2019 and anchored the Badgers’ defensive line for the next several seasons. He finished last season with 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He has great size for the position but lacks a little bit in quickness off the snap. Benton is a potential second-round pick who impressed at the Senior Bowl.

Bryan Bresee, Clemson

A former No. 1-ranked recruit, Bresee (6-5, 305) was a stud as a freshman, then tore his ACL as a sophomore in 2021 before returning to record 5.5 sacks last season as a junior. His on-field stats don’t stand out, but his size and strength certainly do. He will be a disrupter right away for whoever drafts him. He is widely considered a first round-caliber player who almost certainly will not be available later if the Bears don’t draft him early.

Jalen Carter, Georgia

Carter (6-3, 300) or Alabama defensive end Will Anderson are pretty much the favorites to be the first defender off the board. Carter can be felt on the tape, and he blows up plays in ways that the stat book will never show. He totaled three sacks and seven tackles for loss for the national champion Bulldogs last season, but his impact was so much more than that.

Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh

If the Bears don’t wind up taking a tackle with their first-round pick, Kancey (6-0, 280) could be an option on Day 2 of the draft. He’s undersized, much like another former Pitt tackle named Aaron Donald. His size never mattered much in college. Kancey totaled 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks last season and produced similar numbers the year before. He could be a high second-round selection in the draft.

Mazi Smith, Michigan

Smith (6-3, 337) is an athletic freak. His strength and athleticism are off the charts. Everyone will be curious to see how he performs during the combine athletic tests. He totaled 48 combined tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss last season for the Wolverines. His lack of production behind the line of scrimmage is an obvious knock on his game. Mazi is a potential second-round pick with sky-high potential.

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.