The NFL Draft is nearly upon us, less than two weeks away now. The NFL Draft is the crown jewel of the offseason, a now three-day event that finally turns the NFL toward its new season. Months of speculation, rumor and conjecture will come to an end at the podium in Chicago in just 13 days.
There still isn't a clear indication of a player or position which the Bears are leaning toward. They've met with a number of receivers, pass rushers, defensive backs and, yes, even quarterbacks.
In all likelihood general manager Ryan Pace will stay true to his "best player available" philosophy but that is all dependent on how the Bears have their draft board ranked.
The draft process is a long one and throughout that process, things change. Players may rise or fall based on any number of factors; their Combine performance, their pro-day, their interviews, habits that discovered on their game tape, etc.
For example, earlier this offseason Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton was a sure-fire top 10 draft pick. In fact, in many early mock drafts he was often mocked to Chicago at No. 7. Now, a couple months later, for some reason Shelton has gone from being a top-10 pick to being a top 15 pick. Why?
The explanation is likely one of two things or a combination thereof: One is that the perceived needs of teams, such as Chicago, changed after free agency and so DT fell behind in the mock draft writers' mind to positions like WR. The other explanation is simply that with so much time and with so much demand for weekly mock drafts, writers simply have shuffled up the picks for the sake of doing so.
Look back at some of Lester's old "Mocking the Mocks," for example. Back in February and mid-March, Shelton was a popular choice for the Bears at No. 7. Look back at Pete Prisco's first mock draft from March 3, where he has Chicago taking Shelton and then look at his most recent, with Shelton going No. 12.
Kevin Fishbain of Chicagofootball.com has a good take on why Shelton-to-Chicago has cooled:
There are three knocks on the Shelton-to-the-Bears narrative: one, as listed above, his Combine results bring questions to his short-area quickness. Two, Vic Fangio hasn't necessarily needed a 330-plus-pound space eater in the middle of his defense (though, Isaac Sopoaga, the nose tackle from 2011-12 under Fangio, is 330 pounds). Three, and this is a line of thinking I can get on board with, is that Shelton is not the seventh-best player in the draft, and there will be better players available if the Bears stay at No. 7, like a pass rusher or one of the top wideouts.
I certainly can't explain the shift, other than that after the Brandon Marshall trade suddenly the Bears became, from the outside looking in, rather WR-needy. Personally, I still like Shelton and believe he is still very much in the mix at No. 7.
There is a lot to like about the 6'2" 339-pound tackle. From CBSSports:
COMPARES TO: Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots - Shelton has a long way to go before justifying comparisons to the centerpiece of the Patriots' defense over the past decade, but both possess the thick frame, power and surprising agility to wreak havoc in the middle. Like Wilfork (who recorded 14 sacks at the University of Miami), don't expect Shelton to duplicate his pass rush success in the NFL.
Another is that while Shelton is obnoxiously compared to Haloti Ngata, the prospect shares only his size, not the freaky athleticism. Josh Norris ranks Shelton as the No. 27 prospect in the class.
For the sake of getting all the info out there, here is a link to Norris' Big Board with an explanation of Shelton at No. 27.
Shelton has many comparisons and many scouting reports warn that he lacks some of the pass-rush ability of a Leonard Williams or the athleticism of a really elite DT, but Shelton can be a force on a front line, especially as part of a rotation, something he did not get a chance to do at the college level.
He wouldn't be a sexy pick, but if the top six picks fall in a way that could be "unfriendly" for the Bears, Shelton could be a nice addition. Say that Jameis Winston, Amari Cooper, Dante Fowler, Kevin White, Vic Beasley and Leonard Williams all go in the first six picks. Instead of reaching on the next tier of edge rushers, like Alvin Dupree or Randy Gregory or taking the QB with a lot of questions in Marcus Mariota, then the Bears could likely do worse than Shelton.
That is a lot of "ifs" but it's worth thinking about.
The last point I will make about Shelton is that unlike some of the top players in the draft, like Winston and Gregory for example, Shelton appears to have his head on straight. Look no further than these two video pieces where he talks about losing his brother to gun violence, and another where he talks about staying in school and getting educated:
Shelton seems to be one of those athletes who was able to overcome a troubled background and succeed. I can't find anywhere that says Shelton did or did not earn his degree from the University of Washington, but this article mentions he studied abroad twice in Tahiti and that he majored in anthropology (and if you think that is an easy athlete-major cop-out you clearly did not take the same low-level anthropology classes I did in college). That article also talks about Shelton leading a group of freshman in an acclimation class and how he mentored Seattle-area Polynesian students.
This USAToday article mentions Shelton as the first UW Academic All-American since 1991.
Shelton seems to be as good a person as he is a player. Would you be all right with the Bears taking him?