This is the third installment looking at the NFL Draft through the lens of college conferences. Although not intended as a realistic exercise, the goal is to explore some of the candidates available in the draft and to highlight their potential in a different, fun manner. The rules are simple—each draft focuses on a single conference, and no trades are allowed. I aim to put together the best possible draft class for the 2018 Bears using Fanspeak’s default boards, team needs, and difficulty settings.
Previously, I looked at drafting only players outside of the P5 (here) and then at Chicago’s “home” conference, the Big Ten (here). This time, I’m turning my attention back to the ACC, the conference that gave the Bears what will hopefully turn out to be their first true franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman.
This was the first draft that I consistently felt like I was reaching. In fact, the overwhelming majority of these players were taken ahead of when they should have been. This is not because the ACC lacks quality players, however. Instead, it’s because they tended to get drafted in clumps, with each of those clumps being exhausted before the Bears’ next pick came around. Here is the full draft for those interested [Link].
#8 Tremaine Edmunds, LB (Virginia Tech)
Despite all of the positive reviews, I am still not sold on Edmunds. Basically, this pick is a gamble based on athletic potential. In a lot of ways, I would have been more comfortable picking up Harold Landry (see below). However, Edmunds is a physical marvel, and he’s young enough to have a long career ahead of him. Perhaps more importantly, Edmunds has the potential to grow with the game. As the NFL settles into a league with fewer and fewer “front-7” looks because 5 defensive backs take the field more often than not, versatility becomes increasingly important for linebackers. I really think Edmunds has that versatility, and so I’m hoping that he can become a linebacker of the future for the Bears.
I just missed: Derwin James (S, Florida State). I had already decided that I wasn’t going to go after James. James is an excellent player, and he is almost certain to be an excellent NFL safety. However, the safety position seems strangely under control in Chicago these days, and so it’s tough to justify spending a top ten pick to replace a functional starter or a rookie coming off of a promising campaign. Still, it was interesting to me that he went to Tampa Bay in this draft.
I almost can’t believe I skipped over: Harold Landry (Edge, Boston College). At the start of the year, Landry was one of the college players I was most looking forward to seeing develop into a true star. Instead, he struggled. The reality is that I still really like him as a player, but I have concerns that he has reached the height of his development. The same fears are not there for the younger (if clearly raw) Edmunds.
#39 Brian O’Neill (OT, Pittsburgh)
O’Neill is probably an over-draft here, but that would be true of virtually anyone I could take. He’s the highest player left on my Confidence Board besides Jessie Bates III and a pair of defensive lineman (Settles and Nnadi). I’m not a believer in Bates just yet, and I feel like there’s a better chance of picking of help on the defensive line later on. More importantly than any of those considerations, though, is the fact that O’Neill’s athleticism is clear. He has a fantastic frame (6’7” and arms over 34”) and good agility. The real knocks against him deal with his lack of technique and his need for good coaching to be an impact player at the next level...that seems tailor-made for the 2018 Bears, even it it means I’m drafting two projects in a row.
I skipped: Josh Sweat (Edge, Florida State). Sweat has great measurables, and in this simulated draft he went to the Packers, which makes it seem like I’m tempting fate by skipping him. However, I worry about players whose best accomplishments come in shorts and a t-shirt. There is little sign that these tests mean anything, and I think that the initial reads on Sweat are probably the ones that matter. Even my most recent confidence board has Sweat as #86 (Settle is #65), and that’s up from #123 in the second edition. He has an injury history that is troubling (knee problems that sidelined him both in high school and in college), and a few gurus have questioned his motor.
#105 Tim Settle, LD (Virginia Tech)
Settle would probably have been a reach at #39, but I am comfortable with him at #105. It’s a little weird picking up two players from the same side of the ball and from the same college for my first two defensive picks, but with Clemson’s best defensive talent staying in the college for another year, I cannot afford to have any strange hangups. Ultimately, Settle is a promising player. I think Lance Zierlein is probably overstating things when he compares Settle to perennial Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork, but I think his size, strength, and agility could do well in the NFL.
I reluctantly passed on: #105 Wyatt Teller (G, Virginia Tech). Seriously, I swear that I looked at other teams! Teller is interesting here for three reasons. First, he’s a powerhouse, with 30 reps at the combine and a 460-lb bench press. He’s got a degree of strength that is rarely found even among professional athletes, and that should help him get ready for the NFL. Second, there are not a lot of other choices at this part when it comes to ACC players (Settle being an obvious exception). This mock really felt the loss of the third-rounder. More than half of the ACC prospects I identified were off the board by this point. Finally, his struggles in 2017 are a mystery, but it might be connected to coaching. That means that if Hiestand could turn him around, he’d be a steal. That seems like an okay gamble. I passed on him, though, because after taking O’Neill in the second round this seemed redundant.
I waited on: Duke Ejiofor (Edge, Wake Forest). I like Ejiofor a lot as a prospect. However, in every simulation I ran heading up to this draft, I never saw him go before the fourth round was over. The same was not true of Settle. I therefore took the chance that Ejiofor would be there later on. I lucked out and was right.
#115 Duke Ejiofor, Edge (Wake Forest)
I do not think that Ejiofor is going to set the NFL on fire. Instead, he reminds me of a pair of another mid-round Bears player, Nick Kwiatkoski. Kwit is not an exceptional athlete, but he is able to do his job and has a good demeanor to him. Likewise, Ejiofor does not have the athletic gifts he needs to become a pass-rushing terror. What I think he can be, however, is a steady presence bringing power and determination opposite of the faster, leaner Leonard Floyd.
I skipped: Tarvarus McFadden, CB (Florida State). So, anyone who has read enough of these mock drafts is probably familiar with--or tired of--my refrain that I want physicality in an NFL defensive back. I understand that the game is moving more to finesse plays, but I prefer DBs who are able and willing to play aggressively against receivers. I was afraid I was not being fair to McFadden because of the limited amount of video I watched of his. Here’s what his NFL.com profile had to say: “Needs more toughness as tackler. Turns down hitting opportunities and allows running backs to run through his arm tackles.” That matches my impressions, and it was reason enough for me to pass on him.
I left off: RJ McIntosh (DT, Miami). McIntosh seems redundant after taking Settle, and nearly 20 spots separate them on my Confidence Board. McIntosh might have potential, but he’s lacking in strength and aggression.
#145 Isaac Yiadom (CB, Boston College)
This is my most questionable pick, in my mind. Yiadom is not on my Confidence Board at all, and he has really only been mentioned very recently. If I had a hundred mock drafts with the same criteria as this one, I’d probably only take Yiadom about a quarter of the time. Unfortunately, there is no standout candidate here. There’s a scattering of “maybe this guy is good” options. Yiadom has gone from being unmentioned to a possible third-round pick. I have watched a little video, and what I see is okay. He’s also go an okay frame and no obvious problems. Still, it was at about this point that I really felt how much of this conference-specific draft was about reaching for guys instead of letting the board come to me.
I skipped: Ray Ray McCloud. I knew from prior simulations that if I waited on McCloud, he’d be gone by the time #181 rolled around. I just could not bring myself to draft him, and that’s largely because I do not know what he offers that would not be available in the form of another fringe wide receiver in the sixth round, anyway.
#181 Braxton Berrios (WR, Miami)
Berrios is a developmental slot receiver with special teams potential. He’s on the smaller side, but he has the potential to be a decent weapon in an offensive scheme like what the Chiefs ran last season. Still, besides Draft Tek’s willingness to rank him as the 6th overall receiver prospect, there’s not a lot to make him stand out.
I also considered: Ryan Izzo (TE, Florida State). Despite being much higher on the Confidence Board than Berrios, and being in general a stronger player, Izzo would be yet another developmental prospect at tight end.
#224 Justin Jones (DL, NC State)
I have to admit to being disproportionately influenced by the Senior Bowl and the training drills on this pick, because Jones made an impression. He was astonishingly effective, and some vague part of me hopes that he manages to maintain the aggression and focus he showed there. However, there are reasons Jones was available in the 7th round.
I vaguely considered: Bentley Spain (OT, North Carolina). This is simply because he played with Mitchell Trubisky, and I really don’t know how much value that would possibly have. However, had Jones not been available, I probably would have needed to scramble for someone, and Spain was on my short list.
So, the ACC has talent, but after #8, it lines up poorly with where the Bears are picking. As an educator, I love the thought that the players from Clemson are staying in school a bit longer. However, as someone trying to find the best talent coming out of the ACC, those young men were sorely missed. Next up will be the PAC-12.