The Chicago Bears are, depending on your viewpoint, in a great or in an awful spot with their first round pick.
An optimist might say that they are in a great position: by virtue of their 5-11 2014 campaign they received the seventh overall pick, and an opportunity to select a really talented player who can help them immediately and be a cornerstone of their rebuild and the future, ideally on competitive teams. New general manager Ryan Pace has committed resources in free agency to set the team up to take the very best available player, regardless of position, whom he believes can help the team.
A pessimist could look at it as an indictment of the previous regime and the roster itself: The team was so bad and so talentless that Ryan Pace could take the best available player, regardless of position, because they have so many holes to fill that virtually any player will fill a need.
I tend to feel more of the former than the latter. That said, I've spent the last several weeks looking at specific players that I think would fit the Bears' needs in the first or second round, as well as a number of scenarios that would lead them to draft those players.
To me, the fun of the draft is all the "what if" games that happen leading up to it, and then the draft itself is just about excitement, surprises and hope for the future of your favorite team.
Chicago really is in a unique position to take the best available player, regardless of position. It is the strategy that Ryan Pace has preached since his introductory press conference back in January. That's all well and good but, since we aren't privy to the going-ons inside Halas Hall (or is that the PNC Center at Halas Hall, whatever), we don't know what the team's big board looks like.
But this is the internet after all, which means that can't stop us from speculating!
Instead of looking specific prospects I thought I would share some draft experts' big boards and and then using mock drafts and analysis to try to see which players could be the best available on Chicago's big board when they get on the clock Thursday. Steven Schweickert wrote over the weekend about the directions in which they could go and on Friday Lester gave a spectacular summary of Mike Mayock's pre-draft conference call and related it all to the Beloved.
Now I'm going to look at several different outlets' big boards and, while there is never any consensus on the players, looking at enough information should help give an idea into how the Bears might build their board.
Here are the boards I used:
ESPN's Top 32 (Sorry I'm not insider and therefore can't access McShay and Kiper's rankings)
By no means is this an exhaustive list, but I think that it is comprehensive enough for the purposes I am after. Nearly everybody's top 5 includes the same three players: Jameis Winston, Leonard Williams and Amari Cooper. The next most common players in the top five are Dante Fowler Jr. and Marcus Mariota.
A player who has been shooting up boards by most accounts in the last week also shows up in a lot of top fives: Todd Gurley. There seems to be no doubt that if this draft was happening even, say, six years ago, that Gurley would be a top five pick.
West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White appears in the top five of SI's, ESPN's, Jeremiah's, Brandt's and Brooks' top five.
Putting aside his off-field issues, Randy Gregory is in the top five for Norris, Dan Kadar (SBNation) and SI. Despite his talent, I think, even with the team-friendly rookie deals, the Bears will steer clear of him and a lot of top eight teams will.
Dante Fowler appears in the top five of several of these boards, even the top three for CBS and Brandt, but Norris has Fowler all the way down at 19 overall.
Those are the items that jump out at me the most from these boards. Now let's apply this to Chicago.
It seems to me that the slam dunks who will be drafted before Chicago are Winston, Williams, Mariota and Cooper. I think that for all the talk and pondering about Mariota someone will take him in the top five, whether it's by trade or not. I also think that Cooper is simply too good to let slip.
Now, looking at the boards, I think the players that will be right in the Bears' range as the best player available on their board at their pick will be White, OT Brandon Scherff (his rank seems to be anywhere from 6 to 18), Vic Beasley (ranks anywhere from 6 to 16; ESPN has him outside their top 32) and Gurley.
Obviously it all depends on how Pace, John Fox and their scouting staff have these guys ranked, but those players and possibly a slight wildcard like Gregory are likely to be Chicago's pick. I think, looking at enough of these boards, I buy more and more into the idea that White would be the pick. There seems to be a wide range of rankings for the edge rushers, which means that there is less consensus on which ones will pan out, meaning it's likely that White is considered a better overall football player than they are.
It would be somewhat of a surprise to see Gurley go to Chicago but, if Fox and Pace truly believe he is the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson and are comfortable with his medicals, perhaps it wouldn't be such a shock. It seems that the experts have him in the top 10, but will the actual NFL teams? The shelf life for RBs is short and they can offer better value in the later rounds. That is a surprise worth monitoring.
Whom do you think will be the BPA when the Bears pick? I know we have some draftniks among our commenters, so feel free to share your own big board (maybe just a top 10) and share your thoughts in the comments.