By Chris Emma–
(CBS) It came as a surprise to see defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard’s name available for the Bears in the third round of the NFL Draft last weekend.READ MORE: What Symptoms Should You Expect After The COVID-19 Vaccine?
Bears general manager Ryan Pace wouldn’t say he was surprised, though he was certainly thrilled. Bullard had first- and second-round grades from many scouts and wasn’t expected to be around come the third round.
“When you watch the tape on him, there is one thing you can’t coach with these guys — it’s get-off,” Pace said of Bullard. “His get-off is excellent and there are a lot of advantages just from that alone. We’re excited.”
A 6-foot-3, 283-pound defensive end out of Florida, Bullard will play the 5-technique in the Bears’ base 3-4 defense and can move inside in sub packages. Pace spoke of how NFL teams are typically in sub packages roughly 60 percent of the time.
Landing Bullard in the third round was considered quite the value. Pro Football Focus called it the best steal of the draft, ahead of the Bears’ selection of guard Cody Whitehair in the second round.
“To find a defensive lineman with Bullard’s upside in the third round is ridiculous value,” wrote PFF’s Mike Renner. “However, Bullard isn’t even a high-risk, high-reward type player. His run-stopping ability will most certainly translate to the NFL after he led all of college with a +51.5 run defense grade a year ago.”
Following the 2014 season, Bullard considered entering the NFL Draft field. He fit well into his role but recorded just 2.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss.
Scouts suggested with their late-round grades that Bullard should return for another season at Florida. He recorded 66 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss.
“I kind of used that as a chip on my shoulder to go out and prove that I was a highly talented guy and I feel that I deserved to go higher, which also this year I felt the same in this draft,” Bullard said. “It didn’t turn out how I thought. I waited longer than expected (to be drafted), but I feel like I landed in a good place.”READ MORE: 'We're Not Asking, We're Demanding:' Advocates Advance Call For Civilian Oversight Group Over Police, COPA, Police Board, And Other Bodies
The Bears will line up Bullard alongside Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks, with the linebacking group of Leonard Floyd, Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman and Pernell McPhee behind. Pace has rebuilt the Bears’ front seven almost entirely in a little more than a year on the job.
Bullard joins two versatile starters up front in Goldman and Hicks, with the three likely to rotate with each other. Line stunts will be routine between a threesome of talented, dynamic pass rushers.
Chicago has a bolstered defensive line, with plenty of explosiveness. Bullard only adds to that.
“My greatest strength would probably be my first step and play recognition,” Bullard said.
“I’ve got a good eye for the ball. When the ball moves, I move. It kind of helps me out on my pass rush and also shooting gaps sometimes when we’re doing stunts and movements.”
Added Pace: “He’s just a twitchy athlete for a guy that size, and that quick twitch is either something you have or don’t have and he’s got it.”
Falling down the draft was disappointing for Bullard, but it worked out for the best with the Bears, who didn’t hesitate to take him.
“I’m excited for it,” Bullard said. “And now I can go out and start my career with a chip on my shoulder and just go out and prove people wrong again. Sometimes, it’s not always a bad thing to have that chip.”MORE NEWS: Federal Prosecutors Claim Ald. Ed Burke Made Anti-Semitic Remark, Offer New Details About His Alleged Corruption And Former Ald. Solis' Cooperation