Akeem Spence (DT), Illinois
6-1 | 307 lbs.
72.0 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks, FF
This rock-solid interior defender (38 starts the last three seasons) makes his mark in the run game, where he finished with 72.0 tackles, third on the Illini, as a junior. He redshirted and was able to play alongside Corey Liuget (2011 first-round pick, San Diego) but has distinguished himself since. He has solid agility moves inside, running the short shuttle at Illinois' Pro Day in 4.60 seconds. That agility allows him to shed blocks and he is able to move laterally in pursuit. Also a hard hitter at the point of attack.
Only 3.5 sacks in those 38 starts, so he's a bit of a one-dimensional player at this point in his career. He won't beat many guards and centers with power moves, and sometimes can force himself out of position when he starts to guess and not play within the defense.
Fit for Bears:
Henry Melton was given the franchise tag this offseason, so the Bears enter 2013 not needing a defensive tackle. That being said, if Melton is unable to agree on a long-term contract in Chicago it opens up a spot on the defensive line Spence could potentially fill. Stephen Paea, the Bears' 2011 second round pick, also fits that role, but Spence could be a starter if Melton moves on and Paea shifts into that role. New defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will continue to run a 4-3 scheme, making agile defensive tackles an important need on the defensive line. If Spence can work on his pass-rushing abilities and add some strength--both likely scenarios once he gets to the NFL--he could add depth and give the Bears a new starter in 2014.