Don’t let anybody fool you. Every GM has their favorites when it comes to college programs. Schools they always seem to dip into more often than others, signaling possible connections that run deeper than some may realize. John Schneider has drafted six players from LSU since 2010 for Seattle. Kevin Colbert grabbed six players out of Ohio State including three in the first two rounds. Jerry Jones has grabbed eight players from Oklahoma since 1994. Ryan Pace is no different.
The Chicago Bears GM has run the show since 2015. During that time, it’s become apparent which schools he tends to favor as spots to pluck talent he likes. Both via the NFL draft and undrafted free agency. That is why it might be a good idea for fans to educate themselves on some of the notable prospects from those schools. The chances are probably good that at least one of them will end up wearing a Bears jersey this summer.
Will any of them be worth it? Let’s take a look at some of those names to find out.
Ryan Pace loves defense and his favorite are ready to oblige
No school has tickled the fancy of Pace more since his arrival in 2015 than Georgia. The Bulldogs have delivered four players to Chicago via the draft including two 1st rounders in Leonard Floyd and Roquan Smith. By the look of things, they have more intriguing defensive prospects coming up the wire this year too.
Eric Stokes (CB)
In terms of build? Stokes fits the profile of an NFL corner at 6’1, 185 lbs. While a good athlete that can play physically and has improving ball skills (4 INTs in 2020), there are concerns about his overall speed. It’s feared he is a half step too slow to be a true press corner at the pro level. He might be a better fit on a defense that employs a lot of zone.
Eric Stokes killed a man tonight pic.twitter.com/48BdvPlGgd
— Barstool UGA (@ugabarstool) October 6, 2019
Richard LeCounte III (S)
The Bears always love targeting players of high character who can communicate and display leadership. LeCounte III showed lots of that on the back end of the Bulldogs defense. He’s smart and aware, rarely caught out of position, and handles himself well in coverage. The problem is he’s undersized at 5’11 and may struggle around the line of scrimmage. At worst he should be a strong special teams contributor.
Ben Cleveland (IOL)
The offensive line figures to be a big focus for the Bears this year. Cleveland is somebody they may like. He’s a pure guard with mass, power, and a nasty disposition. He’ll open running lanes and can take on bull rushers with anchor and technique. It will be a matter of whether the coaches can look past his deficiencies as an athlete.
This school has been rather hit and miss for Ryan Pace over the years. His first-ever draft pick was a Mountaineer in Kevin White. That didn’t go well. However, a year later he landed Nick Kwiatkoski in the 4th round and he ended up being a quality linebacker for them. Which way would a third prospect tip the scale?
Darius Stills (DL)
In terms of quickness, hand strength, and natural pass rush skill? Stills has the goods. He can generate problems for offensive linemen on passing downs quite often. Sadly he wouldn’t fit the Bears’ defense being just 6’1, 280 lbs. That is severely undersized for the 3-4 defense since defensive linemen are supposed to be run defenders first.
WVU LB Tony Fields II is a physical and athletic LB… Nice jam on collision point with Michael Carter.
Did lots of roles for WVU on 3rd down – blitzer, QB spy, TE/RB Coverage. Always around the football pic.twitter.com/V0Vah7BeuG
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) January 27, 2021
Tony Fields II (LB)
A divisive prospect due mostly to his size at 6’1, 222 lbs. Some will see him as too small for some defenses. However, he can play in a 3-4 provided the defensive line does its job eating up blocks. When kept clean? Fields can be a menace due to his mixture of athleticism and instincts. He’ll chase down ball carriers with speed or knife into the backfield when unleashed on blitzes.
Notre Dame actually didn’t become a Pace school of choice until more recently. He started adding a lot of undrafted free agents from that school including Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars. Then he delivered his first draft pick by taking Cole Kmet in the 2nd round last year. All three have proven productive to varying degrees thus far.
Tommy Tremble (TE)
Would the Bears actually draft another tight end from the same school for the second-straight year? That depends on where he ends up falling. Tremble in many ways is the antithesis to Kmet. Where one is a blue collar punisher who can block and play physical, the other is a standout athlete with speed who can threaten defenses through the air. So they’d actually complement each other well.
Loved this whole rep from ND LT Liam Eichenberg pic.twitter.com/E0GgfzdFWJ
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) December 22, 2020
Liam Eichenberg (OT)
Offensive tackle is almost certain to be a focus for Chicago this offseason with Charles Leno and Bobby Massie getting too expensive to keep. No program has consistently churned out quality blockers in the past 10 years like the Irish. Eichenberg isn’t the most athletically gifted tackle they’ve delivered but he makes up for it in toughness, power, and strong technique. He should be a dependable starter for somebody.
Aaron Banks (IOL)
This is a massive human being at 6’5, 338 lbs. Banks uses that weight along with plenty of power to be a consistent force in the running game. While his pass protection isn’t great it’s more often than not decent enough. The guy has the physical profile and development to be a starting guard in the NFL. It comes down to whether teams can live with him not being the most mobile blocker out there. Knowing Ryan Pace? That might be an issue.