To get a king’s ransom in the NFL Draft, a team needs a treasure to hold over suitors. No one is going to trade up for merely solid to good players. If someone makes a move, they’re doing it to acquire either a generational player (rare) or franchise quarterback. The current Bears, who moved up one slot to secure Mitchell Trubisky in the 2017 NFL Draft, understand this. The Chiefs and Texans, who both moved up into the top-12 of the same draft class for Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, respectively, also can nod their heads in agreement. An opportunity to draft a legitimate quarterback of the future does not come lightly.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, where the hype of quarterbacks such as Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson reign supreme, it’s possible the same madness of trades happens again. Fortunately for the Bears, who have Trubisky in place, this time they’re in prime position to take advantage of a team that wants a signal caller.
The best quarterback to be aggressive for in this class is Rosen. Based off of recent reports of “character concerns” (because some NFL teams think being a “millennial” is a bad thing even though that describes this entire draft), Rosen could experience an Aaron Rodgers in 2005 type fall. Instead of going in the top five, there’s a growing buzz he might pop out of the top-10.
Enter the Patriots, who are reportedly enamored with Rosen (though, you can take anything Bill Belichick reveals publicly of plans with a grain of salt), and you have a dancing partner for the Bears to trade down from a less than ideal spot at No. 8 overall. In this Rosen slide, Chicago gets a haul of draft resources they need to finish their roster, while New England begins developing a young quarterback for their next two decade run of dominance.
A win-win trade for both sides on paper:
Bears get: No. 23, No. 31, No. 95
Patriots get: No. 8, No. 181
According to the nuanced draft chart from Pats Pulpit that accounts for the value of prospects and trades on a year-to-year basis, the Bears give up 411.74 points in this trade. While the Patriots’ picks are valued at 475.33 points. In what is admittedly an inexact science, that seems lopsided in Chicago’s favor. Seeing as how the Bears hold the cards of the quarterback selection that New England wants, it closes the gap.
With these picks in place, let’s address the Bears’ needs in the trenches on both sides of the ball and go out and get youthful playmakers a little over a week out from the real show.
First round, No. 23 overall (From New England): Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
Having three picks in the top 40 gives the Bears flexibility as to what each slot is used for. Taking Wynn at first crack is an acknowledgement of his ability and the fact that he’s likely off the board by No. 31 overall. Thankfully, he’s the top guard in this class not named Quenton Nelson and fits in seamlessly into Chicago’s offense.
A starter at left tackle (and occasionally the right) in 2017, Wynn was the catalyst that paved the way for top runners in Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, He served as the blindside protector for SEC Freshman of the Year quarterback Jake Fromm. Before this year, he moonlighted at left guard, and even started a game at tight end in his freshman year in 2015.
The terrific athlete is being projected back inside due to his height at 6-foot-3 and small hand size at 8.5 inches. That shouldn’t diminish the impact Wynn can have in the NFL, because his undersized frame fits in a zone blocking offense like a glove. He excels when pulling (as exemplified above) and executing reach blocks. He’s rarely off balance and establishes quick foundations in every movement he makes. To boot, he finishes his blocks with an edge.
Take into account Wynn’s experience at tackle in a pressing situation, and you have the makings of a Day 1 starter that bolsters the Bears’ depth chart. Plug him in next to Cody Whitehair on the left side and watch the young duo get to work.
First round, No. 31 overall (from New England): Lorenzo Carter, Edge, Georgia
I’m sure it’s been pointed out endlessly, but the 2017 Georgia team was loaded with NFL players. No shame in the Bears taking advantage of what the Bulldogs had in store.
The irony is that with the Bears already having Leonard Floyd on their roster, they select the next “Floyd” in Carter to entrench a starting outside linebacker duo from Georgia. The former teammates, who have similar play styles, reunite in Chicago with the goal of making the Bears defense elite.
Like Floyd coming out, Carter was used everywhere in college. He dropped back into coverage with success. He played the run efficiently and with toughness when setting the edge. And he rushed the passer to change games.
Unlike Floyd coming out, Carter is much less developed. While he’s a dynamic athlete, and has the size to play on the edge at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, he has almost no refined pass rush moves. There’s no conversion from speed to power and vice versa. Plus, he rarely makes a play on his own with solo tackles and has a thin frame despite his weight.
That’s in contrast from Floyd, who while playing at below 230 pounds in his final amateur season, did most of everything with physicality and explosion.
Selecting Carter in the first round means he probably starts Day 1. Whether he’s ready to start Day 1 is a different story, because he might not be. That’s a question Chicago should be prepared to find out and fine tune him by putting Carter’s feet to the fire. They need promising young edge players and he’s an answer.
Second round, No. 39 overall: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
In three starting years for the Aggies, Kirk put up 2,856 receiving yards, 234 receptions, and 26 touchdowns. He did this against SEC competition: the best of the best in the college world. From the get-go, he was an impact playmaker, and I expect no different in the NFL.
Where Kirk shines is yards after the catch. Texas A&M would often make sure to get the ball into his hands as quickly as possible and let him do the work on his own. More often than not, he’d turn in huge gains or busted touchdowns down field. Because of his sturdy frame at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Kirk withstood the punishment. Because of a tremendous tenacity, he broke tackles at will.
In terms of a pure receiver, Kirk understands leverage in and out of his breaks. He has soft hands and can beat any coverage: especially press man where his quickness factors in. He was one of college football’s star playmakers for a reason.
With Cameron Meredith gone to New Orleans, Kirk is a solid substitute that complements the acrobatics and jump ball ability of Allen Robinson. His speed and knack for yards after the catch gives the Bears a dimension they’ll constantly utilize under Matt Nagy.
Third round, No. 95 overall: Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
Only Alabama’s Calvin Ridley can match Gallup in pure route running ability in this class. What Gallup can do that Ridley can’t is that he’s a better and more well-rounded player. For a Bears team building the foundation of an offense, he’s well-suited to contribute right away. There’s only one ball, but you find a way to get playmakers the ball.
In two years as a starter at Colorado State, Gallup routinely showed patience to be a safety valve for his quarterback. You don’t catch 176 passes without doing something right. He innately understood coverages and what defenses would do to take him away. There’s a meticulous attention to everything Gallup does on the field. His efforts in gaining separation or breaking tackles look simultaneously strenuous and effortless from the outside looking in. It’s as if Gallup has mastered the art of playing wide out through preparation.
Gallup is a quarterback’s best friend. A fantasy dream.
The Bears’ receiving corps is getting crowded. It doesn’t hurt to have insurance policies and young pieces in place to play, contribute, and potentially eventually take over, though. Surround your quarterback with weapons such as Gallup and make him feel safe.
Fourth round, No. 105 overall: Duke Ejiofor, Edge, Wake Forest
In what is inherently a weak defensive edge class, labrum surgery for a baller like Ejiofor serves the Bears’ wants just as they ordered.
Ejiofor went under the knife in early February to repair a torn labrum. That took him out of pre-draft activities like the Scouting Combine and any Pro Day. Without testing and only game tape to rely on, the bruiser couldn’t expect any less than his stock to fall.
From one perspective, that’s unfortunate considering how much the former Demon Deacon tore apart the ACC in the last two years with 93 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, and 17.5 sacks. This is a refined pass rusher that uses his hands with violence, has a variety of combinations, and is disciplined to hold up against the run in penetration.
Ejiofor recalls of former Bears defensive end Alex Brown when watching him: unspectacular but just good. He can shine on any defense because he knows his strengths and doesn’t venture outside of them.
From the other vantage point, Ejiofor is in prime position to be an injured player with fantastic value on late Day 2 or early Day 3. Similar to what the Bears received in Eddie Jackson falling to the fourth round in 2017. There’s no shame in a double dip on the edge for Chicago. Taking Ejiofor to either be the starter or swing pass rusher gives Chicago depth at their most important defensive position.
Fourth round, No. 115 overall: Dane Cruikshank, CB, Arizona
Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio prefers cornerbacks with length. He likes them to have a necessary edge in their tackling ability as willing defenders in run support. They need to bully receivers and take away throwing lanes with their gifted builds while also being intelligent to recover when pressed.
These traits describe the sleeper in Cruikshank, a starting standout for Arizona the last two years. He’s a 6-foot-1, 209 pounder that uses his frame to lock away receivers on his personal islands. He’s a maniac when unleashed upon runners coming to the outside and receivers running screens alike: never turning down a chance at laying down wood.
A 4.41 40-yard dash speed and a 6.89 three-cone drill output that shows up on tape exemplify that Cruikshank has the suddenness to stick with opposition in the slot. The Combine never disappoints. Throw in his direction and there’s opportunity for him to turn the ball back over too. All in all, a versatile player with potential for stardom.
Taking Cruikshank this far into the draft for the Bears would mean focusing on his development. Some have projected him as a safety, while others are keeping him as a multi-faceted corner. With Prince Amukamara in the fold, there’s time to find a place for him on Chicago’s roster.
Fifth round, No. 145 overall: Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T
An underwhelming tackle class means it would be a mistake for the Bears to take a long term book end early on in the draft. A developmental guy that can start in 2019 should be the aim. Let’s ask Tarik Cohen what he thinks of his former college friend, Brandon Parker.
Throughout this entire evaluative process, Parker has been underrated but touted for his upside. At 6-foot-7 and 314 pounds, he has the prototypical body NFL teams look for in their starting tackles. That means he can (terrifyingly) mature even more into his frame.
What Parker brings to the table as an offensive lineman is patience and experience. The four-year starter uses his hands to disrupt rushers, but only when they break his bubble. He understands how to get out into space and work combination blocks to the second level. When beaten, Parker’s length often saves him, which isn’t to say that it’s a crutch, but more of an asset in recovery. The low level of competition from the now evidenced NFL factory North Carolina A&T doesn’t matter.
Is Parker going to have to fix his footwork? Yes.
Does his kick step in pass protection need an overhaul? Absolutely yes.
The Bears take Parker late, knowing he’s not ready to be their right tackle. They select him knowing that offensive line coach Harry Hiestand can mold the malleable big man into a force, much like he has so many times with players around the league. By next season, he’s the starter opposite Charles Leno Jr., and Chicago has a wall of protection for Mitchell Trubisky.
Seventh round, No. 224 overall: Christian Campbell, CB, Penn State
Right now, the Bears’ cornerback depth chart on the outside is Kyle Fuller, Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, and Jonathon Mincy. After Fuller, who is on a new four-year deal, the prospects for what Chicago’s secondary looks like isn’t pretty. Taking care of this position means the double dip with Cruikshank and Campbell.
Similarly to the Arizona product, Campbell is a long cornerback that uses his body to take away offensive options. His change of direction allows him to recover on quick passing routes and has him portrayed as a multi-versed corner.
What Campbell lacks in comparison to Cruikshank is fluidity and aggression. The two-year starter at Penn State isn’t someone likened to stick with technical geniuses at receiver. If tested in run support, he shies away from tackling instead of being antsy to get in on the action. There’s a reason he’s a late round developmental prospect instead of a sleeper.
At any rate, the Bears need more secondary talent waiting on the back burner and Campbell is perfect for that. Put him in the pipeline, let him commit to improving, and see what you have a couple years down the line.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.