The Senior Bowl has come and gone, and for Bears fans trying to read the tea leaves about potential draft picks, it’s an important week. The college All-Star game is a great place for some of the best incoming rookies to show off their stuff to scouts and fans alike, but the practices and information gathering that happens in the lead up to the exhibition match are just as important.
We know Bears GM Ryan Poles and his staff put a lot of value into what happens at the Senior Bowl. Over the past two seasons they’ve drafted eight players who participated in the event: Ja’Tyre Carter, Roschon Johnson, Braxton Jones, Velus Jones Jr., Zacch Pickens, Dominique Robinson, Tyrique Stevenson, Darnell Wright. That’s 38% of their 21 total draft picks since Poles took over.
Knowing that, here are the players who made the biggest buzz at the Bears’ positions of need.
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TYKEE SMITH - SAFETY- GEORGIA
Whether or not the Bears decide to retain Eddie Jackson this year, they’ll probably want to invest in the position with only Elijah Hicks working consistently as a backup safety. Smith could be a Day Two option for Poles.
Smith played more in the slot and box for the Bulldogs, but has some experience playing deep as well. Scouts love his physicality and strong tackling, which are musts for Matt Eberflus as well. Smith intercepted four passes last season at Georgia and had three PBUs in the Senior Bowl, so he’s shown good playmaking skills on the ball, too. Those three PBUs led to Smith earning MVP honors for the American team at the Senior Bowl.
BRADEN FISKE - DEFENSIVE TACKLE - FLORIDA STATE
Similar to their decision to keep or cut Eddie Jackson, the Bears will have to decide whether or not they want to re-sign Justin Jones, who noticeably improved playing alongside Andrew Billings and Montez Sweat in 2023. Either way, the Bears could add another DT, since the best lines come at their opponents in waves to help their pass rushers stay fresh throughout the game.
Fiske didn’t receive the same attention as linemate Jared Verse at FSU, but he was a standout at the Senior Bowl. Fiske disrupted the backfield often and finished the game with four tackles, half of a sack and 1.5 TFLs.
DARIUS ROBINSON - DEFENSIVE LINE - MISSOURI
Robinson had nine sacks and 42 total pressures in 2023 to go with a 17% pass rush win rate. Robinson is a big dude, at 6’5”, 296 lbs., but he still moves very quickly. He brings positional versatility to the table too, having played both on the edge and in the interior of the Tigers line.
LAIATU LATU - DEFENSIVE END - UCLA
Scouts love how Latu uses exceptional technique to shed blocks, and note his quick play speed. Latu never quits on a play, which is a prerequisite for Eberflus’ program. In addition, Latu can kick inside to rush over the tackle or from the b-gap, and the Bears love that kind of versatility. Latu’s 26.2% win rate on pass rushes was No. 2 in the country among players with at least 100 pass rush snaps.
JACKSON POWERS-JOHNSON - CENTER - OREGON
Lucas Patrick hasn’t been the consistent center the Bears hoped he would be when they signed him in 2022, in large part due to numerous injuries he sustained over the past two seasons. Many expect the Bears to add a new center this year, and it very well could happen in the draft. If they go that route, Powers-Johnson is the man that many consider to be the best option in the class.
JAMARI THRASH - WIDE RECEIVER - LOUISVILLE
Thrash was one of the shiftier wide receivers in the nation last year, and his 17 missed tackles forced were tied for 25th-most among NCAA WRs. He caught 63 balls for 858 yards and six touchdowns for the Cardinals last season, and had 61 receptions for 1,122 yards and seven scores at Georgia Southern in 2022.
ROMAN WILSON - WIDE RECEIVER - MICHIGAN
Wilson emerged as the Wolverines’ top pass catcher this year, but hasn’t received the same type of pre-draft buzz compared to other wide receivers since Michigan was a run-heavy team. But he’s a speedy slot player who’s earned a lot of praise for his ability to create separation.
RICKY PEARSALL - WIDE RECEIVER - FLORIDA
Scouts love Pearsall’s advanced route running skills, and it’s easy to see how he uses sudden breaks and double moves to put defenders in a bind and get open. Pearsall split his time nearly evenly between playing out wide and in the slot, so he’s a versatile option. Over the past two seasons at Florida, he caught 98 passes for 1,626 yards and nine touchdowns. He also ran the ball 11 times for 175 yards and three more scores.