Mel Kiper contrasts Jalen Carter and Will Anderson Jr. originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
In ESPN's Mel Kiper's first mock draft of the NFL offseason, he projected the Bears to take Georgia defensive tackle, Jalen Carter, with the No.1 pick in the draft.
A safe bet, certainly. Kiper made a strong case about the quarterbacks in the upcoming draft potentially not being discernable enough to motivate a team to trade up to the first overall pick with the Chicago Bears.
If the Bears don't field a lucrative enough offer to trade down, they will be forced to select a top-notch defensive prospect at the first pick, considering they verbally committed to Justin Fields as their quarterback at the end of the season.
That leaves the Bears with two choices. Carter, or Will Anderson Jr.?
"Different kinds of guys. It depends on what you want," Kiper said on ESPN 1000's Waddle & Silvy on Wednesday. "Do you want the outside pressure? Do you want the interior pressure? Which one fits your scheme? Which one do you prefer?"
By Kiper's thought process, Anderson and Carter both offer different, yet equally strong qualities to a defensive line.
Carter is an inside tackle, through and through. He weighs in over 300 pounds and has shown a strong ability to plug the interior gaps and stop the run while maintaining a knack for rushing the passer through the middle.
Matt Eberflus mentioned Carter's position – the three-technique defensive tackle – is regarded as one of the more important positions in his defensive scheme.
Anderson's main focus is the pass rush. He's an outside edge that can find the backfield quickly. He helps on the run, but his athleticism is geared toward finding the quarterback.
"I think in terms of Will Anderson Jr, he's so passionate about the game, he works so hard," Kiper said. "He gets doubled all the time after what he did in 2021. They were not going to let him beat you in 2022. But by the same token, he had Dallas Turner on the other side and he was blocked. And he's not a guy that's going to beat you with explosiveness all the time. I don't think he's going to be a 16-sack guy. I think it's going to be more of an 8-to-10 sack, which is good."
Certainly, the Bears need help with the pass rush.
After sending Robert Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles just before this season's trade deadline and trading Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers at the beginning of the Poles/Eberflus era, the Bears were left with very little talent on the defensive line.
They recorded the least number of sacks for any NFL pass rush unit in the league this season, applying little pressure to any quarterback they faced.
That being said, they also allowed the second-most rushing yards per game to their opponents this season, along with the most rushing touchdowns on the season. This is a bit of a skewed contrast, however, because Bears' opponents elected to rush against them nearly 32 times per game – the second-most in the NFL.
Although, the above metrics are clearly a knock on the Bears' rushing defense, which could be improved with Carter's presence.
"He (Carter) had an injury this year. He had an injury early ankle and knee," Kiper said. "Both injuries ankle and knee were in September, one the first game, one late September. (He) came back. That showed me a lot with him. He came back and he played really well and he was a difference-maker upfront, yet he wasn't 100 percent.
"He could have gotten ready for the draft. Well, he got back out there and he had an ankle and a knee in September. So you got to give the kid a lot of credit for that. I didn't see any evidence of him being a guy who put out a lackluster effort in big games. Playing when he knew he was hurt, and significantly hurt. That showed me an awful lot."