The 2016 NFL Draft is just two days away. Let that sink in for a minute.
The day many NFL fans consider the equivalent to Christmas morning will be upon us in less than 48 hours. For the Chicago Bears, their first pick at 11th overall will happen about an hour into the process, at which time fans of the team will get their first look at Chicago's newest first-round selection.
For most diehard followers of the NFL, there's nothing better than the first day of the draft. Yet teams are built beyond the first round, where good GMs can find valuable players to help create championship rosters.
With that in mind, here is our final Bear Report mock draft of the 2016 off-season. In this mock, we assume the Top 10 picks will be as follows (not necessarily in this order):
QB Jared Goff
QB Carson Wentz
DE DeForest Buckner
S/CB Jalen Ramsey
LB Myles Jack
OT Ronnie Stanley
QB Paxton Lynch
OT Laremy Tunsil
DE Joey Bosa
CB Vernon Hargreaves
Let's get into it.
1st Round (11th): RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
This is a polarizing selection, as running back is not high on Chicago's list of positional priorities. The team invested 4th-round picks on running backs in each of the past two drafts and have a number of holes to fill on defense. Yet Elliott is just too good to pass up at this point in the draft. Remember, Bears GM Ryan Pace offered C.J. Anderson a four-year, $19-million contract this off-season, so it's clear he doesn't see Jeremy Langford as a workhorse ball carrier. With Elliott, Pace would be getting the 3-down grinder for which he's been searching. Elliott has an elite skill set, with equal parts speed, power and elusiveness. He's also adept as a pass catcher, an area in which Langford struggled mightily last year. With Elliott, the Bears would get a backfield centerpiece, supported by the shifty Langford in a committee backfield, which has always been a staple for John-Fox-led teams. Elliott would take Chicago's rushing attack to the next level, which would benefit the passing attack and keep the defense off the field. He may not fill a major need but if Pace is committed to his Best Player Available approach, then Elliott will be the team's pick at 11th overall.
Editor's Note: I firmly believe five quarterbacks will come off the board in the 1st Round, with Connor Cook and Christian Hackenberg being selected at the tail end.
2nd Round (41st): OLB Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
Calhoun played defensive end for the Spartans but at 6-4, 251, he's best suited to play OLB in the pros. In Chicago's 3-4 system, he would have immediate value as an edge rusher on passing downs. In 2015, he had 10.5 sacks and 15.0 tackles for loss, while he totaled 128 QB hurries and 26.5 sacks the past three years combined. He's a long, fast pass rusher with a rapidly developing arsenal of moves to get after the quarterback. He's not great against the run but he's not a pushover and will improve in that area once he gains some strength. He tested very well in the 3-cone and short shuttle, showing elite change of direction and agility. Calhoun was a two-time team captain at MSU, so he'd bring leadership and accountability to Chicago's locker room as well. The Bears need better pass rush going forward and Calhoun would provide an instant boost on 3rd downs.
3rd Round (72nd): CB Xavien Howard, Baylor
Howard is one of the biggest cornerbacks in this draft (6-0, 201) and excels in press coverage. He's a physical defender with good ball skills - he tallied nine interceptions the past two years combined. He's a fluid, balanced cornerback with great short-area quickness, which helps him stick to receivers in tight man-to-man sets. The Bears don't have a legit press corner on the roster and Howard excels on an island. He needs to work on his technique and a tendency to grab receivers - he was flagged 14 times for pass interference the past two years combined - but he has all qualities NFL teams look for in big, lock-down corners. Howard's size, upside and scheme fit make him good value if he falls to the Bears in the third round.
4th Round (106th): OT Alex Lewis, Nebraska
Lewis was a two-year starter at left tackle for the Cornhuskers, although he projects best at right tackle in the pros. He's a big (6-6, 312), tough and nasty blocker who uses good technique. He doesn't possess great footwork but he makes up for it with proper positioning and awareness. He'll make a quality swing tackle in the NFL with the upside to eventually start on the right edge. The issue with Lewis is his off-the-field baggage, which is pretty heavy. He's extremely immature and must grow up if he's going to last at the next level. Skill-wise, he's an NFL-caliber athlete who could have a very good career ahead of him, but only if he gets act together and stops acting like a child. If he matures, he'll be a draft-day steal.
4th Round (127th): DE Matt Judon, Grand Valley State
Judon was a man among boys during his college career. He led the nation with 20 sacks last year, to go along with 23.5 tackles for loss. He was named conference defensive lineman of the year and an All-American in 2015. A finisher as a pass rusher, he finished his collegiate career with a school-record 34 sacks. At the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, Judon showed speed (4.73), power (30 bench press reps) and explosiveness (35-inch vertical jump). In terms of athleticism and production, he checks off every box. At 6-3, 275, Judon would likely fill a part-time role with the Bears, rushing off the edge in nickel sets, yet he has the upside to be a very effective pass rusher in the NFL.
5th Round (150th): QB Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Ideally, the Bears will select a quarterback in the early rounds but in this mock, there are no QBs worth a first- or second-round pick. Among the mid-round passers, Hogan appears to be the most NFL-ready. He has a funky throwing motion and must improve his mechanics but he has the size (6-3, 218) and mobility that will give him a chance at the next level. A team leader and collegiate winner, Hogan has all of the tools to develop into a competent backup QB at the next level.
6th Round (185th): S Jayron Kearse, Clemson
Kearse is one of the biggest safety prospects (6-4, 216) to enter the NFL in many years. He has great range on the back end and he's physical against the run. He needs to work on his awareness but he has the potential to be an NFL safety who can line up against the league's big tight ends. His combination of size and speed will give him instant value on special teams.
6th Round (206th): TE Bryce Williams, East Carolina
Williams is a tall (6-6, 275) pass-catching tight end with good hands. He's not much of a blocker and he doesn't have good speed (4.94) but as a matchup tight end, he could have immediate value in Chicago's offense as an H-back.
7th Round (230th): LB Josh Forrest, Kentucky
Forrest has very good size (6-3, 249) and impressive burst. Physically, he's a finished product, although he's a raw linebacker who didn't start playing football until his junior year in high school. He'll be a quality special teams player in the NFL, with the upside to possibly contribute on defense down the line.