All signs are pointing to the Chicago Bears selecting a defensive player with their first-round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft, even if tight end O.J. Howard is a tempting target.
However, there still isn’t a consensus on who exactly that defensive stud will be … but here is the latest:
- ESPN’s draft gurus Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. both have the Bears picking defensive standouts in their dueling two-round mock draft, but there is a difference in opinion on who the player should be. Kiper has the Bears choosing Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, who could team-up with free agent signing Quintin Demps and immediately make the position one of strength. Offseason surgery aside, Hooker (who recently visited the Bears) could turn into an All-Pro force in the secondary.
- On the other hand, McShay leans toward the defensive line, sending Alabama’s Jonathan Allen to the Bears. Allen was one of the best defensive players in college football, though shoulder problems could cause him to slide in the draft. But if he gets a clean bill of health, he seems like a value pick at three.
- McShay and Kiper do finally come to an agreement (of sorts) with the Bears’ second-round selection, however, as both experts have the Bears selecting a cornerback. Kiper went with Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie, while McShay picks Florida’s Quincy Wilson.
- Daniel Jeremiah’s fourth mock draft really trends against teams picking quarterbacks in the first round. Indeed, only Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes are pegged to go among the first 32 picks (neither of which wind up in Chicago). Instead, Jeremiah has narrowed down the Bears’ selection with the third overall pick to three players: Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, teammate Marshon Lattimore, and LSU safety Jamal Adams. Jeremiah ultimately settles on Lattimore, who is becoming the consensus top cornerback in this draft class. And even though the Bears signed a pair of free agent cornerbacks this offseason, the team doesn’t have a defensive back with Lattimore’s upside or cover skills.
- Of course, it’s worth asking whether or not Deshaun Watson is worth a gamble if he reaches the Bears at pick No. 36.
- Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports also has the Bears choosing Lattimore in his most recent mock draft. Wilson writes that the Bears’ issues on both sides of the ball (no argument here) means it would be difficult to make a wrong decision with the pick. Durability concerns are red flags, but Lattimore is the closest thing this draft class has to a shutdown corner. So if he passes the necessary tests, it would be hard to pass him up.
- Staying with the secondary, J.C. Talon’s first mock is up at Pro Football Weekly, and he projects the Bears taking LSU safety Jamal Adams. A safe pick at the position, Talon believes Adams would be the Bears’ best presence there since Mike Brown was roaming the secondary. I imagine it’s going to be very difficult to pass on Adams after watching him run a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at LSU’s pro day.
- HOWEVER, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke only sees Adams as a Plan B in his latest mock. Instead of picking Adams, Burke sends Stanford’s Solomon Thomas to the Bears with the third pick. The knock here on Thomas is that he’s probably a better fit for a 4-3 defense than the 3-4 the Bears are currently running. Trying to fit a third overall pick into a spot he isn’t all that familiar with seems risky, especially considering the ramifications (for the player, coaching staff, and front office) if it doesn’t pan out. If Chicago chose Adams in Burke’s mock scenario, it he would be the second safety off the board following Ohio State’s Malik Hooker, who is mocked to go second overall to the San Francisco 49ers.
- And finally, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox also has the Bears choosing Thomas with the third pick, but only after Adams goes second overall to the 49ers. It is starting to feel as though we’ll see a new high bar set for safety draft position in 2017, and it makes sense because of the evolving nature of the game and the increasing importance of defensive backs.