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Chicago Bears 2016 Draft Preview: Quarterback (Round 1-3)

The Chicago Bears need to make long-term preparations for life with Jay Cutler, which is why they'll be targeting one of these early round quarterbacks in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Jared Goff, California (6-4, 215)

Goff was a three-year starter for the Golden Bears, steadily progressing as a passer from his freshman to junior seasons. Last year, Goff posted ridiculous numbers, setting Pac-12 conference records with 4,719 yards and 43 touchdowns (64.5 completion percentage). He capped his career with a 6-touchdown performance over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. A pocket passer with good agility, Goff is not a great runner and his production typically dropped when asked to throw on the move. He's extremely accurate and has a very quick release, which has led to a few comparisons to Aaron Rodgers. The biggest knock on Goff is his thin arms and legs, which has drawn comparisons to Sam Bradford. Some are also concerned how he'll project in a pro-style system after playing in Cal's high-octane spread offense the past three years. In all likelihood, he'll be the second overall pick by the Browns but if he somehow falls to 11th overall, the Bears would run to the podium to select him.
Projected: Top 10

Carson Wentz, North Dakota State (6-5, 237)

Wentz has all the physical tools: he's big (22 pounds heavier than Goff), tall and has a strong arm. He was 19-3 as a two-year starter for the Bisons, leading them to two straight FCS Championships. On film, Wentz showed good ability to work through his reads and use the entire field. He lacks anticipation and forced too many balls into tight windows, although both are problems that can be resolved with good coaching. He's considered highly intelligent with a strong work ethic and a competent on-field leader. Injuries are a concern after he missed eight games last season due to a broken wrist. In terms of athleticism, he's top tier and is very dangerous as a runner. That, combined with his size, is what has NFL teams drooling over Wentz, who will very likely come off the board in the Top 10. But, like Goff, if Wentz falls to the Bears at 11th overall, he's a no-brainer. 
Projected: Top10

Paxton Lynch, Memphis (6-7, 244)

Lynch was a three-year starter for the Tigers who started 39 consecutive games. He's tall and lanky, even at 244 pounds, and has outstanding foot quickness and elusiveness. He's a dual-threat quarterback with a very high ceiling. Against Ole Miss in October he completed 39 of 53 passes for 384 yards and 3 TDs, which shows his high ceiling against SEC competition. Yet he faded down the stretch and was horrible against Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl, which showed his low floor. Lynch is an accurate passer (66.8 completion percentage as a senior) and throws well on the run. In terms of mechanics, he leaves a lot to be desired. He doesn't consistently set his feet and his throwing motion seems to change from play to play. Technically, he's a major work in progress. Lynch isn't ready to start in the NFL tomorrow and is going to need at least one year on the bench before he's ready to compete at the next level.
Projected: 1st Round

Connor Cook, Michigan State (6-4, 217)

A four-year starter for the Spartans, Cook was the architect of a pro-style offense and helped lead MSU to the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs as a senior. In 2015, he threw for 3,131 yards, with 25 TDs and 7 INTs. Cook throws a good ball with decent accuracy and touch. He can make every NFL-level throw. Unlike many of his counterparts, he's experienced and comfortable under center. He has good arm strength and a fast release that rivals that of Goff. A shoulder injury hampered him last year, which is cause for concern, and he has an "interesting" personality, which many believe will hurt him in trying to acclimate to an NFL locker room. Despite starting for four years, he was not named a captain last year, which is another personality related red flag. Cook is an experienced pocket passer but he's not an elite playmaker and will likely be an above average game manager in the pros. 
Projected: 2nd Round

Christian Hackenberg, Penn State (6-4, 223)

Hackenberg was named Big Ten Freshaman of the Year following a 2013 season in which he threw for 2,955 yards, 20 TDs and 10 INTs. His production dropped off in 2014 (2,977, 12 TDs, 15 INTs) and he was inconsistent as a junior last year (2,525, 16 TDs, 6 INTs, 53.3 completion percentage). He's a big, tough quarterback with a laser for an arm. He shows good mechanics and maneuverability in the pocket, and he's been durable, not missing a start the past three years. A team leader and two-time captain, Hackenberg has shown great maturity through a rough collegiate career. Hackenberg lacks pocket presence and accuracy, and struggles against the blitz. He's also not going to hurt defenses with his legs. His decision-making has also been called into question. He's often been compared to Jay Cutler, so there's that. 
Projected: 2nd-3rd Round

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (6-2, 226)

Prescott was a dangerous dual-threat quarterback the past two seasons. He's a powerful runner who will obliterate arm tackles and run over smaller defenders - he scored 37 rushing TDs the last three years combined. He improved as a passer each year at Mississippi State and has the capacity to deliver strikes when given a clean pocket. Still a project, Prescott lacks refined technique and must get better at working through his progressions. He's been compared to Tim Tebow but he throws a better ball than Tebow and it doesn't take him a day and a half to release each pass. Prescott is not going to start as a rookie but he's a high-upside backup who, at the very least, can extend plays with his legs. He'll be nearly unstoppable near the goal line. 
Projected: 3rd-4th Round

The Pick: 

Paxton Lynch: Lynch is a polarizing player due to the fact that he's not a finished product and put up some stinkers last season. Yet he's got unbelievable size and elusiveness. He's a work in progress and must improve on his basic fundamentals as a pocket passer, but his celing is as high as any quarterback in this year's draft. 

In Chicago, he could sit a year or two behind Cutler before taking the reigns as the starter. He's a risky pick and a lot of folks are going to disagree with the Bears if they select Lynch, especially with so many needs on the defensive side of the ball, but if he ever develops into the player many believe he can be, he'll be a draft-day steal. Having the luxury of Cutler will allow the Bears to groom Lynch into a competent starter before unleashing him on the NFL. With his potential, it's going to be very tough for GM Ryan Pace to pass on Lynch, assuming Goff and Wentz are both off the board at 11th overall. 


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