As a believer in the concept that you don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been, let’s briefly circle back to where we were at this point last year.
A consensus was building around the Bears taking a defensive player, with Jonathan Allen (Alabama defensive lineman), Solomon Thomas (Stanford edge defender), Malik Hooker (Ohio State safety), and Jamal Adams (LSU safety) among the players getting the most consideration.
HOWEVER, something was bubbling under the surface. Here is what we wrote at the time:
There has been a buzz building around the possibility (if not, probability) of the Bears drafting a quarterback in the first round. It would be a bit of a stunner after seeing the Bears linked to defensive studs for much of the mock draft season. But there is still a long-term need, and Watson has the kind of intangibles Chicago’s front office seems to covet.
But wait, there was more:
Opinions vary on how many quarterbacks will go in the first round. For example, former Bears scouting director Greg Gabriel believes Watson (going to the Bears, naturally) could be one of four quarterbacks to go within the top 12, while others see the possibility of one or two sliding. Watson could be the first quarterback off the board, or he could slide depending on how other teams use their draft picks. Getting Watson on the Bears would be a nice get, as he could come to Chicago without the pressure of being The Man right away. That will be on the shoulders of free agent signee Mike Glennon. Getting Watson all the way down at pick 36 would seem to be a steal.
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports has a two-round mock draft that comes with a surprise in the form of the Bears choosing quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears paying Glennon in free agency doesn’t stop Brugler from sending the North Carolina product to Chicago with the most shocking pick in the first round. Remember, Glennon’s contract is rather team friendly, and the Bears could come away paying less than $20 million on a deal that could be worth up to $45 million over three years.
All of this is to say now is a great time to keep our eyes peeled for draft information that would appear to be going against the grain. We’ll soon know who the Bears will draft. But in the meantime, this is a good time to be gathering information about the various possibilities and scenarios that could unfold in short order.
- To the victors go the spoils, so we’ll check out what Dane Brugler has with his latest mock draft at NFLDraftScout.com. Brugler’s seven-round mock starts with the Bears taking Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson after four quarterbacks go in the first five picks. After that, Brugler has the Bears plucking Rutgers edge defender Kemoko Turay, Connecticut defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi, North Carolina cornerback M.J. Stewart, West Virginia linebacker/safety Kyzir White, New Mexico State wide receiver Jaleel Scott, and Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales. It’s a defense-heavy draft that doesn’t address the wide receiver issue until the sixth round. All things considered, you can see why the Bears would consider trading back and adding picks.
- Chad Reuter of NFL.com has a seven-round mock ready to roll, and it even has some of the same picks as Brugler as both have the Bears drafting Nelson and Turay – though the Rutgers EDGE lasts until the fourth-round in Reuter’s mock. The team’s second-round selection of Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson would look like a steal after he looked to have a first-round grade for much of the mock-draft season. Another intriguing choice is Notre Dame receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, a possible fourth-round selection.
- Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports is keeping his eyes open regarding a possible Patriots trade into the top-10. If it happens, La Canfora sees it as an opportunity for the team to snag UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen. La Canfora runs through a scenario where the Pats and Bills trade up to take quarterbacks in the top-10, which would leave the Bears taking Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the eighth pick. Sure, the Nelson-Bears connection could be one of those “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” situations. But as we learned last year, that’s not always the case. So while La Canfora believes this is how the top-10 will likely play out, he’s had some pretty high-profile Bears-related misses recently. Still, it’s possible he is onto something.
- Football Outsiders provides a draft guide for each of the NFL’s 32 teams, via ESPN Insider. And because it’s an Insider piece, I won’t dive too deeply into the content. Instead, let’s highlight that offensive line being perceived as the Bears’ biggest need in this piece. Also worth pointing out is that secondary is offered up as a “quiet need” for the Bears on draft weekend. Both of those positions of need could be solved in the first round with the eighth pick, or later should they choose to move out of the eighth spot.
- GM Ryan Pace has been known for his bold, conviction-driven moves since arriving in Chicago. Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune sees the upcoming draft as an opportunity for Pace to strike again, this time moving up in the draft to select North Carolina State pass rusher Bradley Chubb. If it doesn’t happen, it seems as if defensive coordinator Vic Fangio could find himself for one of the draft’s other top defensive prospects such as Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Florida State safety Derwin James, or Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Let’s also keep Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith in mind. Wiederer writes that Smith would seem to be a “terrific fit in Fangio’s system.”
- But if the Bears don’t see Smith as their guy and believe their preferred draft prospect will fall, they could do something they haven’t done under Pace and trade back in the first round. A possible trade partner could be the Oakland Raiders, who ESPN’s Todd McShay hears is hot for Smith. “Roquan Smith is the guy,” McShay said, via Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t know that they would be willing to give away additional picks later to go up and get him. But he’s the guy they want.”
- Oakland might not want to give up picks, but if Smith is their guy and both the Bears and 49ers also have him on their radar, push could come to shove and a move could be made to ensure the pick happens. Much like the Bears did in securing Mitch Trubisky in last year’s draft.
- Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller shared his latest big board, which includes three quarterbacks in the top-10. This isn’t to say that’s how the draft will go, just how he has his board shaking out. The eighth-highest-ranking player on Miller’s board is Josh Rosen, but we already know the Bears aren’t taking the UCLA quarterback. After No. 8, the top-5 non-quarterback prospects are Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, Florida State safety Derwin James, Texas tackle Connor Williams, and UTSA edge rusher Marcus Davenport.
- Let’s say the best-case scenario unfolds for the Bears and four quarterbacks go off the board before the Bears go on the clock. Here is a look at Miller’s top-5 overall non-QB prospects: Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, North Carolina State edge rusher Bradley Chubb, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, and Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Bears could conceivably be in play for any of those prospects, depending on how things shake out in the draft ahead of them.
- And because we love big boards, here is the latest from former NFL executive Gil Brandt.
- Just an interesting nugget from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen regarding one of the players most often connected to the Bears:
Don't know a coach who doesn't want Quenton Nelson on their team. Only one gets him. https://t.co/uzA0A8D3GB
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) April 19, 2018
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) January 1, 2018