Chicago's defense is not as bad as it looked last season. Injuries to key players gutted the defensive side of the ball and results spoke for themselves. Despite that, there are several quality pieces in place that Bears should be able to build to create a unit that stymies opposing offenses.
The front 7 of the Bears defense is pretty solid when they are all on the field. Akiem Hicks was an excellent addition last year and Eddie Goldman has skills and size to lock down the nose tackle job. Behind them Jerrell Freeman played very well after coming over from the Colts but before he got suspended for using PED's. In his absence, last year's fourth-round choice Nick Kwiatkoski showed some promise in limited action. On the edges Leonard Floyd definitely flashed potential as a threat, but the pass rush still needs help to be a consistent threat.
The major sore spot in Chicago's defense is the secondary. None of the 4-5 starters (5 if you consider the slot corner a "starter" as they play more than 50% of the snaps) are locked in right now. Everything is in a state of flux and the entire defensive backfield is crying out for a major injection of talent. Luckily for Ryan Pace and his staff, the 2017 draft is loaded with quality defensive backs.
Here are the parameters I used to set up this mock draft:
I used Fanspeak On the Clock Premium to conduct a draft with the following settings:
- Length: 7 rounds
- Player Big Board: Matt Miller, Lead Draft Analyst, Bleacher Report
- Computer uses same board as me, or random: Random
- Difficulty (Classic or Difficult): Difficult
- Team needs determined by: User-generated list
I added the following rules to guide my choices:
- I chose only DEFENSIVE POSITIONS
- I did not consider trades until ROUND 3 OR LOWER
- I considered the value of the draft board slightly more than positional need since there are needs all over the Bears defense
If you don’t take the time to read how or why I set up this draft, please don’t expect me to respond to your comments about it.
3: R1P3 EDGE Solomon Thomas Stanford - Consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback provides all kinds of benefits for a defense and Thomas can provide that. He is alignment flexible meaning he can be an EDGE player in the base defense but he is strong enough to line up with his hand in the dirt when Chicago shifts to sub package defenses. He got great strength and plays with a tremendous amount of fight.
36: R2P4 DL Montravius Adams Auburn - A massive lineman with surprising quickness and tons of powers. One of the few players I've seen this year that can stonewall a doubleteam. With Ego Ferguson on his way out of Chicago this past week, this pick makes more sense from a value standpoint. Also has experience moving around to different positions so can line up as a 5-tech end on base downs and slide inside to play defensive tackle in sub packages without a dropoff in the ability to stop the run. Was the most common name brought up by offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl when asked who their toughest opponent was during the regular season.
67: R3P3 S Marcus Williams Utah - I was surprised and excited when Williams was still available. This is a perfect marriage of Chicago's needs at safety and a very skilled player that just reeks of value. Williams has good size, tremendous range, top-flight coverage skills and is a solid tackler. The only reason he would fall this far is the sheer amount of safety talent in this draft combined with other teams focusing on different areas of need than safety. On pure talent he should definitely go in the second round... but stranger things have happened in the draft.
117: R4P10 CB Ahkello Witherspoon Colorado - Through three rounds and I still had not addressed one of the team's largest needs: cornerback. It was time and Witherspoon is a player with a ton of promise. He has great length and can play the style (press coverage) that Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell stress. He is not a great tackler but I can look past that a bit to see the value in getting this much coverage skill in the middle rounds.
120: R4P13 S Eddie Jackson Alabama - Based on his tape and positional versatility alone (Jackson is also an excellent punt returner) there is no way he should still be available, but he was and I couldn't leave him on the board. Jackson is a ballhawk but broke his leg earlier in the year. This has a lot a lot to do with visibility: Jackson couldn't attend the Combine. He couldn't work out at his pro day and other players tend to "rise" with the recency bias. Jackson is a tremendous football player that can help on both the base defense (he can even play slot corner) and on special teams. This might be the be the easiest choice I had to make.
147: R5P3 EDGE Trey Hendrickson Florida Atlantic - in the later rounds teams are looking for less developed players who have been overlooked and might blossom with additional attention (coaching, nutrition, etc.) and that can play special teams right away. Trey could do both. His testing numbers were terrific and he shows more pass rush on tape than may of his more highly-regarded peers. The fact that he played against lesser competition pushes him down the board as well. He's not perfect, but more pass rushers is always a good thing.
199: R6P15 EDGE Ejuan Price Pittsburgh - This is why I really wanted to get a sixth round selection back. There is so much talent in this draft that good players will still be available. Price does not have ideal size (5'11", 240 pounds) but he is a skilled, effective pass rusher and is always around the ball making impact plays. He started his career at inside linebacker so he could contribute there as a sub to start as well.
221: R7P3 CB Jeremy Cutrer Middle Tennessee - This far down the board teams want "triangle" guys (height, weight & speed). Cutrer played at smaller school but his skills aren't small. He can cover and has the height (6'1") that Fangio/Donatell want in their defensive backs. He'll need to get his weight up (he is only 170 pounds right now) to compete in the NFL and be a threat to jam WR's, but he hassled some big-time receivers in college and could be a steal with a little seasoning on the practice squad.
Trade summary: I only made one trade; trading back a few spots in the 4th round with the Vikings to add a selection in the 6th; as the Bears don't have one in that round this year. I used that pick to select Ejuan Price out of Pittsburgh.
You can see how the entire draft unfolded here: http://fanspeak.com/ontheclock/draft.php?d=ereaxz
Sound off about your favorite pick (or the biggest omission) in the comments section.