Once the Bears signed Allen Robinson to a hefty free agent contract, the mock drafts sending Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley to Chicago faded into the background.
From there, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson became the name most often connected to the Bears in the mock draft process, and it made some sense, too.
After all, the Bears hired Nelson’s college position coach (welcome back, Harry Hiestand!) and the team has a pretty glaring need after not picking up the third-year option on guard Josh Sitton’s contract.
Of course it made sense, and in all honesty, it still seems to, but at least one long-time NFL writer believes Nelson might not be the best fit for the Bears at No. 8.
In a piece at The Athletic in which Dan Pompei tries to find the best fit for the Bears, Pompei lists two players who could be under consideration who might not fit the bill, and one of them is Quenton Nelson. GASP! Okay, maybe it’s not “gasp!” serious, but let’s see what we know.
Nelson is believed to be one of the most talented players in this draft class and is the consensus top prospect at his position. Bears GM Ryan Pace could make Nelson his “safe pick” at No. 8, which would be a change of pace (no pun intended) from his previous three first-round selections.
Indeed, criticisms of Nelson have been few and far between. Even Pompei found trouble unearthing someone who had a discouraging word regarding the draft’s top offensive line prospect. The most critical comment shared with Pompei came from “a high-ranking NFC front office man” who said Nelson “isn’t great in space and will have some misses.” Hey, it happens to the best of us! And even then, Nelson was favorably compared to 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist Steve Hutchinson.
As has been the case since we started the process, the fact that Nelson plays guard will limit his impact and upside. Teams that own top-10 picks should probably draft a player deemed to be a game-changing playmaker.
The terms “game-changing” and “playmaker” aren’t often (ever?) associated with interior offensive linemen. Guards have traditionally been valued lower than tackles, but defenses are evolving and there has been an up-tick in strong pass-rushers playing along the interior. The Vikings and Packers beefed up their interior defensive lines with the free agent signings of Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, respectively. A forward-thinking front office exec might think to counter those moves by strengthening the middle of the offensive line.
Because of the expected run at quarterback (four in the top seven?), the Bears’ No. 8 pick could very well feel like the fourth overall selection. The catch is the Bears aren’t likely to land the player they arguably need most – North Carolina State pass-rusher Bradley Chubb.
HOWEVER, the good news is that the Bears are still in a good place to draft an impact talent. Pompei offers up Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Florida State safety Derwin James, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward as “ideal fits” for the Bears in this draft. Fitzpatrick and James are versatile defensive backs, with James possessing more athleticism and upside. Smith could be lined up to be the next great Bears inside linebacker because of his great speed and tackling ability. Ward could be the kind of lock-down man-corner who could take the Bears’ secondary to another level.
They’re all good options for the Bears and any number of them could be available when the Bears are on the clock.
Still, it seems like all signs are pointing to Nelson being the guy the Bears choose with the No. 8 pick. But as we learned last year, “the signs” can be deceiving this time of the year.