Despite ending their four-game losing streak on Sunday, the Bears still face very steep odds to make the playoffs this year.
What was thought to be their shot at capitalizing on their Super Bowl window has turned into an existential crisis questioning the intricate blueprint the front office laid out for their long-term plans. The season obviously isn’t over yet, but the chances the Bears even appear in the postseason, let alone make noise in it, are slim.
So, mock drafts.
With the Bears’ decision to waive running back Mike Davis, the team is projected to receive a fourth-round compensatory pick for Adrian Amos leaving over the offseason. The move was a necessary one, especially since Chicago wouldn’t otherwise pick until the fifth round after their two second-round selections.
There are a lot of different avenues the team could go down in the draft this year, but for this exercise, we will say that the Bears will punt on drafting a quarterback in the second round in this mock. Instead, let’s assume they take the approach of signing a veteran to compete with Trubisky, refuse to pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option, let him walk next offseason and draft someone in the first round of the 2021 draft. I will mock a quarterback to the Bears early in at least one of my mocks, though; don’t worry.
With this approach in mind, let’s take a stab and what Chicago might do in the draft in April.
Round 2: Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
Trey Burton’s contract indicates the Bears can’t get rid of him until 2021, but that doesn’t mean the team shouldn’t look to upgrade the tight end position this offseason.
I covered Brycen Hopkins more extensively in my recent article covering tight ends in the 2020 draft, so I won’t repeat myself too much. Here’s a short excerpt from what I wrote about him:
Hopkins is essentially a perfect fit in what the Bears’ offense requires from a tight end. He fits that ‘U’ tight end role that Matt Nagy has utilized Burton and Travis Kelce in in the past. He is a very fluid athlete for the position, as he can change direction incredibly well and flip his hips better than most tight ends. His route running is impressive for a 6-foot-5, 245-pound man, as he has shown that he can sink his hips into his cuts like a receiver and play with quick footwork.
Hopkins’ athleticism, ball skills and route running ability has him ranked as the top tight end on my board. I mentioned this comparison in the aforementioned article, but when I watch his tape, I see a lot of similarities to Zach Ertz coming out of Stanford. Though it would be tough for Hopkins to reach the heights that Ertz has, I can see the Purdue weapon playing a high-volume, pass-catching role for an NFL team at the next level.
Though he isn’t a stellar blocker, Hopkins’ receiving talent could make him a solid contributor from the get-go with the potential to take over the starting tight end position, especially if the Bears choose to cut Burton after the 2020 season, thus saving over $7 million. He would be a welcome addition to an offense that has been severely lacking production from the tight end position this year.
Round 2 (via Raiders): Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
The Bears would save $9 million by cutting Prince Amukamara this offseason. Even if they choose to keep the reliable veteran around, he’s still a free agent after 2020, and they desperately lack a long-term replacement for him.
Had it not been for a season-ending ankle injury, Bryce Hall could have been a legitimate first-round pick. Though it remains unseen how much his injury will affect his draft stock, there remains a strong chance he could be available at this point in the draft. A three-year full-time starter with half of a season as a starter in 2016, Hall was a lockdown cornerback for Virginia throughout the entirety of his collegiate career.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Hall has a lengthy frame with long arms and the measurables to match up with some of the league’s bigger wide receivers. He plays with a high motor in physical catch situations and isn’t afraid to fight hard to make a play on the ball. Though he’s a big and physical cornerback, what’s even more eye-opening about Hall’s game are his intelligence and fluidity as an athlete. He can change direction quickly, flipping his hips fluidly and showing good acceleration coming out of his breaks. He has the intelligence to know when to jump routes, and he is a calculated defender with great route anticipation who can mirror his receivers step-for-step.
The quickness at which Hall recovers from his injury is unknown, so depending on if he participates at the Combine or his Pro Day, there could be risk attached to this pick. He also didn’t as much press-man coverage at Virginia as one would expect someone of his size to do, so his hand usage and ability to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage are raw. He is also guilty of being too late to turn his head towards the ball and tackling at the legs.
If Amukamara were to be sent packing, then cornerback would instantly turn into one of the Bears’ biggest needs. Even if he were to stay, though, taking a player with Pro Bowl potential at a premier position like Hall could be too good of a value to pass up.
Round 4 (projected compensatory pick): Hakeem Adeniji, OT, Kansas
The Bears would be wise to draft an offensive lineman or two this offseason, so taking a shot on Day 3 on a potential starter down the line could be a possibility for them.
I was considering mocking a guard here, which would make sense, considering Kyle Long’s career is almost at its end. However, this year’s draft possesses a deep group of offensive tackles, and the Bears can afford to roll with the young, cheap duo of Rashaad Coward and Alex Bars at the right guard spot for now. With Bobby Massie not playing very well this year, it might make sense to draft an eventual replacement for if the team makes the cost-cutting move to release him after the 2020 season.
Hakeem Adeniji is a four-year starter at Kansas who has experience primarily at left tackle, but has also started at right tackle and left guard. He is a natural athlete who can move fluidly in space, accelerate quickly to the second level and explode out of his stance in pass protection. He is good at sinking his hips at the point of attack and maintaining low pad level, and he takes good recovery angles in pass protection, adjusting his hips well to knock edge rushers off their arc. His hand placement has shown flashes of potential, as well.
At only 290 pounds, Adeniji is a bit undersized for his 6-foot-4 frame, and that lack of bulk for the position is apparent on tape. He doesn’t pack a powerful punch upon contact and has rather mediocre grip strength. His drive in his lower body could be improved, as he can struggle against explosive edge rusher who convert speed to power well at times.
He’ll need to sit for a year and get in the weight room, but Adeniji has the athleticism and the resumé to be a draft pick early on Day 3. The Bears could mold him into a potential starter down the line.
Round 5: Troy Dye, ILB, Oregon
Chicago faces an interesting situation at inside linebacker. Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski are both free agents after this season, and Joel Iyiegbuniwe hasn’t shown that he’s capable of taking on a bigger defensive role. That makes linebacker an under-the-radar need for them, and one that should be addressed through the draft.
If you’re looking for physical upside, then Troy Dye is your man. Standing in at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, the Oregon linebacker has fantastic length and long arms that give him value in coverage. He is a great straight-line athlete who tackles with good closing speed and has notable range as a tackler. He consistently takes good angles to the ball-carriers and has the athleticism and length to consistently position himself to make the tackle. His collegiate production has been stellar, too: the four-year starter has topped 90 tackles in three of his four seasons and has 38.5 career tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks as of this writing.
Dye is a lanky linebacker, and has lankiness is apparent in his style of play. He doesn’t have great play strength, as he struggles with taking on blocks and doesn’t offer much power in his frame. His instincts need some improvement, as he shoots up the wrong gap at times and can make the wrong read every once in a while. His production has also dropped off a bit in 2019, as he only has 42 tackles through eight games and would need a miracle to prevent this year from being his career-low in that statistic.
The Bears have a lot of different ways they could attack the inside linebacker position, and this pick could be all for naught if they choose to re-sign both Kwiatkoski and Trevathan this offseason. As it stands, though, at least one of them will be gone next year, so a high-ceiling pick like Dye this late could be a smart move.
Round 5 (via Raiders): Reggie Floyd, S, Virginia Tech
With both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Deon Bush slated to hit the open market this offseason, the Bears will have to add some form of new talent at strong safety, even if they can somehow afford to bring Clinton-Dix back.
A thickly-built safety prospect, Reggie Floyd is an aggressive strong safety who plays with intelligence and tenacity. He carries a compact and muscular 6-foot, 222-pound frame and has the play strength to consistently bring down runners and engage with blockers. He does a great job of squaring up to ball-carriers, tackling with form and playing with good pad level. Floyd is also a quick processor who can sniff out screens and flats very well, as well as timing when he jumps routes. He is also known for having a lunch pail mentality and is a vocal leader on and off the field.
Though Floyd shows off very good closing speed as a tackler and when jumping routes, his lateral agility is suspect. He doesn’t have great range in single-high or two-high situations and has average deep speed, at best. He can stand to improve his hip fluidity and work on his acceleration coming out of his breaks. His aggressiveness can also be a curse at times, as he occasionally overshoots his angles and runs too hard downhill.
With the talent the Bears have up front and the likes of Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson in the secondary, they can afford to go with a cheaper option at safety if they want. At the worst, Floyd can be a special teams star with value in big nickel packages. If all goes well, he could potentially be a solid starter at the next level.
Round 5 (via Eagles): Alex Highsmith, EDGE, Charlotte
The Bears could choose to target an edge rusher earlier than Round 5 if they want to search for a potential Leonard Floyd replacement. For now, though, they can afford to simply add depth and look for an early-round edge rusher in 2021.
Alex Highsmith comes from the C-USA’s Charlotte, a school that has only had a football team since 2013, so he has been relatively unheralded in draft circles. However, when you earn the respect of a football powerhouse like Clemson, it’s clear you’re doing something right. Highsmith fires off the ball with excellent acceleration and has top-notch hip and ankle flexibility, allowing him to rip and dip underneath offensive tackles and turn the corner sharply. He plays with quick hands and has a solid arsenal of pass-rushing moves. His athletic ability in space and lateral agility also provides a lot of teams to be excited about. With 9.5 sacks through 10 games this year and a combined 34 tackles for a loss over the past two seasons, he certainly has the production to warrant NFL looks, too.
Highsmith doesn’t have a incredibly imposing frame, and at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds is undersized for a traditional edge rusher. He doesn’t dip his hips super well at the point of attack, he plays with high pad level at times, and he’s a top-heavy pass rusher who doesn’t have great strength in his lower body. His initial punch isn’t very powerful, either, and his overall lack of play strength could force him into a situational pass-rusher role.
Though he could stand to hit the weight room a bit, Highsmith’s athletic abilities and production will more than likely see him get drafted at some point on Day 3 in April. The Bears could use his speed to make him a versatile chess piece for their defense.
Round 6: Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State
If Chicago doesn’t draft a quarterback in the second round, then they would be wise to take a flier on one late on Day 3 to try and potentially find a long-term backup for cheap.
Anthony Gordon is a player I dove into in a quarterback preview I wrote in October, in which I deemed him a good fit in the Bears’ offense. Here’s what I had to say about him:
He throws with consistent timing, places short and intermediate throws right on the money on a regular basis. His deep ball looks very good at times, and he has the athleticism to not only move around in the pocket, but make defenders miss in the open field, too. Gordon’s footwork isn’t terrible, as he can throw with set feet and a wide enough base. His arm is only okay at best, though, and his sidearm delivery will need to be fixed in the pros. At only 189 pounds, he will also have to pack on some muscle to warrant a higher draft pick. If he gains some weight between now and the draft, he could realistically be selected on Day 3.
Washington State’s website now lists Gordon at 210 pounds, so while he is still a bit underweight, it’s encouraging to see he has added some weight to his 6-foot-3 frame.
Chase Daniel is slated to hit the open market this offseason, and while he is a serviceable backup, the Bears would have to let more valuable players walk in order to re-sign him. Chicago hasn’t taken a Day 3 flier on a quarterback since 2014, and before then their last attempt came in 2011. If the value is there late—and in Gordon’s case in the sixth round, it would be—why not take a shot on taking a signal-caller late? Worst case scenario the player is a dispensable late-round pick, but if the pick pans out, the Bears could either have a long-term backup for cheap or someone they can trade away to a needy team for better draft capital.
Gordon is an accurate passer who has good athleticism and can throw with consistent timing. He would be worth taking a shot on as a potential No. 2 backup going forward.
Round 7: Chris Rowland, WR, Tennessee State
Taylor Gabriel’s status on the roster is not guaranteed in 2020, so if the Bears choose to let him go to save $4.5 million, they could try to find a late-round receiver who could replicate his electric style of play.
It wouldn’t be a Ryan Pace draft without at least one player outside of the FBS, a trend the Bears’ general manager has followed in every draft but his first in 2015. As of this writing, Tennessee State wide out Chris Rowland leads the FCS in both receptions and receiving yards, tallying 92 catches and 1,289 yards, as well as 7 touchdowns, through 10 games.
The small-schooler is electric in the open field, as he possesses very good lateral agility and impressive breakaway speed. Rowland’s ability to accelerate off the snap and stretch the field with his vertical speed makes him a dangerous deep threat option. He isn’t afraid of boxing out defenders and making a physical grab, either. He also has value on special teams, as he has a touchdown apiece as both Tennessee State’s kick returner and punt returner.
As one would expect, Rowland would have to adjust to the NFL level of game speed and physicality, which is easier said than done. He is still a bit raw as a route runner and can do a better job of stemming his route and using his hands to create separation. Plus, at 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, he doesn’t exactly have the most physically imposing frame.
Chicago loves drafting small-school prospects, so expect them to go outside the FBS box with at least one of their picks. Rowland is a dynamic receiver prospect with fantastic production at the FCS level, so he could be a player worth monitoring late on Day 3.