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2018 NFL Draft Open Thread: 10 players the Bears should take an early look at

The 2018 NFL Draft isn’t until April, but it’s never too early to prepare for it.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at North Carolina State
Bradley Chubb has been an absolute force off the edge this season.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: I love the NFL Draft.

From the time I was little, I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of building an NFL team from the ground up. Reading mock drafts, scouting reports and other types of articles helped keep me occupied during the incredibly long offseason. Ever since I started breaking down the players and watching tape for myself, I’m able to get a better sense of what each positional group of players looks like. Although I still have a lot more tape to study, the 2018 NFL Draft class appears to be a pretty good one.

As of this writing, the Chicago Bears are on track to have the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft. While that specific spot is sure to change, it’s likely that they’ll end up picking in that general area. They have a handful of needs on both sides of the ball, so a high draft pick will do wonders for them. These are a few players that I’ve watched that would be good picks for the Bears in the first two rounds of the draft.

Edge Rushers

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the long-term plans for the Bears’ group of edge rushers. Leonard Floyd has been very good, but he’s the only lock to stay on with the team into next season. Willie Young is 32 and will be coming off of a torn triceps injury, and Pernell McPhee is unlikely to ever take on a full-time starter role again. With that said, they could use another edge rusher or two to bring youth to the group.

Bradley Chubb, EDGE, North Carolina State

Bradley Chubb is the top edge rusher on my board right now. At 6’4” and 276 pounds, he has a pro-ready frame. He’s a powerful, yet explosive edge rusher who dominates as a pass rusher and as a run defender. As of November 3rd, he has 7.5 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss through eight games. If Chicago is looking for a powerful counterpart to Floyd’s athleticism, then Chubb is the way to go.

Arden Key, EDGE, LSU

Arden Key has had a bit of a down year, which has caused draft analysts to sour on him a bit. However, there’s no denying that he has impressive physical traits that will translate well to the next level.

The pass rusher had 11 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss as a sophomore last season at 6’6” and 238 pounds. His weight reportedly ballooned to as heavy as 270 pounds, which has caused him to lose a bit of the incredible athleticism that he displayed last year. LSU head coach Ed Oregeron said that he is back down to 255 pounds, which was his target weight. While Key only had a half of a sack in his first four games, he has had three sacks in his past two. If he can carry his hot streak through the end of the season, then the Bears should definitely look into adding another long, athletic edge rusher to their team.

Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson

Simply put, Clelin Ferrell is a talented, do-it-all edge rusher. He’s an athletic player with an explosive first step and impressive bend and burst, but he’s also a strong, built player (6’5”, 265 pounds) who can shed double team blocks. He has 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss in his past 22 games.

Does Ferrell likely benefit from being surrounded with two, possibly three first-round players on the front lines? Probably. Regardless of the elite talent around him, he is a talented defender who has garnered a lot of first-round discussion of his own.

Wide Receivers

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Bears need help at wide receiver.

Even when Cameron Meredith comes back, they’ll still be in need of a true No. 1 wide out. Tanner Gentry and Tre McBride are depth on most teams, while Kendall Wright is much better as a third or a fourth option. Markus Wheaton is probably gone after this season, and who knows what the deal is with Kevin White anymore?

Adding more talent at wide receiver this offseason is a must. If they want to add one early on in the draft, then these are a few players they should target.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

I personally don’t believe that the Bears should draft a wide receiver in the first round. If they do decide to pick one that early, though, then Calvin Ridley should be the pick.

Ridley is probably the best route runner in this year’s class. A majority of that is due to just how athletic he is. He can create separation from defensive backs, gain yards after the catch, and get under just about any ball. He’s not a big, physical receiver - he’s 6’1” and about 190 pounds - but he is something that the Bears desparately need: someone who can actually create separation.

Simmie Cobbs Jr., WR, Indiana

Those of you who follow me on Twitter likely know that I’m a self-professed Simmie Cobbs fan boy. For good reason, too: the kid is a stud.

In today’s NFL, wide receivers seem to be getting bigger and bigger. Cobbs will fit right in. The 6’4”, 220-pound wide out has a phenomenal frame for the next level. This size helps him out in the red zone, where he is practically unguardable. He is a strong and physical receiver who is lethal when going up for 50/50 balls. He’s also a pretty good athlete, to boot.

His stats don’t jump off of the page, but they are decent. What really stands out, though, are his physical tools. He should have no problem transitioning to the pros.

Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

A lot of people were fairly surprised when Courtland Sutton decided to forgo the 2017 NFL Draft and stay for his senior year. After all, he was generally considered to be a top 10 wide receiver in the class. In the end, though, he made the right decision.

Like Cobbs, Sutton is a massive target who dominates on jump balls. At 6’4” and 215 pounds, he physically overwhelms the opposition. He has great hands, is a solid route runner, and has very good body control, as well. Plus, he is a touchdown machine - he has 28 touchdowns in his 35 games so far at SMU.

Sutton has drawn some comparisons to former Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery. However, the former is a bit more consistent than his pro comparison. The Bears would likely love to have a more consistent version of Jeffery on their roster.

Offensive Tackles

Offensive tackle isn’t as big of a need as it was heading into the season. Charles Leno Jr. has had a solid season at left tackle thus far, and Bobby Massie has had his moments. However, the Bears would save a lot of money by releasing Massie at the end of the season - roughly $6 million, to be exact - so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them find a replacement.

Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Connor Williams is one of the best offensive tackle draft prospects in quite some time. Although he’s easily a top-10 pick from a talent standpoint, a recent torn ligament in his knee may cause his stock to drop a bit.

Williams is an absolute monster. The 6’6”, 320-pound tackle is a powerful blocker who physically overwhelms his opponents. He’s more than just a typical mauler, though: he can move. He’s light on his feet, gets to the second level quickly, and is athletic enough to neutralize speedy edge rushers.

Williams is the type of offensive tackle who could slide right in at left tackle without much of an issue. If the Bears would want to move Leno to the right side, then they could do so, while adding a potential franchise blind-side protector.

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Mike McGlinchey is similar to the aforementioned Williams, in the fact that they are both massive (6’7”, 310 pounds) yet athletic individuals.

Along with guard Quenton Nelson, McGlinchey has anchored a Notre Dame offensive line which has been a key component to running back Josh Adams’ Heisman candidacy. He is a fundamentally and technically sound lineman who rarely gets thrown off balance. He has quick feet, and is able to dominate smaller defenders. Plus, McGlinchey has experience playing both left and right tackle, so he could be placed on either side with similar success.

Defensive Backs

The Bears’ secondary has been surprisingly good this season. Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos have emerged as a solid safety duo, while Kyle Fuller is having the best season of his career. However, the group could still use some upgrading. Both Fuller and Prince Amukamara are free agents after this year, and odds are at least one of them will leave for another team.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, S/CB, Alabama

If you liked Jamal Adams last season - and I know a lot of Bears fans did - then you will love Minkah Fitzpatrick all the same.

I used this same adage for Adams, and it applies to Fitzpatrick, too: he covers like a cornerback and tackles like a linebacker. He has a good size for a safety - 6’1” and 202 pounds - but he hits like someone 20 pounds heavier. He has phenomenal closing speed and is a great tackler. He’s an extremely intelligent, instinctive player who knows what play is going to happen before the snap. Fitzpatrick is also a good athlete with great ball skills who can mirror routes well with his fluid hips.

The Bears don’t really have a big need at safety anymore, but they could also use Fitzpatrick at cornerback, even though that isn’t his natural position. Either way, he’s a defensive back with a Pro Bowl ceiling.

Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State

Tarvarus McFadden is having a down year statistically, but he is still a talented cornerback bound to make an impact in the pros.

At 6’2” and 198 pounds, he has the length that defensive coordinators love to have at the position. He’s a physical defensive back who is also a very good athlete and a solid tackler. McFadden also has fantastic ball skills, as made evident in his eight-interception sophomore campaign. Although he doesn’t have any picks so far this year, he has nearly matched his pass deflection totals for last season.

Given his down year, McFadden may end up staying for his senior year. If he doesn’t, though, then he would be worth a look for the Bears in Round 2.

Are there any players that I forgot to mention? Want to further discuss the players mentioned above? This is an open thread to talk NFL Draft. Enjoy!