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2019 NFL mock draft: Predicting the Bears’ selections after the Super Bowl

With the NFL season officially over, what better time to kick off preparations for the draft?

AAC Championship - Memphis v Central Florida
Tony Pollard’s versatility and athleticism could make him a target for the Bears on Day 3 of the draft.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The 2018 NFL season has come to its conclusion, and me oh my, it was an insanely boring end to an otherwise exciting year.

Lackluster everything about last night’s Super Bowl aside, 2018 was an exciting year for the Chicago Bears. It resulted in their first divisional win since 2010, bringing back playoff football to the Windy City in the process. Though it ended prematurely with a Wild Card loss, it gave Bears fans a lot to be excited for in the future.

With the season’s end comes the rise of NFL Draft speculation. While the Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl have already been played, it isn’t until the end of the NFL season that draft discussions truly start to pick up for most people. The 2019 NFL Combine is just a few weeks away, and we still have months of scouting, analyzing and overthinking before the actual draft comes around.

Predicting what the Bears will do this year is an incredibly tough process that will more than likely end up being extremely inaccurate. Between now and the bottom half of the third round, players will see their respective draft values rise and fall, free agency will take place, several trades will happen, and stupid selections will be made. Since the Bears have no picks in the first two rounds, it’s impossible to know which players will be among the best available when they pick, and it will be until they’re on the clock for the first time.

Still, it’s a fun exercise to take a stab at what they might do in the draft. This mock is not meant to be a concrete prediction as to what will happen, but rather a way to identify the Bears’ needs and hopefully introduce a few prospects to the fan base. So, without further ado, here is my first Bears seven-round mock draft of the year.

Round 3: Amani Hooker, SS, Iowa

Not including special teams players, there are only three Bears starters on track to hit free agency this year. One of them is Adrian Amos, who has been a reliable starter for much of his tenure with the team. He has played well enough to earn a sizable contract, but he may be getting that contract from another team. If he were to leave in free agency, then a player like Iowa’s Amani Hooker would be a great replacement alongside Eddie Jackson.

Hooker is far from a household name in draft circles right now, but he is genuinely one of the more intriguing sleeper prospects that I’ve watched at any position. The six-foot, 210-pound safety is an incredibly instinctive player, as he is able to read the eyes of the quarterback and time his jumps on routes very well. Hooker closes in with good acceleration when making a tackle and when making a play on the ball. He takes good angles to ball carriers, and he is a reliable wrap-up tackler.

While Hooker is a smart and tenacious player, he doesn’t necessarily stand out from an athletic standpoint. His lateral agility is mediocre at best, as he can struggle with changing direction from time to time. He has the speed to quickly reach receivers and prevent them from breaking free in space, but he isn’t speedy enough to make some of the plays that he probably should. With some athletic improvements, Hooker, who had four interceptions and seven pass deflections in 2018, could be able to reach a similar level of production in the NFL.

The Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and second-team All-American is currently flying under the radar, but he has the potential to be a long-term starter and impact defender on a lot of teams. Adding a player like Hooker to play alongside Jackson could further boost the potential of Chicago’s defense.

Round 4: Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston

The Bears have a very good tandem on the two outside cornerback positions in Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara. While the latter had arguably the best season of his career in 2018, there is an out in his contract that would free up $9 million in cap space if they were to release him after 2019. As of now, the Bears don’t have anyone on their roster who would be capable of taking on a starting role as their press-man cornerback.

Houston cornerback Isaiah Johnson is probably not going to be a starter in his rookie year, but the long-term upside he carries is tantalizing. At six-foot-two and 207 pounds with a 78.5-inch wingspan, he has incredible length for the cornerback position. He has the ball skills of a wide receiver, which makes sense, given how he was a wide receiver in his first two collegiate seasons. He is a great athlete for his size, as he has good deep speed on vertical routes and hunts down bal carriers with impressive closing speed as a tackler. For someone as inexperienced as he is, Johnson packs a punch in press-man coverage and can jam wide receivers inside the first five yards of scrimmage.

As is the case with most converted cornerbacks, he is still very raw. His form as a tackler needs work, his footwork coming out of his breaks is fairly sloppy, and he doesn’t have incredibly fluid hips. He’s also still a work in progress in zone coverage, as his mental processing needs a little bit of fine-tuning.

Johnson likely won’t make an impact right away, but that’s perfectly fine. The Bears could afford to wait a year on him and let him sit for most of his rookie year underneath Amukamara. Going forward, though, an athletic and lengthy corner like Johnson would be a project worth developing.

Round 5: Tony Pollard, RB/WR/KR, Memphis

Tarik Cohen has the Bears’ punt returner job on lock, as his first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl nominations ensure that he’s among the league’s best at his position. They don’t seem too keen on having him serve as their kick returner, though, which is fair. In addition to Cohen, the likes of Benny Cunningham, Taquan Mizzell and Anthony Miller all returned kicks for Chicago, all with inconsistent results. During the middle of Day 3, the Bears would be smart to consider Memphis’ Tony Pollard: a Swiss Army knife who has been an elite kick returner at the collegiate level for three seasons.

Pollard is technically a running back, but he took enough snaps lined out wide to basically be considered a wide receiver, too. He’s tough to catch with the ball in his hands, as his lateral agility, breakaway speed and ball-carrier vision are all very good. He is a valuable receiver both out of the backfield and lined up in the slot who has reliable hands and sinks his hips into his cuts. If that doesn’t help his case, then having seven kick returns for touchdowns in three seasons might. As a running back, he doesn’t have a powerful running style, and his contact balance is average at best. His lack of physicality and length - he’s five-foot-eleven and 202 pounds - could restrict him slightly while lining up wide, though he could have a role in the slot.

What the Bears will do at the running back position this offseason is a mystery, as rumors regarding the possible signing of Kareem Hunt have been swirling in recent weeks. This would presumably put Jordan Howard on the trade block, and there would likely be a handful of teams who would swap him for a Day 3 pick. Regardless of whether or not Hunt is added, the Bears would be smart to consider drafting Pollard, an extremely versatile offensive weapon with value on special teams.

Round 7: Garrett Brumfield, OG, LSU

This late in the draft, the odds that a team finds a players that can step in right away and be a starter are slim. Barring a potential major steal being on the board, you’re looking for depth players who fit the system. It’s never a bad thing to have depth along the offensive line, and a player like Garrett Brumfield would be a great fit in Chicago’s zone-blocking scheme.

Brumfield is on the smaller side for a guard at six-foot-two and 299 pounds, but what he lacks in stature he makes up for in athleticism. An incredibly fluid athlete, he has great straight-line speed as a down blocker and can reach the second level very quickly. He takes good angles as a pull blocker and can execute his assignments well in a zone-blocking scheme. His motor also runs high consistently, as he blocks to the whistle and doesn’t take plays off. Brumfield’s anchor strength isn’t incredible: he can struggle with stopping more powerful interior defensive lineman. His balance could also use some work, and his angles as a down blocker can be affected by his tendency to be tossed aside by defenders.

The Bears wouldn’t be expecting Brumfield to start right away, which would give him at least his first season to bulk up and work with an NFL strength and conditioning team. At the very least, he would be a solid backup who would fit their system well.

Round 7 (via Philadelphia): Matt Gay, K, Utah

Cody Parkey is as good as gone. The Bears could choose to sign a free agent to take over the kicking position - Robbie Gould would have to take a pay cut to join the team if he desired to do so - but Parkey’s replacement will likely come in the form of a late draft pick or an undrafted free agent. Chicago could wait until after the seventh round to try and sign someone, but selecting a kicker with one of their two seventh-round picks would ensure they get their guy.

I talked at length about Matt Gay in my Shrine Game preview article, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much. Simply put, he’s a big leg with proven reliability from beyond 40 yards. He went 8-for-11 from 50 yards or more, and he also made every single extra point attempt he took in the two years he served as Utah’s kicker.

If the Bears choose to go the cheap route in their replacement of Parkey, then it wouldn’t be crazy to see them add a kicker late on Day 3. Out of the incoming rookie kickers I’ve seen thus far, Gay seems to be the best of the bunch.