Okay, so that headline was a lie.
NFL free agency is still going on and will be for quite some time, but the biggest wave of the period has come and gone. The Bears came away with quarterback Andy Dalton as their big fish, along with other veteran signings like cornerback Desmond Trufant and running back Damien Williams.
At that expense, though, the Bears released Kyle Fuller, who quickly reunited with former Bears defensive coordinator and current Broncos head coach Vic Fangio in Denver. They also parted ways with Buster Skrine and Bobby Massie, and Roy Robertson-Harris signed an expensive deal with the Jaguars.
The Bears find themselves with a solid roster still, but not one that isn’t without its weaknesses. Things can and likely will change between now and the 2021 NFL Draft, but we as observers can put together a general idea of what the team might do in the draft this year.
To project what path the Bears might go down in April, I decided to run a 7-round mock draft. I will be exploring multiple options between now and the draft, and in this one, I have them trading out of the first round. Chicago could very well move up for a quarterback, but if they choose not to, then moving down would be ideal. They have a few new holes on their roster after free agency, and stocking up on draft picks would make it easier to fill said needs.
That said, here are my latest predictions for all seven rounds of the Bears’ 2021 draft.
Projected trade: Bears trade 2021 first-round pick (No. 20); Dolphins trade 2021 second-round pick (No. 36), 2021 third-round pick (No. 81) and 2022 fifth-round pick.
Round 2 (projected trade from Miami): Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
The Bears re-signed Germain Ifedi to a one-year deal, but that shouldn’t stop them from trying to upgrade at the offensive tackle position, especially in this talented of a draft class.
Dillon Radunz put together a stellar outing at the Senior Bowl back in January, and his testing numbers at his Pro Day backed up his athleticism on tape. The 6-foot-6, 301-pound tackle brings impressive lateral quickness in pass protection and does a good job of adjusting his pass-set angles to seal off the outside speed rush. He’s powerful at the point of attack, and his combination of body control in his lower half and grip strength allows him to seal off defenders in the run game easily. A first-team FCS All-American in 2019, he looks the part of a starting offensive tackle at the NFL level.
Though his center of gravity is a bit high and his small-school profile could drop him a bit, Radunz has the ceiling of a high-quality starter at either tackle spot going forward. With the Bears’ lack of long-term investment in the position, they would be wise to target a gifted lineman like him early on in the draft.
Round 2: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
Kyle Fuller is no longer on the Bears, and with his departure, they could very well target a cornerback early in the 2021 draft.
The son of the four-time Pro Bowler, Asante Samuel Jr. brings a similar skill set to that of his ball-hawking father. He finished his collegiate career with 4 interceptions and 29 pass deflections in his three seasons at Florida State, and that production matches with the way he plays. An intelligent cover corner, Samuel has very good route recognition skills and does a great job of picking up route concepts and quickly diagnosing plays. He is a fluid defender who changes direction well and bursts well coming out of his breaks. He’s also very scrappy in tight coverage, showing off the willingness to enter a receiver’s frame, both at the catch point and through a receiver’s stems.
He’s undersized at 5-foot-10, and his 180-pound frame can see him get beat with physicality in man and locked up by blockers in run support. However, Samuel’s athletic upside, his intelligence and the swagger he brings to the position would make him a great fit with the Bears. If they see him sticking on the field-side rather than kicking inside to the slot, they would be wise to target him if he’s available in Round 2.
Round 3: Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
With trade rumors surrounding Anthony Miller coming to light in recent weeks, it wouldn’t be at all shocking if the Bears looked for a replacement for him in the slot.
With 77 receptions, 1,020 yards and 7 touchdowns, Amari Rodgers broke out as Clemson’s leading receiver in 2020. He is an explosive weapon who bursts well off the snap and has great quickness coming in and out of his breaks. His body control is impressive, allowing him to change direction easily after the catch and adjust to the ball in the air. Rodgers has very good ball-carrier vision, too, which helps make him an even more dangerous threat with the ball in his hands. He’s still developing as a route runner, but he has shown promise in his ability to exploit soft spots in zone coverage.
Rodgers is fairly undersized at 5-foot-9 with a stocky 210-pound frame, which could limit him to the slot at the next level. He won’t win too many 50-50 situations at the next level, and he can work on his ability to attack leverage points in man coverage, although he did look better in that area during the Senior Bowl. For what he brings in terms of athleticism and YAC ability, though, Rodgers is an incredibly enticing prospect who would give the Bears another layer of explosiveness to their current group of weapons.
Round 3 (projected trade from Miami): Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
Though I’ve never been a big fan of taking a quarterback on Day 2, trading back and acquiring another pick to do so makes a boom-or-bust pick like this one much more palatable.
Mills was a five-star recruit coming out of high school who brings a high ceiling, especially for a mid-round quarterback. He has an acute sense of anticipation with his throws, leading targets open and hitting them in stride. His timing and arm strength allow him to hit receivers in tight windows — his throws often have good velocity behind them. The Cardinal standout has a tight, quick and compact release, good follow through in his hips, and his 6-foot-4, 223-pound frame gives him prototypical size for the quarterback position.
The issue with Mills comes in his small sample size and questionable production. He started only 11 games at the collegiate level, and he had 18 touchdowns to 8 interceptions at the collegiate level. His footwork has a tendency to fall apart under pressure, and he can force throws to his first read too often. He’s a gamble, but by trading back, the Bears can afford to take it, thus securing a toolsy quarterback in the process while still upgrading at other positions.
Round 5: Caden Sterns, S, Texas
Given the Bears’ need at safety and former Texas head coach Tom Herman now on their coaching staff, connecting Caden Sterns to them is an easy move.
Sterns is an extremely athletic safety whose fluidity and speed are apparent in how he plays in coverage. Timed as having a 4.41 40-yard dash with a 42-inch vertical and a 10-foot-8 broad jump at his Pro Day, he accelerates well coming out of his breaks on tape and has sideline-to-sideline range. He excels at flipping his hips and changing direction in space, as well. Sterns’ athleticism is complemented by his quick processing abilities in coverage. He is able to jump on underneath routes well, as well as break towards the sidelines to make a play on the ball. He can read the progressions of an opposing quarterback and set himself up in the right position to make a big play. He also has solid size at 6-foot and 202 pounds.
While Sterns is one of the draft’s top safeties in coverage, he struggles as a tackler. His form is fairly inconsistent, as he doesn’t always get his pads low and weight underneath him when he charges downhill. He also doesn’t take incredibly precise angles in run support, and his ability to disengage from blocks is subpar. These issues could see him fall a bit, but in today’s NFL, coverage is key, and Sterns would be a great fit in Sean Desai’s projected system that utilizes plenty of two-high shells.
Round 6: Jimmy Morrissey, C, Pittsburgh
Sam Mustipher stepped into the Bears’ starting lineup and played fairly well, and while his play is likely to see him secure the starting center role in 2021, they would be wise to bring in some competition up front.
A player who both Miami edge rusher Gregory Rousseau and NC State defensive tackle Alim McNeill have said is the toughest blocker they’ve gone against, Jimmy Morrissey entered Pittsburgh as a walk-on and graduates as a four-year starter at center. He won the Burlsworth Trophy in 2020, which is given to the best walk-on in college football. He does a great job of timing and placing his strikes efficiently, and the power he packs in his hands allows him to overwhelm defenders at the point of attack. Morrissey is an intelligent blocker who can clear out a zone and pick up blitzes well. He showcases great anchor in his lower half, and he has the body control needed to seal off defenders in the run game.
Morrissey is fairly undersized for an offensive lineman at 6-foot-3 and 303 pounds, possessing a smaller wingspan that could provide for some issues with locking out defenders as well as he does in college. His pad level and hip flexibility can improve a bit, as he has a tendency to pop upright coming out of his stance, and he also has a season-ending ankle injury to his name from 2018. Though he hasn’t gotten significant hype in draft circles, Morrissey is still a sound interior lineman whose power and intelligence can see him outdo his draft status.
Round 6 (from Seattle via Miami): Malik Herring, DL, Georgia
The Bears have a solid defensive line in place for 2021, but with Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols slated to hit free agency next offseason, they would be wise to add some depth to help ease the pain of potentially taking a hit at the position in 2022.
Malik Herring brings plenty of alignment versatility to the table along the defensive front. He has experience as a stand-up edge rusher and a 3-technique defensive tackle, though he does project best as a 5-technique defensive end. He’s explosive off the snap, bursting out of his stance with a quick first step and great closing speed as a tackler. Herring’s hands are quick and active as a pass-rusher, allowing him to prevent offensive linemen from locking up against him. He has a particularly effective two-handed swipe and arm-over. For a bigger man, he has good flexibility in space and is able to chase down ball-carriers with high effort.
The issue with Herring is his tweener size. He’s too big at 280 pounds to rush off the edge full-time, but he would need to bulk up a little bit to play along the interior full-time. He also doesn’t have tremendous length at 6-foot-3, and he struggles with holding up blocks at the point of attack and eating gaps with a strong anchor. The Bears have had success with tweener defensive linemen in the past, though, which would make Herring an intriguing developmental prospect for their rotation.
Round 6 (compensatory pick): Drew Himmelman, OT, Illinois State
This late in the draft, it would make sense to take a shot on a physically-gifted, yet raw talent with potential to spare. Drew Himmelman gives them exactly that.
At 6-foot-9 and 323 pounds, Himmelman is a mountain of a man with a massive frame and good length in his wingspan at 82.5 inches. That length allows him to lock out defenders at the point of attack, possessive extensive range as a blocker and physically overwhelm opponents. His length, combined with a strong upper body and a powerful jab at the initial point of contact, made him a tough blocker to disengage from at the FCS level. Himmelman is also an incredibly underrated athlete for his size. As a tight end and as a basketball and baseball player in high school, he has very good body control for his size and offers pretty good acceleration climbing to the second level and effective lateral quickness.
As is the case for many tall offensive tackles, Himmelman struggles with getting a low center of gravity and keeping his pads low at the point of attack. He will be 25 years old by the time his rookie year comes around, and seeing as though he’s a small-school prospect, he could still be adjusting to the NFL game around the age where most offensive linemen reach their physical peak. Though not the safest investment, the possible ROI the Bears could get on Himmelman late on Day 3 would make him well worth taking a flier on.
Round 6 (compensatory pick): Zach Davidson, TE, Central Missouri
You know what I said about physically-gifted projects on Day 3? Yeah, that but with the tight end position, where Jimmy Graham is still currently on the roster but doesn’t project as a long-term option.
Zach Davidson had the chance to perform at Missouri’s Pro Day on Monday, and he showed NFL teams what those who were able to watch him at Central Missouri knew: he is a physical specimen. The 6-foot-7, 245-pounder complemented his tremendous size, wingspan and catch radius with a 4.62 40-yard dash, as well as a 37.5-inch vertical and a 6.95 three-cone drill. All three testing results would have placed at least second among tight ends at last year’s Scouting Combine. He has great hands on tape and is a natural hands-catcher who can secure the grab through tight coverage. Davidson — who also served as a punter for the Mules — offers nice quickness off the snap for his size, and he’s surprisingly nimble after the catch. Given his massive frame, he is already a difficult player to box out in the red zone, but with 5 to 10 more pounds added onto his frame, he can be hypothetically unstoppable.
The issues with Davidson are primarily technique-based. His taller frame can make it tougher for him to sink his hips and generate maximum explosion coming out of his breaks, an issue he told Windy City Gridiron that he has worked hard to fine-tune. The FCS postponed the 2020 season, so he doesn’t have any incredibly recent tape to go off of, and his status as a small-school player could make it tougher to make some of the plays in the NFL that he did in college. He can also stand to drop his pads as a blocker and add a little more anchor strength to his frame. However, his physical upside and natural ball skills project him very well at the next level, and with some development, a team like the Bears could get a steal out of him on Day 3.
If you haven’t already, please consider checking out my 2021 NFL Draft guide on Patreon! For just $5, you will have access to my entire top 375 big board, a 7-round mock draft, in-depth scouting reports on my top 30 prospects, a long-term positional outlook for the Bears, and more! Your consideration is greatly appreciated.