Bears Draft Target: Colby Wooden
John Reed - USA Today Sports

Bears Draft Target: Colby Wooden

by - Senior Writer -

In T-Minus 10 days, the 2023 NFL draft will be underway. That means the Bears will pick No. 9 overall on Thursday and follow up with a plethora of day two and day three picks to help improve this roster. While most of the attention will hinder what this team does at No. 9, and rightfully so, you also have to look at other options for the remaining picks that this team has.

One of the needs the Bears still need to address is at the EDGE rush position, where they ranked dead last in the NFL in total sacks and QB pressures a season ago. That will take a lot of work, and if you want to be taken seriously in this league, you need to get pressure on the QB. Ryan Poles has done an excellent job addressing some of that on the free agent market, but he still needs to go out and add an impact pass rusher.

That could be where the NFL draft comes into play, as the Bears may be looking at impact pass rushers throughout the draft that can help this team win. While the big-name pass rushers will be gone in round one, there are still several day-two and day-three names to keep an eye on, as the Bears will have plenty of value picks to keep an eye on.

One of those value picks hails from Auburn University in Colby Wooden. Although not one of the premiere prospects in this year's draft, Wooden checks all the boxes of a mid-round pick and could be had on day two by the Bears. Wooden has been playing at a high level in the SEC for quite some time and has logged better than 100 QB pressures during that time.

Primarily an EDGE rusher, what makes Wooden a bit more unique than most prospects is his ability to move across the line and play multiple positions. Poles has already shown an interest in versatile players on offense, so why not keep that thought process going by picking up versatile players on defense?

Wooden played EDGE in 2020, slid to the inside in 2021, and then played wherever Auburn needed him this past season. Having a player with the mentality that they can fill any role is something Matt Eberflus loves, especially when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.

He is best with his hands, and he lays violent punches that harass linemen and makes them work all play long. With him rushing in a rotation, his freshest snaps could come against a tired lineman and create push. The reality is that Wooden has the size to play along the line and can get some push, but he is not an overly dynamic athlete.

The 6-5 278-pounder is too small to play on the inside long-term, but you could argue he is too big to put on the EDGE long-term also. That puts him in one of those hybrid positions where you are just looking to find specific packages for him to get on the field. Along with those 100 pressures that he generated, Wooden was a menace around ball carriers, making 153 total tackles with the Tigers.

29.5 of those tackles came as tackles for a loss, with 14 coming as sacks. Anytime nearly 50% of your tackles for losses come as sacks, you are doing something right, and Wooden had a knack for making plays all over the field. His best season came in 2022 despite having 15 fewer tackles than the season before.

However, what he did with those tackles mattered the most, as he had a career-high 11.5 tackles for a loss to go with a career-high six sacks. That bodes well in your final college football season, especially with the NFL draft rapidly approaching. Along with the ability to be versatile and make plays wherever you play him, Wooden showed more speed than he appeared on film, which is also something to build on.

According to scouts that have followed him throughout the draft process, Wooden is a coach's dream to have on their team. Not only is he a versatile player willing to play anywhere on defense, but no one will outwork him on the field. Football means a lot to him, and he continues to show that with his work ethic. He is the type of player the Bears need, and Poles should consider taking him if available on day two.

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