NFL Scouting Combine preview: 5 edge rushers for Chicago Bears to watch

Bears could be looking for edge rusher with No. 9 pick

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.

All 32 NFL teams will converge on Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine this week, where teams will have the chance to meet individually with all 321 invited prospects.

For the Bears, defensive end Montez Sweat was by far the best addition the team made for its defense last year. He led the team with six sacks during his nine games with Chicago. The defense as a whole played much better after adding him.

Now, the Bears must try finding another edge rusher to pair opposite Sweat. Yannick Ngakoue is set to be a free agent. Even with 10 draft picks in 2023, the Bears didn’t select a single edge rusher in last year’s draft. It feels like that is likely to change this year.

Here are five edge rushers the Bears should be keeping an eye on at the combine this week.

1. Dallas Turner, Alabama

There isn’t a dynamite edge rusher prospect like Will Anderson was a year ago. But generally it doesn’t hurt to look toward Alabama’s top edge rusher, as Anderson was a year ago. Dallas Turner had 10 sacks for the Crimson Tide last season and totaled 22.5 sacks over the past three seasons.

Turner (6-4, 252) could be one of the first defensive players selected in the draft. With a glut of quarterbacks and wide receivers – plus maybe a tackle or two – this year’s draft could threaten the 2021 draft, which started with a record seven consecutive offensive players selected. Turner is a freak athlete who plays well in pass rush and against the run. He could be the first edge rusher taken, but that’s not a sure thing.

2. Jared Verse, Florida State

Florida State’s Jared Verse just keeps getting better. He began his college career at the FCS level with Albany. In 2022, he transferred to Florida State and recorded 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks for the Seminoles. His return to Florida State for 2023 was a bit of a surprise. He could’ve been a first-round pick a year ago. Instead, he had nine more sacks for the Seminoles.

Verse (6-4, 260) can win in a variety of ways. He has a nice blend of strength and athleticism that should allow him to play well against the run, too. He will likely be a first-round pick and could be the first edge defender taken.

3. Chop Robinson, Penn State

Penn State’s Chop Robinson (6-3, 254) recorded 9.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in 22 games with Penn State over the past two seasons. That was after transferring from Maryland after his freshman year.

One big question with Robinson will be his measurements. Bears general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus love to reference length when talking about edge defenders. Robinson’s 6-foot-3 frame certainly isn’t small, but his arm length is going to matter. If there’s one knock against his game it’s that he might need to bulk up a little more to improve against the run.

All that said, Robinson looks like a highly talented pass rusher and has the potential to be a first-round pick. He could be available late in the first round.

4. Laiatu Latu, UCLA

UCLA’s Laiatu Latu (6-5, 265) is widely considered to be a first-round talent based on his on-field production. He had 23.5 sacks over the past two season with UCLA, plus 34 tackles for loss. He also had two interceptions and five forced fumbles. That production is undeniable.

But the medical evaluations for Latu will be huge. He began his career at Washington but was forced to medically retire after suffering a neck injury that required surgery. Latu transferred to UCLA and was medically cleared to return. That will give many NFL teams pause. If medical evaluations raise red flags, Latu could see his draft stock plummet.

5. Darius Robinson, Missouri

If the Bears do trade back or somehow find their way to a second-round pick, Missouri’s Darius Robinson could be an option for them. Robinson (6-5, 296) had a breakout season as a fifth-year senior with the Tigers in 2023. He totaled 8.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 12 games. He has great length and incredible strength. His body appears to be NFL ready right now.

Following the season, he had an impressive Senior Bowl performance, which may have vaulted his draft status. He might not last long into the second round, if he even lasts that long.

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.