Note: All senior profiles have been linked to player names, but they have not been filled out yet.
The Bears are a peculiar study when it comes to evaluating a college football team. Following their fall from grace due to off-field scandals, the Bears have become a forgotten part of the Big 12. They won the conference in 2014 and 2015, went 7-6 overall in 2017, and finished last year with an abysmal 1-11 record. Between 2014 and 2016 the team produced thirteen selections in the NFL Draft. Over the past two years, they've produced a single seventh rounder.
The talent may not be excellent this year, but it's much better than in 2017. Leading the charge for the team is underclassman receiver Denzel Mims who received the highest grade I've given out to any player during my evaluations so far. Mims is a complete player who has the size, speed, and nuance to his game to be an early round selection. He makes highlight reel catches look easy thanks to his body control and massive catch radius. Although he isn't elusive after the catch, he has the speed to turn upfield and take off for chunk yardage. It's incredibly early to start throwing around WR1 talk, but I firmly believe Mims exhibits the traits that you expect for that billing. The biggest problem that Mims will face making the leap to the next level will be his somewhat basic route tree at Baylor. While the system limitations have seemed to stump early rounders before (looking at you, Corey Coleman) it's likely that the physical gifts outweigh the drawbacks of the Baylor offense. He's a much craftier guy with his setup and tempo than Coleman ever was. I marked Mims down as a middle first round talent.
Phew. We all good on my Mims hype session? Okay. Let's talk about some offensive lineman. Offensive tackle Patrick Lawrence and offensive guard Blake Blackmar both have their moments on tape, but one has a decisive lead when it comes to making a run at being selected in April. Lawrence is the guy. He's not a great athlete, but he has enough movement skills to get the job done for a team. The Baylor offense seemed to force him to cover a lot of ground as a pass protector, but he was often up to the job as long as he didn't face a gifted bender. Lawrence may project best as a guard at the next level. He is one of the most aware linemen in the conference, constantly searching for blitzers and making sure the chinks in the armor don't get exposed. On multiple occasions I saw him move across his teammates to pick up unblocked defenders to save the quarterback from a massive shot. The biggest problem for Lawrence is his lack of length, which was highlighted whenever he played on the outside. On the inside he is much more controlled and precise, but he isn't the type to crack open lanes and move bodies. A high effort player with a veteran's mind, but the ability to step in and take on legitimate freak athletes is up for debate.
Going back to Blackmar, who seemed to be gradually improving throughout the season, there are a lot of boundaries to work within for his game. Although he's a wide-bodied guy who looks the part, his weight is poorly balanced and he tends to tip too far one way when engaging. Once he stands up entirely out of his stance, he's done for. Blackmar has trouble staying attached to his blocks and maintaining his position while trying to drive his legs, and it prevented the run game from really revving up on his side of the field. When asked to pull he did not demonstrate the quickness necessary to reach his landmarks. If he continues to develop his technique and body control he could make a camp. The gap between his Oklahoma game early in the season and his TCU game towards the back end was significant. He's trending upwards.
Defensive tackle Ira Lewis doesn't have the body type to be a full time starter in the NFL, but he could have a role given his hand usage and motor getting after the quarterback. Lewis has trouble gaining penetration with quickness or anchoring down to redirect the run, so it's unlikely he sees snaps on rushing downs. However, Lewis has shown a bag of tricks that you don't frequently see with interior linemen. He utilizes a good rip and works well going laterally across a blocker's body. I put a late round value on him because of the potential as a developmental rusher who can slot into the rotation, but a team that likes to run their starters constantly will have a hard time putting him on the 53. A big year, potentially bulking up past his current 285-290, could go a long way in getting him a shot.
Often times playing beside Lewis was the sculpted Greg Roberts, who looks like a hell of a defensive end for the college level. At 6'5" and 260 pounds, Roberts is made for the position. The thing is, the rest of his game isn't. Roberts has shown no plan when rushing the passer and has trouble finding ways into the backfield. The occasional showing of balance around the arc is overcome by dozens of failed reps where he gets halted. That's not to say that Roberts doesn't play hard and bring his A game every snap. He tries his hardest to break free of blocks and engage. But he's reckless with his approach and undisciplined in his hands. When asked to find the football and play the run he gets lost in the mix and ends up on the wrong side of the field. The frame is something you want to believe in, but his game is too raw to be worth a draft pick yet.
Verkedric Vaughns hasn't been able to crack the rotation as a full time starter in Waco. The safety has some moments in the open field where you see the closing speed and flashes of burst. There are tools that he can hone in and develop. The tackling is just horrendous though. Every solo tackle Vaughns was asked to make he went flying past or fell off of. The angles are just never there, as he'll run himself out of a play as the last line of defense. He is one of the few safeties in college football who has single high experience and looked athletic enough to hold the back end, but the inability to affect the football at any level is poison for his game and the Baylor defense. He's going to need a huge turnaround.
WR Denzel Mims: Middle 1st Round
OT Patrick Lawrence: Late 5th Round
DT Ira Lewis: Late 6th Round
OG Blake Blackmar: Undrafted
DE Greg Roberts: Undrafted
S Verkedric Vaughns: Undrafted
If you'd like to read my full Baylor notes you can do so by clicking the link below.