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Chicago Bears Draftwatch: 7-Round Mock Draft Edition

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Draftwatch goes all the way down the rabbit hole with one goal in mind: make the Bears a better football team.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It's time. The college season ended, the all-star games rolled through, the combine came and went along with all it's usual intrigue. Free agency caused its annual hurrahs and heartbreak and now the college campus pro day season is winding down. The muddy, swirling, smoky picture of the NFL Draft is as "clear" as it's going to get. It's time for a mock draft.

As Draftwatch isn't into half measures, I am going all the way; the full 7 rounds with trades. This isn't some lousy clickbait list tossed up with a "whaddya think"? Nope. This is the full meal deal, something I'm going to call "The Anatomy of a Mock Draft". It's every bit of the entire process: the pre-draft strategy, the assessments, the trades that happened (and those that didn't), the hits, the misses and the "what would I do different if I did it again". Like all mock drafts, it's ultimately just a tool to better understand the process. It's a snapshot of where the Bears needs and the draft world meet today. With the pace of life in the NFL, tomorrow it could be very different (Note: it already is... this was written before the Bears signed interior O-lineman Manny Ramirez and Ted Larsen). On with the show.

Goals:

  1. Fill the major remaining roster holes, specifically DE, CB, S and TE
  2. Stay true to the value of the draft board and don't reach (within reason)
  3. Fill the roster with football players who are athletes, not the other way around
  4. Add competition at all levels of the roster whenever possible

Rules:

  • Trades are in play, but not the unrealistic ones (ex: Team X will give you picks 1,2,3,4 & 5 for your 1st rounder...)
  • Future draft picks are not acceptable currency for this model
  • Use the most current, realistic board available - all boards have weaknesses and strengths but right now the Composite Board on Fanspeak's simulator has the fewest holes, short of a completely custom board (in my opinion)

Pre-Draft

Look over the whole board and get a feel for it:

  • Where is the value?
  • Which positions are deep and which are not?
  • Check the positional ranking for later-round values you might be able to target
  • Identify drop-off points, where value takes a serious dive after a player leaves the board
  • Get a feel for where runs on a certain position might threaten your overall selection strategy

Round 1

The first round kicks off with no trades, so the first 10 selections go off as scheduled before Chicago's choice at pick #11. The Bears are faced with Hargreaves (CB) and Wentz (QB) as the top remaining players. Treadwell (WR) and Spence (EDGE) are still on the board as well. CB took a surprise hit with Apple (CB) and Alexander (CB) unexpectedly off the board. The first major gamble is selecting Hargreaves at 11 or trying to trade down and hope that William Jackson (CB) survives until the pick I can trade back to. Noah Spence is the consolation prize if that strategy doesn't work.

I start working the board for a trade down.  I don't want to drop too far, but it could add serious value to the total draft. My first target partner is the Colts at 18 overall. Asking price is their 1st, 2nd and 4th round choices. I'll make a similar offer to the next 3 or 4 teams in line. If that fails, I'll simply select Hargreaves at 11 and move on. The Colts decline, as do the Bills, and the Jets. The value proposition is starting to wane at this point but Washington takes the bait. I trade R1/11 (round 1, 11th pick) to D.C. for R1/21 along with their 2nd and 4th round choices. Washington chooses Sheldon Rankins (DT) with the 11th pick overall.

Now the anxious wait until pick 21 rolls around. Amazingly Hargreaves, Jackson and Spence are all still available. I select Hargreaves (top player overall left on the board and he fills a position of serious need for the Bears) and do a little dance. Draft magic at it's best. I lost nothing at all in terms of the player I wanted and gained 2 very valuable draft choices.

Pick Summary: R1/21 - Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Round 2

Pre-round assessment:

  • Noah Spence, Shaq Lawson (EDGE) and Emmanuel Ogbah (DE) all fell out of the 1st
  • 3 QB's are gone (Goff, Wentz, Cook) but Lynch remains
  • 5 OT's were selected, basically cleaning out that spot. Pace's signing of Bobby Massie looks terrific right now.
  • 4 Alabama players were chosen with Ryan Kelly (C) being the surprise member of the group
  • Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State) ranked #27 overall, is one of the biggest surprise sliders out of the 1st
  • Kenny Clark (DT/DE) went early, depleting the pool of 5-tech candidates for the Bears, but Vernon Butler (DT/DE) and Chris Jones (DE) remain
  • Safety is still filled to the brim with Keanu Neal, Karl Joseph and Darian Thompson all available

Round 2 starts with a serious run on the defensive line: Spence, Lawson, Austin Johnson, Chris Jones and Ogbah are all gone in the first 7 picks. Paxton Lynch follows them soon after. The Bears pick (R2/10, #41 overall) arrives and Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State) is still on the board. He is strongly considered from a pure value standpoint, but WR is pretty well stocked on the Bears AND the position is fairly deep in the draft... so I pass.

My list of top targets for the upcoming 2 picks are as follows:

  • Butler (DT), rank: #39 overall
  • Neal (S), rank #31 overall
  • Joseph (S), rank #35 overall
  • Dixon (RB), rank #36 overall

Knowing I have another pick coming 11 spots after the first one I make in this round gives me flexibility. I choose Vernon Butler, as DE/DT was raided at the start of the round and the value is good. Right after my choice a run on defensive secondary players takes place: 4 CB's and 2 S's go within the next 10 picks (including Neal). Jaylon Smith (LB, rank #38 overall) is still hanging around. Without knowing how his medical recheck looks, I have to pass.

Safety is one of the Bears primary needs and the dropoff after Karl Joseph is significant. Knowing he won't last until the next round I make him my second choice in the 2nd round. I really like his all-around game and he'll bring a serious tenacity to the Bears back 7. He also fits the profile of physical safeties that Vic Fangio prefers (Joseph has a very similar game to Eric Reid, who Fangio helped choose during his time in SF). A mini-run on wideouts happens with 4 being selected before round closes.

Pick summary:
R2/10, 41 overall - Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
R2/22, 53 overall - Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia

Round 3

So far this draft has smiled on me. I have based picks on value and let the board come to me. I have also filled 3 of the team's top 4 needs in just 2 rounds. Time to take a look at who's left and see how to plot a course to total domination of the NFC North:

  • Jaylon Smith is still on the board - exciting and heartbreaking at the same time
  • Lots of values named "Henry" are still hanging around; Derek (RB), Hunter (TE) and Willie (DE/DT) are all still available
  • Despite only being at pick #64 overall in the draft, the CB list is already down to players rated over #100 overall
  • DT has some solid players left including Robert Nkemdiche, Maliek Collins and Jihad Ward
  • DE is super thin, with the best-ranked remaining player at #125 overall
  • RB still looks very strong with Derek Henry, Paul Perkins, Jordan Howard and Devontae Booker
  • Nick Martin (C/G, #75 overall) from Notre Dame is a very tempting option as an interior swing/reserve player

Round 3 starts with two trade offers coming in: Green Bay offers R3/25, R4/27 and R5/24 for my R3/9. Houston offers R3/22 and R4/21 for the same choice. I reject Green Bay's offer on principle. As a division foe, if they want someone bad enough to give up 3 choices I am not going to help them get the player. I look over the board and see what opportunities sliding down 13 spots might cost me. After a quick assessment, there are still plenty of players available I like and the extra 4th round choice will help me stock the roster. I accept Houston's offer and they select Jalen Mills, S, LSU.

My targets at R3/22 are highlighted by: Jihad Ward (DE) #63 overall, Jordan Howard (RB) #69 overall, Nick Martin (C/G) #75 overall and Nick Vannett (TE) #87 overall. Howard is a terrific value and would add a talented, tough-running option to Chicago's RB stable - but there are still attractive options available farther down the board. Martin offers both great skill and value as he can back up all 3 interior OL spots (LG, C, RG), and eventually take over one of them. I choose Martin (again, Ramirez and Larsen were not Chicago Bears when this draft took place). My choosing Martin sets off an O-line run with 3 more OT's and 2 G's being chosen in the next 9 picks.

Pick summary: R3/22, 85 overall - Nick Martin, C/G, Notre Dame

Round 4

This is the kill shot of the draft. Between Ryan Pace's addition of an extra 4th round choice through the Marty Bennett trade and my addition of 2 more through trading down in the early rounds, the Bears now control 4 total choices in this round. The Bears are poised to deliver a coup de grace to the rest of the league, creating a foundation of young talent for the foreseeable future in Chicago. The rest of the NFC North panics and in come the trade offers. The Vikes want me to move up to their choice (R4/23), by paying for it with R4/29 and R5/11. The Lions want to improve their pick by giving me their R4/13 and R7/15 in return for my first choice in the round, R4/8. I decline both trades. I'm happy to see the competition sweat it out at the thought of me unloading on the 4th round with both barrels and coming away loaded with talent... so that is exactly what I set out to do.

Targets for the 4 choices in this round include:

  • Jihad Ward #63 overall is still there. He's still learning as a football player but his physical gifts are difficult to deny. Should I trade up to get him?
  • ILB's Kentrell Brothers and Dominique Alexander are both still in play and I like their skills
  • OLB's Jarvis Jenkins and Joe Schobert are available and both could provide some pass rush
  • The CB's are starting to come back into line with value, with James Bradberry, Cyrus Jones, DJ White, Maurice Canady and Daryl Worely bunching up at the top of the list
  • Jordan Howard (RB) is still there... also tempted to try and snag him
  • TE's Vannett and Tyler Higbee are there for now but won't be for long

I decide to chase a trade for Jihad Ward, based on both value (he's easily the top rated player left on the board) and potential as a difference-maker on the defensive line. Cleveland has the round's top choice so I start with them. I offer up R4/8 and R6/31 for the top pick in the 4th round.  The Browns decline.  I want Ward, so I sweeten the offer and make my first error in doing so. Although it is small, it will cost me a player I would have liked to select later on. I revise my offer to R4/8 and R6/10, and Cleveland accepts. In hindsight I should have asked for Cleveland's 7th round choice to even out the trade, but I was tired and missed my chance.

Apparently Baltimore had similar designs on the top spot in round 4, as no sooner had I completed my trade with the Browns the Ravens offered me a deal for it (Ravens R4/6 and R6/7 for my R4/1). I really want Ward and just swung the trade to get him, so I decline and finally, Jihad Ward is a Bear. The round rolls on and I am licking my chops for more.

The first really tough stretch in the draft arrives where a very talented group of players are selected while I wait for my next choice (R4/21) to arrive. Howard, Jenkins, Schobert, Brothers, Alexander, Cardale Jones and several of the CB's are plucked off the board in rapid succession. I simply have to bite my tongue and know my time is coming. When pick 21 arrives so do the trade offers. Oakland wants R4/21 for R5/4 and R7/13. The Giants want the next pick (R4/22) for R5/10 and R6/2. The Giants offer is the more tempting of the two, but I want players, not more choices. I decline both offers and plan my picks.

It's time for the offense to get a little boost. The team needs dictate it and the board value favors it. TE is the last remaining major need and there are two good ones there for the taking; Vannett and Higbee. Higbee is the more explosive pass catcher but I think Vannett is more well-rounded, and can provide extra value in the running game.  Vannett also comes with a cleaner injury history so he's the choice at pick 21. I own the next choice too and it is time to bring in some competition for the running backs. After watching so many good ones go off the board I choose Notre Dame's CJ Prosise. He was not an RB by trade before he was forced into the role this year. Seeing what he was able to accomplish in just his first full year as runner, you have to be excited by his "ceiling". Fumbles were a bit of an issue but they did not offset his tremendous production. Like Jihad Ward he is a player who has enormous potential to improve.

The Lions come calling one final time to try and pry away the 29th pick but I swat them away and choose Yannick Ngakoue from Maryland. He's a slippery rusher from the EDGE spot who had a bunch of sacks on a defense that was simply not very good. His potential to be a situational pass rusher to start off and grow into a full-time OLB is intriguing.

Pick summary:
R4/1, 99 overall - Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois
R4/21, 119 overall - Nick Vannett, TE, Ohio State
R4/22, 120 overall - CJ Prosise, RB, Notre Dame
R4/29, 127 overall - Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Maryland

Round 5

This round dawns with a ton of talent already in the door but a passel of players still on the board who can contribute. The Bears have only one selection this round (R5/11) and the choice comes down to Cyrus Jones (KR/CB) and Malcolm Mitchell (WR). Mitchell is the better player at his primary spot and I still have my eye on a corner who fits Fangio's mold to a T later on down the board. Mitchell (who I wrote about yesterday) is the choice. Jones leaves the board 8 picks later and a pass rusher I had my eye on (Victor Ochi) follows him off at pick 162.

Pick summary: R5/11, 150 overall - Malcolm Mitchell, (WR), Georgia

Round 6

Due to my earlier trade up to get Jihad Ward the Bears have only a single choice in this round and they have to wait a while to make it (R6/31). Dean Lowry (DE, Northwestern) who could have provided some nice depth and competition as a 5-Tech goes off the board at pick 203. As the end of the 6th round rolls around there is still a surprisingly good list of talent available:

  • QB's Jake Coker and Brandon Doughty are both worthy of the choice
  • WR Michael Thomas from Southern Mississippi is a very talented pass catcher
  • Jerrel Adams could quickly grow into a nice pass catching threat as a move TE
  • Steven Weatherly is an intriguing EDGE candidate from Jay Cutler's alma mater (Vanderbilt)
  • Stanford ILB Blake Martinez would be a solid choice to learn behind Trevathan and Freeman
  • Clemson OLB BJ Goodson showed up on more than a few occasions when I watching other Tigers on tape
  • Missouri Western CB Mike Jordan is a small school talent with big-league skills

Mike Jordan is the pick as CB is still seriously undermanned.  Jordan has the frame (6', 200 pounds) and the game (good in press man coverage) that the Bears defense favors.

Pick summary: R6/31, 206 Overall - Mike Jordan, CB, Missouri Western

Round 7

Still plenty of good players left and my ace in the hole is staring me in the face. I mentioned that I made a mistake in my trade with Cleveland earlier, and this is where it comes back to haunt me. I could have easily had their 7th round choice and picked a player I wanted with it...but I forgot to include it in the deal. I decide to gamble, trade back and pick up an extra 7th rounder, hoping that both players I want are still available at the resulting later choices. I strike a deal with Denver, sending R7/9 to them for R7/14 and R7/32; and then I wait.

WR Michael Thomas or TE Jerrel Adams would have been extreme value picks this late in the game but both go in the first 8 picks. Then I lose one of the remaining two players I wanted in Weatherly, the edge rusher from Vandy. He goes off the board at 7/12, two spots before my choice. I draft Vernon Adams at 7/14. Adams is a longshot but I truly think he can make it, and I am not the only one. At this point in the draft if the longshot pays off, you have a contributing player at the most important position in the sport for pennies in the comparative NFL landscape. That is a worthy gamble by any stretch. I wait for my final pick to roll around and take a flyer on a backup for Eddie Goldman. Goldman's former teammate at Florida State, Nile Lawrence-Stample (6'1", 320 pounds) gets the chance to come to Soldier Field and backup his pal.

Pick summary:
R7/14, 235 overall - Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon
R7/31, 252 overall - Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State

Final summary

R1/21, 21 overall - Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
R2/10, 41 overall - Vernon Butler, DT/DE, Louisiana Tech
R2/22, 53 overall - Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
R3/22, 85 overall - Nick Martin, C/G, Notre Dame
R4/1, 99 overall - Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois
R4/21, 119 overall - NickVannett, TE, Ohio State
R4/22, 120 overall - CJ Prosise, RB, Notre Dame
R4/29, 127 overall - Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Maryland
R5/11, 150 overall - Malcolm Mitchell, (WR), Georgia
R6/31, 206 Overall - Mike Jordan, CB, Missouri Western
R7/14, 235 overall - Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon
R7/31, 252 overall - Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State

It's time to open up a cold beer and celebrate Chicago-style. I pulled off a very complete draft by staying true to both my primary positional needs and the values on the board. I lost out on some players I coveted, but in the end I feel like I won more than I lost and the roster is tremendously improved. At least 3 of these players are likely to start on opening day and 4 more could play significant minutes this season depending on how the training camp battles shake out. Moving forward the Bears have some talented young players at spots where there were few or none before (TE, CB, S, EDGE)

Above all I feel like I got football players.  Skilled guys that compete hard down after down, and are willing to dig in to try and make the Bears into Monsters of the Midway again. If Chicago challenges for a Superbowl title before Jay Cutler retires, this (fictional) draft class would make some major contributions along the way.