The 2012 NFL Draft is coming this April, and every football fan can hardly wait. With the 2011 offseason being irregular because of the lockout, people have been waiting for a normal offseason for awhile. This year, we will get to see free agency in March, the draft in April and normal starting times for Training Camp and mini camps.
However, it is only February, so now it's time for mock drafts. Whether it's 7-round mock draft predictions for specific teams or a full first round mock draft, the draft predictions are plentiful this time of year. People write one mock, and then the scouting combine comes and goes and they write another mock with changed opinions.
I am giving my first crack at a 7-round mock draft for the Chicago Bears this year. The Bears hired Phil Emery as their new GM to specifically help them with their draft selections, so he will get his first chance to show what he can do this April. Their needs are at WR, OL, CB and DE, and they hope to get them all filled with talented players in this offseason's draft and free agency.
Here is my predictions for all eight of the Chicago Bears 2012 NFL Draft picks.
The Chicago Bears main need this offseason is wide receiver. Luckily for them, there are plenty of good receivers in free agency and the draft this year. Michael Floyd has a good chance to be there when the Bears pick in the first round, so look for them to select the talented Notre Dame wide out if he's there.
Floyd is a big talented receiver and (if they don't sign an elite free agent prospect) would immediately become the Bears' number one receiver. He can win a lot of jump ball type situations and can win a lot of one on one situations.
The Bears number one receiver heading into 2012 right now is Earl Bennett. While Bennett is a pretty good receiver, he should not be the Bears' number one option. This offseason the Bears need to get multiple receiving talent to add to their roster, and drafting Michael Floyd in the first round is one of the best things they can do to accomplish that.
The Bears have Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman in their defensive backfield. They don't, however, have a guy starting opposite him that they can rely on every week.
Tim Jennings, Zachary Bowman and Corey Graham are all unrestricted free agents this offseason, and it remains to be seen what the Bears do with each free agent. They will most likely re-sign Graham and either Jennings or Bowman, but Graham isn't a guy that will start for Chicago and Jennings/Bowman are better off as a third or fourth corner on a defense.
So, the Bears need a guy at corner that can start opposite Charles Tillman, especially when there's Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers in the division. There are some good corners available in free agency this offseason, but the Bears really need to draft talent at the position because of the multitude of WR talent in Detroit and Green Bay.
Chase Minnifield is a great talent at corner in this year's draft. He is one of the most experienced players in college football, with last year being his fifth year at Virginia. He was mostly a back up and a special teams player in his first two years, but ever since then he's been a starter (and a good one at that).
Minnifield is five-feet-ten inches and weighs 185 pounds, which is a good size for his position. He is a quick corner—so he can cover the likes of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson—and he has a great vertical leap (for jump ball situations with guys like Calvin Johnson). He is a very good coverage player in zone coverage, but he may need some work with man coverage. He also has a hard nose for the ball and he is a big hitter, things that Chicago will love to have on their defense.
The Bears could really use a pass catching tight end. The Bears had Greg Olsen, but they traded him to Carolina because former Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz did not like to use tight ends in his offense.
Now that Martz has retired, the Bears can finally look to add an elite talent at tight end to help Jay Cutler out on third downs. Fred Davis and Jermichael Finley are both free agents this offseason, but there's a good chance that Chicago will not be able to get either of those players. They will then have to look to the draft for a pass catching tight end.
Coby Fleener would be a good pick for the Bears to upgrade their tight end position. Ironically, they would be using the pick they got from Carolina for Greg Olsen on a tight end to replace him. Funny how things work out, or could work out.
Fleener is a huge target at six-feet-six inches and 245 pounds. He has good hands and would work extremely well if he was used to give Cutler a big target to throw to on third down. He doesn't have elite speed, but he would be a phenomenal target in the red zone and he could net Chicago a lot of yards after the catch.
He is not the best run blocker, but that is okay because the Bears have Kellen Davis, who they can use in run blocking situations. Overall, Fleener would be a great addition to the Bears offense in 2012 and beyond.
The Chicago Bears need some help on their offensive line, especially at left tackle. J'Marcus Webb is not the best option at tackle for any team, so drafting an offensive tackle this offseason is one of the things on the Bears' to do list.
Zebrie Sanders is another very experienced college football player the Bears could look to draft. He has started at Florida State for four straight years and he has moved from left tackle to right tackle and then back to left tackle in his senior year. He has tremendous size at six feet six inches and 307 pounds, and he has very quick feet for that size. His feet will help him deal with fast defensive ends if he is placed on the Bears' line at left tackle.
He may have to add some bulk to his frame, but he can do that once he gets to the NFL. He has some coaching up to do when it comes to beating his man off the line of scrimmage on run plays, but he has all the talent in the world to become the Bears' starting left tackle. If Sanders was drafted by Chicago, he would most likely compete with J'Marcus Webb for the left tackle spot in Training Camp next year. If Sanders plays like he can play, he would be able to beat out Webb and be the Bears' tackle of the future, along with Gabe Carimi.
Chicago has Julius Peppers at one of their DE spots, and he is one of the best ends in football. However, the Bears would like to upgrade their DE spot opposite Julius Peppers because Israel Idonije did not do the best job at taking advantage of double teams on Peppers last season.
Cam Johnson would be a great pick for the Bears in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Johnson looked great as a pass rushing OLB in college, and he looked even better as a DE. He has great size at six-feet-four inches and 267 pounds. He has a very good bull rush (his go-to move) and shows great effort on every play. Johnson will run down the quarterback and/or the running back at full speed right until the final whistle.
While he may need to work to add a few more pass rushing moves to his repertoire, there’s no reason he can’t be coached up to do that once he gets to the NFL. All the talent is there for Johnson, and he could be really successful on the Bears’ line when Peppers is seeing all of the double teams.
Stephen Hill may not last to where the Bears pick in the fifth round, but if he does, he could be a smart pick by the Bears.
Hill definitely has weaknesses as a receiver. He battled drops in 2011, he is not the best route runner and he sometimes would run a route that he was not told to run. He also was in a triple option offense in college, which lowered his number of targets. In turn, he lost concentration on some plays which led to his drops on relatively easy passes.
However, Hill definitely has a lot of upside. He displays tremendous size at six-feet-five inches and 207 pounds. He has a ton of speed and athleticism and will win most of the one-on-one situations he is in. He is very aggressive going for the ball and he is a viable red zone threat. Also, he is a very good down field blocker and can be used to help run block as a WR.
Hill has so much potential that as a fifth-round pick, he could be one of the biggest steals in the draft for the Bears. Considering WR is their biggest need this offseason, drafting Hill should be a no brainer for Chicago if he falls this far.
The Bears had a lot of different players play safety for them in 2011, and finding some stability at the position is something Phil Emery could be looking to do this offseason. In the sixth round, there may not be a lot of players that can come in and make a great impact right away, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.
Trenton Robinson is a free safety from Michigan State that is a much underrated player. He doesn’t have great size at five-foot-ten inches and 195 pounds, but he is an extremely productive player. He’s a good athlete with good speed that has a nose for the ball, has good versatility, very durable, and should contribute on special teams.
He needs to find his true position once he gets to the NFL, but he would be a great pick by the Bears late in the draft.
Isaiah Frey would be a solid option for the Bears with their last pick in the draft. Again, with the quarterbacks and wide receivers in their division you can never have too many cornerbacks on your roster.
Frey has good size for his position at five-foot-eleven inches and 189 pounds. He does a good job at keeping his pad level down and cleanly getting out of his transition. He’s not very quick footed or physical, but does have good speed and can contribute on special teams.
Chicago would not expect Frey to make an immediate impact on defense, nor should they. Frey is a pick that will mostly contribute on special teams and he can also develop into quality depth at the corner position down the line. The Bears could look to draft a quarterback, linebacker or another offensive lineman with this pick, but getting a special teams guy that can provide defensive depth is a solid scenario for a seventh round pick.
Overall, the Bears would be adding two potentially game changing wide receivers in this draft, while also adding potential replacements for J’Marcus Webb and Israel Idonije. This could be the ideal draft for Chicago, but there can always be different opinions, changes in draft projections, and players being reached on or falling in the actual draft. Look for these mock drafts to change a lot over time, and for fans everywhere to wait eagerly for the actual draft in April.