With the summer in full swing and NFL action a ways away, now is the perfect time to get an early head start on preparing for the 2022 NFL Draft.
One can only hype oneself up for training camp for so long. The summer serves as a great time to build up an understanding of which top prospects to watch in the upcoming college football season, and if you’re a hardcore draftnik, try to find some diamonds in the rough before they break out.
As it currently stands, the Bears don’t have picks in the first or fourth rounds due to their trade up with the Giants for Justin Fields in this year’s draft. However, they should still have plenty of opportunities acquire potential contributors in next year’s class.
So much remains up in the air surrounding the Bears’ long-term roster construction, so it’s tough to get a super accurate reading on what their needs might be next April. Including special teamers and Andy Dalton, they have 12 projected starters slated to hit unrestricted free agency in 2022. Assuming a good share of those players depart, they will need to hit on their performance in next year’s draft.
Using Pro Football Network’s draft simulator, here is an early 7-round prediction as to what the Bears could do in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Note: With it being so early in the pre-draft process, I decided not to make any trades to give a better understanding of what picks the Bears currently have.
Round 2 (42): Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
The Bears could end up not pursuing an outside cornerback early, especially if one of their multiple Day 3 draft picks proves worthy of usurping Desmond Trufant in the starting role alongside Jaylon Johnson. As things currently stand, though, Chicago could look to upgrade their secondary next year.
I previewed cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft back in May, and while my rankings look much more different now than they did then, I still find myself liking Sevyn Banks. Here’s what I had to say about him:
Banks specializes in press coverage, using his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and combat through their stems. He has the athletic ability needed to explode coming out of his breaks and effectively mirror routes. He stepped into a big role for the Buckeyes last year, breaking up 7 passes in eight games.
While I stated that Banks does his best work in press coverage — an area which Jaylon Johnson also excels in — the two corners would still complement each other well. Banks has experience on the boundary and on the field-side, and he has the hip fluidity and lateral quickness needed to play well in more space if called upon to do so.
He’s still developing his instincts and his consistency as a tackler, but Banks has the physical tools and the upside needed to be a future starting cornerback in the NFL. Most mock drafts have him going in Round 1, so to have him slide into the second round would be a massive steal for the Bears.
Round 3 (74): Sean Rhyan, OT, UCLA
Teven Jenkins represents early-round investment at the offensive tackle position that the Bears have steered away from for the last decade. While he brings plenty of upside at left tackle, they still could use a long-term right tackle option.
In recent weeks, Sean Rhyan has gained quite a bit of momentum among online draft circles; in fact, he has risen up 87 spots in the consensus big board over at NFL Mock Draft Database. A nasty blocker who is one of few freshmen in UCLA history to start a season-opener as an offensive tackle. Rhyan offers impressive length, power and movement skills. Here’s my synopsis of him from my offensive tackle preview:
The 6-foot-5, 318-pounder packs a mean punch and excels when he gets the chance to get his hands onto a defender right out of the gate. His power sees him generate movement at the point of attack, and as a jump-set pass protector, he does a great job of accelerating out of his stance to engage with an edge rusher. Rhyan takes smart angles as a down blocker, and he has flashed good footwork moving laterally.
Rhyan is a bit raw in his pad level and appears somewhat stiff in his lower half. His lack of flexibility can see him struggle against edge defenders who can turn the corner well, and while he has the raw strength to beat his opponents more often than not, more flexible defenders in the NFL might be able to push the pocket against him by winning the leverage battle at the point of contact. The timing in his strikes can improve a bit, as well.
His technical issues aside, though, he has the tools to shoot up boards with a strong 2021 season. If he’s available in Round 3 in real life, the Bears would be wise to pair him with a fellow mauling tackle in the aforementioned Jenkins.
Round 5 (142): Dohnovan West, OG, Arizona State
The Bears have an intriguing interior offensive line trio in Cody Whitehair, Sam Mustipher and James Daniels. Daniels is a free agent after 2021, and Mustipher has a small sample size as a starter heading into the season. If one or two of them prove not to be long-term starting options for Chicago, the team could upgrade their interior in the draft.
By the time the 2021 concludes, Dohnovan West will have been a three-year starter for Arizona State. The biggest thing that stands out about his tape is his athletic ability; he has impressive lateral quickness in pass protection and tremendous fluidity as a pull blocker. He does a good job of maintaining balance and coordination when climbing to the second level, keeping his pads low and his weight distributed accordingly in the process. He also has the spatial awareness to pick up stunting edge defenders and find work, whether that be clearing out a zone in the run game or helping out with double-teams in pass protection.
West’s concerns stem from a lack of true physical upside. While athletic, he has okay length at 6-foot-3 and seems to have shorter arms that could prevent him from locking defenders out of his frame in the NFL. He doesn’t seem to have a true nasty edge to his game, and his play strength seems to be pretty average at this point.
An zone-heavy blocking scheme like the one the Bears use runs best when it has athletic offensive linemen, and West projects as a perfect fit for their system. Though he plays guard in college, he played center in high school and could be viewed as a potential target there, too. He may very well be selected much higher than this come next April, but if he’s available in Round 5 in real life, he could be a steal for Chicago.
Round 6 (174): Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State
If Allen Robinson ends up leaving the Bears after the 2021 season, then the chances they draft a wide receiver earlier than Day 3 would be strong. With so many unknowns surrounding that situation, however, I opted to just look for good value on my board, targeting a slot receiver more than a boundary type.
Khalil Shakir currently looks like a late Day 2 pick for me, so to find him in the sixth round made him an easy target. A versatile weapon who can play outside, in the slot or out of the backfield, he has major chess piece versatility written all over him. His athletic ability, precision as a route runner and natural ball skills give him upside to work with as a pure pass-catcher, too.
Here’s part of my write-up about him when I previewed 2022 draft wide receivers:
[Shakir] has very good footwork as a route runner, utilizing his quickness off the line of scrimmage to win with speed releases and altering his stems to attack blind spots against man coverage. Although Shakir’s route tree is limited at this stage and his physicality isn’t all that great, he could be a quality mid-round target for a team in need of a do-it-all offensive weapon.
Though projecting best as a slot receiver at the next level, Shakir can be moved around just about anywhere and would give Matt Nagy another fun, versatile weapon for his offense. If Anthony Miller leaves in free agency, the Bears could have Shakir and Dazz Newsome battle for time out of the slot in this hypothetical situation.
Round 7 (205): Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
This late in the draft, wise teams look for players who offer solid depth upside and value on special teams. The Bears have found success with finding special teamers in their secondary, so adding more safety depth could be intriguing to them at the right value.
As a player who accepted a Senior Bowl invitation before coming back to school for his “super senior” year, Jaquan Brisker has been on my radar since last December. He possesses great size for a safety at 6-foot-1 and 212 pounds, and his bulky frame translates to good play strength as a downhill tackler. He charges downhill with a high motor and generally does a good job of maintaining ideal form as he wraps up. In coverage, Brisker is interchangeable as a centerfielder in single-high looks, covering underneath or playing in two-high shells. He changes direction seamlessly on tape and has the agility needed to cover significant space in zone.
Brisker seems a bit raw in terms of his instincts, as he can be a split second too late to diagnose certain route patterns or too late to determine whether a play is a run or a pass. His angles in pursuit can be a bit more precise and calculated, too; he can sometimes find himself out of position as a tackler.
Expecting a starter out of a seventh-round pick is unlikely, so a pick this late is more so aimed towards finding depth and special teams value. With Brisker’s athleticism and tackling ability, he could step into a solid role for the Bears’ third phase if drafted.