Mock draft season is hitting a fever pitch, as analysts are constantly funneling mocks into the public sphere. And while being closer to the NFL Draft doesn’t make these mocks any closer to being accurate, what they tend to provide is insight into team needs, positional depth, and how teams could go above using picks.
To that end, the latest from Mel Kiper Jr. should raise some eyebrows.
The long-time ESPN pundit is a unique mock with trade-ups, move-backs, and some surprise picks here and there. But when it comes to the Chicago Bears, that’s where Kiper’s mock stops me in place. Because, with the 20th pick, he sends Oklahoma State offensive tackle Teven Jenkins to Chicago. This isn’t the first time Jenkins has been the Bears’ pick in a mock. In fact, Kiper has been connecting Chicago and Jenkins since January. And with the 52nd pick, Auburn receiver Anthony Schwartz goes to Chicago. Two picks. Two needs filled. All things considered, this mock seems par for the course.
But if this mock plays out in this way, it would be a bit unexpected. Let me explain.
If the Bears take offensive players with their first two picks, it would be a change in philosophy compared to the rest of the Ryan Pace era. Since Pace was brought on to be the general manager in 2015, he has only once used his first two picks in the first two rounds of the draft on offensive players. That happened when the team chose quarterback Mitchell Trubisky second overall, then followed with tight end Adam Shaheen in the second.
Here’s a brief trip down memory lane:
⇒ WR Kevin White (7th), NT Eddie Goldman (39th) in 2015
⇒ OLB Leonard Floyd (9th), OG Cody Whitehair (56th) in 2016
⇒ ILB Roquan Smith (8th), OL James Daniels (39th) in 2018
⇒ TE Cole Kmet (43rd), CB Jaylon Johnson (50th) in 2019
I intentionally kept the 2019 draft out of this discussion because the Bears didn’t have picks in the first or second rounds. Although, for the sake of the overall discussion, it’s fair to point out Chicago used its first two picks on offensive talent (RB David Montgomery, WR Riley Ridley) in 2019. Even still … the trend is still an obvious one. Chicago alternated offensive and defensive players with its first two picks in four of its six drafts. Whether it’s by design or happenstance, the trend is noteworthy.
But does it mean anything about what the Bears will do in a few weeks?
On the one hand, sure. Trends are trends for a reason. And with six years of data points, I think it’s fair to make note of what we have in front of us. With that, we can conclude that it’s a distinct possibility that history can repeat itself. Or in other words, the Bears could team an offensive player in Round 1 with a defensive prospect in Round 2. Or it could happen the other way around. Again, we’re basing this on previous trends.
HOWEVER, I quick to note that past performance isn’t indicative of future results. Just because the Bears did something before doesn’t mean they’ll do it again. If the best players on their board both play offense, they could double-dip on that side of the ball. I don’t imagine anyone would complain about that result.
For the sake of draft class balance, I understand why a team would alternate between offensive and defensive picks. Surely, I could walk away from Draft weekend green-lighting any number of scenarios in which Chicago drafts some combination of cornerback-receiver/offensive lineman in the first two rounds. But one path I can’t get with is one where the Bears take defensive players in the first two rounds. Admittedly, it would be hypocritical of me to write this knowing full well there is a non-zero chance the best two players on the board when the Bears go on the clock could be defensive players. But the team’s needs are so large on offense, it can no longer afford to sidestep the obvious.
In the end, the 2021 NFL Draft has a chance to be a special brand of ridiculous. So of course Chicago’s football team has to be right in the thick of things.