With their second- and third-round picks the Bears addressed their desire to improve the NFL's worst run by taking two tackles, LSU junior Ego Ferguson and Arizona State's Will Sutton.
Their physical characteristics would indicate that Ferguson would be a better fit at nose tackle, while Sutton seems better suited to playing Henry Melton's old 3-technique position. Bears general manager Phil Emery said both players could see action at both tackle spots.
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Ferguson did not earn a starting job until last season. But he has flashed excellent athleticism for a 300-pound-plus player and the movement skills and ability to be a disruptive force in the run game. The knocks on him include inconsistent effort and a tendency to disappear for long periods of time.
The 6-foot-½-inch, 303-pound Sutton won back-to-back Pac-12 defensive player of the year awards, but the consensus is he was a much better player as a junior when he weighed 285 than last year when he ballooned to near 320. He has gotten the same inconsistency-of-effort knocks as Ferguson.
But to Emery and the Bears they represented the best solutions for preventing huge chunks in the running game that last season's defensive line allowed on a regular basis.
"With Ego Ferguson (the 51st overall pick), we're very much looking for players that can be physical at the point of attack (and) help us stop the run," Emery said. "Will Sutton (82nd overall) can do that also. Both of them were targeted players as we had painted this plan over the last couple of weeks. They were the two players we had slotted for those two spots."
ESPN's Mel Kiper called Ferguson's selection a "major reach" for the Bears, but the 22-year-old tackle says he's fine with that. "That's all motivation," he said. "You just tell him to watch out for me. That's all I can say."
Ferguson said his decision to leave school early was based on family needs, although it was difficult for him to forgo a final year with his teammates.
"But my mom (Brenda Bryant) got hurt on the job (at a juvenile detention center), and she wasn't able to work and I knew that my family needed me," Ferguson said. "So my decision I made was a family decision.
"She never once pushed me to make this decision. She's a very strong woman. She's been raising me and my brother by herself. I just want to take care of my momma."
Ferguson is considered a player who has a lot of upside but needs to work harder to fulfill his potential. At this point, he is a project who may require patience, multiple practice repetitions and a lot of coaching. But he has potential and could develop into a starting-caliber, impact run-stuffer.
In his three seasons in Baton Rouge, Ferguson had just 1 sack and 4½ tackles for loss. But last season he had 58 total tackles and was a force against the run.
"When you watched him against SEC teams, he controlled the front," Emery said. "People could not run the ball up inside when he was on the field.
"We were well aware of where we were at defensively a year ago, and everything that we've been doing since that point (was) to become a Chicago Bears defense, a tough, physical team that stops the run and gets after the passer."
Sutton was a 37-game starter over the past three seasons for the Wildcats. He showed much better ability to penetrate than Ferguson, piling up 37 tackles for loss over his final two years, including 23½ as a junior. He also had 20½ career sacks, including 13 as a junior.
Emery believes Sutton got bad advice after his spectacular junior season.
"He was told by people that he trusted (that) he needed to gain weight and get bigger (to get to the NFL)," Emery said. "Once he did it was hard for him to get it back down, but you're still talking about someone that was Pac-12 player of the year on defense."
He's back down to 290 now, and Emery believes both tackles are exactly what the Bears' defense needs.
"You have to have players that are capable of controlling the run on the inside," the GM said. "The front determines the game. That's why we went defensive tackle back to back."
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