Draft day is almost upon us, ladies and gentlemen.
For the players, these next few days will serve as the realization of a life-long dream: playing in the NFL and being forced to move to a city they have no control over. For the teams, the draft is a chance to start a rebuilding phase, transition from a mediocre team into a playoff contender, or add the finishing touches to a Super Bowl-caliber roster. The Chicago Bears fit under the latter, as their playoff appearance in 2018 indicates that they could make a deeper postseason run in the immediate future.
Though they have plenty of talent on their roster, their team is not one without some holes. Many of them are relatively small at the moment, but this gives the Bears many more options with their draft picks. With only five selections, they have little room for error, but given general manager Ryan Pace’s successes in the middle of the draft, they should be in good shape.
With two mock drafts already under my belt, I decided to give it one last shot before this weekend’s festivites. I’ve included my selections from my first two mocks in this article for reference, with the post-Combine selections listed first and the post-free agency selections listed afterwards. Any prospect meetings I mention in this article, I found from Windy City Gridiron’s Aaron Leming’s spreadsheet.
Round 3: Justin Hollins, EDGE, Oregon
The Bears can really go in many different directions with their third-round pick, but I believe they should pass on a running back, unless a player like Miles Sanders or David Montgomery is somehow available. This is a deep class at the position, and the talent that will be available in the fourth or fifth round is just a minuscule step down than the talent in the third round. That said, I could see Chicago targeting a pass rusher in the draft, and the gradual drop-off in talent there after the third round is much larger than it is at running back.
Justin Hollins is a very impressive athlete for a pass rusher. The six-foot-five, 247-pound Oregon alum ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and had a 36.5-inch vertical jump at the Combine, and that explosiveness is apparent on tape. He fires off the ball quickly, he can turn the corner well, and he even has the hip fluidity to drop back into coverage and blanket tight ends, running backs and some wide receivers. Though he’s pretty raw from a pad level and hand usage standpoint, he has shown flashes of good hand placement and plays with a high enough motor that he was able to mask that in college. A rotational pass rusher to start off his NFL career, Hollins has the physical tools to be a solid starter in the pros.
Past picks: Amani Hooker, SS, Iowa; Christian Miller, EDGE, Alabama
Round 4: Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M
We here at Windy City Gridiron have extensively covered the running back prospects in this year’s draft, and Trayveon Williams has popped up as a popular option for the Bears numerous times. I don’t want to repeat myself or the words of my colleagues too much, but Williams would be a great fit in Chicago’s offense.
A well-rounded back with value on passing downs as both a receiver and a blocker, the former Aggie offers vision, agility and breakaway speed, as well as a bit of contact balance. His skill set makes him valuable as an outside-zone or an inside-zone runner, which would give the Bears a blend of the styles of Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen. The team have met with him four times in the draft process, so the interest is definitely there. With his versatility and ability to fill just about any role, Chicago would be in good shape on the ground by adding Williams to their backfield.
Past picks: Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston; Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska
Round 5: Mike Edwards, SS, Kentucky
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Bears to replace Adrian Amos. If he bounces back this year, though, the team likely won’t be in a position to re-sign him next offseason. Without a steady backup at the position, they could look to pick up a safety with one of their early picks in this year’s draft.
The Bears met with Mike Edwards at his Pro Day, and if they were to select him, he would make sense as a future starter alongside Eddie Jackson. He is an intelligent safety who can diagnose plays quickly and use his athleticism to change direction and accelerate towards the ball. He has excelled as a box safety, a single-high safety and as a nickelback in college, so he has the experience to step in at just about any role in the secondary. Edwards could use some bulking up, as he doesn’t have the strength in his frame to consistently form tackle yet. With a season to develop and work on adding some muscle, he could become a starter in the future.
Past picks: Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis; Michael Jackson, CB, Miami (FL)
Round 7 (from Philadelphia via Denver): Ugochukwu Amadi, DB, Oregon
The Bears would be wise to target a cornerback in the draft if the value is right. Not only do they need an eventual replacement for Prince Amukamara if they release him next offseason to save money, but they could also draft a smaller, nickelback-type of prospect to replace Buster Skrine down the line. Though I don’t have them picking the former in this mock, there could be a lot of good value at the nickelback position late on Day 3.
I admittedly stole this selection from James Fox at The Loop Sports, but Ugo Amadi would be a rock solid—as well as realistic—selection in the seventh round. The Bears held a private workout for him, so the team has shown some level of interest in him. The five-foot-nine, 197-pound defensive back was technically a safety at Oregon, but he also saw a lot of snaps as a nickel corner, which is likely a better fit for him at the next level, given his lack of length. He is a fluid athlete who can change direction well and accelerate coming out of his breaks. With seven interceptions, two pick-sixes and 16 pass deflections in the past two seasons, his production backs up his ability to break up passes and close a quarterback’s window on tape. He doesn’t offer much as a tackler, though, and his instincts in coverage could be improved to make him more aggressive in jumping routes. However, with his athleticism and production, he could end up being a sleeper late on Day 3 who could start as a nickelback in the near future.
Past picks: Garrett Brumfield, OG, LSU; Saquan Hampton, FS/SS, Rutgers
Round 7: Jon’Vea Johnson, WR, Toledo
This late in the draft, most teams aren’t necessarily looking for immediate contributors. Rather, they’re realistically looking for quality depth pieces, and anything more than that is a big success. The Bears don’t have to draft for need with their last pick, because expecting a late seventh-round pick to step in and start right away is, in most cases, foolish. That said, I have them adding another offensive weapon with this selection.
Jon’Vea Johnson was a part of a three-headed monster at wide receiver at Toledo, with teammates Cody Thompson and Diontae Johnson also projecting as potential draft picks this weekend. Though his production was never stellar, he flashed enough on tape to warrant draft consideration. He averaged over 20 yards per catch last year, and judging by his tape, it’s not hard to see why Toledo used him as a deep threat. He is explosive off the snap, and his deep speed is consistently reliable on go routes. With a 4.35 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, his tape speed definitely matches his timed speed. Johnson offers value after the catch, as well, as he has very good lateral quickness in space. He isn’t very physical, and his ability to catch in tight windows will come into question. Plus, he turns 24 years old in December—an older age for an NFL rookie. Nonetheless, he has the burst and athletic upside for the Bears to use a seventh-round pick on.
Past picks: Matt Gay, K, Utah; Keenan Brown, TE, Texas State