The 2018 NFL Combine will get rolling on Wednesday, February 28, but before the athletes show up to get poked, prodded, analyzed, and worked out, the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock jumped on his annual pre-combine conference call so the media can pick his brain. Yesterday, Mayock went through a number of topics, hitting on specific team needs, specific prospect fits, and some facts and figures.
I won’t touch on the entire transcript here, but I will highlight Mayock’s Chicago Bears nuggets, and Bear-related nuggets.
With the Bears seemingly set at quarterback after drafting Mitchell Trubisky last year, the more QBs that go early, the better for them. Mayock feels there could be another rush on the position in 2018, and he has four going in the first round (Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Baker Mayfield), with a fifth possible sneaking into the first (Lamar Jackson), and a sixth going as early as the second round (Mason Rudolph). This would be good news for Chicago if more talent is pushed down the board, or potential trade partners popping up looking to get their guy.
The Bears are set to pick eighth overall and Mayock believes there are “five guys where you go, wow, you can plug and play.” Here are Mayock’s five, Bradley Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Vita Vea.
Depending on how many quarterbacks go in the top seven, the Bears could have some interesting options.
One player that has been mocked to the Bears quite a bit, and who now fills a need with Josh Sitton released, is Notre Dame offensive guard Quenton Nelson. Mayock was asked what separates him from other o-linemen in the draft.
The first is DNA. First, he’s 330 pounds. He’s got a nasty demeanor. He finishes with an edge. He’s probably the best runblocking interior offensive lineman I’ve seen in years. Plus, in today’s NFL, you’ve got to protect your quarterback. Every quarterback I’ve talked to in the NFL says what bothers them the most is immediate pressure up the middle. So you’ve got a guy that can set a physical edge in the middle of your lineup front and allow your quarterback to step up. That’s a big deal.
So he’s great in the run game. He’s very good in the pass game. He was coached by Harry Hiestand, who I think is one of the best offensive line coaches I’ve ever been around, who is now with the Chicago Bears. So he’s got talent, he’s got coaching, and at the end of the day, he loves football. I know this kid. He’s got a passion for the game. He’s got a passion to be the best he can be.
So when you add all those things up, unless he’s injured, unless he gets a bad injury, I love the fact that I think he can come in day one and be a high-level NFL player.
Another player mocked to Chicago recently is Tremaine Edmunds from Virginia Tech. Mayock was asked if he’s an inside or outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
The beauty of this kid is he’s 19 years old, he’s 6’5”, 250. At 19 years old. He doesn’t turn 20 until a couple days after the draft. I put the first tape in on this kid, and today he’s an off-the-ball linebacker. Meaning in a three-four, he’s an inside linebacker and he’d be great there. He also has a scary skill set as an edge rusher, which he did a little bit at Virginia Tech, and I know for sure he’s working on that now. So I see incredible upside. I see an off-the-ball linebacker, I think some of the three, four teams could look at him and say he could be a 34 outside linebacker, in addition to being a 34 inside linebacker.
Right now what I say is a starting-off-the-ball linebacker and a potential sub at edge rusher. He’s got a skill set. I don’t use this word often, but he has a skill set that’s unique.
The biggest need for the Bears is probably wide receiver. They need to acquire more weapons for Trubisky, and Mayock talked about some wide outs that could off the board after the first day.
Right now, the wide receiver position is really cloudy. I mean, I talked with my buddy Daniel Jeremiah about this. I’ve talked with a bunch of guys around the league, and there are different flavors of wide receiver. After Ridley and Kirk, this draft could go anywhere at the wide receiver position. So you quickly threw in several names. I mean, James Washington from Oklahoma State is a vertical guy. He’s a late one, to late two. Dante Pettis from Washington, great return specialist, slot receiver.
Second or third round guy. DJ Moore from Maryland has some juice. Like him. Probably a slot receiver. Miller from Memphis, fast and quick. Really good hands. D.J. Chark, LSU, has been ascending since the Senior Bowl. Deon Cain, Clemson, reminds me of Kenny Stills. Might be undervalued. Will probably run in the 4.4 range. J’Mon Moore, Mizzou, big kid. Too many drops, but a height, width, speed guy. You start throwing in Cedrick Wilson and Equanimeous St. Brown and Jordan Lasley, in all honesty, I might have a guy that’s a second rounder and another evaluator might have him as a fourth rounder.
I think the second through fourth rounds at the wide receiver position, people are going to be all over, depending on what they’re looking for.
The Bears currently don’t have a third rounder, but with that being the sweet spot for a wide out, I’d imagine Pace will work a trade to get himself back in the round.
Here’s how Mayock breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of the top three receivers, Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, and Courtland Sutton.
Ridley and Kirk are somewhat similar. Somewhat similar in size. You’re probably -- I like them both in the slot, although I think Ridley might be a little bit faster, but I’m anxious to see them both at the combine speed-wise. I think Ridley can play outside, but he will become predominantly a slot receiver in the NFL, same with Kirk. They both run tremendous routes. They both have really good hands, and they’re very tough catching the football with good run after catch. Christian Kirk adds some value in the returning game.
Courtland Sutton is a completely different animal. 6’4”, 215, 220, high-level production, a lot of it is outside the numbers. Keep in mind there are a lot of ways to separate in today’s NFL. We used to talk about quickness and speed and route running. There is another way to separate now, and that is with size. Back shoulder fades, the outside-the-number throws. He’s mostly a fade, fade stop, pitch and slant player right now. I’m anxious to see how fast he is. Can he be a Mike Evans-type player? Mike Evans ran 4.53 at the combine at 230 pounds. Or is he more of a 4.58 type of guy? I think Courtland Sutton is really going to be an intriguing guy to watch at the combine.
If you love the draft, make sure to peruse the entire transcript which can be found here.
Starting Wednesday at the Combine, head coaches and general managers will meet the media. Bears’ head coach Matt Magy will take the podium at 11:15am EST.
Here’s the full schedule.