Who Are the Experts Predicting to Bears in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft?
While they're further down in the draft at No. 20, the Bears are in an enviable position, since they don't have many dire needs thanks to free agency.
They entered the offseason with holes at tackle and tight end, but they filled those on the first day of free agency with Jermon Bushrod and Martellus Bennett.
As those holes filled, more opened as linebacker Nick Roach signed with the Raiders and the team announced they would not be bringing back Brian Urlacher, the former face of the franchise. They acted quickly to put bodies in those two holes as well, signing D.J. Williams from the Broncos and James Anderson from the Panthers. Although they may not change their plans in the draft, both have plenty of starting experience, meaning the Bears won't be desperate for a starting linebacker.
The result of their productivity early in this offseason means the Bears will have flexibility in the draft. They can draft the best player available regardless of their needs or trade back and get depth at key positions.
When looking at mock drafts, it's hard to tell if people are picking who the Bears should take or who they will take. Linebacker has been a popular pick for the Bears amongst the experts. Eight different people have them using the 20th pick on that position. Most have them taking either Arthur Brown of Kansas State or Alec Olgetree of Georgia.
One even predicts that Jarvis Jones—thought of as a top pick by some—will drop to them. There are, of course, the predictions that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o will be a Bear next season.
While some people may be great scouts, there really is no way of knowing what someone else will do or what they think of a certain player. Last season Bears general manager Phil Emery surprised many by selecting Shea McClellin. Could he have another trick up his sleeve this season? Or is he in line with many of the experts?
Only time will tell, but we all do our best guessing. Here are what some of the experts think Emery will or should do.
Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Rang had an interesting pick for the Bears, putting them with the talented defensive lineman from UCLA.
Rang referred to Jones' ability to play on the inside or outside of the defensive line, mentioning that McClellin may be too small to be a defensive end in their scheme.
Henry Melton looks like a player they're going to build around and Nate Collins re-signed, so they have their starting and backup 3-technique tackles. Rang mentioned Jones as a possible long-term replacement for Melton, but I don't think that is the player the Bears are most concerned with replacing right now.
I would usually never rule out a defensive lineman in today's NFL, but Jones just doesn't seem to be a good fit for the Bears schematically. I give Rang points for creativity, but Jones seems to be a better fit for a team that plays a 3-4 and can line him up at defensive end.
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Although his reasoning is flawed, Brooks might be on to something with this pick.
Brooks noted D.J. Moore's exit as something that created a "huge void" in the Bears secondary, obviously not realizing Moore lost his job as the starting nickelback to Kelvin Hayden, who is also a free agent.
Outside of Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, the Bears didn't have a cornerback who could cover. According to Pro Football Focus, opponents had a passer rating of 101.1 when throwing at Moore and 93.2 when throwing toward Hayden.
Furthermore, both Jennings and Tillman are entering contract years and Tillman is 32 years old, so he could be a candidate to be replaced soon.
Many think Trufant is an NFL-ready player. Brooks said, "Trufant is a natural fit with a refined game that is built on instincts, awareness and coverage."
Should he be available, Trufant could be a good pickup for the Bears, filling needs in both the short and long term.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
McShay's pick for the Bears might be a surprise to some, but it shouldn't be.
Consider this quote from Emery in his first postseason press conference:
Sacks and drops, are they a factor? Yes, I would say, but it doesn't look like they are the ultimate determining factor. I still think it comes down to how many playmakers do you have opposed to the team you're playing. And are they making plays that are game-changing instances in the moment of truth moving forward.
Patterson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at the combine and posted a combine-best 37-inch vertical jump. McShay calls Patterson "one of the most explosive, raw athletes in this draft and one of the most dangerous with the ball in his hands."
McShay also mentioned different ways in which the Bears could use Patterson, even saying he could be lined up in the backfield. He set a school record with 1,858 all-purpose yards in his only season at Tennessee.
Beyond Brandon Marshall, the Bears didn't get much production from their receivers last year. Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett had a hard time staying on the field. When healthy, they may be adequate starters, but they combined to miss 10 games last season and the Bears weren't able to replace them.
With Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett, the Bears wouldn't have to force Patterson into a big role right away, allowing him to develop in a reduced role.
The biggest problem with this pick is that most mock drafts have him off the board before the Bears could get him.
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Offensive tackle was once thought to be the biggest need for the Bears, but with the signing of Jermon Bushrod it has moved down the list. Still, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com and Mel Kiper of ESPN.com think the Bears could nab the big Alabama tackle.
While Kiper did his mock draft before free agency began, he noted they could be after two tackles this offseason, saying:
Phil Emery should be willing to write a check if he can add some offensive line help in free agency, and that could play into what the Bears do with this pick. But even if they add a good tackle, I don't think it eliminates the possibility they draft one.
Jeremiah, however, did his after the Bears signed Bushrod, noting Fluker could play right guard or right tackle.
Nearly all scouts agree that Fluker is going to be a terrific run-blocker, but they question his ability as a pass-blocker.
My problem with this pick is that the Bears already have that kind of player in Gabe Carimi.
Furthermore, the questions about Fluker's athletic ability make it unlikely that he would fit inside of the zone-blocking scheme new offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer intends to implement.
I think the Bears are set at right tackle with J'Marcus Webb. If they're going to convert a powerful run-blocker to guard, Carimi is as good of a prospect as Fluker.
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
While most have the Bears passing on the Notre Dame linebacker, Smith thinks it is the pick the Bears will make.
Smith notes that "they love" Te'o. Who he means by "they" is unknown, but it almost certainly isn't Emery.
Speed is something Te'o doesn't have.
According to the times on NFL Draft Scout, every player Emery selected in his first draft with the Bears ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds or less.
Going back even further, in his time as a scout with Chicago, Kansas City and Atlanta, Emery's teams drafted 14 linebackers, at least 11 had faster 40 times than Te'o posted in the NFL combine. The only exceptions that I found the times for were mid-to-late round picks, Rosevelt Colvin and Khari Samuel. Colvin was more of a defensive end and Samuel never panned out.
It's also worth noting neither came from the region Emery scouted. Eight of the linebackers the team's Emery was involved with drafted had 40 times under 4.7 seconds, one notable exception to that is Lance Briggs.
Perhaps a better showing at Notre Dame's pro day will move him up the boards, but as it stands right now, it's hard to see the Bears drafting Te'o.
Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
Jones is among the most interesting prospects in this year's draft. While no one seems to know where he's going to go for sure, Florio projected the Bears would take him in what he called a "crapshoot."
Jones was once considered a lock to be a top-10 pick, but a few issues have moved him down or off team's draft boards. I suspect those issues could be reason enough for the Bears to pass on him as well.
Jones suffered a neck injury as a freshman at USC and was diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis, which WebMD describes as the narrowing of the spinal canal at the level of the neck.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times' Adam Jahns, Emery ranked combine participants by medical issues first, followed by their interview and their workouts. A neck injury seems as if it would be a major red flag for him.
The last part of Emery's evaluation is another question for Jones as he ran a 40-yard dash that would make Te'o seem fast at Georgia's pro day on March 21.
Ultimately, with those two factors considered, it's hard to see Emery pulling the trigger on Jones. Unless, he deems the risk worth the reward.
Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Jones' teammate has been a popular pick to go to the Bears amongst experts, with three different people projecting the Bears to select the athletic linebacker. And they might be correct.
Like Urlacher, Ogletree is a converted safety. That similarity alone has many Bears fans drooling. Some question whether he's physical enough to play inside linebacker, but the bigger question marks come with his off-the-field behavior.
Ogletree was suspended for four games for a failed drug test in 2012 and was arrested for a DUI before the combine.
Even with those blemishes, Emery has shown the willingness to take a risk on a player. Last year he drafted Evan Rodriguez despite some legal issues, and he recently signed D.J. Williams, who was suspended twice last season.
If Emery thinks Ogletree is the best player for the Bears, I don't see any reason why he wouldn't make him the pick.
Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
Brown tied Ogletree in the popularity contest, as three experts had the Bears taking Brown over Ogletree.
Brown is a little shorter than Ogletree, but he possesses similar athletic skills. Like Ogletree, Brown isn't as physical as some would like, but he makes up for it with his speed and instincts. The biggest difference I've seen in clips of both is Brown is more aggressive and attacks the line of scrimmage more.
While they're comparable physically, Brown doesn't have the off-the-field issues Ogletree brings, which could be why some rate him higher.
Ultimately, deciding between Brown and Ogletree depends on the individual. Ogletree's ceiling seems higher, but his floor could be much lower.
Emery and the Bears are in a position where they need to hit on this pick, so if they choose a linebacker, Brown could get the nod over Ogletree if they have any character questions.
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