As a break from free agency, I wanted to continue exploring the draft on a deeper level by limiting the conference I was drafting from. Last time, I looked at the Big Ten. This time, I’m limiting myself to players outside of the Power 5. After discussing it with some of the other contributors, we decided that this meant I was allowed to take players from independent schools (this basically means BYU and Notre Dame). With how this particular draft fell, that did not turn out to be a major consideration.
To review the rules—I didn’t allow myself any trades, and I didn’t allow players from any of the five major conferences. Otherwise, I drafted what I thought would be the best players for the Bears in 2017 using a balance of BPA, position needs, and schemes. You can see the full draft [here], and the choices plus the rationale are explained below. Remember that I do not pretend that this is a sane or rational thing for a GM to do. It’s a chance to highlight some different players.
As a bonus, I reached out to our resident draft guru to weigh in on some of my selections.
#3) Haason Reddick, Temple (LB)
Of all of the players I looked at for this particular draft, only one stood out to me as having what I would think of as the “tool kit” to justify a high first-round pick. That one player was Haason Reddick. There are concerns about what position Reddick would play, and while Fanspeak lists him as an EDGE player and others have him down as an OLB, there is a thought that he might kick to ILB on a 3-4 defense. In this draft, I don’t care what position he plays so long as it is in Navy and Orange. The man is a linebacker in way that makes the inner Bears fan in my happy. I think his actual best position will be as an aggressive ILB, but that’s for Fangio to figure out.
I almost went with: DeShone Kizer (QB). In my estimation, Kizer is not a first-round draft pick. He is certainly not a Top 5 draft pick. However, with Mike Glennon’s services secured for a year or two, the team is in position to develop a player, and he has the best raw material to mold into a quarterback that’s available outside of the Power 5. However, I think if most teams played Kizer they would get worse, whereas if most teams played Haason Reddick they would get better.
#36) Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut (S)
If I’m honest, this feels like I’m reaching. However, after having run through a couple of sample drafts, I have yet to see Melfonwu fall to the third round, and he is able to bring skills that the team needs. I love his size and the fact that at least two draft profiles mention that he has the ability to match up against tight ends—something that confirmed my own impressions watching a bit of his play. As a Bears fan, that sounds like a novel and welcome change.
I almost went with: Zay Jones (WR) or Dion Dawkins. Zay Jones strikes me as a fantastic player from a solid pedigree. His NFL.com profile claims: “can win all day when it comes to finishing catches at the high point.” That sounds like a skill the Bears are going to need, and if I did this exercise a hundred times and faced this same decision each time, I would probably take Jones at least 35 of those times. It comes down to the versatility at a position of need offered by Melifonwu.
#67 Dion Dawkins, Temple (OL)
I am one of the first to say that the Bears O-line has gotten progressively better, and not everybody is as high on Dawkins as I am. However, I also think there’s a real chance that Dawkins is a second-round player. He has 35” arms and enough size and core strength that he might be the answer at RT for the Bears. The phrase “answer at right tackle” and “third-round pick” sound like too good of a chance to pass up, and I do not mind adding depth on either line.
I almost went with: Tanoh Kpassagnon (DE) or Gerald Everett. Kpassagnon has length (6’7”, nearly 36” arms) and athleticism. He also possesses remarkable intelligence and has blocked enough kicks to have it stand out. However, in the video of him I was able to watch, it was unclear how much of his ability was the result of “skill” and how much was the result of being able to physically overmatch his competition. A few times it looked to me like he should have been able to get home and he just didn’t. Still, this is probably more of the “Pace” pick than Dawkins. I didn’t go with Everett because I had a backup tight end selection in mind.
#111 Adam Shaheen, Ashland (TE)
It’s unreasonable to think that NFL defenders will bounce off of Shaheen the way they did when he was playing for Ashland (though go watch the video—it’s fun, and has a strangely video game feel to it). However, Shaheen is a 6’6”, 278lb wall of man who set touchdown records and who has a quick step or three. There are concerns about what he will do when facing athletes with his level of gifts, but he could easily be a steal.
I almost went with: Howard Wilson (CB). He’s a ball hawk with some impressive speed. I am less worried about his ACL tear, though, than I am his size in the modern NFL. I don’t see 6’1” and 184lbs as big enough for a cornerback, and watching him play does little to reassure me that he is has the sort of solid, wiry strength to give lie to those numbers.
#117 Larry Ogunjobi, North Carolina Charlotte (DT)
Here, I am drafting Ogunjobi here in terms of potential. I see this second fourth-round pick as a chance to draft for the future, and while the Bears have a lot of holes, this is a chance to keep the D-line from becoming a worse problem later on. Most of his problems look like things that can be solved with a bit of coaching, and I like his ability to get tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
I almost went with: Tanzel Smart. Read more below to learn why.
#147 Tanzel Smart, Tulane (DL)
Both of the players I considered in Round 4 were available in Round 5 when the Bears came up, which is the first time I saw that happen (when I prepare these, I run a couple of drafts without picking a team and just watch the draft unfold while keeping an eye on players I’m targeting). Forced to choose, I went with Smart. He’s undersized and could struggle to make the adjustment, but he’s disruptive and he never stops working. He has an amazing motor. I know that “out of position,” “undersized” and “high-motor” have a bad reputation when used together around here thanks to players like Shea McClellin, but there’s a big difference between spending a first-rounder on a guy like that and a fifth-rounder.
I almost went with: If not Wilson, Jarron Jones (DL) out of Notre Dame merits consideration. He’s a big, powerful lineman. However, it’s hard to do any research into him at all and not find flags regarding his motivation and his attitude.
#221 Cooper Rush, Central Michigan (QB)
Rush is the anti-Cutler. Rush was known for his good decision-making, his ability to lead receivers, and his willingness to use cunning to compensate for poor arm talent. However, the fact of the matter is he probably has nowhere near the athleticism he would need in the NFL. That said, there is a chance that he could develop into a solid backup, and that could be helpful.
I almost went with: Weston Steelhammer (DB), as perhaps the only player in this draft with a better football name than Cooper Rush.
Chime in below and let me know what you think. Next up is the SEC.
[Note: this article was edited to include player positions.]