We’re in the early stages of April and the NFL Draft is rapidly approaching, so we’ll probably see an up-tick in draft-related content. And if the Chicago Bears are as active and successful in the draft as they were in free agency, perhaps they could live up to their recent billing as this year’s Cinderella story.
Before we dive into what’s being written about the Bears and the draft, we should probably highlight some team needs. Over at CBS Sports, R.J. White does just that by lining up the biggest needs for the NFC North’s four teams. White lists guard, outside linebacker, right tackle, nose tackle, defensive end, inside linebacker, and wide receiver as the seven needs the Chicago has going into the draft. No argument here. Each of those positions could use some work before the 2018 season kicks off.
The Bears will have to get creative if they’re going to fill all of their needs in the draft, so let’s explore some of their possibilities.
- Patrick Finley shares the 6.0 version of the Chicago Sun-Times’ mock draft series and puts the first-round picks into tiers. The Bears find themselves right in the middle of a tier of teams set at quarterback who are probably rooting for a run at quarterback in the first five picks. We already know the Bears are there. With North Carolina State pass-rusher Bradley Chubb going to the Colts and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward going to the Buccaneers, Finley has the Bears settling with Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, and I think we’d all be happy with that at this point.
- Should they choose not to fill their need at guard with the best offensive lineman prospect in the draft, Finley suggests the team could turn to Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds or Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, a do-it-all defender who could be used as a defensive Swiss Army knife. Should the Bears successfully move down in the draft (perhaps with the Bills who own the 12th and 22nd picks), they could land in the tier of teams choosing from the top defensive players including Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson, and UTSA edge defender Marcus Davenport.
- Peter Schrager went off the board a bit when he put together his first mock draft, which sent UCF cornerback Mike Hughes to the Bears with the eighth pick. And perhaps Schrager is onto something, because the Bears were planning to meet with Hughes as they ramp up player meetings leading up to draft weekend. In his second mock, Schrager opts to go with the Bears taking a different player at the same position. Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward is the pick at No. 8, with the Bears hoping he follows in the line of first-round stud defenders to come out of the Buckeyes’ powerhouse program. Even though the Bears seem set at cornerback, you really can’t have enough quality defenders in the secondary. And with Nelson already off the board, drafting Ward seems to make a lot of sense.
- WalterFootball.com’s Charlie Campbell sends linebacker help to Chicago in the form of Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds. Campbell sees Edmunds as someone who can play inside and out, citing his skills as a run defender and in coverage against tight ends. From there, Campbell sees the Bears filling their needs at receiver (Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk) in the second round and again in the fourth (Clemson’s Deon Cain), and offensive tackle (Western Michigan’s Chukwuma Okorafor) with the team’s other fourth-round selection. I’d be much more concerned about the concept of drafting two receivers if it hadn’t been for the Bears’ re-working the position in free agency. After doing what they did to sign Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, rookie receivers who come to Bears camp won’t need to feel the pressure of having to carry the passing game on their shoulders.
- Edmunds seems like a worthwhile fall-back option for the Bears if Nelson is already off the board and another dream scenario doesn’t make it to No. 8. Jared Durbin of CBS Sports has the Bears taking Edmunds with the eighth pick after the Denver Broncos use the fifth pick to take Nelson, because new quarterback Case Keenum could probably use some protection.
- Even though the Bears signed two receivers and a pass-catching tight end, the team is still expected to add another pass-catcher later in the draft. Over at NFL.com, Matt Harmon dishes out NFL comparisons to a handful of the top receiver prospects who will be available in the upcoming draft. Some of these prospects could be available when the Bears go on the clock later on Day 2 or 3. Of the players who have been linked to Chicago at some point or another, the most intriguing comps might be with Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown (Martavis Bryant) and Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk (Randall Cobb). You’ll want to check out Harmon’s piece for a full rundown of comparisons.
- The Bears’ hunt for pass-rushing help could take them all the way to the Ivy League. Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com lists seven teams (including the Bears) who attended Yale’s pro day and had their eyes on linebacker Matt Oplinger. After a 2017 season in which he racked up 11.5 sacks, Oplinger could continue to pop up as a sleeper.
- Northwestern safety Kyle Queiro is scheduled to work out for the Bears, according to Jared Tokarz. While the Bears are set as far as starting safeties are concerned, the team could stand to add depth at the position. It’s worth sharing that Chicago has had good fortune finding late-round defensive backs (Adrian Amos, Eddie Jackson) and undrafted free agents (Cre’von LeBlanc, Bryce Callahan) who can be contributors in the secondary since Pace took over in 2015.
- Christian Shanafelt of NFL Draft Bible seems to have an eye for small-school sleepers, and University of South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler definitely fits the bill. According to Shanafelt, Streveler opened eyes by running the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and posting a 38.5-inch vertical. The Bears, Raiders, Ravens, and Seahawks spoke with Streveler afterward. We’ll continue to keep an eye on some of the late-round or priority undrafted free agent quarterbacks the Bears speak with during the run-up to the draft.
- An early run on quarterbacks could totally make the Bears’ draft, but part of me wonders if we’ll get it. If we don’t, perhaps we might go back and look at Jim Mora Jr.’s thoughts on Josh Rosen, who he coached at UCLA before being fired and replaced by Chip Kelly:
— The MMQB (@theMMQB) April 2, 2018
- Jordan Plocher of Pro Football Focus has 10 college prospects who played ball out west who are probably flying under your radar, and a handful of these players could be fits for the Bears at some point in the upcoming Draft. Oregon’s Tyrell Crosby is PFF’s fifth-ranked tackle prospect and has familiarity with Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who was his head coach during his time with the Ducks. The Bears met with Washington State quarterback Luke Falk at the Senior Bowl and Cougars teammate Hercules Mata’afa is trying to make the move from the interior defensive line to edge defender and could be a mid-round diamond-in-the-rough type. And we can’t forget about Michael Gallup, the Colorado State receiver who is ranked No. 1 at the position by PFF, but could be available on Day 2.