Critics of early mock drafts will tell you that it’s a waste of time: too much will change between now and the actual draft for the mock to have any merit. We don’t even have combine numbers yet! We can’t know team needs until free agency, and Mike Mayock hasn’t even gifted us with his position rankings...
But defenders of early mocks will tell you that it’s not the point to predict. It’s a fun exercise that will introduce readers to some prospects that might be appealing to their team. People enjoy it and it’s harmless, so why is anybody getting in a huff about them?
I’m of the rare breed who will go out on a limb and tell you that my mock draft is unequivocally exactly what is going to happen. In fact, this is the only year that I can responsibly provide you with this mock because after people see this prove true, next year’s mock would have too much power to be used responsibly.
Round 1, Pick 9: Vita Vea, DT - Washington Huskies
Chubb, Fitzpatrick, and Nelson are all off the board when the Bears are on the clock. This works out okay for the Bears, who get value at edge later in the draft, great production from their free agent cornerback TJ Carrie, and Nelson is not missed when Josh Sitton ends up thriving in his golden 30s as the Chicago wind slowly blows the stench of Wisconsin cheese out of his beard causing his play to improve annually.
The Bears end up with pick 9 in a trade back with the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers win the coin flip with the Raiders for the 9th pick, and Saquon Barkley falls to the Bears at 8. Ryan Pace kindly calls John Lynch to let him know the Raiders have made an offer to trade up to the 8th spot; he figures he’ll give Lynch the opportunity to make an offer of his own. Lynch can’t stomach the idea of losing out on what he perceives as a generational talent, and he offers a third round pick (coincidentally the Bears initial 3rd) to trade up. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to whether Pace actually had an offer from the Raiders.
This leaves Chicago to draft the one player in this draft who was born to be a Bear. After posting the fastest 10-yard split for a 340+ pounder in combine history, this oversized uniquely-athletic tackle will rise to the top of most experts rankings. Vea is a once in a generation combination of size and speed that can anchor Fangio’s defensive line in the Justin Smith role for years to come. With Hicks, Goldman, and Vea, the Bears line will be undeniably elite in base formation. In subpackages, they will be able to rotate to stay fresh. You can’t double-team everyone, and adding strength on strength on the defensive line will allow Leonard Floyd to profit off the edge.
Large athletic linemen are frequently called “dancing bears,” and although Vita will undeniably be a Bear, Vita doesn’t dance. No. He makes money moves. Watching Huskies tape of Vea bursting through a double team to smosh his ample torso down upon a gasping gunslinger makes me chortle with glee. Watching him do it in a Bears uniform, I will die about 5 to 10 times a season.
Round 2, Pick 7: D.J. Moore, WR - Maryland Terrapins
D.J. Moore may seem like an intriguing, under-the-radar selection now, but by the time the Bears draft him, he’s going to be over-hyped and the pick will feel predictable and uninspired. I’ve already professed my favorite receiver in this class to be Anthony Miller, but Pace is swayed away from my advice by the temptation of drafting the prospect with the fastest 20-yard shuttle of any receiver in the class.
And in Pace’s defense, Moore is a beautiful fit for the offense the Bears will be running and arguably the best after-the-catch receiver in the draft. Watching his highlight tape, you will see about half the plays are screen-passes or dump-offs that Moore finds a way to take to the end zone. Moore put up a 1,000 yard season with sub-mediocre quarterback play, frequently showing off his ability to adjust to poorly thrown balls and still secure a catch in a position to make a move for more yards.
Ultimately, Moore is the perfect chess piece to pair with Cameron Meredith and free-agent acquisitions Marqise Lee and Brice Butler. Together, they form diverse and versatile receiver corps that threatens all areas of the field and constantly leaves Moore open in space where he’s able to punish defenses for 500 yards after the catch in his rookie season.
Some will consider it a reach when the Bears take this draft riser from a tiny school in the northern California woods, but Ryan Pace had his mind set on drafting Cappa ever since January, when he read Jacob’s article here.
Despite his humble origins, Cappa has impressive technique and was a clear standout at the Senior Bowl, measuring up in his trial-by-fire against big-time prospects. Speaking of measuring up: after a disappointing height measurement of 6’5 5/8” at the Senior Bowl weigh-in, Alex miraculously returned to his school-website reported 6’7” height at the combine.
Cappa is raw and well-poised to benefit from the mentorship of one of the best offensive line coaches in football. He proves to be a quick study and will beat out Massie for the RT starting job before for the end of his rookie season.
Round 4, Pick 5: Duke Ejiofor, EDGE - Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Ejiofor is a technically sound, smart, and productive pass-rusher who falls in the draft due to injury concerns. When he gets picked by the Bears, pundits are quick to suggest he may be this year’s Carl Lawson. At the end of the 2018 season, they will pat themselves on the back for that take when he amasses similar rookie-year production despite having to split snaps with free-agent pickup and Comeback Player of the Year Dion Jordan. These hot-takers will be universally praised by peers and fans alike while my terrific mid-season tweet, “What’s an Ejio for? Sacking” falls on deaf ears.
Round 4, Pick 15: Shaquem Griffin, LB - UCF Knights
2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Shaquem is best known for being the twin brother of Seattle Seahawk’s cornerback, Shaquill Griffin. In two seasons as a collegiate starter, Shaquem amassed more sacks than Leonard Floyd in the same time frame and more interceptions than Adrian Amos...with one hand. Griffin is more than a feel-good story about a gritty one-handed football player who makes history by being drafted into the NFL, he’s an elite athlete and play-maker that will have the Bears’ draft room double high-fiving when he gets picked (then immediately wondering if they should feel guilty about flaunting their two-handed privilege in that particular moment).
Griffen has the work-ethic, character, and talent that every GM will fall in love with, but most of them will notch him down to grab in the 6th. Pace has shown he doesn’t wait when he’s high on a prospect, and that strategy benefits him here when he lands a multi-year defensive captain and perennial fan favorite on day three.
Round 5, Pick 8: Durham Smythe, TE - Notre Dame Fighting Irish
At 6’5” 257 pounds, Smythe won’t impress anyone standing next to Adam Shaheen. But he’s the best run-blocker in this class and proves to be a valuable counterpart who can mix it up in the scrap heap while Shaheen takes the glory in the passing game. He of course can catch when called upon—and did so far a touchdown in the Senior Bowl. Nagy will be able to scheme up a tight end release that gets him wide open for a big gain a couple of times a season, including a crucial playoff moment in 2019. He may be the Bear’s TE3 after Shaheen and Trey Burton, but he’s an immediate upgrade over Dion Sims.
Round 6, Pick 7: Brett Toth, OT - Army Black Knights
Toth wouldn’t be available in the 6th round if he didn’t have two years of Army service commitment left before he can actually join the team who drafts him.
Toth has limited pass-blocking experience due to Army’s scheme. One would think the ability to anticipate the trajectory of a projectile and respond appropriately would be a quality the Army would want to cultivate in its personnel, but they pretty much just ran the ball every play. I don’t have the foresight to know what happens when Toth eventually joins the team—that’s too far into the future for me—but it’s a smart investment for the Bears in the 6th round.
Round 7, Pick 6: Darren Carrington II, WR - Utah Utes
Carrington was a rising star on Mark Helfrich’s Oregon Ducks before drunkenly running into a pole at a McDonalds’ drive-through led to his dismissal. He transferred to Utah and led the team in an impressive 980-yard 6-touchdown season. At 6’2” he uses his length to get separation, and his highlight reel shows some impressive position-alterations to catch both contested and off-target balls. Helfrich still had positive things to say of Carrington after his dismissal, describing him as “someone who can make that bail-out play for a guy and make you look good.” A similar good word from Helfrich puts Carrington on the Bears’ draft radar.
Unfortunately, the Bears don’t end up needing bail-out ability to make Trubisky look good, and in a crowded receiver depth chart, Carrington’s Bears career doesn’t survive an arrest for a physical altercation with a McDonalds’ employee for allegedly serving him half-cold fries and refusing to disclose the recipe for Big Mac sauce.
Round 8, Pick 5: Eddy Pineiro, K - Florida Gators
In a shocking development, it’s revealed that—as part of the deal for Fox to cover the NFL draft—the NFL will be holding a special 8th round of the draft on day four, with exclusive Fox coverage rights. This prime-time event turns out to be a cash cow for the NFL and an opportunity for the Bears to flex their kicker-evaluation swagger on a national stage.
Pineiro is the 3rd kicker picked, but not for lack of an impressive Gator track record (48/53 in two years including 4 beautiful 50+ boots). The NFL transition is seamless for Pineiro, who becomes an immediate difference-maker at kicker and caps his rookie season off with a receiving touchdown in a gratuitous trick play in the 4th quarter of a 45-10 beatdown against the Packers in the Wild Card round of the 2018 playoffs.
Immediate post-draft grades will give the Bears an average of a C-, with “too many reaches and risky picks” for a team with “holes all over.” In the post 2018-season retrospectives, these grades age well, rising to an A- average and several “Best Rookie Class” accolades.
Sometimes the future is better left a mystery, but for a fan base who’s suffered a little too long, I thought it was best to offer a glimpse of what you have to look forward to. Bear down, relax, and enjoy the ride.
FINAL NOTE: While I am confident in my predictions, 100% confidence is not shared by the WCG editors or surprisingly any of the other WCG contributors. Consequently, Windy City Gridiron will continue its pre-draft coverage as if the Bears’ draft outcomes are not certain.