Underrated Prospects Bears Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2021

Underrated Prospects Bears Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

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    The Chicago Bears are entering a make-or-break season for the front office. While general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy have had some success—making the playoffs in two of the past three years—they have failed to forge a legitimate title contender.

    Chicago went 8-8 in 2020 and has had a relatively underwhelming offseason so far. Adding a middling quarterback in Andy Dalton and releasing starting cornerback Kyle Fuller have been the team's two most noteworthy moves.

    However, the Bears can still salvage the offseason by nailing the 2021 draft. They can start out by finding a franchise cornerstone with the 20th overall pick, but they will also need to uncover talent in the later rounds.

    With this in mind, let's examine three under-the-radar prospects Chicago should target over draft weekend.

Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford

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    It won't be a shock to see the Bears use their first-round pick on a cornerback. The loss of Fuller is significant, as the two-time Pro Bowler was a defensive mainstay.

    If the Bears don't target a corner early, it would be wise to target a sleeper prospect like Stanford's Paulson Adebo later in the draft. While he hasn't generated the sort of buzz that Patrick Surtain II and Caleb Farley have, Adebo possesses an intriguing set of skills.

    Listed at 6'1" and 192 pounds, Adebo has desirable length for the position. While perhaps not the most fluid athlete, Adebo's quickness and ball skills help him compensate.

    "He plays upright and lacks desired fluidity to shadow sharp route breaks and double moves," NFL Media's Lance Zierlein. "However, his ability to recover and make it home to the catch point could excite GMs and secondary coaches."

    When Adebo last played in 2019, he finished with 33 total tackles, 10 passes defended and four interceptions in nine games.

James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati

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    It also wouldn't be a surprise to see Chicago target an offensive tackle in Round 1. The Bears offensive line has been a relative weakness for some time, and 2020 starting left tackle Charles Leno Jr. was serviceable at best and was responsible for six penalties and five sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Even if the Bears do draft a tackle early, targeting a developmental prospect like Cincinnati's James Hudson would make a ton of sense.

    Listed at 65" and 310 pounds, Hudson has intriguing size and physical tools, though he is on the unpolished side.

    "Raw but athletic with big, strong hands and the potential to get substantially better with additional technique and strength training," Zierlein wrote. "His 2020 tape is erratic, with highs and lows on any given snap. However, teams will be much less interested in his inconsistency and much more interested in the flashes and potential."

    Hudson isn't the sort of prospect to be targeted as a Day 1 starter. However, he could be a solid depth player who develops into a starter with improved technique and experience.

Davis Mills, QB, Stanford

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    While Dalton might be a serviceable 2021 starter, he likely isn't a long-term solution at the quarterback position. Unfortunately, the Bears may find it difficult to land one with the 20th pick. The San Francisco 49ers' decision to trade up to No. 3 virtually ensures that three quarterbacks will be off the board in the first three selections.

    Depending on which teams target quarterbacks, second-tier prospects like Kyle Trask and Kellen Mond may be the best Chicago can hope for at No. 20. There's a case to be made that the value won't warrant a selection there.

    However, a developmental prospect like Stanford's Davis Mills could make sense on Day 2 or later. While Mills has had multiple knee injuries to sort through and only 14 career starts on his resume, his limited tape is promising.

    "He is a competitive player who has rallied his team from deficits," Drae Harris of The Draft Network wrote. "He is more accurate in the short to intermediate area than he is with his deep ball—although he shows moments of good touch on his deep passes."

    While not considered a particularly high-end athlete, Mills did run a 4.58-second 40-yard-dash at his pro day. Listed at 6'4" and 225 pounds, Mills' physical toolbox should be adequate for the pro game.

    This past season, Mills threw for 1,508 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions in five games.