Bears Mock Draft: Updated 7-Round Projections After Senior Bowl
Much like the Shrine Game last weekend, Saturday's Senior Bowl, along with a week of practices, allowed college football's elite talent to show off their skills to NFL general managers, coaches and scouts.
The South team came away with a 21-16 victory over the North team, but the bigger emphasis is being made on what these players did throughout the week in position-centric drills run by the staffs of the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions.
While the Shrine Game typically deals with players slated to be chosen in the mid-to-late rounds, a good majority of the Senior Bowl's participants are expected to go in the top three rounds.
New Bears' head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery were in Mobile this week, watching practices and interviewing players and using that information to alter their draft board.
Here is the updated Chicago Bears mock draft following the Senior Bowl:
1st Round: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Given the alarming rate at which quarterback Jay Cutler has been sacked during his tenure in Chicago, the Bears should be looking to upgrade the left tackle position—they could find themselves looking at one of the veteran left tackles (Jake Long, Ryan Clady, Jermon Bushrod, Branden Albert) in free agency if they become available.
Good left tackles rarely hit the open market, and if they are not able to sign a legitimate starting left tackle, they could look to the draft to address the position.
Oklahoma's Lane Johnson has climbed up many big boards with his strong performances near the end of the season, and could be available when the Bears select 20th overall in the 2013 draft.
Johnson is a former quarterback, tight end and defensive end, and made a seamless transition from right tackle to left tackle this season. At 6'6", 303 pounds, he has prototypical size for the position as well as long arms, which are desirable traits among left tackles.
After watching Johnson in just a few practices earlier in the week, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller said of him:
Johnson is a project—he needs to work on technique and hand use—but his athleticism makes for a great foundation. With Lane's quickness and footwork you have a base level agility that's uncoachable.
He has a good bend in his knees while keeping his base technically sound, all resulting in good movement with his feet while shuffling into position.
His strong showing this week throughout practice and during the game Saturday afternoon has helped raise the stock of a guy once projected as a mid-first to mid-second round pick. Given the amount of talent along the offensive line in this year's draft, Johnson could be a great value pick at 20th overall for the Bears.
2nd Round: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
Just as the left tackle position has been an area of concern for the Bears, so has the guard position. In 2012, Lance Louis solidified himself as their starting right guard (before an injury in December ended his season) but the left guard position saw Chilo Rachal, Chris Spencer, Edwin Williams, and James Brown all take their turn at trying to hold down the position.
In the past, most NFL drafts were littered with top level positional players, while offensive lineman were typically relegated to being chosen later in the draft. In recent years, the offensive line talent has become more and more apparent, and the 2013 draft should see a run of very talented lineman going early and often.
Kentucky's Larry Warford had an impressive senior season in 2012 and that helped garner him second-team All-SEC honors. At 6'3", 333 pounds, he looks more in the build of an NFL right guard than left guard, but according to Bleacher Report's Michael Shottey, he blew away the competition in agility drills and held up well against competition on the inside.
His agility is a plus, but his straight line speed might not be fast enough for him to pull and get to the second level in the NFL. He is terrific in pass blocking, and his agility allows him to shuffle his feet well and to rarely be out of position.
Just like Lane Johnson, Warford's strong showing this week in Mobile, coupled with a solid outing on Saturday afternoon, gives him a chance to be selected higher than initially expected, and could be a nice addition to a Bears offensive line that has lacked good, young players in recent years.
4th Round: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
Despite having a defense that was fifth in the league in yards allowed and eighth in sacks (41), the defensive line heading into 2013 is still an area of concern.
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton, defensive end/defensive tackle Israel Idonije, and defensive tackles Amobi Okoye and Nate Collins are all set to become free agents—although the Bears will likely do their best to sign Melton, there will still be a need to get younger along the defensive line.
Often overshadowed by guys like 2012 first round pick Melvin Ingram and sophomore sensation Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina's Devin Taylor used last week's Shrine Game to bolster his own draft stock.
Measuring in at over 6'7", he has imposing height, but because of that, he tends to be a bit stiff in the hips and does not possess the type of bend that most look for in defensive ends. He weighed in around 280 pounds for the Shrine Game, but some still think he'd be better suited to put on more muscle.
He registered a forced fumble during the Shrine Game, and showed off his athleticism and speed throughout the week in St. Petersburg leading up to the game.
His strong showing has allowed his stock to rise from a guy once viewed as a sixth-round pick to a possible fourth-round pick. If he is available in the fourth round, he could find himself, along with Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin, as a good, young defensive end core to go alongside perennial Pro Bowler Julius Peppers.
5th Round: DeVonte Holloman, LB, South Carolina
Veteran middle linebacker and face of the franchise, Brian Urlacher, returned in 2012 following a knee injury that kept him out of the majority of training camp and all of the preseason—he clearly did not look like the same player he had been for the previous 12 seasons.
His sideline-to-sideline mobility decreased, and the speed that was once his strong suit appeared to be half of what it used to be. His season ended in early December when he suffered a Grade-2 hamstring tear and missed the final three games of the season.
New head coach Marc Trestman was not willing to commit one way or another on Urlacher's return for the 2013 season, saying (h/t ESPN Chicago):
I've watched the man (Urlacher) play for a lot of years. He exemplifies what being a Chicago Bear is all about, and we all know that. When I step out of this room we'll begin to study, and I'll talk to (general manager) Phil (Emery) about where personnel fits on this football team and how it works. I need to be educated on that and I can't wait to get started.
Veteran Nick Roach filled in nicely for him at middle linebacker in his absence, but with injuries to Geno Hayes and Blake Costanzo near the end of the season, it was evident that the Bears linebacking corps lacks depth and will need to look to the draft to improve it.
South Carolina's DeVonte Holloman spent the first three years of his collegiate career as a safety before being moved to the Gamecocks' "spur" position, a safety/linebacker hybrid similar to the "lobo" position Urlacher played at New Mexico before being drafted by the Bears in 2000.
At 6'2" and 241 pounds, Holloman has the frame of an NFL linebacker and the speed to match up with some of the best tight ends and running backs in the game. He has excelled in pass coverage given his experience as a safety, and has six career interceptions.
Projected by many as an outside linebacker, Holloman had a strong showing at the East-West Shrine Game practices last week, and according to NewEnglandPatriotsDraftcom editor Mike Loyko, Holloman excelled at reading plays while on the sidelines, calling them out to his fellow linebackers and safeties on the West squad.
He likely would not be an immediate starter as a middle linebacker, but if he was able to put on some weight and maintain his speed, he could grow into a middle linebacker in new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker's 4-3 scheme.
6th Round: Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA
One of the biggest disappointments during the 2012 season for the Bears was the struggles of tight end Kellen Davis. He dropped a lot of passes, struggled as a blocker and oftentimes found himself out of position.
He is still under contract for next season, but with new head coach Marc Trestman's West Coast system being put it place, it will be important to find a tight end who can play in the middle of the field.
Tabbed by CBS Sports' Rob Rang at the beginning of the season as the nation's top senior tight end in the country, UCLA's Joseph Fauria struggled to live up to that hype.
He finished his senior season with 46 catches for 637 yards and an impressive 12 touchdowns, but he has been criticized for not playing with much passion and is an average-at-best blocker.
His size (6'7", 255 pounds) is his biggest attribute, as he is able to match up physically with linebackers and can fend off most defensive backs. His speed is quick enough to beat most linebackers, but he will likely struggle at the next level to create separation.
He missed a sizable amount of practice last week for the Shrine Game due to a hip injury (h/t SB Nation), which ultimately led to him not being able to participate in the game.
A good week of practice and a strong Shrine Game would have helped him elevate his draft stock, but given his injury last week, he continues to move down draft boards and could be available as late as the sixth round.
The combine will be the best opportunity for him to show off his physical attributes, but he will have to prove that he has the speed to separate in the NFL and to also show that he has improved his blocking.