The Chicago Bears concluded their 2021 draft in a big way. Literally. Holding the 250th pick in the 7th round courtesy of a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, they decided to beef up their defensive line. After losing Eddie Goldman last year to his opt out, the Bears run defense suffered through some struggles. It appears they’re intent on shoring up the depth behind him in case they have to deal with that again. Their solution? BYU nose tackle Khyiris Tonga.
This guy looks like a massive slab of meat at 6’2, 325 lbs. His wide frame eats up space in the middle and displays the sort of upper body strength that allows him to shed blocks with alarming regularity. He also has enough lower body anchor to eat up double teams and make it difficult to run the ball in his direction. Just don’t expect him to help much as an interior pass rusher. That was never the strength of his game.
This isn’t a bad move at all.
Run defense may not get the same appreciation as pass rushers and coverage guys do. Yet it’s no less important to the success of a team. Opponents had it too easy last year when they attacked Chicago on the ground. They finished just 15th against the run. Tonga will be able to help with that. He had his best season for BYU last year, collecting 36 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.
He’ll fill the void left by John Jenkins who was the primary reserve nose tackle last year. This is a smart decision by Chicago. In older days, Tonga probably would’ve been taken a lot sooner. The nature of his position made it where he fell to the 7th round. The Bears knew he filled a key need and made sure to scoop him up before their draft was finally concluded.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) May 1, 2021
One simply doesn't move Khyris Tonga with ease (or ever). pic.twitter.com/xg6gzohzVv
— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) March 3, 2021
The game is out of hand but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a quality Khyris Tonga throw down.
They try to hit him with a fold block (initial double team then one OL will slide off to a backer) but Khyris slits the two and throws one to the ground.
V nice pursuit by Lee. pic.twitter.com/k5MThE3V2z
— Jake Welch (@BYUAllBlue) September 23, 2019
Khyiris Tonga furthers a trend for Ryan Pace
He loves to add defensive linemen late in drafts. Last year he took Trevis Gipson in the 5th round. In 2018, he took Bilal Nichols in the 5th round. Pace has a strong record in that area of the defense. Tonga has enough talent to make one think he can carve up a role as a rotational nose tackle on Sundays. That would be a quality return on a 7th round pick.
Beyond that? The Bears still have business to attend to. With the draft coming to a close, teams will frantically shift their attention to undrafted free agency. This is a time of year where Pace actually does well. He’s routinely found capable players on the undrafted circuit including Bryce Callahan, Roy Robertson-Harris, Sam Mustipher, and Alex Bars among others. Khyiris Tonga is probably grateful he avoided that nerve-wracking fate.
The next few hours should be hectic for Chicago.
Given how things have gone, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Bears were more active than usual on the undrafted market. The strange nature of the past year means a number of quality talents who probably should’ve been drafted weren’t. Combine that with the sudden allure of a new quarterback like Justin Fields? They might have some good luck.