As we approach April 2022, each day we get closer to the 2022 NFL Draft. This annual event is where NFL teams come together to select the best college football players in an attempt to bolster their roster to compete for the ultimate goal in the NFL: a Super Bowl win. The months leading up to the draft are filled with no shortage of evaluation and discussion of that year’s prospects. Everything from their athleticism, to their football intelligence and mindset, to their technique and maturity is carefully evaluated. Sports writers from every publication attempt to translate the information gained through this process into educated predictions of what player will end up where.

However, there’s one question that has never been answered, through the likely hundreds of mock drafts and NFL prospect evaluations I’ve read up till this point in my life. The question I find unanswered is this: how high would a literal grizzly bear go in the draft? NFL players are perhaps some of the most freakish athletes around when it comes to combinations of speed, size, and strength. Grizzly bears are also very famous for being extremely big and strong, and deceptively fast. Here, it’s time to figure out: would an NFL team take a flier on a grizzly bear?

A bear in a river looking upwards

Pixabay

The bear watches the NFL Draft broadcast, his future in the balance.

GROUND RULES AND POSITION:

First off, for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume that this bear has been at least passably trained. We won’t go as far as thinking a bear will understand down and distance, or be able to make any real meaningful football decisions, but we will set the baseline as such: the bear has been trained not to jump offsides, and to get on and off the field promptly without delay-of-game penalties. We also must assume the bear presents no more mortal danger to other players than is inherent in the game of football.

These limitations naturally lead into another question, which is: what position would the bear be playing? Because of these limitations, we can quickly eliminate what are commonly referred to as “skill positions.” A bear, due to its paws, cannot be expected to catch or carry a football, removing them from consideration for wide receiver or tight end. A case could be made for a bear as a power back, with the QB placing the ball in his mouth, but I don’t know if this is where the bear would truly thrive, and with its limited mental capacity, it would be a liability in pass protection as an RB or TE, especially against speed rushers.

These same limitations, I think, limit its viability as an offensive lineman. As a tackle, the bear would likely be outmatched by the agility of edge rushers. Because it’s unable to snap the ball, center is out of the equation. Guard would be in play, but again, I think its inability to improvise and adjust would make it susceptible to stunts.

We arrive at the conclusion that the grizzly bear would most likely play defense. The processing speed, instincts, and lateral agility required for any defensive back or linebacker make those unappealing solutions. Which brings us to where I believe a grizzly bear could thrive: the defensive line. I doubt the bear’s technique or lateral agility would best suit it for the edge, but a grizzly bear would surely have one of the most fearsome bullrush moves in the league from day 1, letting it truly thrive in an interior defensive lineman position.

So, let’s begin to evaluate the prospects of Grizzly Bear, DT.

RELATIVE ATHLETIC SCORE:

A grizzly bear’s strengths here would absolutely lie in the realm of athleticism, size and speed. The most common measurement of athleticism used for NFL prospects is something called RAS, or Relative Athletic Score. I have done some research on grizzly bears and have inserted those values into a Relative Athletic Score calculator. Here are the Combine drills I was able to passably estimate for a bear:

HEIGHT: A grizzly bear on its hind legs can stand up to 8 feet tall. Here I assumed a height of 7 foot 6 inches, as to keep this exercise reasonable.

WEIGHT: A grizzly bear can weigh between 400 and 800 pounds. I have taken the difference and assigned our bear a weight of 600 pounds.

40 YARD DASH: A grizzly bear’s top speed with physical evidence has been recorded as around 30 mph. Converting that to yards per second and dividing by 40, we get a 40 yard dash time of 2.74 seconds. This is very good, especially for a 600 pound bear.

10 AND 20 YARD SPLIT: I’ve used common values for how a 40 yard dash will break down by split to get a 10 yard split of .97 seconds and a 20 yard split of 1.6 seconds. This, like the 40 yard dash value, is very good.

BENCH PRESS: I took what is thought to be a bear’s maximum weight lift of 500 kg, and, using that as its max single rep, estimated that this would result in 29 reps of 225 lbs.

VERTICAL LEAP: This is where the bear starts to be outperformed. Bears, because of their weight, are unable to leap vertically in any meaningful way. I have raised the vertical leap to 18 inches, which is the lowest value that generates a score.

BROAD JUMP: Bears are able to leap horizontally, though not nearly as far as when running. Accounts exist of bears jumping around 6 feet, so that is the value I used. This is also a very bad score.

With all this in mind, let’s take a look at our bear’s RAS:

RAS Calculator

Not bad!

Our bear has ended up receiving an 8.95 overall RAS. The bear achieved perfect 10s in height, weight, and all 40 yard dash times, finishing with the best score ever recorded in each metric. On the bench press, the bear received a surprisingly average 7.84 score. This is likely because either DTs as a whole are terrifyingly strong, or because this whole experiment is very stupid and the math doesn’t work. I leave that choice to you.

What has tanked our bear’s RAS score more than anything else is its Composite Explosion Grade, which ranked as “Very Poor” compared to “Elite” grades in other fields. This is due to the bear’s inability to jump vertically, and its measly 6 foot broad jump, both of which were the lowest or almost lowest measurements ever recorded.

TECHNIQUE:

The bear will know no proper pass rush techniques, because of its lack of ability to learn and process coaching. However, if you are drafting a grizzly bear as a defensive tackle, you are likely relying on him being entirely a power rusher. When you are 600 pounds and over 7 feet tall, you do not need to know a swim move. You simply train the bear to barrel forward upon movement, and leave bodies in its wake.

The pure violence and force that the bear could exert would likely be an effective, if ugly, form of interior pressure on most plays, and would likely make any inside run near impossible. The bear would be especially valuable on goal line and short-yardage situations.

PLAYER COMP:

The closest comp I can think of for the bear would be the Buccaneers’ Vita Vea, except way bigger, and with the brain of a grizzly bear.

BEST TEAM FIT:

Due to a grizzly bear’s natural habitat, one would imagine a cold weather destination would be ideal. Naturally designed to deal well with harsh elements and elevation, the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, and Seattle Seahawks would all be natural landing spots. A team like Miami or Tampa Bay would likely find themselves with a rather sluggish bear due to the high temperatures.

OFF-THE-FIELD CONCERNS:

For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll expect the bear to be trained well enough not to fly into unexpected rages or attack humans. However, one issue could be the bear’s motor, as affected by hibernation. The football season is played entirely during a grizzly bear’s usual hibernation season. Any team drafting the grizzly bear would have to do so with the belief that they could alter this natural circadian rhythm. On the plus side, hibernation is usually when a bear is at its highest weight and strength.

A bear attacking a trash can

Pixabay

Grizzly bear working out in the offseason.

MARKETABILITY:

Having a grizzly bear on your team would be the source of a huge amount of media coverage. The bear’s jersey would also likely be an almost immediate top seller for any team drafting it.

PROJECTED ROUND:

Drafting a grizzly bear would be a classic low-floor, high-ceiling pick. At its best, you would get an absolute game wrecker, and likely league leader in quarterback pressures. At its worst, you would have a bear that was either unable or unwilling to effectively participate in the game of football. This would preclude, I think, the bear going in either the first or second round. Even in the third round, I think teams would be wary of the possibility of wasting a pick that could go to a solid starter. However, once we approach the ends of the 4th round, I believe we could start to expect to see someone reach for the bear based on potential. I genuinely believe there is a very low chance the bear would not go undrafted. My conservative prediction: 

LATE 6TH ROUND

Top Image: Pixabay/Pixabay

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