In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears have the 11th overall pick.
That's a pick nearly in the top third of the first round, so there will be talent on the table when it's GM Ryan Pace's turn to make his selection.
Yet 11 is actually a pretty mediocre draft slot in this year's selection process.
Obviously the Top 10 players will already be off the board once it's Chicago's turn to pick, yet the drop off in top-tier talent will happen a few picks earlier, around the 8th selection. As such, the Bears will have the fourth pick from a large group of second-tier prospects. It's a group that extends will into the 20s, meaning the value from 11 to roughly 25 is almost negligible, assuming the Top 10 falls as most are predicting.
An ideal scenario is one in which the Bears either trade up to land one of the blue-chip prospects, or trade back in order to add more picks. Pace made three trades the past 7 months that netted him an extra 4th- and 6th-round pick. He has the ammo to move up into the Top 10 if he chooses. Or he could add even more early- to mid-round picks by trading back into the 20 range.
Either scenario can be easily justified.
Yet moving around in the first round involves a trade partner willing to offer fair value, which can be hard to come by. In all likelihood, the Bears will end up selecting a player at 11th overall.
Trying to predict which players will be available and which are of value at 11 is difficult. With so little disparity from 11-25, a case can be made for 20 or more players at 11th overall.
There are about seven players who will, in all likelihood, be off board once it's Pace's turn to pick. They are:
Mississippi State LT Laremy Tunsil
Florida State S/CB Jalen Ramsey
Ohio State DE Joey Bosa
California QB Jared Goff
North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz
Oregon DE DeForest Buckner
UCLA LB Myles Jack
If any of those players were to fall to the Bears, they would be no-brainers. Beyond those seven, anything could happen.
With that in mind, here are the Top 10 ideal selections for the Bears in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
10. QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Lynch is a project is nearly every phase of his game but his ceiling is very high. He's 6-7, 244 pounds and he's extremely athletic. He has a big arm and he can beat with you with his feet as well. He needs to refine his technique and decision making, and learn how to play under center, but he has the potential to be a starting NFL quarterback in a year or two. With Jay Cutler, the Bears would have the luxury of sitting Lynch his freshman and sophomore seasons, allowing him to learn and develop into a franchise passer.
9. CB William Jackson, Houston
Jackson is big (6-0, 189), fast (4.37 40-yard dash) and makes plays (he led the nation with 23 pass breakups last year). A ballhawking cornerback with ideal physical traits and athleticism is near the top of Chicago's wish list. Jackson checks all those boxes. He's not the strongest defender and he's not aggressive in run support, which are concerns, but Jackson has as much potential as any corner in this draft. Most don't believe he's worth the 11th overall pick but there's a chance Pace will fall in love with his upside and make Jackson the pick.
8. DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
Rankins is an explosive, one-gap defensive tackle. This penetrating defender could be a serious weapon for the Bears on passing downs, when coordinator Vic Fangio deploys a 4-3 sub package, as Rankins can collapse the pocket in the face of the quarterback. Despite holding up well against the run in college, he's not tall or long, which could limit his effectiveness as a 5-technique in 3-4 base sets. Still, Rankins' value as an up-field disruptive defender makes him borderline worthy of pick 11.
7. CB Eli Apple, Ohio State
Apple has elite size (6-1, 199) and speed (4.40) and was a productive two-year starter in college. He has quick feet and good upper-body strength, both of which aid him in press coverage. He's also extremely competitive when the ball is in the air. If the top cornerback in the draft is off the board when Chicago picks at 11, Apple would make a very nice consolation prize.
6. OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia
Floyd is an athletic, speedy edge rusher who played multiple positions for the Bulldogs, lining up at outside linebacker, inside linebacker and defensive end. He can bend and turn the corner as an edge rusher and he's an aggressive defender against the run. He's only 244 pounds, so how he'll hold up against big NFL offensive linemen is a concern, yet Floyd's speed-rush ability and positional versatility would be a welcome addition to Chicago's defense.
5. OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State
Conklin is an experienced left tackle who can road grade as a run blocker. He doesn't have elite foot quickness but he can effortlessly mirror defenders in pass protection. A team leader who is NFL-ready, Conklin has Day-1 starter written all over him. Whether that's at left or right tackle remains to be seen but he's a talented edge blocker with upside, one who might be too good for the Bears to pass up.
4. OLB Shaq Lawson, Clemson
Lawson (6-3, 269) is a physically intimidating defender with great athleticism. He had 25.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks last season, lining up at both defensive end and outside linebacker. He's a downhill player who punishes blockers, yet he also has the quickness to turn the corner and collapse the pocket. He's a clone of Pernell McPhee, and you can't have too many McPhee's. Lawson would bring toughness and nastiness to Chicago's defense, and is arguably the safest pick of the bunch.
3. RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
Even in an era in which the value of running backs has been diminished substantially, Elliott is too good to ignore. He's elusive yet powerful between the tackles, and he has home run speed. He's also a very good pass catcher and a solid pass blocker. He's an all-around running back who should be able to backpack running games in the NFL for the next decade. The Bears don't have a pressing need at running back but Pace already tried to sign C.J. Anderson to a four-year, $19M deal, so he's obviously interested in bell cow ball carriers. With Elliott, the Bears would immediately have one of the best backfields in the league.
2. CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
Hargreaves doesn't have ideal size and speed, but he's the most NFL-ready cornerback in this year's class. He's a quick-twitch athlete with great instincts. He has fast feet and hands, and he's physical in both press coverage and when the ball is in the air. He's equally adept in both man and zone sets, and he's a willing tackler in run support. He has the confidence and experience to line up against NFL-level No. 1 receivers, and the necessary quickness to slide inside to the slot. Hargreaves is the top player at Chicago's biggest position of need.
1. OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
Of all the picks on this list, Stanley is least likely to be available at 11th overall. But if he falls, the Bears will not be able to pass him up, no matter who else is still on the board. NFL-ready left tackles are rare, yet that's exactly what Stanley brings to the table. With Stanley, the Bears would get the team's blindside protector of the future. He's not a beast against the run but Stanley is stout in pass protection, which is invaluable in today's NFL.