The Chicago Bears’ not-fired-but-definitely-fired-up general manager, Ryan Pace, has described organizing his draft board into “clouds.” Which is just a cool way for him to say tiers that also opens him up to jokes about him drafting with his head in the clouds. Drafting with one’s head in the clouds is probably not ideal on actual draft day, but in a mock draft on a fan-produced Bears blog in early April, it seems entirely appropriate.
The premise of this draft is that I’m fully immersed in hopeful draft emotions, and I’m imaging the best outcome for prospects. As such, I can’t imaging players with injury concerns will ever be injured again, and I’m going to assume most players approach their ceilings and avoid their floors. I believe this is a draft that would allow the Bears to extract incredible value from their picks if they develop on an optimistic trajectory and avoid injuries.
So let’s get to it...
Round 1: TRADE (Bears Receive: Pick 29, Pick 62, and Pick 142 in the 2021 Draft. The Green “Bay Packers” receive: Pick 20).
When Brian Gutekunst can’t stand back and watch the meteoric fall of McCorkle Jones any longer, he pulls the trigger on a rare intra-division trade and sends a generous package of picks to the Bears for the statuesque Alabama signal-caller. On the bright side for Green Bay fans, this causes the Packers to give up their obsession with the outdated middling comedy “Goldmember” and turn to the classic Chicago-based romance “Love Jones” as the team favorite film, honoring their two-headed future at quarterback.
Round 1, Pick 29: Caleb Farley, CB Virginia Tech
Caleb Farley has as high a ceiling of any defensive player in this class. His profile reads like a classic fable of the high-upside prospect: he’s 6’2 but moves with as much fluidity and speed as much smaller DBs, he’s a former quarterback-turned-wide-receiver-turned cornerback, and he only has one year of defensive experience. The difference between him and most people with this story is that his one year of tape is actually totally impressive. This combo of traits and performance had him projected in the top ten by draftniks and tweettwits throughout the league. That all changed when he eschewed his pro day to partake in a leisurely microdiscectomy back surgery. This is a minimally-invasive approach to treating a lumbar disc herniation, and it has about an 85% success rate in terms of returning to play for athletes. That’s concerning enough to cause him to drop to the end of the first round, and this pick gives the Bears just enough of a disc-risk discount to be able to draft an elite prospect at a premiere position in the end of the first round.
Round 2, Pick 52: Rondale Moore, WR Purdue
Moore is another elite athlete who may fall in part due to injury concerns. Rondale missed significant time in this past two college seasons, playing only 7 games over those two years after a breakout Freshman season. Combine that with his aspirational 5’ 7” height, and the league might just let a game-breaking talent slide to the 52nd overall pick. Moore still has room to develop as a nuanced receiver, but he’s a small, fast, and physical run-after-catch monster. Think of him as a pinball, and if Nagy can find the play-calls that hit the paddle at the right time, he’ll bouncing between defenders on frequent trips to the end zone.
Round 2, Pick 62: Quinn Meinerz, IOL Wisconsin-Whitewater
When it comes DIII prospects, it’s going to take a little bit of country-strong log-tossing and a lot of bare midriff to catch my eye. Senior Bowl standout Quinn Meinerz ticks those boxes with ease. Meinerz garnered so much spotlight for being this year’s favorite spunky o-lineman with a playful attitude and a ruthless finish that Landon Dickerson was thrown into a jealous frenzy, diving into desperate attention-seeking cartwheels at Alabama’s pro day. After a visit from Bears scouts helped Meinerz realize his NFL potential, he went on a montage-worthy quest to better himself last off-season, transforming from a waffling Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawk to a premier prospect who proved promising potential pancaking D1 tackles throughout senior bowl practices. The Bears would be wise to draft Meinerz, plug him in at center or guard, and watch the Bear midriff uniform trend finally start to pick up steam.
Round 3, Pick 83: James Hudson, OT Cincinnati
A one year starter for the Bearcats, if Hudson can shake the metaphorical cat off his back, he can grow into a promising young Bear. Like Farley, Hudson started on a different side of the ball than where he finished. A four star recruit as a defensive lineman, he played three games in 2018 for Michigan before transferring to the Bearcats, where he played only one full season in 2020. If Hudson is available for the Bears at the 83rd pick, it will because of this limited experience and still-developing skillset. But he has the size and strength to hold his anchor and the mobility to seal off speed rushers and create space in the run game. He’s an exciting enough prospect for the Bears to put their hopes in as an eventual upgrade over Charles Leno Jr or Germain Ifedi.
Round 4, Pick 142: Jamie Newman QB Wake Forest/Georgia
You didn’t think I’d leave us without a potential franchise pigskin chucker to hang our dreams on. Jamie Newman is a boom or bust quarterback with all the athleticism and arm talent you could hope for and all the room to grow you would expect for someone drafted with a compensatory 4th round pick. To be fair, he’s not my favorite post-1st-round QB in this years draft—let’s just say there’s a certain Kellen that I wouldn’t Mond the Bears taking a swing on—but he’s the most fun to imagine at his ceiling, and that’s what this exercise is all about. His highlights are lousy with well placed deep balls that hit his receiver—it’s usually Sage Surratt—in stride on what looks like a casual stroll to the end zone. He has the mobility and instincts to extend plays, and the toughness to sling rainbows as his pot of gold gets rocked by d linemen. He has tough, ursine mobility that allows him to truck his way for short yards, making his legs a terrific short yardage and red zone weapon. He didn’t get enough opportunities to develop his drop-back passing game at Wake Forest or “go through his progressions” like people always seem to nag quarterbacks about, and it’s a shame he didn’t get the chance to play a year after transferring to Georgia because that had the potential to fatten up his skill-set nicely.
Jamie Newman’s ceiling may indeed be “the roof,” but his floor is the foundation, and the basement is not furnished. But my head is in the clouds today and I choose to imagine Newman at his ceiling. Join with me, Bears fans, as I gently hang our dreams around Jamie Newman’s neck, a fur-fluffed cape of hope and reappropriated aspirations misplaced on past Bears quarterback failure. Roll in the mud softly, young pigslinger, because you roll on our dreams.
Round 5, Pick 164: Amen Ogbongbemiga, LB Oklahama
We’ve reached the point in the mock where the pictures dry up, and so does my knowledge of prospects. Luckily, I reached out to WCG’s draft experts, Jacob Infante and EJ Snyder for some help. Per Jacob, Ogbongbemiga “plays with impressive closing speed and effort against the run, and he’s also a valuable asset as a blitzer. Plus, he has significant experience on special teams, which should help his value for teams on Day 3.” Sounds like he could be the next Joel Iyeigbuniwe, with the potential to grow into an LB if he picks up some coverage tips from Roquan Smith.
Round 6, Pick 204: Derrick Barnes, LB/Edge Purdue
Per EJ, Barnes “had surprising effectiveness rushing off the edge but also showed some very fluid pass coverage in the short/medium areas at the Senior Bowl. Smart, versatile player.” Clearly Barnes will be thrilled to follow his Purdue teammate Rondale Moore to Chicago, and sounds like he has the profile to be the next Leonard Floyd—except drafted at the appropriate time. I kid of course. Leonard Floyd was obviously a top 203 player.
Round 6, Pick 208: Jamar Johnson, SAF Indiana
Both EJ and Jacob had high praise for Johnson. EJ described Johnson as “not the most physically gifted but good enough and makes up for it with smarts/instincts. Always around the ball. Reminds me of Kevin Byard (MTSU -> TEN) in that way.” And Jacob seconded EJ’s nod to Johnson, adding “Dude is just so fundamentally sound in coverage and is super quick to diagnose plays and jump on a route.” Honestly, their descriptions remind me a little of Adrian Amos, a previous late-round Pace pick that overplayed his draft position. I had the Bears pick him at 208 because that’s where he is on Pro Football Network’s draft board, but I couldn’t help noticing that PFF has him as high as 52. Maybe he really is Adrian Amos 2.0.
Round 6, Pick 221: Matt Buschman, TE BYU
EJ described Bushman as “Injured.” He also noted that before his injury he “put up some terrific performances in that offense. Showed great athleticism and very good hands.” I can think of another tight end who has “great athleticism” and “very good hands.” His name is Travis Kelce, and someone with his skills could prove to be the perfect U to Kmet’s Y in Nagy’s offensive dreamscape.
Round 6, Pick 228: Zach Davidson TE/P Central Missouri
What’s that now? Per Jacob, “Zach Davidson out of Central Missouri. He didn’t have a 2020 season, but his 2019 tape looked incredible. He’s a massive dude with a huge catch radius and strong hands, and he brings great body control and underrated straight-line speed to the table. Though raw at the tight end position — he was a punter throughout his collegiate career, too — he has an enticing blend of size, speed and physicality that could make him a really good late-round option.” Certainly some of you will snub your sniffers at the thought of drafting a second developmental tight end, but this one can play back-up punter if Pat O’Donnell ever crashes his McClaren on the way to a game. Better yet, he can take over as punter in 2022 and save the Bears a precious roster spot.
You read that right. The Bears have three 6th round picks and no 7th. One of the smarter moves in Pace’s tenure if you ask me. Few of you will know this but Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round. It’s a sweet spot for value as demonstrated by Brady leading said Buccaneers to the Super Bowl.
I can’t wait to see these new Bears in Navy and Orange.