Happy NFL draft combine day folks. I celebrate it by writing a 7 round Bears pre-combine mock draft. I’ll also do one immediately following the combine after all the workout numbers are in. In my first mock, I had the Bears drafting an all offensive draft class. Of course, that’s unrealistic as I don’t recall a team ever going all in on one side of the ball. My reasoning behind that was that the Bears should spend heavily in free agency on the defensive side of the ball as Fangio prefers veterans to rookies. Also, the Bears are closer to being a finished unit on that side rather than on offense and have some young talent on that side to build a decent core with. However, in this mock draft, I keep it a little more realistic although it’s going to be offense heavy.
1st round (8th overall) – Calvin Ridley – WR – Alabama: I’m holding firm on my original pick here. The Bears number one need is clearly Wide receiver and that’s even if Cameron Meredith comes back one hundred percent and Kevin White meets expectations of his draft status. Both fit more the go up and get it typical split end mode even though both have excellent workout numbers. The leg injuries figure to slow those numbers down a bit and the Bears can’t count on either being players that will be there week in week out yet alone productive enough. Ridley figures to jump-start the Matt Nagy era offense and we know that’s what both Nagy and Ryan Pace want. Having instant success on offense would mean Mitch Trubisky is likely looking like a true franchise Quarterback which is the single most important thing that needs to happen for this franchise to move forward. Ridley would definitely help to accelerate the offensive rebuild.
2nd Round (39th Overall) Arden Key – Edge – LSU: The key (no pun intended) to liking this pick is to ignore what happened this past season and look at his tape in 2016. There you will see an explosive Quarterback hunting animal who is far too athletic for any Offensive Tackle to block one on one consistently. Key is cat quick with explosive athleticism who can bend the edge like Gumby. A big playmaking machine on the defensive side of the ball living in teams backfields disrupting everything an offense wants to accomplish. He’d make an excellent bookend pass rusher along with Leonard Floyd.
4th Round (101st Overall) Equanimeous St. Brown – WR – Notre Dame: I am not sure St. Brown makes it this far after the combine if his numbers live up to their projections on the field, however, for now, this is around where most project him to go. This would be an excellent value pick. St. Brown is explosive and very tall and rangy with vine like arms and big strong hands. He has a lot of fluidity and although he doesn’t run the full route tree yet, he does have the skill set to run anything you want. He has a devastating double move and once getting cornerbacks behind with his speed and size it’s almost impossible for any corner in a trail technique to defend. He’s also an inviting red zone target which should compliment Ridley’s game as he is not very effective inside of the red zone having zero receptions inside the 10-yard line.
4th Round (111th overall) Quenton Meeks – CB – Stanford: Meeks is 6′ 2″ 205 and can play both off and man. He has great length for jams at the line and going up and snatching the ball away from a would be receiver or knocking down back shoulder attempts or go routes in trail technique. He’s not adverse to supporting the run but does need to show more effort in his run support and also needs work on his tackling form. However, he does fit the mold of what Fangio looks for in a cornerback and Ed Donatel has been a master at developing players such as Meeks.
5th Round (136th Overall) Timon Parris – (OT) – Stony Brook: In typical Ryan Pace fashion the Bears pick up a big, long athletic small-school offensive line prospect. Parris projects as a pro tackle which would make this a great value pick at a premium position. It hasn’t happened to date but the Bears figure to cut ties with Bobbie Massie after trying to upgrade at Right Tackle last season and Parris would slot in just nicely. Parris has some nasty to him to go along with all that length, size, and athleticism. He does have technique flaws but that’s what Harry Heistand is here for. We know Pace comes from a program in New Orleans that has the philosophy to draft traits filled linemen with raw ability and coach em up to be starters. That philosophy continues with this pick as Pace picks a lineman in the fifth round for the second consecutive season and fill his Left Guard and now his Right Tackle position with fifth rounders two years in a row.
7th Round (198th Overall) Ito Smith – (RB) – Southern Mississippi: Smith may be the most under-rated player in the entire draft. He has elite traits. Quick, fast, explosive, elusive and with perhaps the best jump cut in the draft, Smith is the perfect 3rd down complimentary back to Jordan Howard. With the Bears already having a small jitterbug back in Tarik Cohen and another one in Taquon Mizzel the Bears would have a bunch of the same backs who fit the same description on the roster meaning one of them likely don’t make the roster with Mizzel having to fight it out with Smith. At 5’9″ 200 pounds, Smith is pretty stout and will drop a shoulder with no hesitation to get a big first down or plow his way into the end zone. He can also catch amassing over 130 receptions at over 10 yards a catch and 7 touchdowns in his collegiate career. Bears add yet another weapon they can use in a variety of ways to help the offense get big plays.
Coda: Drafts are all about value while filling needs. Occasionally you go out of the game plan because a player you never expect falls to you somehow and you simply can’t pass up the value, but even in a best player available philosophy, the tiebreaker with the 4-5 projected players on your board in any given round is always positional need. I think it’s no secret the biggest needs are offensive players who can make big plays and score touchdowns. Even if you have to add positions in a redundant fashion to get it right.