It’s officially Draft Day!
Well, not for the Chicago Bears, it isn’t. But the 2022 NFL Draft kicks off tonight, and the anticipation that has been growing for months is at its peak. It’s been a long time since Round 1 was as unpredictable from the top down as it is this year, which should provide for an entertaining night of action.
We’ll have a much better understanding of what the board will look like for the Bears by the end of the night, as barring a trade up, they don’t have a first-round pick. That said, that won’t stop us from trying to predict what Chicago will do this year.
Using NFL Mock Draft Database’s mock draft simulator, I took a shot at what the Bears would do in this year’s draft, but not before trading down to acquire extra draft capital.
Projected trade: Commanders acquire 2022 second-round pick (No. 39); Bears acquire 2022 second-round pick (No. 47), 2022 fourth-round pick (No. 113), 2023 fifth-round pick
Round 2 (via Commanders): George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Recent rumors surrounding Pickens’ immaturity has produced mixed opinions within the draft community, and it’s unknown from an outsider’s perspective exactly how accurate the rumors are.
That said, Pickens is a fantastic talent with Day 1 starting potential, and he’s someone I’ve covered at length in several articles, including when I analyzed wide receivers who fit the Bears’ projected system.
The 6-foot-3 receiver plays a brand of bully ball that sees him dominate at the catch point and come down with difficult grabs, utilizing his play strength, focus and body control to contort himself to square up to the ball and make the snag through tight coverage. Pickens’ deep speed allows him to stretch the field as a vertical threat, and he has shown flashes of promise in his route-running diversity at the line of scrimmage. He figures to be a starter along the boundary pretty quick in the league, which should definitely entice the Bears in Round 2.
Round 2 (via Chargers): Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
The Bears don’t have the biggest need along the defensive line, but the 3-technique is still a weakness, and if Matt Eberflus has his way, his unit will find a defensive tackle to help build around.
Winfrey has been on my radar for quite some time, and if he’s available in Round 2, the Bears could take a shot on the local product:
Winfrey is a Lake Park product who has killed it in the pre-draft process, excelling at the Senior Bowl and killing it at the Combine. His athletic ability is on display on a down-by-down basis, as his first step is tremendous and his speed in pursuit gives him plenty of range as a defender in space. He has a diverse arsenal as a pass-rusher, with quick and active hands at the point of contact needed to free himself up and disengage. Pad level can be an occasional issue for Winfrey, and he can stand to add some more muscle to his 290-pound frame. A player with his explosiveness and high motor has three-down value at the next level, and though the Bears might not go with an interior defensive lineman in the second round, Winfrey would be a very good fit for their defense.
Round 3: Cole Strange, OG, Chattanooga
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know just how big of a fan I am of Strange.
There’s a strong possibility he’s not available in Round 3, and I would honestly support the Bears if they took him late in Round 2. He was available for me in the simulation, though, so I had to pounce on the opportunity. Strange is an offensive lineman who fits the projected scheme very well:
Strange was on another level from his competition from an athletic perspective. His acceleration as a down blocker and mobility in pass protection popped out on tape whenever I would watch him. In addition to being the most athletic guard in the 2022 draft from a testing perspective, Strange is also one of this class’ nastiness blockers. He plays with a mean streak that allows him to pummel just about anyone in front of him. Pad level can be a bit of an issue for Strange sometimes, and if he wants to maximize his physical traits at the next level, he’ll need to become a bit more consistent in getting his weight underneath him at the point of attack. That’s a very teachable issue, though, and he fits what the Bears want out of an offensive lineman to a T.
Round 4 (via Commanders): Akayleb Evans, CB, Missouri
It wouldn’t be a Bears mock draft of mine without a little bit of Mizzou homerism.
In all seriousness, though, Evans is a talented cornerback who stood out against top SEC competition this past year. He’s a lengthy defensive back with good instincts in watching route concepts progress, fluid hips working across his body, and a physical edge when engaging with receivers in press through their stems. His athletic upside appears to just be okay, as his straight-line speed is pretty average for his position. That said, he’s a sticky cover corner who could develop into a solid starter along the perimeter at some point in his NFL career.
Round 5 (via Texans): Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State
With a 4.37 40-yard dash that led all running backs at the Combine, Strong was able to solidify that he’s a prospect that more in the draft community needed to be familiar with.
His explosiveness is apparent on tape, and his lateral mobility allows him evade would-be tacklers in space and cut through open running lanes. His athletic traits are amplified by how smart and decisive of a runner he is. He is patient in letting the play develop and knows how to vary his tempo out of the backfield to keep defenses guessing. Strong isn’t the biggest or strongest back in the 2022 draft, but he doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses in his game. He’s a well-rounded back who should be able to contribute in the pros.
Round 5: Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor
Though he didn’t break the 40-yard dash like it was originally thought, Thornton running a sub-4.3 — especially at his height — is encouraging for his long-term development at the NFL level.
My excerpt on him from the aforementioned wide receiver fit article:
Thornton is 6-foot-2 with 33 1/4-inch arms, the latter of which placing him in the 83rd percentile at the wide receiver position. He exploded with a 4.28 40-yard dash at the Combine, confirming what his tape displayed: he can flat-out run. His deep speed makes him a challenge for any defensive back to defend down the field, and his speed release against press coverage is polished. Especially for a taller receiver, he offers very good coordination across the middle of the field. It will likely take a little while for Thornton to develop, seeing as though he’s skinny at 181 pounds and isn’t too crisp out of his breaks. If he can pack on anywhere between 10-20 pounds and improve the sharpness of his movements as a route runner even a little bit, he could easily outplay his draft positioning. The Bears would be smart to look into him as early as Round 5.
Round 6: Ryan Van Demark, OT, UConn
There’s no such thing as too much offensive line depth, so it’s worth taking a shot on a developmental lineman who could grow into a swing tackle role.
Van Demark is a lineman with large proportions at just under 6-foot-7 with 35.5-inch long arms and 10 3/8-inch hands. The four-year starter for the Huskies tested very well at the Combine, finishing with great explosion numbers and elite agility testing. On tape, he’s a powerful blocker in his upper body who places his strikes well and plays with a mean streak. He can stand to improve his pad level and anchor strength, so he’s not someone who will play much in Year 1. That said, he projects well into the Bears’ offense, which could make him a target later on Day 3.
If you haven’t already, make sure to purchase my 2022 NFL Draft guide on my Patreon! It has my entire big board, a 7-round mock draft, Bears positional outlooks, scouting reports for my top 30 prospects and more.