Part of what makes draft season a driving conversation in football circles is that there are so many contrasting opinions concerning team fits and needs.
Outside of consensus elite talents, like say, Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, almost everyone regularly has a different evaluation on the top prospects. In turn, debate sparks over how a player projects in the pro’s endlessly.
With the Scouting Combine behind us and most individual Pro Days wrapping up, the next week or so will see teams lining up their all too familiar “big board.” Mock draft insanity is at it’s peak fervor now.
To take a different spin on an idea from our friends at Pride of Detroit, here’s a step-by-step rundown of positives and negatives of each of the Chicago Bears’ most recent mocked top two-round players across a few outlets. Indeed, there isn’t much of a consensus here.
SB Nation, Dan Kadar (Mocking the Draft)
Kadar’s most recent personal mock with two selections were quite the hyped doozy focusing on athleticism.
1st round: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Pros: When it’s all said and done, Thomas may end up being the best overall player in this draft. In fact, some think in the long run, that he projects to be better than his counterpart Garrett.
That’s for good reason considering just how much of a physical freak he is.
What Thomas gives you is a versatile defender that can line up anywhere. He’s incredibly strong, engages and disengages quickly from blocks, and uses his hands excellently. There’s a relentlessness to his game and he’s beyond athletic for an interior defensive end slash edge player.
This is a versed player that would fit seamlessly into defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense as his new “Justin Smith” to pair with the Bears’ “Aldon Smith” (Leonard Floyd) for a long time. The prospect of that might be too much to pass up for Chicago.
Cons: While he’s versatile, Thomas might not have a true position in the NFL. The 6-foot-3, 273 pounder can play everywhere but that also means he might struggle when on the interior. That also means, he might be kind of limited when playing on the outside, meaning a five-technique, given his less than ideal length.
And while he is strong, he can tend to be engulfed by similar big guys on the inside. That won’t get any easier. Overall, if you have a sound coaching staff that finds the best utilization for Thomas and his innate athletic ability, this “tweener” issue probably isn’t too much of an issue. But the 21-year-old could stand to grow aplenty.
This is where the ceiling of how much he can improve thoroughly comes in.
2nd round: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Bolles is an interesting selection considering guys like Budda Baker and Obi Melifonwu were on the board, and that picking a tackle is probably more of a luxury for the Bears. Nevertheless, it’s a solid enough pick.
Pros: Bolles is easily the most athletic tackle in the 2017 Draft.
While it is a relatively down year for offensive linemen, that speaks volumes of value guys on day two or three such as the 24-year-old. It’s easy to see why teams like Bolles so much as he moves fluidly and can make every block required with ease. He’s almost always balanced with his feet in pass protection and has a mean streak.
He is a little older as he embraced religion and hard work after a rough childhood, but that could be seen as more of a revamp. More so, a refocus of character after finishing a religious mission and finding his calling in football after.
For the Bears to add Bolles would mean that eventually one of Charles Leno Jr. or Bobby Massie would be replaced. Of course, Chicago could use an upgrade outside of their interior so figuring out this plan wouldn’t be a problem if they chose to move forward with Bolles.
A luxury move like Bolles could cement the Bears’ offensive line as one of the best in the NFL.
Cons: To be frank, scheme fit will greatly determine Bolles’ success in the NFL, as he’s sometimes limited in power and consistent pad level. His anchoring ability in pass protection leaves a lot to be desired even if he has excellent feet and movement. This is a tackle limited by strength and proper power techniques.
Ultimately, given his athleticism, Bolles may in time fix his issues in power and properly sustaining blocks. However, given that he will be 25-years-old by the time training camp rolls around, it’s not difficult to wonder how much he can improve.
Though if you’ll remember in a loose comparison, Kyle Long was drafted when he was 24-years-old and that turned out well.
Bleacher Report, Matt Miller
Miller’s most recent mock came post-combine and before the Bears made any free agency moves, but still paints a good picture for Chicago.
1st round: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Pros: What Trubisky gives you is the prototypical, traditional NFL passer. He has the size and mobility to succeed in the modern game. He’s excellent in the pocket and moves well when under pressure while keeping his eyes downfield. His feet are excellent and he almost always throws from a balanced platform.
Of course, he can also make every throw with an NFL-caliber arm, so your playbook will never be stripped down. He’s the most accurate passer of the entire quarterback class on film with a consistent release along with good ball placement. Makes plays that break down, routine positive gains. Supposedly, a personnel director compared Trubisky to Aaron Rodgers, and while that is very drastic to say at the moment, the skill sets are similar in any event.
Cons: Let’s see. I’ll have to go with inexperience, inexperience, and oh, inexperience.
The most historical red flag when it comes to draft prospects at quarterback is college years started. Only three quarterbacks in the top 100 drafted since 1992, had just one season as a starter prior to their NFL debut: Mark Sanchez, Matt Blundin, and the ever-famous, Brock Osweiler.
Not exactly the best track record.
Guys like Cam Newton are an exception simply because they had junior college years to study up, even if it isn’t a high level of football. The record of only two-year starters and the few examples such as Joe Flacco and Sam Bradford isn’t great either.
This isn’t to say that Trubisky will automatically be a failure because he only had one year under center. It’s just that a selection of him anywhere will be a huge gamble. It doesn’t rule him out but it does create heavy apprehension at his NFL potential.
Not to mention, he’ll have to adjust working from under center as a professional and to make consistent tight NFL-level throws not always asked of him in school. Really, a common but not too huge problem for most of this class save for maybe Notre Dame’s, DeShone Kizer, though.
However, if the Bears are truly bridging with Mike Glennon, this experience concern could be alleviated with the young guy in Trubisky seasoning on the bench for a year. How much Chicago wants Trubisky to be that guy is a different story.
2nd round: Budda Baker, S, Washington
Pros: *Looks around
In my opinion, Baker is the best safety in this draft and is a day one playmaker and leader unlike any of the other top guys such as Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker. I see almost no fault in his game.
The thing about Baker is that he’s so tremendously passionate in his play. He’s like a human missile. It’s a joy to watch a guy whose even capable of this consistent energy, always on the balls of his feet, as it’s very rare.
Baker’s instincts in pass coverage or run defense are off the charts. He moves like a cornerback defending the pass. His play recognition is rarely wrong and he possesses great ball skills. A sure tackler and guy you can rely on to blitz or in run support. Maybe the most polished defensive back with your favorite intangible, “leadership”, in this class.
For Fangio and the Bears to get their hands on Baker would mean a plug-and-play Swiss Army Knife as a safety they’ve been lacking for quite some time.
Cons: Baker’s contagious energy may get him into trouble in the NFL, though.
While you never want to teach a guy to slow down or change his special play, given Baker’s relatively lacking frame (5-foot-10, 195 pounds), he may expose himself to a lot of injuries when making even routine plays. He doesn’t always have the best technique when tackling and that lack of discipline could cost him both in a big offensive gain and his health.
Overall, the Bob Sanders comparison of a great but oft-injured safety could be very applicable to Baker if he doesn’t become more controlled.
Sanders had a career cut short and a lot of lost talent because of sometimes overzealous play despite less than relative, adequate size and the same could happen to Baker. In the right environment and with the proper coaching to channel him, he’ll be an asset for years, that’s not in doubt.
Pro Football Focus, Steve Palozzolo
The most recent mock from Palozzolo could have a touch of bias given that Pro Football Focus heavily factors in a lot of it’s analytics rather than taking a huge account into combine and Pro Day results. However, it’s interesting insight on team fits and doesn’t necessarily harm the Bears in any fashion.
1st round: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Pros: To be quite honest, it’s honestly a shock to still see Allen being mocked so high after almost of the pre-draft process has come to an end. However, he’s going to be a very good player and belief in his ability is warranted for any defensive front.
Much like Thomas, Allen can move all over your defensive line. Though, he’s more technically proficient (the Alabama shine doesn’t wear off, it seems) and has a better power base than his fellow edge classmate. The quickness is there and as is the athleticism. In retrospect, he may have the best bull rush of this entire defensive class given his repertoire of moves.
For a defensive tackle or defensive end (however you qualify him) he has unusual quickness off the ball. What always sticks out to me about Allen, is that he’s always around the ball, making plays. It’s uncanny. Among other prospects, the pass rushing numbers he put up in college in mostly primarily two years of major play (44.5 tackles for loss, 28.0 sacks) are pretty astounding in comparison.
Cons: Also much like Thomas, Allen isn’t very tall for the position he would play. Long tackles or guys with size can take advantage of him, even while he did face consistent double teams towards the end of last season.
In a 3-4 defense, he’ll be basically required to consistently do so and there are questions of whether he’d be effective enough to open space for other defensive playmakers such as Jerrell Freeman. And while he’s quick, he doesn’t have the proper burst to set the edge against running backs when working as a five-technique. Run at him with ease.
There’s also always the possibility that talent at Alabama next to Allen made him seem better than he really is, but that’s not easy to measure.
If the Bears were to take Allen, they’d have to be confident that his reported shoulder issues won’t arise to hamper his ability as well. Reportedly, his shoulders won’t be a problem until well after his career. But if you’re an NFL team looking for a long-term impact player, how can you be confident your dangerous game won’t change that timetable?
For a top-five pick, there’s a lot to like, but anything but a comfort level with how he’ll project in the NFL.
2nd round: Cordrea Tankersly, CB, Clemson
Pros: Tankersly is one of the more underrated cornerbacks in this year’s draft given his coveted lengthy ability. A press man corner with a valued skill of matching up with receivers in a physical manner. His length allows to play at the point of attack on the ball regularly. As he was used in a variety of coverages, he is deployable everywhere on a defense.
Obviously, given his physical demeanor, Tankersly is an able tackler, although he could stand to improve.
Since the Bears like to have versatile defensive backs, Tankersly would be in the mold of player they’re looking for.
With eight interceptions in two seasons as a starter, he also has the ball skills readily available for a defense that had just 11 takeaways last season in Chicago. Tankersly is likely more of a Cover 2 corner, but if you can hide his speed deficiency, he’ll be a quality starter for quite awhile.
Cons: A problem area for many cornerbacks is a lack of fluidity and in that regard, Tankersly is stiff. He can’t redirect well in positioning and is sometimes slow to react in play processing. That leads to pass interference penalties and a panicking mentality when caught behind that could turn into a lot of big plays for an opposing offense.
And for a press guy, he also allows a lot more space than he should, leaving himself open to being beat deep. I’m not sure how much the fluidity can be coached up, but making him a calmer player comfortable in his own surroundings can be done. If the Bears do find a use for him as a boundary player, it’ll be strictly about minimizing his mistakes when taking steps towards coverage. Whether that can be fixed is a good question to ask.
Remember, these are only a few recent opinions on the Bears’ vision in the upcoming draft. There is plenty more disagreement lurking, you just have to discern between the ludicrous and your own ideal of team fit when taking a perspective look.
Only three and a half more weeks of endless mocks. Don’t worry, the madness is finally winding down.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.