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Looking at the landing spots for our newest NFL Bears

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Which new-to-the-NFL Bear is in the best situation?

Oregon State v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With the NFL Draft over a month ago, we’re being super-timely by taking a look at the rosters and depth charts of the teams that newly picked up some Golden Bears to see how the situations are looking for each player.

Uncertainty

Let’s start off with some unfortunate news. There are a number of prominent California Golden Bears who are seemingly still searching for an NFL home, including CB Darius Allensworth and K Matt Anderson; CB Marloshawn Franklin Jr. may or may not have been picked up by the San Francisco 49ers.

Devante Downs/Minnesota Vikings

One of my pre-Draft wishes was fulfilled as the Minnesota Vikings added a Cal man to their roster—something they were lacking—by drafting LB Devante Downs. In his final season, Downs was the heart of our resurgent defense in the midst of a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year–worthy season before suffering a season-ending injury. Unfortunately, the depth chart is pretty stacked ahead of Downs; to further complicate things, the Vikings run a 4-3 defense or even a 4-2-5 nickel, meaning there’s only one middle linebacker on the field at a time. The starting middle linebacker spot is pretty much locked-up with former UC Los Angeles Bruin Eric Kendricks and his baby bear brethren Anthony Barr is a standout at the strongside linebacker as the pair forms quite the formidable duo. Beyond those two, the Vikings have Ben Gedeon (starting weakside linebacker), Eric Wilson, Kentrell Brothers (suspended for the first four games due to violation of the PEDs policy), Reshard Cliett, and Antwione Williams.

So, what’s Devante’s path to making the 53-man roster? Assuming that he’ll be used as the middle linebacker, this likely eliminates Cliett and Williams as direct competitors (as they are listed as outside linebackers); based on this depth chart, the only players projected to line up at the middle linebacker position will be Kendricks and his back-up Wilson. Kendricks played in 97.2% of the Vikings’ defensive plays last year and Wilson can probably handle the remaining 2.8%, meaning it looks pretty unlikely for Downs to see play time in his rookie year on defense. Instead, he will have to make an impact in special teams. This isn’t shocking at all for a seventh-round pick on a team that didn’t particularly need linebackers, especially since the Vikings have plenty of linebackers who do double duty on special teams—even a starter like Gedeon.

Raymond Davison III/Kansas City Chiefs

Let’s stay with the linebackers and transition from Downs to Davison. Pass rush is a huge need for the Chiefs—be it from the edge or from the inside—so there’s an opportunity for Davison if he can prove his worth. Unfortunately, Davison’s career at Cal wasn’t particularly notable for being a pass-rush specialist.

Kansas City chiefly runs a 3-4 defense with five players tentatively lined up to play the bulk of the snaps for those four linebacker positions; in more bad news, the Kansas City Star feels that inside linebacker is a “low” priority for the Chiefs, but they might keep someone with cover skills or play in nickel or dime packages. Best of luck to Davison, but this doesn’t seem like the greatest fit for him, unfortunately.

Vic Enwere/New York Jets

The 2018 season won’t be the year for Vic Enwere to break out with the Jets. They’re already breaking in a new quarterback—former USC Trojans Sam Darnold, the muse for all football commentators—and essentially have two options for at least the next year guaranteed in Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell.

It’s a pretty crowded backfield for Enwere. There are five running backs other than him, including 2018 sixth-round pick Trenton Cannon. I predict 2018 may be tough for Enwere with the Jets, but if he can make the roster, then this year is a good opportunity for Enwere to get used to the NFL schedule and put his nose on the grindstone to impress the coaches.

Jordan Veasy/Tennessee Titans

As an undrafted–free agent signing, it’s always tough sledding to make the final roster. Keeping that in mind, WR Jordan Veasy enters a pretty good situation with the Titans. Tennessee is already expecting to rely heavily onto a corps of young receivers, meaning Veasy will be competing against players who are also relatively young and inexperienced. Among a group of primarily four receivers, the veteran headliner is considered to be Rishard Matthews

Head coach Mike Vrabel has openly stated that there will essentially be a competition for two receiver spots; unsurprisingly, special-teams play will factor in heavily into their selection for who gets these contracts.

James Looney/Green Bay Packers

Our other 2018 draft pick—James Looney—will be joining Aaron Rodgers and Trevor Davis over in Wisconsin. Looney joins a deep defensive-line corps whose strength is a core of Pro Bowl–caliber starters; in other words, he’s got a tough road ahead of him to earn playtime or even a roster spot. Still, the D-line is a strength of the team, so there will be lots of wisdom for Looney to learn from. Plus, they recognize the importance of depth and rotation, so there is hope that Looney can find a home in Green Bay, where athleticism is paramount for all positions.

But the rest of the internet seems more optimistic about Looney’s chances than I was—some unqualified rando. On the Packers’ roster, Looney is the most-inexperienced of three defensive ends. However, although Muhammad Wilkerson is listed as “defensive line”, he’s entering his eighth year in the league with one Pro Bowl season and two All-Pro mentions at defensive end, so expect him to lead this pack. But will Looney even play DE in the pros? A recent story on packers.com lists Looney as a defensive tackle and two sources project Looney to back up Kenny Clark at nose tackle. Given Green Bay’s love for athletic players and depth on the defensive line, I think Looney has a chance to make the roster and see some snaps in his rookie year, but he has his work cut out for him before he has a secure roster position or a starting role.


As seventh-round picks and UDFAs, we know that these Bears are facing uphill battles. Even still, some seem to be in more enviable positions than others. Best of luck to this crop of Bears!