The Bears have signed rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard, the third-round draft pick from Florida, to a four-year contract, the team announced Monday. The Bears now have signed their entire 2016 rookie class.
The 6-3, 285-pound Bullard, the 72nd overall pick in the draft, had 6.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles-for-loss as a senior at Florida in 2015.
“I like his length. He’s got some quickness,” Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Bullard during the Bears’ rookie mini-camp. “It’s hard to tell with those guys [in a mini-camp], but based on the tape, he’s a guy that we’re looking to hopefully make some contributions early.”
A former five-star prospect at Crest High School in Shelby, N.C., Bullard eventually developed into a versatile and productive performer at Florida — playing both end and tackle for the Gators. That versatility figures to come in handy in the Bears’ 3-4 defense, where Bullard figures to play defensive end.
And he has natural skills.
“My get-off and my play recognition,” Bullard said when asked about his strengths. “I do a good job of reading offensive linemen, kind of knowing what they’re saying, kind of learning that throughout the game and getting the upper hand where I can shoot gaps and kind of expect blocks.
Though he once was an All-America prep athlete, Bullard comes in with a chip on his shoulder. He never quite lived up to the hype as a college player. As a junior he contemplated going into the 2015 draft but did not get a favorable response from NFL evaluators. That served as motivation that Bullard carries with him to this very day.
“It definitely got to me a little bit when the NFL told me to come back [to college],” Bullard said, “but that just proved that I had a lot to show, and I knew my talent level and I knew I was good enough to go that year but I didn’t put the film out. So that was on me and I had to man up and correct what they said I needed to correct and wish for the best this year, and I had a really good season, and it helped me tremendously.”