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2019 NFL mock draft: Predicting the Bears’ picks post-free agency

It’s time for another mock draft!

NCAA Football: Purdue at Nebraska
Devine Ozigbo could be an intriguing target for the Bears early on Day 3.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in years, the Chicago Bears were pretty quiet in free agency.

That’s not to say they weren’t active. They added the likes of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Mike Davis, Buster Skrine and Cordarrelle Patterson to their roster; all of whom are on track to play substantial roles on the team in 2019. They lost Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan, but they did a solid job of replacing both players with cheaper, yet still talented options. Chicago chose to play it safe this year, saving money while still signing some solid players.

Now that most of the premier free agents have signed, teams now have a much better understanding as to what positions they need to focus on in the draft. The Bears don’t have many glaring holes on their roster, but they could use some help at a handful of positions. What stratagem they’ll follow is a mystery, which, combined with the fact that they don’t pick until the end of the third round, makes their draft that much more unpredictable.

So, let’s predict their draft.

To add some variety to this mock draft, I decided to not use any of the players I used in my previous mock. In particular, that means no Matt Gay—the Utah kicker has since become a popular target in mocks for the Bears in the seventh round. This scenario would likely result in the team bringing in multiple undrafted free agents to compete during camp, with players like LSU’s Cole Tracy and Oklahoma’s Austin Seibert standing out as possible options.

With that in mind, let’s get started.

Round 3: Christian Miller, EDGE, Alabama

I was very close to slotting Penn State running back Miles Sanders here, as he would be a perfect fit in Matt Nagy’s offense and a potential long-term starter. However, I have a late second-round grade on Sanders, and with his performance at the Combine, I doubt teams will let him slide to the No. 87 slot. Instead, I have them picking another edge rusher to add to their tenacious pass rush.

The Bears stated back in January that they will pick up Leonard Floyd’s fifth-year option, so he will stick around with the team for at least another two seasons before hitting free agency in 2021. Whether he’ll stick around beyond then, though, is far from certain. In the next two offseasons, Chicago will need to pay Cody Whitehair—whose contract expires in 2020—Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen, whose contracts expire in 2021. Allen Robinson could see his contract extended in 2021, as well. The Bears have proven this offseason that they are willing to part with players who aren’t a part of their core if said players receive contracts they don’t want to match. That, combined with their severe need for a rotational edge rusher at the moment, makes the position one they should focus on early in the draft.

Christian Miller broke out in his first season with substantial playing time at Alabama in 2018, tallying eight sacks and 11 tackles for a loss. The six-foot-three, 247-pound is an athletic pass rusher who fires off the snap with explosiveness consistently. He’s a fluid mover who can bend underneath blockers and turn the corner, and he can change direction in space with very good hip fluidity for an outside linebacker, which gives him value dropping back in coverage. Though his hand placement is inconsistent, he flashes a couple of impressive hand technique in his arsenal. He has a bit of an injury history, as he missed most of 2017 with a biceps injury and was limited at the Combine with a hamstring injury. He would also benefit from bulking up a bit more to take NFL blockers head on.

Miller has fallen into the background of a loaded front-seven draft class, but he has great athleticism off the edge and has starting potential. He would fill what might be Chicago’s biggest need, offer a versatile, rotations pass rusher early in his career, and put them in a good position in the long run.

Round 4: Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska

Barring an unforeseen drop from a Day 2 prospect like David Montgomery or Miles Sanders, the Bears don’t really need to draft a running back in the third round. Mike Davis will serve as the offense’s new Jordan Howard, and while the former Seahawks back is not as proven of a producer, he has much more value on passing downs and is arguably more elusive. Plus, this year’s class is plenty deep at the position, and almost any of the mid-round prospects could potentially emerge as starters in the right situation. I don’t have them drafting a tailback in Round 3, so a player like Devine Ozigbo, could make sense as a potential target to kick off Day 3.

Arguably the biggest snub from the Combine this year, Ozigbo is a compact runner at five-foot-eleven and 222 pounds. He runs with impressive power and contact balance, but he’s far from just a straight-line, short-yardage back. He has impressive lateral quickness for a runner his size, and he has the patience and ball-carrier vision to identify holes and burst through them. His production in a zone-blocking offense—which, mind you, is what the Bears run—last season was impressive: 1,082 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 155 carries, which averages out to just under seven yards per carry. Ozigbo isn’t a stellar receiver, but he has flashed the ability to sink his hips into his routes. His deep speed isn’t anything remarkable, and he’s prone to body catching from time to time. Though he doesn’t have a lot of tread on his tires, his production wasn’t all that great before 2018, even for his small sample size.

If the Bears are planning on drafting a running back this year—and logic indicates they are—then they may be better off waiting until after the third round. This is a draft class stuffed to the brim with Day 3 running back talent, and Ozigbo is one of the best prospects who fit that bill. His running style would be a great fit in Chicago’s offense.

Round 5: Michael Jackson, CB, Miami (FL)

The Bears found their new nickelback in free agency in Buster Skrine, but they need some depth at the outside spots. Prince Amukamara currently serves as the team’s resident press-man corner and does quite well in the role, but, as mentioned in my previous mock, they could save $9 million in cap space by releasing him after the 2019 season. They need to find a replacement for him sooner rather than later.

Michael Jackson is a sizable, outside cornerback prospect at six-foot-one and 210 pounds. He’s a physical player who can consistently jam receivers at the line of scrimmage in press-man coverage, and he showcases that physicality in run support, as well. He takes good angles to ball carriers in space, and he closes in on them with solid closing speed. These traits could translate well to special teams to kick off his career. When Jackson’s in the right position, he is good at high pointing jump balls and making aggressive attacks on the ball, but it’s a matter of if he can consistently get in the right position. He doesn’t have good hip fluidity, and his acceleration coming out of his breaks doesn’t match up with the 4.45 40-yard dash time. While his physicality within five yards of the line of scrimmage is impressive, he could work on being less grabby in coverage further down the field.

Jackson fits a long and physical, Cover 2 corner mold, and he projects as a solid replacement for Prince Amukamara that the Bears could get without using an early pick. In the short run, though, he’s at least a high-upside special teams contributor.

Round 7: Saquan Hampton, S, Rutgers

There’s a very real possibility the Bears could draft a safety early in April, as new signing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is only on a one-year, prove-it deal. However, the depth of this year’s safety class is not great, so if Chicago doesn’t end up with a player like Darnell Savage from Maryland or Amani Hooker from Iowa—the latter of whom was my Round 3 choice in my first mock—they might be better off waiting until later in the draft to add one.

Saquan Hampton starred at free safety for Rutgers, but his skill set better fits the strong safety position at the next level. His six-foot-one, 206-pound frame carries prototypical length and bulk for a safety. A reliable tackler in the box, Hampton consistently lowers the boom in run support. He is an instinctive safety who can read the eyes of quarterbacks well and close in on targeted receivers quickly. His ball skills aren’t too shabby, either: he can track down and attack deep balls pretty well. His hips aren’t incredibly fluid, and he doesn’t possess very good range in single-high coverage. With two injuries in his collegiate career—a shoulder injury in 2016 and a partial pectoral tear in 2017—Hampton’s durability may come into question with teams.

Hampton doesn’t have elite athletic traits, but he’s a intelligent player and a physical tackler with impressive length. If the Bears choose to wait a little while to select a safety, then someone like him could be a solid addition late on Day 3.

Round 7: Keenen Brown, TE, Texas State

Adam Shaheen has not lived up to his second-round draft status. He missed 10 games last season due to injury, he has looked clunky and slow nearly every time he runs routes, and he only has 17 career receptions and 175 yards: far from the “Baby Gronk” some expected him to be. While the Bears may likely want to give him one more year to prove himself, they would be wise to invest in another tight end who could back him up in case he disappoints again.

Keenen Brown is a total wild card of a tight end prospect. The six-foot-two, 250-pounder caught 51 passes for 577 yards and five touchdowns in his lone season at Texas State after transferring from Oklahoma State in 2016. He’s a very good mover for his size, as he has good body control and sharp hip flips in his routes. He can alignment versatility, as he has excelled as a receiver lined out wide, a tradition in-line tight end and as an H-back. While not a polished blocker from a technical standpoint, he blocks with a high motor and has solid recovery strength. Brown’s hand placement as a blocker needs work, though. He doesn’t have great improvisational skills on broken routes, and he struggles against physical coverage at times. Plus, he only has one season of meaningful collegiate production, and his production came against a lower level of competition.

Brown is a work in progress, but he’s a fluid athlete with some promise as a blocker. The Bears carried four tight ends on their roster last season, and Daniel Brown departed for the New York Jets this offseason. The Texas State alum could be a reliable backup tight end who could see some more offensive snaps if Shaheen has a down season.