The 2018 NFL Combine has officially come to an end. As usual, there were a handful of players who boosted their draft stock tremendously. There were also a couple of players who will end up falling down draft boards due to their poor performance in workouts.
In the end, though, the tape is what’s most important. For example, Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown was dreadful in just about every Combine drill, but he has solid tape and didn’t allow a single sack this year for the Sooners. While his stock will undoubtedly plummet - and rightfully so - he will still likely be selected fairly high due to his tape.
Still, the Combine is a good way to see how prospects’ skill sets may transition to the NFL. It’s also a good time to make predictions as to how the actual draft will shake up.
As is the case with any pre-free agency mock draft, this mock is based off of assumptions. These are a list of things that I’m going to assume will happen to the Chicago Bears in free agency:
- Kyle Fuller is re-signed
- Two wide receivers are added, but one of them is not Jarvis Landry
- Another starting cornerback is signed
- Trey Burton heads to Chicago
- Bobby Massie stays on the team
- A backup quarterback - presumably Chase Daniel - is brought in
- An placeholder edge rusher is signed in free agency
With those in mind, let’s take a look at how all seven rounds could shake up for the Bears.
Round 1: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Realistically, this pick likely is going to come down to Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson or Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Both players have very high ceilings, and either one of them would be a very good pick. In fact, I almost went with Edmunds here in this mock. However, I think that this pick narrows down to value, and quite frankly, if Nelson is on the board at No. 8, he would definitely be the best player available.
Not only that, but Nelson could be the best player in this draft, period. At 6’5” and 325 pounds, he is a mammoth of a man. He’s very strong, delivers a vicious punch and plays with a nasty edge. He’s not a lumbering big guy, though: he is quick. His technique is impressive, his frame is square and balanced when he blocks, he has quick feet and he’s able to advance to the second level very well.
The main issue that a lot of people have against picking Nelson at No. 8 is the fact that he’s a guard. To be fair, guard isn’t the sexiest or the most important position on the football field. But the NFL has seen a rise in über-athletic interior defensive linemen in recent years, and players like Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox and Geno Atkins are the type of players that teams make game plans around. Plus, when you’re in the same division as the likes of Linval Joseph, Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels, you need interior offensive linemen who can hold their own against those guys. Kyle Long isn’t going to be around forever, so Nelson could be the Bears’ long-term answer at guard.
Nelson was coached at Notre Dame by current Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. He has been on record saying that he loved working with Coach Hiestand and that he has given some thought into being coached by him again. The Bears need a new starting left guard after they chose not to bring back Josh Sitton, so the fit seems perfect.
If that’s not enough to sell you, here’s this bone-chilling quote that he gave during interviews at the Combine.
Those are the words of a man who was put on this planet Earth to demolish people and eat their souls. Those are the words of a man who would make a great Chicago Bear.
Round 2 (via Buffalo): Dorance Armstrong Jr., EDGE, Kansas
We have a trade!
The Bears have traded back in the second round two years in a row. While it’s no guarantee that they’ll do so again, it would definitely make sense for them to continue that trend this year.
Unless a prospect like Sam Hubbard or Christian Kirk is available, the value at No. 39 likely won’t be all that great. Assuming both players are off the board - and in this mock, they are - then the Bears might be better off trading down.
In this hypothetical trade back, the Bears find a willing partner in the Buffalo Bills, who decided to pass on picking a quarterback with both of their two first-round picks. Seeing that Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is still on the board (for what it’s worth, I would pick Jackson in the late first round, but the league might think otherwise), the Bills decide to jump a handful of teams who could target a quarterback in Round 2, like the Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and Washington Redskins.
In doing so, the Bears receive the earliest of Buffalo’s two second-round picks (No. 56) and their third-round pick (No. 96). The third-round pick is a very late one, which would make this trade even out for both sides. With this trade, they have the chance to still find some good value in Round 2 while recouping their missing third-rounder.
Kansas edge rusher Dorance Armstrong Jr. would be a rock solid addition alongside Leonard Floyd. He passes the eye test, standing in at 6’4” and weighing 257 pounds. He’s a well-rounded athlete who has good explosion off the snap and is able to turn the corner well. Armstrong has a good variety of moves in his pass-rushing arsenal, and he’s a high-motor player who puts in maximum effort on just about every play.
Armstrong looked promising in drills at the Combine, as well. He displayed a violent club, solid bend off the edge, smooth hips in coverage and good body control. Although his 4.87 40-yard dash wasn’t incredible, his 7.12 three-cone drill was fifth among edge rushers, and his 4.23 20-yard shuttle was the third-fastest at the position.
Adding Armstrong to an edge rusher group led by Leonard Floyd and a veteran free agent - preferrably someone like Trent Murphy - would be a step in the right direction for Chicago’s defense.
Round 3 (via Arizona): Dante Pettis, WR, Washington
We have a trade! Again.
The Bears were able to pick up a third-round pick in trading back with the Bills earlier on Day 2. However, that pick is the fifth-to-last pick in Round 3. Eager to add another high-quality weapon to their offense, Chicago trades up this time, swapping third-round picks with the Arizona Cardinals and giving them the highest of their two fourth-round picks. Lest we forget, the Cardinals gave the Bears their fourth-round pick last year to trade up and select Budda Baker in the second round.
So, Chicago trades up and adds another weapon to solidify their group of wide receivers. Washington’s Dante Pettis was unable to participate at the Combine due to an ankle injury, but he arguably would have increased his draft stock drastically had he been able to partake in drills.
Pettis isn’t the biggest wide receiver in the draft (6’1”, 192 pounds), but he doesn’t have to be. He specializes in his athleticism and gaining yards after the catch, which alone would make him a great fit with the Bears’ system. He’s one of the best route runners in this year’s class, and he’s a quick-twitch athlete who excels in space. Pettis is great at tracking down deep passes and making the necessary adjustments to make the grab. He’s surprisingly good at catching 50/50 balls for a smaller receiver, too.
The Bears already have Tarik Cohen manning the kick return and punt returns spots, but Pettis is a fantastic punt returner in his own right. In his four years with the Huskies, he had nine punt return touchdowns, and he averaged 20.4 yards per return this past year.
Pettis isn’t the most physical of receivers, but his athleticism and route-running savvy would make him a great addition to a Bears receiving group that would be pretty much complete at this point.
Round 4 (via Arizona): Kameron Kelly, CB, San Diego State
By now, it has been repeated numerous times that Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likes long defensive backs. Even though Fangio would have his two starting cornerbacks in place by the start of the draft in this scenario, the Bears could still afford to add some depth.
Kameron Kelly is long. He measured in at 6’2” and 200 pounds at the Combine, and he has long arms. He puts that frame to good use, as he’s physical at the point of attack and a receiver’s nightmare on deep balls. Kelly started his tenure at San Diego State as a wide receiver, so it’s no surprise that he is very good at tracking down deep balls. In the three full seasons that he played with the Aztecs, he had nine interceptions and 15 pass deflections. He also has fluid hips and is a solid tackler.
Kelly’s biggest issue is speed, which has some analysts projecting him as a safety at the next level. However, not having elite speed didn’t stop Richard Sherman from becoming one of the greatest cornerbacks of the 2010’s. Obviously, it would be foolish of me to expect that a rookie would do as well as Sherman, but, like the Seattle Seahawks star, Kelly has the length, physicality and ball skills to do well as a boundary corner.
Round 5: Tegray Scales, ILB, Indiana
Since the Bears passed on Tremaine Edmunds and Roquan Smith in this scenario, odds are they would not pick an inside linebacker until Day 3 of the draft, if at all. Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski form a solid starting duo, and Christian Jones is a reliable backup who can step in and start as the JACK backer if needed. Jones is a free agent, though, so Chicago will need to find a backup if he leaves.
Tegray Scales was the heart and soul of Indiana’s defense this season. He’s slightly undersized at 6’0” and 230 pounds, but he’s a well-rounded player. Scales is a solid athlete who has fluid hips in coverage. He’s a consistent tackler who executes his assignments well, and he offers versatility as a blitzer: he had 13 sacks in his last two seasons with the Hoosiers.
Scales doesn’t have an incredibly high ceiling, but he’s a talented player who would serve as a valuable backup in Chicago’s linebacker group.
Round 6: Justin Jones, DL, North Carolina State
Akiem Hicks is the best player on the Bears right now. Eddie Goldman is a very good nose tackle when healthy. Outside of them, though,
Justin Jones was surrounded by future NFL players Bradley Chubb, Kentavius Street and B.J. Hill, but he still managed to carve out a successful role in North Carolina State’s defense. He’s a powerful tackle who has very good speed for a 6’2”, 312-pound man. He ran a 5.09 40-yard dash with a 1.76 10-yard split, which is quite impressive for a big guy.
Jones is a very good run defender who is very good at eating up holes in the run game. He’s reliable when it comes to stuffing running back at the line of scrimmage and bringing them down. He isn’t a stellar pass rusher, but his 8.5 sacks in three seasons is a solid total for an interior defensive lineman.
Of course, Jones doesn’t come without his flaws. He isn’t great at changing direction, his hand usage can still improve, and his first-step acceleration is inconsistent. Plus, his lack of length would likely restrict him to just the nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. However, he’s a very good run defender who has the raw athleticism to develop into a solid rotational lineman in the NFL.
Round 7: Ryan Nall, RB, Oregon State
In this scenario, the Bears can really afford to go with the best player available, regardless of need. Certainly, running back would not be considered a need. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen form one of the best backfield tandems in the NFL. If Benny Cunningham leaves in free agency, though, then they may be in the market for a powerful back who could take the bulk of the carries if Howard were to go down with an injury.
Oregon State’s Ryan Nall reminds me a lot of Madden NFL 12 cover athlete Peyton Hillis. He’s a bigger, H-back type of player who is very athletic for his size and has some value as a receiver. He has a very strong frame and is tough to tackle. Nall specializes in downhill running, but he isn’t too shabby outside of the tackles, either. When you pull up the athletic measurements of both Hillis and Nall, that comparison soldifies itself.
Peyton Hillis’ Combine/Pro Day numbers (2010)
- 6’1”, 240 pounds
- 4.57 40-yard dash
- 7.15 three-cone drill
- 35-inch vertical jump
Ryan Nall’s Combine numbers (2018)
- 6’2”, 232 pounds
- 4.58 40-yard dash
- 6.95 three-cone drill
- 33-inch vertical jump
Nall is a true Swiss Army knife who can be placed at a lot of different positions in the NFL. He can be a short-distance running back, an H-back or a traditional fullback. Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich would enjoy having someone like him to plug into a lot of situations.