If you feel as if it’s been a while since a mock draft has linked the Chicago Bears to an offensive skill position player with the third overall pick, you are not alone.
Much of the mock draft focus has been on defensive playmakers. No matter where you turn, the Bears are mocked to take a player that can be plugged in as a starter from Week 1. Front-seven standouts such as Alabama’s Jonathan Allen and Stanford’s Solomon Thomas have been joined by playmaking defensive backs such as recent visitor Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore and LSU safety Jamal Adams (and for good reason) among the players most likely to be sent to Chicago in a mock draft.
Adam Hoge of WGN Radio bucks the trend with his third mock draft installment, where he has the Bears choosing Alabama tight end O.J. Howard with the third selection.
Even though he was grossly underutilized at Alabama, there is an argument to make for Howard as the draft’s best offensive prospect. He doesn’t have the eye-popping stats that Leonard Fournette produced at running back, or the production wide receivers Mike Williams and Corey Davis had at Clemson and Western Michigan, respectively. Howard caught only 114 passes for 1,726 yards, and seven touchdowns in 46 career games, but his production in two national title games against Clemson (nine catches, 314 receiving yards, three touchdowns) thrust him into the spotlight.
Drafting a tight end with the third selection would seem to be an extreme reach, something the Bears aren’t in a position to do because the goal should be to maximize the value of the pick. But as Hoge offers up, if Howard is truly destined to be a game-changing contributor on offense, then his draft position shouldn’t matter.
Six tight ends were targeted at least 100 times in the NFL in 2016, including four among the top 30. Two tight ends came up with at least 1,000 receiving yards, with a third missing the 1,000-yard mark by less than 100 yards. Tight ends are becoming a primary source of offense as football evolves, so dismissing the idea of drafting one in the top-five out of hand seems shortsighted. And the Bears can’t afford to be that after finishing in the bottom half of the league in points scored in each of the last two seasons.
Chicago doesn’t have much in terms of playmaking pass catchers, taking free agent fliers on wide receivers Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, and investing in tight end Dion Sims in hopes of releasing some of his untapped potential. Cameron Meredith is a nice returning pass-catching option, but the Bears still don’t know what they’ll get – if anything – from Kevin White. All things considered, Howard would be a welcome addition to a passing offense led by new quarterback Mike Glennon.
Hoge’s third mock (which you can check out here) also has the Bears filling needs on the defensive side of the ball with picks in the second, third, and fourth rounds. So, it’s not as if he completely ignores taking defensive players in a draft stacked with talent on that side of the ball. But at some point someone needed to address the elephant in the room responsible for putting points on the scoreboard.