MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR
Delaware defensive tackle Bilal Nichols was chosen by the Chicago Bears with the 145th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft Saturday afternoon.
The 2017 first-team All-CAA selection is the first Delaware player to be taken by a team other than the Baltimore Ravens since tight end Ben Patrick was taken by the Arizona Cardinals in 2007. The last three Delaware draft picks –– quarterback Joe Flacco (2008), center Gino Gradkowski (2012) and tight end Nick Boyle (2015) –– were all chosen by the Ravens.
“Honestly, I’m speechless,” Nichols told Bluehens.com. “This is a moment that most people only dream of and to be given this opportunity, I’m extremely humbled and grateful.”
Nichols, who attended Hodgson Vo-Tech High School in Newark, registered 56 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 11 games last season. In four years at Delaware, Nichols collected 104 tackles, 9.5 sacks and two interceptions.
At the NFL combine in March, Nichols (6’4’’, 306 lbs.) clocked a 4.95 40-yard dash and 29 bench press reps at 225 lbs – NFL team’s primary gauge of a player’s strength.
“I thought he could be a third or fourth round pick,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said on ESPN’s NFL draft coverage.
Nichols is the Bears fifth pick in this year’s draft. Led by first-year Head Coach Matt Nagy, who played quarterback at Delaware from 1997-2000, the Bears have also added Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith (8) and Western Kentucky linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe (115) to their defense.
Draft experts project Nichols as a nose tackle in the Bears 3-4 scheme. Last season, Chicago gave up the seventh fewest passing yards and the 11th fewest rushing yards in the NFL.
Nichols is the first Delaware defensive player chosen in the NFL draft since the Oakland Raiders selected defensive end Shawn Johnson with the 166th pick in 2004.