The first wave of NFL free agency has come and gone, and the Bears find themselves in a different situation than they were in before.
For starters, Khalil Mack is no longer on the team. The Bears picked up a second-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, multiple contributors from the 2021 roster are now on other teams, and a handful of veterans have been brought in to patch up some needs on both sides of the ball.
That said, the Bears still have plenty of needs on their roster that haven’t been completely filled yet. General manager Ryan Poles has made a couple of stopgap or prove-it signings with low risk in free agency, but the chances all of the players they signed will develop into long-term pieces appear pretty slim.
The draft will be the way the Bears build their roster in this regime, so hitting on their selections will be crucial towards their success. They aren’t expected to excel too much in the 2022 season, as 2023 and beyond are viewed as the “prime” years of the rebuild.
For the first time since free agency got started, let’s take a shot at predicting what the Bears could do in the 2022 NFL Draft, using The Draft Network’s mock draft simulator.
Round 2: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
Picking an offensive lineman for the Bears will be difficult, seeing as though we as fans don’t know if Ryan Poles views both Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom as tackles. We’ll pursue more options in future weeks, but I couldn’t pass on the chance to take this good of an offensive guard.
Kenyon Green is seen by many as a likely first-round pick, so getting him in Round 2 would be a steal for the Bears. He is a versatile lineman who can play almost anywhere along the offensive line and play in any scheme. He’s a mauler with great pad level, polished hands and a high motor, as well as good short-area athleticism. If he falls to No. 39, he could be a strong target for Chicago.
Round 2 (via Chargers): Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
The Bears signed solid depth in the form of Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown, but they didn’t make any splashes at the wide receiver position. It’s time to do that in the draft.
Few prospects have risen up boards quite like Christian Watson, whose quality 2021 tape is coming more into light after strong Combine and Senior Bowl outings. He’s a lengthy, 6-foot-4 weapon with fantastic deep speed, good agility and tremendous ball skills. Luke Getsy’s scheme needs a deep threat, and Watson’s size and athleticism give him a very high ceiling at the next level.
Round 3: Mario Goodrich, CB, Clemson
Although they haven’t made any moves at the cornerback position, the Bears still need upgrades in the secondary. They’ll have to address that situation sooner rather than later.
The Bears have a chance to add a solid starter with one of their first three picks, and Mario Goodrich fits that bill perfectly. He broke out with 2 interceptions and 9 pass deflections in 2021, showcasing incredibly loose hips in coverage, good acceleration coming out of his breaks and above-average route-recognition abilities. Jaylon Johnson needs a running mate, and Goodrich fits that role very well.
Round 5 (via Texans): Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati
As I’ve said before, no safety in the 2022 draft screams “Matt Eberflus guy” like Bryan Cook.
Cook is a physical safety with good length who hits hard and has the strength in his frame needed to bring down ball-carriers when he wraps up. At the same time, he’s an intelligent defensive back who diagnoses route concepts quickly and has some solid fluidity in coverage. Though he’s not an elite athlete, he’s a high-floor safety who could develop into a starter at the next level.
Round 5: Bo Melton, WR, Rutgers
The Bears would be wise to not only take a wide receiver early, but they could stand to add some depth on Day 3, too.
After getting a lengthy deep threat in Round 2, Bo Melton would be a very good addition later on in the draft. He’s a versatile threat who can play as a field-side or slot weapon, and he’s an explosive athlete who changes direction well after the catch and has both good deep speed and good play strength at the catch point. His upside seems to be limited to a No. 3 receiver at best, but if you can get that this late, that’s a successful pick.
Round 6: Chris Paul, OG, Tulsa
Tyler Smith is the Tulsa offensive lineman many Bears fans have tied to the team, but Chris Paul would also be a fantastic option to pick up and add to their offensive line.
With tackle and guard versatility, Paul fits the archetype of a blocker worth targeting on Day 3. He’s a powerful player with fantastic grip strength and a stable anchor, and he also has good short-area burst and polished hand usage as a down blocker. His flexibility in his lower half will need to improve, but he’s being underrated in the grand scheme of draft discussions.