The NFL Draft is truly one of the most unpredictable sporting events of the year.
Numerous trades often shake up the first round. Quarterbacks get selected way earlier than people expect. Teams make shocking selections that nobody sees coming. Last-minute scandals cause would-be first-round picks to drop drastically. As many mock drafts as there are out on the Internet, there really is no way to know what’s going to happen in the NFL Draft.
These outrageous events often cause talented players to stay on the board longer than many expect. In recent years, players like Landon Collins, Eddie Goldman, Dalvin Cook, and Myles Jack have all fallen out of Round 1, despite having been hyped up as first-round-caliber players. Considering how crazy the draft is, there are bound to be a few of those types of players this year.
Could the Chicago Bears end up with any of those players? Here are five prospects who are considered by many to be first-round talents that would be great selections if they were to fall in Round 2.
Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Ohio State
As has been repeated several times in this process leading up to the draft, the Bears need to improve at the edge rusher position. Unfortunately for them, the best value in this year’s class at the position comes in the back half of Round 1. Outside of Bradley Chubb, there aren’t any blue-chip prospects off the edge.
Once the top 10 picks wrap up, though, there’s a lot of solid value to be had. Harold Landry and Marcus Davenport could both go off the board within the first 20 picks. Lorenzo Carter could sneak into the first round, and Arden Key’s stock is an unknown at this point.
Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard is another intriguing EDGE prospect who could end up going off the board near the end of Day 1. He’s not an incredibly explosive edge rusher, as made evident by his 4.88 40-yard dash. However, he’s a well-rounded prospect who does a bit of everything. At 6’5” and 265 pounds, he has a lengthy and muscular frame that is ready for the NFL. He’s a very good technician who has a bevy of pass-rushing moves in his arsenal. Hubbard can also re-direct blocks in the run game and plug up holes quite well. Despite his rather pedestrian 40 time, he is very good at changing direction and getting under offensive tackles. In fact, he had the fastest time at the NFL Combine among defensive linemen in both the three-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle.
Hubbard’s production, while not stellar, is solid: 17 sacks and 30 tackles for a loss in his three seasons at Ohio State. He had his best season from a statistics standpoint this past year, notching 13.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks, both highs for his collegiate career. Considering the fact that he had to split time on the defensive line with 2018 prospects Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes, as well as potential 2019 first-rounders Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones, getting those numbers is no easy feat.
It’s very likely that Hubbard could end up going off the board in Round 1, and rightfully so. However, if he were to fall into Chicago’s lap with the No. 39 overall pick, then the Bears would have the chance to get an instant contributor off the edge.
Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
When the Bears opted to not bring back Josh Sitton, they were able to create a lot of cap space, but they also left a gaping hole at left guard that had no real replacement in place on the roster. That hole still remains, as Chicago decided to spend their money elsewhere in free agency. Assuming Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame is off the board before the eighth pick, the Bears will have to do some hard looking to find a new starter. If he falls into Round 2, then Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn would be a fantastic addition.
Wynn played left tackle last season for the Bulldogs, but he has more experience playing at guard, where he will likely play in the pros. He’s fundamentally sound, is good at countering the hand techniques of defensive linemen, and keeps a squared, balanced frame while blocking. He’s a solid athlete with good footwork who takes good angles to his defenders on pull blocks. He figures to be a good fit for a zone-blocking scheme in the NFL, which is what the Bears will run in 2018. Wynn blocks to the whistle and has a nasty mean streak in him.
Wynn’s only big issue is that he doesn’t have very good size: he’s just under 6’3” and weighs 313 pounds. He would benefit from bulking up a little bit to withstand the powerful defensive tackles that the NFL has to offer. However, once you overlook issues about his size, he’s a well-rounded guard with potential to be a very good starter. If he’s available in Round 2 for the Bears, then he would indubitably be a slam-dunk pick.
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
The Bears re-signed both Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, but the latter may not be the team’s long-term starting cornerback. If the team becomes unsatisfied with Amukamara starting in the long run, then they may target a cornerback early on in the draft. Isaiah Oliver out of Colorado would be a perfect fit.
Oliver probably won’t be placed in a position that requires him to contribute right away, as he’s still fairly raw. He needs to work on staying low in coverage, as opposed to standing up tall, which makes it tougher for him to change direction. He also can tend to allow a bit too separation in off-man coverage, which would limit him to a predominantly press-man role in the pros. And while he’s a reliable tackler, he’s not necessarily a form tackler, and he bites at the ankles too often. When it comes to upside, though, Oliver may just have the most in this year’s cornerback class.
Oliver has the prototypical size for the modern cornerback at 6’1” and 190 pounds, and is equipped with 33.5-inch long arms. He’s a fantastic athlete for his size, as he has great straight-line speed and has shown flashes of hip fluidity when he stays low. He’s physical at the point of attack, excels at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and is good at “boxing out” his opposition on jump balls. Oliver is aggressive, but not overly aggressive to the point that he gets called for penalties. He has very good ball skills and is able to track down deep passes with ease. He only played in 10 games in 2017, but he finished up with two interceptions and 12 deflected passes.
Rumors have surfaced that the Bears may actually be interested in trading down in the first round to pick Oliver, which would be more realistic than him falling to the No. 39 overall pick. However, this year’s cornerback class has a handful of players who could end up in Round 1, and he could potentially end up getting picked lower than he deserves to.
Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama
As has been the case for the past few months now, Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds appears to be the favorite to become the Bears’ first-round draft pick. If they pick someone else or trade out of the No. 8 pick, then the odds that they would pick an inside linebacker early would be very slim. However, it would be smart of them to consider it if someone like Rashaan Evans from Alabama.
Evans is 6’3” and weighs 234 pounds, so he may need to gain a bit more weight in the pros. His relatively light weight should not be mistaken for a lack of power or grit, though. He is an athletic linebacker who has the speed to chase down runners in space and the hip fluidity to drop back in coverage. He takes good angles to the ball and can execute his assignments well. Evans may also be the best blitzing linebacker in this year’s class: he has an impressive array of pass-rushing hand techniques and has good bend when blitzing off the edge. When he comes up the A or B gap at full speed, it’s very tough for offensive linemen to catch up to him.
Evans doesn’t have a ton of experience, and he occasionally has a flaw in his decision making. That said, he may not be able to start right away. If he’s available in the second round for the Bears, he would be worth a look as a potential impact player down the line.
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
With Cameron Meredith having left for the New Orleans Saints, the wide receiver position has become a need yet again for the Bears. Although picking one in the first round is still as mind-boggling as it was before free agency started, adding a weapon for Mitchell Trubisky in Round 2 is no longer out of the question. Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk could be that weapon.
Kirk is a very good fit for Matt Nagy’s offensive system. He’s an explosive athlete who runs fluid routes, excels at creating separation and is dangerous after the catch. He has a sturdy, 5’10” and 200-pound frame and is good at absorbing hits. Kirk has reliable hands and has a competitive nature about him. He also has value on special teams, as he returned six punts and one kickoff for touchdowns in his three years with the Aggies. His production was consistent and reliable in college, as he had at least 70 receptions, 915 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in all of his seasons.
Kirk isn’t a big-bodied, physical pass catcher whom you can expect to go up and snag jump balls with ease. In Chicago, though, with Allen Robinson on the roster, he wouldn’t need to be. He would be a fantastic slot receiver who would be the final piece to the Bears’ offensive weapon puzzle.