Now that an epic Super Bowl is in the books, each of the NFL’s 32 teams can turn their complete attention to the offseason.
And while teams gear up for the free agency period beginning in March, it’s the NFL Draft that tends to better create sustainable contenders. The Bears have had their eyes on the draft for a while and we have been keeping our eyes on the college football scene in search of talent that might be good fits for the squad moving forward. However, mock draft season doesn’t really open up until after the Super Bowl ends.
With that in mind, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller unveiled his most recent mock draft, a seven-round behemoth that addresses many of the Bears’ offseason needs.
Round 1, Pick 8: Quenton Nelson, guard, Notre Dame
- The rave reviews of Nelson’s play continue to roll in from the draft’s foremost experts. Miller describes Nelson as a “violent, brutal blocker” but balances that out by noting his fluid athleticism that allows him to pull and trap. “He’s meaner than Zack Martin and more athletic than Brandon Scherff,” writes Miller, who compares Nelson favorably to a pair of Pro Bowl stud interior linemen. If Nelson is that good, the Bears’ offensive line will be instantly improved upon his arrival.
Round 2, Pick 39: Christian Kirk, wide receiver, Texas A&M
- The best argument against taking a receiver in the first round is because of the talent that can be found elsewhere in the draft. Talented wide receivers who contribute right away are often unearthed on Day 2 of the draft, which would be the hope if the Bears took Kirk in the second round. Who and when the Bears take a receiver in the draft will depend on which direction they go in free agency or the trade market. Kirk doesn’t have the most advanced route tree, but can be an impact player from the slot right away in the right offense and with proper coaching.
Round 4, Pick 101: Hercules Mata’afa, edge defender, Washington State
- Mata’afa looks like the kind of player Vic Fangio would embrace coaching. He is a three-time All-Pac-12 Team member, the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, and earned consensus All-American honors as a junior. He is explosive at the line of scrimmage as a defensive tackle with a knack for making plays in the backfield, but will have to bulk up and move outside where he is more likely to thrive as an edge defender.
Round 4, Pick 111: Marcell Ateman, wide receiver, Oklahoma State
- James Washington was the Oklahoma State receiver who earned a higher profile and will probably go a round or two earlier, but don’t discount what Ateman did for the Cowboys’ offense. He caught 59 passes for 1,156 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior despite playing in Washington’s shadow. Listed at 6-4, 216 pounds, Ateman could be a potential go-up-and-get-it guy who can transform the Bears’ red zone offense.
Round 5, Pick 136: B.J. Hill, defensive lineman, North Carolina State
- A four-year contributor who has been starting at defensive tackle since his freshman year, Hill was another Senior Bowl participant. He is lauded for his play as a run defender who could slide into a role as a nose tackle, a position the Bears could use some depth and upside. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock compared him to Linval Joseph of the Vikings.
Round 6, Pick 167: Joseph Noteboom, offensive tackle, TCU
- The Bears have taken a late-round offensive lineman in two of Ryan Pace’s three drafts, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if history repeats itself. Noteboom was a four-year contributor who played in all 54 games of his college career. He started 40 straight games to wrap up his time with the Horned Frogs, including the last 27 as a left tackle. If the Bears followed this mock draft, Noteboom would make three Senior Bowl participants.
Round 7, Pick 198: Deatrick Nichols, cornerback/safety, South Florida
- Nichols is a hard-hitting defensive back who selflessly (and successfully) transitioned from cornerback to safety. When he played corner, he showed the ability to play inside and out, as well as skills in man and zone coverage. The South Florida product is a late-bloomer who was a high school track star who is a willing and able tackler. He is probably best served as a slot corner/nickel defender. His hits are highlight-reel worthy: