With excitement in the air, it’s finally time: Draft week is officially here. It’s been an extended process for most Chicago Bears fans after yet another rough year and with a top-three pick, expectations for Thursday night’s first round are at an all-time high.
Even though they missed on all of their top free agent targets outside of QB Mike Glennon, the Bears have spent the most out of any team to this point in the free agent period.
While they’ve cut ties with QB Jay Cutler and WR Alshon Jeffery, they’ve also added multiple projected starters including Glennon, WR Markus Wheaton, S Quentin Demps, TE Dion Sims, CB Prince Amukamara and CB Marcus Cooper.
Coming off a 3-13 season, the team came into the off-season with many holes and while it’s true they’ve spent more than any other team thus far, multiple needs and vacancies on the roster still remain.
A few things to keep in mind here:
- I am using Fanspeak’s mock system with my own board.
- Both of Pace’s first round picks have had some sort of pre-draft meeting with the team and while Deshaun Watson’s meeting was never publicized, I’ve been told by two separate sources they have indeed had a private meeting that has been kept under wraps.
- The Bears coached the Senior Bowl, so expect a few picks to be products from their week-long stay in Mobile.
The Bears currently have seven picks in the draft and for the sake of keeping things simple, I have opted not to incorporate projected trades into this final mock draft. So without further rambling, here’s what I project the Bears will do in the 2017 NFL draft.
1st Round (3rd overall): QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Going back to the end of January, I have been told GM Ryan Pace has identified Watson as their number one quarterback. The Bears have seen the Clemson signal caller live on four separate occasions and I have been told by two different sources that the team privately met with Watson shortly after the combine and have simply kept it under wraps.
Yes, the rumored quarterback interest has pointed to North Carolina passer Mitch Trubisky but outside of what I’ve been told from sources, Watson simply checks all the boxes Pace laid out back in January.
Much like the majority of this quarterback class, Watson would greatly benefit from a year on the bench to mentally develop at the NFL level. Mechanically, Watson is about as imperfect as Trubisky and Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer, so he'll need some time to develop. Keep in mind, the Bears are on two separate timelines: head caoch John Fox’s timeline with Mike Glennon, so he can win games now, and Pace’s timeline, which requires more than one long-term option at the most important position on the field.
2nd Round (36th): TE/WR Evan Engram, Ole Miss
Why would the Bears, who have so many needs on defense, take offensive players back-to-back in the first two rounds?
I seriously debated a safety in this position but after more thought, Engram was simply too good to pass up, especially with the depth of this defensive back class.
The Senior Bowl participant is a mismatch nightmare, plain and simple. He can double as a tight end or receiver and looking at the team’s current offensive depth chart, it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of pass catchers.
This pick ultimately kills two birds with one stone, while still leaving the option of taking a tall possession receiver later in the draft.
3rd Round (67th): CB Jalen Tabor, Florida
“Teez” is coming off a rough combine and Pro Day but make no mistake, he was once thought of as the top corner in this class. His 4.62 speed is an issue for some but his coverage ability, coupled with his flexibility and durability, makes him a great value pick in the third.
Tabor has good size and length, and while his speed could hold him back from being a true number one corner, his technique and quick feet will always keep him around the ball. With this pick, the Bears have officially revamped their secondary, while creating big-time competition for the 2017 season.
4th Round (111th): S Josh Jones, North Carolina State
Jones has been the ultimate riser over the last few weeks due to his size, physicality and versatility at the safety position. Ultimately, I question how much range he has in coverage but there’s no denying he’s a physical force over the middle and can cover most tight ends.
With Deiondre Hall reportedly moving to safety, the Bears will continue to stack mid-round picks at the position, with the hope that one can stick long-term.
4th Round (117th): EDGE Duwuane Smoot, Illinois
Smoot's availability in the fourth round is purely a product of this deep edge class. The Illinois product has a nice ceiling and in the fourth round, and he gives the Bears even more depth at pass rusher and insurance for Lamarr Houston, who is coming off his second torn ACL in three seasons with the team. The Bears also coaches Smoot at the Senior Bowl.
This pick could easily slot to a tight end, offensive linemen or even defensive linemen but when you get value like this, you don’t pass it up.
5th Round (147th): DL Ryan Glasgow, Michigan
The Bears run 3-4 base front but with them using sub packages over 65 percent of the time, how valuable is that second 5-technique? There’s a reason they opted not to pursue any of the top free agent defensive linemen. If someone with versatility like Stanford DE Solomon Thomas is there at 3rd overall, he’s a real option, but another two-gap 5-technique is not a high priority.
With Glasgow, the Bears replace Cornelius Washington and provide more competition at DE, along with last year’s third-round pick Jonathan Bullard and veteran mainstay Mitch Unrein. It’s also worth noting that, not only did the Bears coach Glasgow at the Senior Bowl, but they also met with him at his pro day, so the interest is obvious.
7th Round (221st): RB Tarik Cohen, North Carolina A&T
There are multiple directions the Bears could go with this last pick but why not add another mismatch to the offense? Cohen has drawn multiple comparisons to explosive scatback Darren Sproles. If the Bears can find a prospect of that caliber with their final pick in the draft, even on a part-time basis, this would be outstanding value.