Welcome back. This series of mock drafts explores what would happen if the Bears had to select their picks in the 2017 draft from players out of a particular conference. Previously, I’ve looked at the Big Ten [here], the non-Power Five [here], and the SEC [here]. This article looks at the ACC.
As usual, I am not allowing myself any trades, and I am not pretending that this sort of limitation is rational. I am simply trying to highlight players who might be reasonable choices at each position where the Bears might pick. Click [here] to see the full draft.
#3) Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina (QB)
Trubisky only played one year. He has areas where he needs to develop. His yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt are lower than metrics guys might like. He needs to do a lot to develop, especially when it comes to adjusting to defenders. Trubisky is also the best passer in this draft. Truthfully, he’s also one of the best overall prospects coming out of the ACC. I prefer him to Watson, and I direct those who wonder why to EJ Snyder’s excellent write-up.
I almost went with: Nobody. This was a two-horse race from the beginning (between the two quarterbacks). I got the one I preferred. Mike Williams (Clemson, WR) is a quality player, but some of his really impressive plays are only necessary because he doesn’t get enough separation in the first place; also, taking two wide receivers in the top ten across three drafts should earn a franchise the universal disdain of anyone with adequate computer skills to search “Matt Millen.” Dalvin Cook (Florida State, RB) is probably going to be great, but the Bears are way more set at running back than any other offensive position.
#36) Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech (TE)
I have a first-round grade on Hodges, albeit a low one. I think he’s got all of the athletic potential he’ll ever need, and a decent tight end is a young quarterback’s second-best friend (a good running back being the first). I was originally hoping Njoku out of Miami would fall, but he went to the Steelers at 30. I think that might turn out to be a steal. Still, while Hodges does need to develop a bit, he’s a former quarterback and wide receiver who should be able to grow into the position.
I almost went with: Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson, CB). Amusingly, Tankersley did a good job against Hodges when they played. However, while I like Tankersley and would have had no problem taking him, I have a feeling that the speed of the professional game will be just a bit too much for him to be a true impact player. Some profiles say it’s a lack of instincts. Some say it’s a tendency to allow a bit too much separation. For me, it’s just a sense that he might have already hit his potential while I think NFL cornerbacks need to grow. That could be Kyle Fuller-induced wariness, though.
#67) Roderick Johnson, Florida State (OT)
I couldn’t believe it when I went offense for the third time in a row. I also couldn’t believe it when Johnson was still available at 67, however. He’s 6’7”, nearly 300lbs, and has 36” arms. He’s a left tackle who might have to go right tackle in the pros, but while he needs development, the fact is that the Bears are in a position to let him develop and to serve as depth before moving him in as a long-term solution at whichever side turns out to be a better fit. Multiple profiles note his awareness and his ability to adjust. I note that investing in the offensive line when the opportunity arises is a good way to make sure that it doesn’t become a problem later.
I almost went with: John Johnson, the safety out of Boston College. However, when Roderick Johnson was available, I decided to wait. It turns out that I have a higher impression of John than others. I’ll explain why below.
#111) John Johnson, Boston College (S)
Johnson (the safety, not the tackle) is a little under-rated on some boards in my opinion. He finds the ball and keeps fighting for it, and he has good instincts. On the downside, he’s not a great tackler. He struggles a little in going after the runner and will allow an extra yard or two while he’s trying to find the right angle. However, I would much rather have a free safety with instincts for the ball who is then taught better tackling than have a natural tackler who I hope magically develops into a ball hawk.
I almost went with: Nazir Jones (North Carolina, DL). I struggled with this one. I like what I have seen of Jones, in that he’s strong and aggressive. He looked better-than-average against the run, and it seemed like he set an edge okay. However, I did not have a chance to look at a lot of what he was able to do, and report after report mentioned that he lacked awareness and was easily fooled. More than that, there were complaints about his pad level, and when I went back looking for that specifically, I did see it. Ultimately, this is a matter of passing on a guy I liked because I trusted the multiple independent reports against him.
#117) Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech (WR)
I have to admit to having a flawed process on this one. I was watching ACC games to get a sense of the “top” of my board, and Ford jumped out a couple of times with a couple of nice, clean catches and after-the-catch moves. As a result, I already had an impression of him as a guy I liked before I looked at what others were saying. Still, even if this is a little higher than a few others have him going, I think Ford has a good chance of making the roster. Churning competition at wide receiver seems to be a good investment for these Bears—even if I’m worried about how little defense I’m taking here.
I almost went with: Demarcus Walker (Florida State, Edge). In fact, I would have if I had not been convinced by multiple run-throughs that he would be waiting for me at #147.
#147) Demarcus Walker, Florida State (DL)
I have to admit that I understand why Walker fell to the fifth round. I like his activity level when he’s fresh (mid-20s sack production over two seasons and a fair number of passes defended) and the way he is able both to get after the quarterback and to get a hand up. However, multiple reports mention that he fades as a game goes on, and he might not be the best fit for a 3-4 defense. However, while Fanspeak lists him as an EDGE, I actually think he has what it takes to be a 3-4 DE given enough time to develop. Ultimately, he has the athleticism and size to help out a team that works him in rotationally. In some ways he’s the inverse of the player I passed on to take him.
I passed on: Devonte’ Fields (Louisville, OLB). Currently a DE, Fields projects as an OLB on the next level. If you could put Walker’s relentlessness into Fields’ athletic frame, I think there would be a 3rd-round player here. Maybe I watched the wrong video clips, but even on what was supposed to be his highlight reel I saw signs of him not pushing as hard as he could on a few plays. I think he’s the kind of player who is going to find that the pros require a concentration and commitment he doesn’t have, and I don’t think he has the athleticism to get him over that hump. I might be selling him short because I was turned off by what I saw early on, though.
#221) Mack Hollins, North Carolina (WR)
I’m going to admit right away that the only reason I knew to look at Mack Hollins was because I was watching Trubisky. However, the kid is 6’4”, he has decent speed for his size, and he makes a decent contribution on special teams. To be honest, his familiarity with the quarterback taken in the first round is just a bonus.
I almost went with: A defender of some kind. Maybe Jadar Johnson. However, I didn’t force myself to take an unremarkable defensive back just because I had already leaned heavy on offense in this draft. I think Hollins has a chance of making the team better, and he already has some chemistry with what might end up being the most important player the Bears take during the Ryan Pace years.
There it is, my ACC-only draft. I will say that of all of the conference-themed drafts I’ve done, this is the first that felt “complete” to me. If Pace walked away with this mix of players, I think I would be okay with it. I haven’t been able to say that after the others.
Let me know your thoughts below.