Just hours away from arguably the most significant draft in recent years, yet there is still a lot of conjecture about whom the Bears will pick.
Best player available?
Though the Bears could use a boost at safety, cornerback and linebacker, and have a serious need at defensive tackle, none of those positions represents as great a need for the first round as DE, OT or WR.
But out of the DE, OT and WR positions, which will be the Bears fill first?
In the following slides, I'll take a different approach to mock drafting.
I'll present what I think would be the ideal mock draft depending on the position drafted in the first round. That yields three different mock drafts to consider. It will also allow you to see for yourself, the strengths and weaknesses of pursuing a particular position in the first round.
Even with these three mocks, there are still endless combinations and permutations the Bears could go with rounds 2-7. With these three mocks, I will follow the Best Player Available (BPA) and value-based drafting strategies for the remaining rounds beyond Round One.
But it's still equivalent to hitting the lottery when picking these individual guys. Instead of focusing on the individuals, my focus will be on identifying the position I think the Bears will go in each round and then identify a realistically-available player at that position for each of those rounds.
And at the end, I will make my prediction of which scenario the Bears will actually go. I will also give my two cents on whether I agree with the scenario I believe the Bears will follow.
Let's consider our first possible draft route.
Jonathan Martin (#55)
This scenario addresses the fan base that believes the Bears' most important need is to keep Jay Cutler protected.
Jonathan Martin and Mike Adams are the only two options to realistically be available with the "OT First" plan, as Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff are certain to be long gone by No. 19.
During Senior Bowl week, Adams struggled consistently against defensive end Vinny Curry. Adams also struggled during the season against defensive end Whitney Mercilus.
So of the two, I'd give the edge to Martin.
If Martin was the Bears' first pick, the team would need to go for defense with its second pick.
The reason is that the impact receivers likely will be off the board already. The Bears don't pick again until No. 50 and Rueben Randle, Alshon Jeffery, Stephen Hill, and Mohamed Sanu all are expected to be gone by then.
The team could take Joe Adams or Marvin Jones but defense may be a better value at this point. Don't expect Vinny Curry to be around at No. 50, though.
So if the Bears went OT first, here's how I think the team's full seven-round draft could look:
1. OT Jonathan Martin.
2. DT Alameda Ta'amu. Shined during Senior Bowl week.
3. DE Bruce Irvin. First round pass rushing talent but character issues weigh down his stock.
4. WR A.J. Jenkins. Best WR at the Shrine Game, productive at Senior Bowl, blistering Pro Day. Low bust potential.
5. LB Demario Davis. Could be the steal of the draft.
6. CB Ron Brooks. Great in zone coverage. Could also play safety. Special teams standout.
7. WR Dale Moss. Enormous potential from first-year receiver. Could be star in the making.
This scenario will satisfy the part of the fan base that believes the top priority is stopping elite quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Eli Manning to have any chance to win the Super Bowl.
With a star defensive end to help Julius Peppers put heat on opposing quarterbacks, it makes the secondary's job easier.
Plenty of options should be available at No. 19: Nick Perry, Whitney Mercilus, Chandler Jones, Andre Branch and Vinny Curry.
Perry had a workout for the ages at the Combine. Mercilus followed up a tremendous season with a strong Combine and Pro Day.
Curry probably has the best collegiate resume, ranks higher than Mercilus on a couple different boards, followed up a disappointing Combine with what was called a "masterful" Pro Day, and could become a superstar in the NFL. Unfortunately, he may also be in no-man's-land for the Bears: considered too high at No. 19 but long gone by No. 50.
Chandler Jones could be the Bears' surprise pick. The Bears brought him in for a workout. Some boards think he's a third or fourth-round guy. But Mel Kiper thinks Jones could go as high as No. 18 on his latest mock and Mike Mayock considers Jones one of the best 4-3 defensive ends in the draft.
If the Bears go DE first, the safest option—while still having tremendous upside—is Curry. The team has been linked plenty to Mercilus but I say the Bears go Curry.
1. DE Vinny Curry.
2. DT Kendall Reyes. Strong, explosive, can handle double teams. Leader.
3. OT Jeff Allen. Tenacious, competitive, good instincts. Rising on draft boards.
4. WR Juron Criner. Makes tough catches. Good size for red zone.
5. CB Josh Norman. Tremendous instincts, nice ball skills, highly athletic.
6. LB Danny Trevathan. Moves well, good instincts. Has some pop in his hits.
7. WR Dale Moss. Most upside of anyone left in the seventh round.
This scenario would satisfy the part of the fan base that says the Bears need to bring their offense into the 21st century with a minimum three top receiving threats like the Giants, Packers, Saints and Patriots have.
Michael Floyd is not in the discussion for the Bears, as some say he may even be picked ahead of Justin Blackmon.
Although the Bears visited Stephen Hill at his Pro Day and brought in Rueben Randle and Alshon Jeffery for workouts, it seems pretty clear to me that if the Bears go with a receiver at No. 19, it will be Kendall Wright.
Not only did the Bears visit Wright at his Pro Day (where Lovie Smith reportedly also had dinner with Wright and liked him), but the Bears also brought him back in for another workout.
Wright is a consensus first-round pick that should be available at No. 19.
Hill is a wild card but given his developmental project status and the Bears' perpetual inability to develop receivers, Emery would be wise to take the more polished Wright over the more raw Hill.
Bears GM Phil Emery was part of the Falcons think-tank that picked receiver Roddy White with Atlanta's No. 27 overall pick. The same thing happened last year when Emery was part of the Chiefs war room that took Jonathan Baldwin with Kansas City's 26th overall pick. So Emery apparently isn't opposed to going receiver with the first-round pick if the talent warrants it.
If the Bears go wide receiver first, here's how the rest of the draft could go down:
1. WR Kendall Wright.
2. DE Bruce Irvin. First round talent; third-round off-field issues.
3. CB Trumaine Johnson. If he's not there, then Dwight Bentley, who had an excellent Senior Bowl.
5. OT Donald Stephenson. Besides Matt Kalil, only other lineman with left tackle feet. Could be a Carl Nicks-type steal of the draft (Nicks was a fifth-round pick who is now a two-time All-Pro).
7. WR Dale Moss. Amazing athleticism, enormous upside.
And of these three first-round scenarios, I predict the Bears will go...
...wide receiver first.
With almost every prognosticating opinion being defense first in the first round and the leftover opinion being offensive line, I think Emery will surprise everyone by going with receiver first—assuming Kendall Wright is still on the board.
But if Wright is gone, then the Bears will absolutely go defensive end first. I do not think they will go with Stephen Hill.
As for offensive tackles, I just don't think Jonathan Martin and Mike Adams offer the value in the first round that would warrant taking either of them over Wright or a defensive end.
The Bears can take a receiver or a pass rusher and still be able to take a really solid tackle in Jeff Allen or Donald Stephenson in the middle rounds of the draft. That is adhering to the Best Player Available/value-based drafting strategy that I think Emery will be employing.
Although the draft is deep in wide receivers, I agree with Mike Mayock that, unlike past years, the first round receivers is significantly better than the non-first round receivers this year.
And pairing up a big-play threat like Wright opposite Brandon Marshall with Earl Bennett playing the Mario Manningham role on the Super Bowl Giants offense would give the Bears an elite offense, while using the remaining picks to shore up the defense and offensive line.
Personally, I like this wide-receiver-first approach too and have advocated it in past articles.
The draft is still a guessing game, but the final exam starts on Thursday.