Next up in the Chicago Bears’ rebuild is the 2017 NFL Draft, where GM Ryan Pace could make or break his (and, to an extent, the team’s) future.
The franchise hopes to capitalize on a quality draft position (3rd overall) for a third straight year under Pace – whose first two drafts after taking over for Phil Emery have graded out really well.
Counting their first pick, the Bears have three total opportunities to gobble up talent in the top 70 – which really is fantastic. And be sure not to overlook the value of the 36th and 67th picks, because they could produce a player who contributes immediately (Jordan Howard was taken 150th overall just last year!).
With that said, let’s reassess the landscape, now that Pro Football Focus has released the latest update to its top-100 draft prospects of 2017 board.
Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett is a no-brainer for the top spot (as he has been for quite some time), with Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (a frequent Bears mock draft target) sliding in as the second best prospect on the board. Of particular interest to the Bears, however, is the new name that enters as the site’s No. 3 prospect, Derrek Barnett.
Barnett, an edge defender from Tennessee stands out as a potential target for the Bears’ first-round pick. Mike Renner has Barnett’s breakdown, with an eye-popping comparison to the draft’s top prospect. Because even though Barnett isn’t the physical or athletic specimen Garrett is, Renner believes Barnett is the only player whose production has been on Garrett’s level. That’s high praise, considering Garrett’s place as the draft’s consensus top prospect.
Barnett racked up the hits (37 combined sacks and hits in the last two seasons are the most in college football, per Renner), while his 20 sacks against SEC foes also stands out. And according to Renner, winning at the line of scrimmage behind the strength of a power game helps offset concerns about what Barnett lacks in athleticism.
It would be hard for the Bears to go wrong with the third overall pick, given the team’s needs and the prospect depth on the defensive side of the ball, so if Garrett and Allen were really off the board by the time the Bears’ pick came around, selecting a player like Barnett would be a very nice consolation prize.
With that said, several rumored fits in the secondary slide in after Barnett.
Oft-rumored targets such as LSU safety Jamal Adams (4th), Ohio State’s cornerback Marshon Lattimore (5th) and safety Malik Hooker (11th) are also high on the big board. Lattimore visited the Bears on Monday, and each of these players have been connected to Chicago in the recent past.
On the other side of the ball, Pro Football Focus has just three quarterbacks worthy of a spot in its top 100 prospects. North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky sits atop the list, and is the 10th best player on the board. Trubisky is followed by Clemson’s Deshaun Watson (13th), Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes (23rd), and Notre Dane’s DeShone Kizer (68th).
Kizer, if you’ll recall, is the top quarterback on draft guru Mike Mayock’s big board. The Notre Dame prospect had a decent pro day that came with mixed reviews and was scheduled to meet with the Bears privately before the draft. If he is available when the Bears are on the clock with the 67th pick, it might be difficult to pass on a quarterback with that kind of potential. Even if Mike Glennon is in the fold for the next three years.
It’s not long now!