Bears News: Getting to Know: Zacch Pickens
Trevor Ruszkowski - USA Today Sports

Bears News: Getting to Know: Zacch Pickens

by - Senior Writer -

When the 2023 NFL draft got underway, Bears GM Ryan Poles had two goals in mind. The first was to improve his team within the trenches, which he did in rounds one and two. The second was to build overall depth within the organization, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Looking back at the 2022 season, there wasn't much that went right for the Bears. However, it was the defense that struggled the most. At one point, the Bears scored an average of 30 points per game in six straight contests, only to come away winless in those games.

That can't happen, and when your defense ranks 30th or worst in nearly every category, you can see why the team lost their final 10 games last year. With the Bears addressing their defense in Free Agency, you could see the importance Poles put on that side of the ball all off-season. Then came the early rounds of the draft, where he continued to focus on building up the physicality of his football team.

After adding Gervon Dexter in round two to help in the trenches, Poles doubled down in round three and continued to focus on the trenches on the defensive side of the ball. This time it was another SEC star in DT Zacch Pickens from the University of South Carolina. Taken with the 64th overall pick in round three, Pickens is a projected rotational piece for this team while also having the potential of becoming a starter.

Pickens specializes in a one-gap defensive system that Alan Williams and Matt Eberflus are trying to create. Not only that, Pickens was one of the better run stuffers in the SEC a season ago, and that is something the Bears desperately need after ranking dead last in YPC last season.

At 6-4 and 300 pounds, Pickens has the size to play on the inside in the NFL, but he would like to add five to 10 pounds if possible. A four-year player for South Carolina, Pickens had plenty of college experience seeing action in 47 out of a possible 50 games while starting 32 of those contests.

Across those games, Pickens was a menace on the field as he recorded 131 total tackles, with 11.5 coming as tackles for a loss. Pickens also added 7.5 sacks to his name, proving that if he did get into the backfield, chances are you were going down with a QB sack.

Anytime you are a DT, your primary goal is to stop the run. Although he would have loved to make more plays behind the line of scrimmage, he still was a force on the defensive line as teams found it hard to rush for more than three YPC against him. Last year, Pickens was honored as South Carolina's Most Outstanding Senior, team MVP, and defensive MVP.

He also was presented the Rex Enright Team Captains Award after starting all 12 games and registering 42 tackles, 4.0 tackles-for-loss, and 2.5 sacks. Compared to what he did in his previous three seasons, the production saw a significant uptick which is what you want to see going from college to the NFL.

Along with his size, Pickens is an athletic interior defender with experience and length as a gap-control tackle but the quickness and play traits that might be better suited to attacking upfield. Pickens's disruptive first step creates advantages for him as both a run defender and pass rusher.

He plays with harmonious hands and feet to elude blockers or play off them, but he’s likely to get moved around by NFL drive blockers. Pickens can play both tackle spots in a one-gapping front and has rotational value with the potential to see starter’s reps.

His long arms allow him to create the leverage to make players easier, while his great recognition on the defensive end tends to have him play a step faster than his opponents. He also has the quickness to beat his man off the snap and uses his speed to separate from blockers to make plays across the line.

If there are some knocks on his game, one would be his limited skill as a pass rusher. Sure, he may be good at stopping the run, but at this point, he is an unproven pass rusher who needs to use his quickness to get to the QB.

If he can't use the quickness to his advantage, he doesn't have the strength to pull rush opponents, which limits his production on the field. Chicago is getting a real value pick in this selection and someone looking to work hard when he arrives in camp.

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