It’s that time of year again. As the Super Bowl ends, so does the NFL’s playing season but make no mistake, the NFL is a year-round league.
Free agency starts Thursday March 9th, which will obviously have a large impact on Chicago Bears draft needs but it’s never too early to dive into the upcoming draft.
The Senior Bowl has come and gone and with the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine still a month away, there’s still a large part of the evaluation process yet to occur.
With this in mind, let's look at the Bears options are they move closer to the start of a crucial off-season.
Note: I’ve used Fanspeak’s mock draft system, along with my personal board, to grab the best value possible in each round.
Round 1: QB Deshone Kizer (Notre Dame)
With the 3rd overall pick in the draft, the Bears will have multiple different options at their disposal. With the impending breakup from quarterback Jay Cutler, Kizer could be a best-case scenario.
Kizer had an up-and-down season in the midst of a total meltdown that was Notre Dame in 2016. At 21-years-old, he checks all the boxes, with a big frame at 6-5, a cannon for an arm and well above average athletic ability.
While many aren’t as high on this quarterback class as I am, Kizer reminds me of a less refined Jameis Winston.
Alternate: DL Jonathan Allen (Alabama)
Round 2: FS Marcus Williams (Utah)
General manager Ryan Pace has highlighted the secondary as a big area of need. While the free agent class brings good value, outside of Eric Berry, there are no proven free safeties with good coverage abilities.
In a class that could boast as many as four first-round safeties, Williams may have the best coverage abilities outside of Ohio State’s Malik Hooker. If Williams is not on the board, Budda Baker or Obi Melifonwu could also be options with the 36th overall pick.
Alternate: QB Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech)
Round 3: CB Adoree Jackson (USC)
Jackson is an upside pick. He doesn’t hold massive size but he does provide elite speed and very coachable coverage skills, especially in man sets. Jackson is raw and still learning the position but could also be a true double-threat as a returner as well.
The Bears may prefer a more refined corner with better size. If so, cornerbacks sch as Rasul Douglas and Kevin King could also be available in the early third.
Alternate: TE Bucky Hodges (Virginia Tech)
Round 4: DL Jarron Jones (Notre Dame)
If the Bears opt to take a quarterback with the 3rd overall pick and bypass Jonathan Allen, they could afford to wait until the later rounds and still find an upside defensive lineman with some pass-rush upside.
Jones would join Kizer as teammates again and while he likely wouldn’t be a Day 1 starter, he has upside similar to that of Jonathan Bullard, with a bigger frame and a bit more pass-rush potential.
Alternative: OLB Dawuane Smoot (Illinois)
Round 4: TE Jake Butt (Michigan)
Butt was a top-three ranked tight end in a deep class before going down with a torn ACL, which will likely cause him to redshirt his rookie year. Normally, I wouldn’t mock someone like this to the Bears, as this team needs Day-1 impact players but with someone as good as the Michigan product, you can’t pass him up.
Butt is a big-bodied pass catcher that has a ton of upside and could project as a long-term starter after his return from injury.
Alternative: OL Julie’n Davenport (Bucknell)
Round 5: OLB Carroll Phillips (Illinois)
While not in dire need of a pass rusher, the team’s defense could use more speed coming from the edge. Enter Phillips, who was coached by the Bears at the Senior Bowl.
The team is expected to cut ties with Lamarr Houston, which leaves a hole in the four-man rotation. Teammate Dawuane Smoot will likely get more attention but Phillips provides a nice arsenal of pass-rush tools, which could be valuable in a part-time role his rookie season.
Alternative: RB Jamaal Williams (BYU)
Round 7: RB De’veon Smith (Michigan)
Jordan Howard is firmly entrenched as the team’s top running back but I expect the Bears to look for cheap competition to push both Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey for the second spot.
Smith was also coached by the Bears at the Senior Bowl and while he isn’t an accomplished pass catcher, he does well enough in the receiving game to bring good late-round value and solid camp competition.
Alternate: P/K Austin Rehkow (Idaho)null