Best player available and attacking positions of need is a constant debate every general manager faces when come time for the NFL Draft.
The problem can be best summed up in two questions: Do you pick the best available player on your board regardless of whether he plays at a current position of need? Or do you relent and go with what could be a lesser talent overall but helps your team more now?
No quality general manager can always go best player available to tell the truth. It’s not a realistic thought that you avoid filling in gaps in each of round of the draft and take the best overall talent. Sometimes the gap between your evaluations of players is so small too, that you may as well attack need instead of adding a player you don’t technically have to have even if he may be uber-talented.
For example, a common scenario where you can apply this is for the Chicago Bears in the upcoming draft in that they’ll have a likely opportunity at LSU running back Leonard Fournette with the third overall pick. Fournette could be the best player available by some estimations there. Yet it’s highly doubtful they’re selecting him while already possessing a sophomore Pro Bowl running back in Jordan Howard.
So you have to strike a careful balance between need and talent, in essence.
The other aspect to consider about best players available is fluctuating draft boards. Who might be the best prospect based on one team’s evaluations could be slotted in at second or third with another because of how they would use him according to their game plans. It’s a common practice of adhering to your current organizational philosophy and coaching staff to give them guys they are comfortable in teaching.
However, you can’t always get the player that perfectly fits your team with any given selection. Often, you’re selecting someone that could fit your team based off of his tape and projections, versus an ideal perfect scenario. And that sentiment certainly extends across the entire draft and the inherent gamble it becomes as it unfolds.
In this exercise, here’s figuring who would be the best fit for the Bears at each of their own need positions. This isn’t an argument of who to take with the first round pick. This is about what these players do that Chicago would most appreciate if they had the chance to select them.
Note that I won’t count guys like consensus superstar talents in Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, because he would be a perfect player for all 32 teams. Some like Garrett transcend projections. So as a disclaimer for some here, it won’t always be the common “best” player.
Let’s dive in and reward the Bears with exactly what they’re searching for.
Quarterback: DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
Putting Kizer in this slot does not mean I think he’s the best quarterback in this draft. I still believe that’s Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. It’s my belief that Watson is more NFL-ready even though he’ll require time to develop as well. For me, it’s about how Kizer’s skill set translates to what the Bears want to do on offense and taking their current quarterback situation into account. And that I think he has the highest ceiling.
Some may believe that’s actually Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, but it’s going to take a lot for the incredibly raw Mahomes to put it together.
In Kizer, you have a guy who can make every throw, has terrific pocket awareness and mobility, and can create plays out of nothing while working as a dual-threat passer. He’s simultaneously capable of “traditional” talents teams such as the Bears look for and in adherence to making plays with his feet. When I watch him on film, I see former Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb, as a prime comparison. That’s perfect for this current Chicago rebuild.
Kizer clearly processes information quickly too, something you obviously want in a quarterback.
Given his greater experience over North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, and the fact that Kizer would likely sit a season to develop and fine tune aspects of his game, you’d ideally wring the erratic and inconsistent footwork out of him. Have him learn under free agent addition, Mike Glennon, and it could pay off. A true fantasy if Chicago could somehow land him in say, the late first or early second round, as their future face of the franchise.
Safety: Jamal Adams, LSU
Many believe that Adams should be Chicago’s pick at third overall. That he’s too talented and complete to pass up. Some on the other hand, think that he’s not as good as advertised, nor is any other safety in this class worth a top-10 pick. But that’s not the debate of positional value here.
If the draft goes as expected, it’s very possible the Bears’ll have an opportunity to make Adams their franchise safety. Ultimately if they do go in his direction, they won’t be disappointed in the production he’ll give them. For a guy that’s drawing comparisons to former three-time Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboy, Darren Woodson, and reigning First-Team All-Pro Kansas City Chief, Eric Berry, you don’t overlook his talents.
Adams is a polished tackler with over 209 tackles in three seasons as a college starter, an instinctive well-rounded playmaker around the box, and possibly the best secondary leader in this safety class. You can plug and play him immediately onto your defense and notice the dramatic uptick in play. There are concerns of whether he has enough range and ballhawk ability to garner being a top-five pick, but an unofficial blazing 4.33 40-yard dash may quell those concerns.
Also take into account the affinity that Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio once had for Donte Whitner in San Francisco, a similar player in mold as a tone-setter and leader in the secondary. Adams fits that bill of what Fangio would prefer in his safeties. Play him next to the veteran Quintin Demps and watch him flourish.
In any case, while someone such as Ohio State’s Malik Hooker could have a higher ceiling, Adams is the most secure pick at safety in this year’s draft and would be primed to lead Chicago’s secondary for years.
Edge: Solomon Thomas, Stanford
A high impact, potential superstar talent in Thomas might not even be available by the time Bears pick for them to consider taking him. And if he’s there, they’ll have to debate some noteworthy questions about whether his ceiling is enough to warrant using a top-five pick in an area where players need to be surefire talents with no huge red flags, such as his effort.
But outside of Garrett - who again fits everyone and will almost assuredly be the first pick - no one else can offer the Bears what Thomas does. If developed properly, he is Chicago’s Justin Smith, that being the dominant five-technique defensive end that can kick inside when need be and make everyone better. He’s the pass rushing athletic force that would wreak havoc with Leonard Floyd on the outside.
One could debate whether the Bears need an outside linebacker or that 3-4 defensive end more, and I’ll just go out and say it’s the latter albeit with some hesitation. Gamble on acquiring the hammer in Thomas in the belief you can “fix” him and complete your defensive front to get a young dynamic duo for a long time with Floyd. The quintessential defensive toy the Bears are looking for.
Cornerback: Gareon Conley, Ohio State
Marshon Lattimore, Conley’s teammate at Ohio State, is the best cornerback in the draft by most estimations. But to say the Bears would select him anywhere with an extensive injury history concerning his hamstrings would be mistaken. Chicago’s 2016 first-round pick in Floyd and 2015’s in Kevin White, have each been plagued by some health issues early on in their careers (although Floyd’s are considerably less concerning).
To have that happen again with a first-rounder who needs to be a franchise player doesn’t make it look like Lattimore fits the Bears’ plans in any fashion. But Conley, to put it lightly, does.
The 6-foot, 195 pounder, is versatile enough to slot anywhere in your secondary. Conley’s also fast enough, with a recorded. 4.44 40-time to keep up with any receiver you ask him to cover. He has ball skills with four interceptions in 2016. To top it all off, unlike Lattimore, Conley played and or started a majority of his three seasons at school, so there’s no durability concerns. A polished and young boundary corner with a seat warm in Chicago among newly signed stop gaps such as Prince Amukamara.
If you’re telling me a physical brand of corner such as Conley drawing comparisons to the Broncos’ terrific Aqib Talib isn’t enough, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Currently, Conley’s being projected anywhere from the top-10 to top-20. He’s the quickest impact cornerback for any team in this draft, let alone the Bears. If only the crystal ball could award him to Halas Hall.
Tight end: David Njoku, Miami
Even a decade ago, a tight end like Njoku who isn’t the best blocker but is a prolific weapon down field, wouldn’t have gotten much favor in the NFL. With the advent of spread-out offenses and wide-open creative play books to create matchup problems, Njoku is now the perfect NFL “Y”. 698 yards and eight touchdowns in only the second year of a college football career will do that.
Alabama’s O.J. Howard is the present bona fide complete tight end who does it all, but Njoku’s superior athletic ability and talents as a receiver could have him move past Howard way down the line. Howard was a four-year contributor with the Crimson Tide and is 22-years-old. While Njoku is only 20-years-old with so much more room to exponentially grow.
Adding Njoku to a Chicago room with veterans, Zach Miller, and newly-signed, Dion Sims, could pay dividends as he grows into the nuances of the position at the NFL level. His body at only 247 pounds and football IQ is still being built in it’s early stages.
If the Bears were to have a legitimate chance at the 6-foot-4 Njoku they could first use him as the true downfield terror he already is, while letting him develop other more important skills such as strength over time. I’m not sure anyone defensive coordinator could logistically neutralize him then.
(In corner) Don’t you think an Olsen-type would seamlessly fit with the current Chicago offense?
When the time arises, the mostly likely scenario is that the Bears only get one perfect fit for one of their positions of need.
So for their sake, go put this model into a Madden simulator or something to stay sane. Then, hope in realily that the the team somehow finds relative “Mr. Right” to make them happy everywhere they need one.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.