By: Johnny Hatelak
Mock draft season is upon us and a happier soul there could not be encased in this writer’s mortal coil. I love my football but almost as equally I love me some NFL draft season. Perhaps it’s the mystery of what could be in these young talented players and the hope they bring in improving the Bears roster to compete with the big boys of the league. To finally restore the pride that success brings, and that should be what the charter franchise of the league represents on an annual basis. Although that certainly plays a role in it from a pure fan perspective, however, it is more about flexing my scouting muscles and evaluating these players to the best of my ability.
This is in no way what I feel will happen. There is no real logical reason to believe any conclusions have been met by all 32 teams let alone our beloved team the Chicago Bears. Things will change as the process advances on in the next months up until the draft. This certainly will include these mock drafts of mine. As we get closer and all the combine numbers are recorded, player interviews are had, veteran Free Agency signings take place, Pro days and leaked news regarding the prospects of this draft my evaluations and my calculations will become more true to what I feel will actually occur.
For now, this is what I feel might happen if the draft was to begin on this day the 1st of February. I also play it straight and do not include fictional trades even though I feel Ryan Pace will attempt several in this draft as he has in past drafts. This time though he figures to trade down more than up although I will not rule out the possibility of trade ups throughout all 7 rounds. Hope these possible names keep you warm in the remaining winter months dreaming of this coaching staff deploying these talented and skilled men to do battle on the football gridiron versus those that dare oppose them and lead the Bears to glorious victory.
Round 7: (224th overall): Daniel Carlson (K) Auburn– It’s about time the Bears invested into an important position that directly leads to points scored as well as all important field position and finally replace Robbie Gould. It was widely reported that the Bears were sniffing around him during senior Bowl week so they may be feeling the same way about their kicker situation. Yes, kickers can be and usually are found in college free agency, but by going to free agency the choice is the players of where and to whom they want to go to. Carlson may not even make it this far. He is no typical kicker. Carlson has the size and physic that would make some Linebackers envious. He also possesses a powerful leg. One that can withstand the howling cross winds off of Lake Michigan. carlson has kicked 13 career Field Goals from over 50 yards. 4-8 this season and 3 of those were blocked. Trajectory is probably his biggest knock. Make no mistake, the 2017 SEC Special Teams player of the year would be a very nice prize to give to new Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor. Especially if he fell to the 7th round.
Round 6: (184th overall) Mike White (QB) Western Kentucky– Quarterback? That may be the reaction by many of you seeing this pick. Afterall, the Bears have a franchise Quarterback and they have so many other needs. Well, believe it or not, Quarterback is still a need for the Bears. They need a backup and it’s always prudent to draft and develop young talent at every position. For one it’s far from a certainty at this point that Mitch Trubisky is going to be a stud quarterback or that he’s going to remain healthy throughout this and future seasons in his career. Also, if developed properly and if he shows he can play when given an opportunity in preseason games and garbage time or backup situations you have a trade asset to secure future picks at other need spots. Also, doesn’t hurt to have a coach with a reputation for developing Quarterbacks to raise the trade value.
White is a very interesting prospect. He put up some gaudy numbers in college and was named 2nd team All American by Conference USA coaches his senior season. He has good size and a live accurate arm who can zip the ball through tight windows or take a little off the ball and drop it in the bucket. A former High School power pitcher where he probably learned a little bit about varying his speed on his throws. He’s not the best athlete and needs to work on his pocket presence. While he was asked to make full field reads at times he still gets stuck on his initial read too long and is late pulling the trigger to his other options because of it. He was responsible for a good deal of his high sack numbers this season. He has the raw tools to be molded into a solid Quarterback at the next level and should be a fun project for Matt Nagy, Mark Helfrich and Dave Ragone.
Round 5: (147th overall) Alex Cappa OT Humbolt State– Cappa made quite an impression during senior bowl week and seems to have had his stock rise because of it. He also has good tape albeit against small school talent that won’t even sniff the NFL. There is also the fact he won’t exactly kill the combine so his stock should settle to the point where he’ll be available in this spot for the Bears to jump on.
Cappa looks like he’d be extremely comfortable at Right Tackle. He has the ideal temperament to be a successful NFL Offensive lineman. Cappa is relatively new to the position as he didn’t start playing Offensive Line until his senior season in high School. However, he made up for lost time dominating at the division II level. Cappa has great size and length to play on the outside in the pros. Also has a healthy mean streak on him and finishes off blocks and plays to the echo of the whistle. He has the athleticism to execute difficult blocks like reach blocks and can play either man/Power or Zone schemes. Very raw player so there are technique issues he needs to hash out but is very coachable and in the hands of Harry Heistand should develop into a starter for years to come at the Right Tackle position.
Round 4: (117th overall) Kalen Ballage (RB) Arizona State–Ryan Pace continues his streak of drafting a Running Back in the mid rounds. In Ballage the Bears get a big back who can do it all. Run with power and is a willing blocker even though he can work on his technique a little as most Backs coming out of college do, but shows the willingness to do it which is half the battle. Can drop his shoulders and run through tackles with power but tends to run too high as his 6’2″ frame probably hurts him there. Reminds me a little of former Bears Running back Matt Forte. Ballage has very good hands and runs crisp routes. Enough so that you can actually line him up out of the slot running patterns. Also has been successful returning kickoffs in college so instantly he brings you the extra value to play on Special Teams and do a good job there right off the bat.
Round 4: (107 overall) Cedrick Wilson (WR) Boise State– Wilson is the son of former NFL Wide Receiver Cedrick Wilson Sr. who played for several teams and won a Superbowl with the Steelers so there’s pedigree there.
Wilson is fairly new to receiving. He was a Quarterback in High School and didn’t play receiver until his freshman year at a community college. He eventually transferred to Boise St. where he played Wide Receiver as a Junior and a Senior. So he has only two seasons of major college experience. Already he has a great understanding of route concepts and is an excellent route runner. His Quarterbacking experience no doubt has helped him in this area. He’s a big play machine. Something the Bears desperately need. 26 percent of his catches have gone for 25 yards or more.
Wilson is physically gifted. Has speed, agility, height, and is explosive. Very sure hands too. A very cerebral player. Should kill it on option routes in the pros. However, all that considered he is not very good at 50/50 balls yet. He’s also very slight. Listed at 6’3″ 188 he needs to bulk up. Will likely struggle against the bigger stronger press corners in the league until he packs on the muscle. Will probably have to play a lot of slot to draw better matchups early in his career. At 107th overall the value is insane for such a dynamic playmaker that should contribute right away and will only get better with pro coaching and experience.
Round 2: (39th overall) Mike Gesiki (TE) Penn State– Gesiki is a physical freak. Will blow up the combine by all accounts. Listening to Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft lead media Scout Matt Miller on his latest Stick To Football podcast he mentioned a scout gave him a tape of his workouts and his jump metrics were off the charts! He was his state’s slam dunk champion in high school. Unfortunately, he’s kind of built like a basketball player too. He will have to build up his core strength in the league if he wants to be a 3 down player. For now, he will make one hell of a move Tight End. A skill set his new Head Coach knows how to use.
Matt Nagy will no doubt envision him in a Travis Kelce type role as a pass catcher. Between him and Adam Shaheen, the Bears will have some interesting offensive sets for Defensive Coordinators to spend a lot of time in the film room trying to scheme against.
Round 1: (8th overall) Calvin Ridley (WR) Alabama– No reason to overthink this. Bears need a receiver and he is the best available receiver in the draft and probably Free Agency put together. It’s time for the Bears to fix this offense and get into the new age of offensive football. They took the right step and made the right hire in my opinion with Nagy. They drafted their Quarterback and now that they have the coaching to bring him along it’s time to start surrounding him with dynamic weapons.
In Ridley dynamic just oozes out of his pours. Polished route runner, cerebral player, great hands, speed, quickness and agility. Will contribute and likely be the Bears top offensive option in the passing game from day one. Clearly the best Wide Receiver option for the Bears at number 8 overall. There may be a player or two that eventually exceed Ridley as a player, but there is no safer pick. This is a marriage between floor and ceiling and both are incredibly high. Reports are out there that he is extremely interested in being a Bears too. This should be a match made in football heaven.
Coda: So if I had my druthers this would be an all offensive draft. That side of the ball needs fixing. Badly. It’s not only a need now, but has been a need for almost a quarter of a century. I mean passing offense in specific. Sure the Bears have had their moments here and there, but for the most part, any season that brought success came from their defense, special teams, and running game supporting those phases while the passing offense just stayed out of the way and didn’t lose games. That is not the way to win in this league.
In Nagy and Pace the Bears have two young leaders who grew up in organizations built from having dynamic passing offenses and there is no doubt in my mind that is their primary focus for the Bears organization now. You don’t ignore the defense but in this draft in this season maybe you do. Bears have a top 10 defense and with a lot of injuries last year too. They have one of the best defensive staffs in football and some young dynamic players to develop. Fangio isn’t a guy that likes relying on rookies anyway. His defense is all about discipline, focus, and playing physical. He wants vets. That’s where the Bears will add to fill whatever holes they have. This draft should and better be all about the offense.