The Chicago Bears will select 7th overall in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The pick will likely roll in around 8 p.m. CT, at which time the Windy City, and Bears fans across the nation, will fully realize the future direction of this team.
In the months leading up to this weekend, players have jumped up and down draft boards based on Senior Bowl performances, combine and pro day workouts, and injury and off-field concerns.
Yet all of that is in the past now, with the first round set to kick off early this evening.
Now that all of the information has been gathered and all the film has been watched, here is my final Big Board, ranking the Top 10 players the Bears should target in the first round.
Disclaimer: For our purposes we will assume QB Jameis Winston, QB Marcus Mariota, DT Leonard Williams, OLB Dante Fowler and WR Amari Cooper will come off the board in the first six picks. If any of those five players fall, it’s highly likely the Bears will select him.
1) WR Kevin White, West Virginia (6-3, 215)
If Cooper is there, the Bears will select him, as he’s the most NFL-ready receiver in this class. Yet they’ll be more than happy to take White as a consolation prize. He has outstanding size and speed (4.35 40-yard dash) and produced at an elite level last season (109 catches, 1,447 receiving yards). Some have compared White’s upside to that of Larry Fitzgerald, which makes him too juicy to pass up as Brandon Marshall’s long-term replacement.
2) OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson (6-3, 246)
Athletically, Beasley is off the charts. He has arguably the quickest first step of any pass rusher in this draft, with great agility and bend. He can turn the corner in a flash and has outstanding closing speed. There are concerns about his ability against the run but Beasley’s potential as an elite pass rusher might be the first step in resurrecting Chicago’s once-proud defense.
3) OLB Alvin Dupree, Kentucky (6-4, 269)
Dupree is nearly as athletic as Beasley and comes in a larger, more-well-rounded package. At 269 pounds, he ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine, which is exceptional. He’s a bit raw but Dupree’s upside, as both a pass rusher and against the run, could land him in the Windy City. I’m told the Bears are higher on Dupree than they are Beasley, so if both are available, “Bud” may be the choice.
4) CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State (6-0, 186)
Waynes is the top cover cornerback in this year’s class. He has good size and top-tier speed (4.31) to go along with experience and maturity. Cornerback is arguably the biggest need on Chicago’s roster, making Waynes a strong possibility in the first.
5) OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa (6-5, 319)
If the Bears think Scherff is a right tackle and are committed to running the ball on offense, he could be the pick. He’s a mauler in the run game and could anchor the club’s new-look offense. If GM Ryan Pace wants to build his team from the inside out, Scherff makes a lot of sense.
6) DT Danny Shelton, Washington (6-2, 339)
Shelton is massive but moves like a player much smaller. He’s an elite space eater who can also rush the passer (9.0 sacks his senior season). He’s also a high-character player who loves the game, which is very important. Shelton could be the centerpiece of new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense.
7) WR DeVante Parker, Louisville (6-3, 209)
If both White and Cooper are selected in the Top 6 and the Bears are determined to upgrade the wide receiver position, Parker could jump to the top of their board. He has ideal height and thickness, and ran a 4.45. Some consider him a better prospect than White.
8) CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest (6-0, 188)
It can be argued Johnson is a better “island” cornerback than Waynes. Johnson is a bit more physical and has shut-down ability at the next level. With Tim Jennings running out of guaranteed money, Alan Ball on a one-year deal and uncertainty around Kyle Fuller, Johnson could creep into the Top 10.
9) OT Ereck Flowers, Miami (6-6, 329)
Flowers is barely a step behind Scherff in terms of run blocking and comes in a larger package. As a right tackle, Flowers has road-grade ability. He has arguably the highest upside of any offensive tackle in this class, which could be a strong selling point for the Bears.
10) DE Arik Armstead, Oregon (6-7, 292)
Armstead has the NFL body type and athleticism teams drool over. He didn’t produce at an elite level in college but most believe his best days are ahead of him. His upside makes him a very strong sleeper candidate at 7th overall.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fifth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.