The 2016 NFL draft is just days away. After a long wait, multiple mock drafts from thousands of people, hundreds of big boards, and even more rumors, Thursday will finally end all of the speculation.
This may be more one of the more intriguing drafts in recent years, headlined by both of the top two overall picks being traded for a king’s ransom. The first two picks have already been decided, it will just be a matter of which quarterback goes first: Jared Goff or Carson Wentz?
Because of both trades, the value of certain positions has risen, namely quarterback. For a team like the Chicago Bears, who have Jay Cutler at quarterback, the demand for a player like Paxton Lynch at 11th overall may allow them to trade down if Lynch makes it out of the Top 10.
If Lynch finds his way into the Top 10, that will give the Bears more top-tier options, especially defensively, with the 11th pick. Due to the trades, the Bears should be in a much better position than most thought just a few weeks ago.
Editor's Note: This mock is operating under the assumption that three quarterbacks go in the Top 10, which would limit the Bears’ trade down options.
1st Round (11th): OLB Shaq Lawson, Clemson
Lawson is one of the more polarizing prospects in the first round. Respected scouts have him going anywhere from the Top 10 to the back half of the first round, while some see his teammate Kevin Dodd as a better prospect.
He was a one-year starter at Clemson and still amassed 46.5 tackle-for-losses in his college career, with 12.5 sacks in 2015 alone.
Although he does not have great length and is not a pure speed rusher, Lawson would be a welcomed addition for the Bears and would be a great compliment to Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young.
On top of his upside, he is also one of the safest picks in this draft, as he's a three-down defender who is just 21-years-old. Lawson was considered a leader in the Clemson locker room and checks many boxes the Bears look for in a football player, including size, toughness, power, backfield impact and the ability to set the edge against the run.
Alternate Pick: DL Sheldon Rankins (Louisville)
2nd Round (41st): DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
Once projected as a To-5 talent, Nkemdiche has fallen down draft boards and is now considered a second-round gamble due to his off-the-field issues.
His production was never consistent at Ole Miss but his talent makeup and athletic ability is undeniable. The Bears could use another high-upside 5-technique and as long as he keeps his nose out of trouble, the combination of Nkemdiche's talent and the team’s coaching staff could create a very disruptive interior defender.
Nkemdiche is your prototypical draft faller who could provide great value outside of the first round. The Bears have already met with him and although he is a red-flag player, his issues could be characterized as immaturity over any real criminal risk.
Alternate Pick: CB Artie Burns (Miami)
3rd Round (72nd): S Darian Thompson, Boise State
In my first mock draft, I had the Bears taking S Karl Joseph with the 72nd overall pick. After more consideration, it would be somewhat of a miracle if Joseph made it into the third round, which is why I have switched him out for Thompson.
Thompson is exactly what the Bears are looking for in a safety, especially since they view Adrian Amos as more of a strong safety, in-the-box player.
Thompson has excellent size for a safety (6-2, 195) and possesses enough speed and overall ability to be that centerfielder Chicago's defense needs.
It’s also worth noting that historically speaking, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has valued safety much higher in terms of free-agent additions and draft picks than he has at corner. Eric Reed and Antoine Bethea are examples of the importance Fangio places on safety.
Alternate Pick: RB Alex Collins (Arkansas)
4th Round (106th): CB Maurice Canady, Virginia
Canady has good length (6-2, 195) and the raw ability that could translate his high upside into a perfect scheme fit for the Bears. He plays the ball well and is solid in the short passing game, but was burned for six touchdowns in 2015, which is why he is somewhat of a developmental prospect.
Last year, the Bears went into the season with Kyle Fuller, Tim Jennings and Alan Ball as their projected starters and we know how that ended up. Not much has changed since then, other than the "emergence" of Tracy Porter, so there's still the glaring need for a long-term cornerback solution alongside Fuller.
Alternate Pick: QB Dak Prescott (Mississippi State)
4th Round (127th): QB Brandon Allen, Arkansas
The team’s interest in Allen has been well documented over the past few weeks and in terms of his potential as a future backup, he could be a nice fit.
The Bears are also rumored to be “very interested” in former Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer as their primary backup but even with the addition of a veteran like Hoyer, the team appears dead set on adding a quarterback for the future, much like what the Packers did last year with Brett Hundley.
Allen isn’t going to wow you with size (6’1, 220) but he caught multiple team’s eyes in his final year at college and has been a steady riser in this year’s draft.
Keep in mind that since the quarterback position has so much value, as well as Cutler's injury history, even a player whose ceiling is that of a career backup is well worth a mid-round pick.
Alternative Pick: WR Pharoh Cooper (South Carolina)
5th Round (150th): OT Willie Beavers, Western Michigan
I fully expect Charles Leno Jr. to be the team’s starting left tackle come Week 1 but the Bears could add a strong insurance policy in Beavers in the late stages of the draft.
Beavers is an athlete who projects as a left tackle at the next level. He looked good against Shilique Calhoun and has shown promise as a developmental prospect. He projects as a better run blocker than Leno with more upside as a starting left tackle down the line.
Alternative Pick: TE Ben Braunecker (Harvard)
6th Round (185th): RB Tyler Ervin, San Jose State
Ervin is unquestionably undersized (5-9, 190) but his game-changing ability is undeniable.
He may not be a primary back that can take 25-30 snaps a game but he’s very versatile, much like D’Anthony Thomas or Dexter McCluster.
Ervin is the type of weapon that you use in multiple formations and positions, and has the ability to make plays on special teams as well. Overall, he’s a Swiss army knife that could provide unique value in the right system.
Alternative Pick: WR/RB Bralon Addison (Oregon)
6th Round (206th): FB/TE Dan Vitale, Northwestern
Vitale is a valuable grinder. He played a “superback” role for Northwestern, which involved fullback, tight end and receiver.
Vitale won't wow you with athletic ability but he’s intelligent and versatile.
At the next level, Vitale won’t be a full-time player but he's reminiscent of a poor man’s Dallas Clark, with more talent as a lead blocker.
Alternative Pick: OLB Eric Striker (Oklahoma)
7th Round (230th): WR Moritz Boehringer, Schwabisch Hall
The German-born receiver is one of the more intriguing prospects in the year’s draft. At 6-4, 220 he provides great overall size, although he does possess small hands.
Boehringer showed good athleticism at his pro day, including a 4.42 40-time but how will that translate to the NFL?
He was a man among boys in the German football league but what will the 22-year-old do, if anything, at the next level? He has mid-round talent but the level of competition in Germany is the main reason he will fall this far.
All in all, Boehringer is well worth a late-round flier.
Alternative Pick: G/C Austin Blythe (Iowa)