Chicago Bears Draft: The Best Fit for the Bears at Every Position
The Chicago Bears head into this draft without many major needs; however, it wouldn't be surprising to see them draft at any position.
This is a list of the players the Bears should target at each position. To find players, I tried to look at fit for their current schemes and roster and projections for the future.
It's important to keep in mind that new head coach Marc Trestman has been adamant about fitting his scheme to players.
"The first thing that Marc asked me was, 'For you, when you're drafting players, is it the best player or the best system-fit player?,'" general manager Phil Emery said when he introduced Trestman (via ChicagoBears.com). "I said, 'Absolutely it's the best player; you want the best player that can transcend schemes, that has a skill set that will work out and will be able to progress as a player regardless of the scheme.' He said, 'Good, if I'm the head football coach, let's do that, because I can take those players, and we'll take their skill sets and we can adapt to what they do best so that we can win.'"
I also took availability into consideration. I tried to be reasonable with the guys the Bears should be targeting. Obviously, a player like Luke Joeckel is not going to be available to them should they want to draft an offensive tackle or he would be on this list.
Still, almost nothing is off the board. Some of the guys on this list they may be able to trade back for and some they may have to trade up a couple of spots for. Some might fall into their laps.
You'll see a number of guys who will be drafted in the first round or in the second round. This is not a mock draft or a projection of who they will take, but a projection of who might fit best should they target players at those position.
There are some positions that they are unlikely to draft players at all, so I projected later round picks. There are other positions they may go after earlier than most expect.
Overall, I tried to be fair and reasonable with this list. The Bears may end up with a couple of these guys, they may end up with none of them and they certainly won't get all of them.
Quarterback: EJ Manuel, Florida State
EJ Manuel NFL Player Comparison
By all accounts this is a weak quarterback class, so it would be a minor surprise to see the Bears draft one early. However, if they do, it could be the Florida State quarterback.
Scouts are torn on EJ Manuel. Some—like NFL Network's Mike Mayock—rank him as high as the second-best quarterback overall. However, ESPN's Mel Kiper doesn't have him in his top five (subscription required).
He doesn't look like the classic quarterback for the West Coast offense, but neither was Colin Kaepernick. ESPN's Ron Jaworski makes that comparison (subscription required) when talking about the draft's top quarterbacks, where he has Manuel ranked third.
Kaepernick took over what was a classic West Coast passing attack and the San Francisco49ers coaching staff changed it to fit his skills. At the end of the 2012-13 season, he was among the most feared quarterbacks in the league.
If you believe in the studies done by ESPN's Sports Science, Manuel may be the most accurate passer in the draft. He also had the quickest release of the quarterbacks they studied.
Manuel is a project if there ever was one, but his potential might be worth the risk. The Bears hired a quarterback guru as their head coach, they should give him someone with all the tools.
Running Back: Onterio McCalebb, Auburn
The Bears probably aren't going to draft a running back in this draft, but if they do, it should be someone who has speed and can compete on special teams. Onterio McCalebb fits the bill.
At 5'10" and 168 pounds, McCalebb probably won't be an every-down back, but he can provide a change of pace from Matt Forte and Michael Bush and help the team on special teams.
The Auburn back turned in the fastest 40-yard dash at his position at the NFL combine, and the speed showed on tape. In 2010, he set an Auburn school record with 8.5 yards per carry, finishing with 810 yards and nine touchdowns. This past season, he ran for 570 yards and six touchdowns on 94 carries.
For the Bears, his biggest impact would be as a receiver, where he graded "above average" by Scouts Inc. (subscription required). They said he "shows the ability to adjust to off-target balls and still get up the field quickly." And that he "appears natural and confident catching the football."
With Bush and Forte on the roster and likely to get almost all of their carries, the Bears don't need to spend a draft pick on a running back. If they do, however, McCalebb could bring a different dimension to the team.
Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard
How much the Bears are going to use a fullback is unknown, but Kyle Juszczyk is an interesting prospect.
The Harvard alum was not invited to the combine, but he had a good showing at his pro day, where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.72 and 4.71 seconds and had a 37-inch vertical leap, according to CBS Sports.
Juszczyk is considered a fullback/h-back combination as he led Harvard with 52 catches for 706 yards last season. He also led the Ivy League with eight touchdown receptions.
Should the Bears draft him, they could move Evan Rodriguez back to tight end. Trestman has used the fullback to catch passes in the past. William Floyd had 47 catches in eight games in Trestman's first year as the offensive coordinator of the 49ers in 1995. When he had the same job with Arizona, Larry Centers caught 69 passes in 1998.
He is also considered a good blocker and is CBS Sports' top-rated fullback.
Tight End: Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
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This name could be replaced with Stanford's Zach Ertz—who ESPN's Michael Wright reported the Bears are interested in—and it would be a similar story, but I give Tyler Eifert a slight edge.
Who the better tight end is was highly debated until the NFL combine when Eifert ran the fourth-fastest 40 time and Ertz the ninth. Had Ertz put up the same numbers at the combine as he did at his pro day, he might be the consensus top tight end.
As it stands now, I'm sticking with Eifert, reserving the right to change my mind.
The difference to me comes in a story by ESPN's Pat Yasinskas. Both players made plays down the field, but Eifert was a little more consistent, catching 84 percent of his on-target passes, compared to Ertz's 72.7 percent, since the start of the 2011 season.
This is essentially a flip of the coin, but the Bears let too many big plays hit the ground last year.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Bears left 416 yards on the field thanks to dropped basses. That was the fifth-highest mark in the league, and they were the worst in terms of average per drop, averaging 12.24 yards per drop. Some of that is thanks to last year's starting tight end, Kellen Davis, who dropped five passes over 10 yards down the field.
In a comparison where everything else is nearly equal, I give the edge to reliability.
Wide Receiver: Markus Wheaton, Oregon State
While it would be hard to argue with either Tavon Austin or Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round, Markus Wheaton is a better fit in terms of what the Bears need.
Austin and Patterson are elite with the ball in their hands but aren't nearly as polished as Wheaton, who is the Beavers' all-time leading receiver. He excels at getting open and tracking down deep passes.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compared Wheaton to San Francisco's Michael Crabtree because of his ability to work the middle of the field, an area Emery said the Bears must improve in his first press conference after the season ended.
The Bears also have to improve at throwing the ball down the field. Jay Cutler threw deep passes on 15.6 percent of his passes—the fourth-highest rate in the league, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), but the Bears did not have a single receiver rank in the top 30 in terms of percentage of deep passes caught (subscription required).
Wheaton would help the Bears there as he has also been compared to former Bears deep threat Bernard Berrian by CBS Sports.
Offensive Tackle: Terron Armstead, Arkansas Pine Bluff
This is a hard position to project for the Bears because they signed Jermon Bushrod, but that didn't necessarily solve their tackle woes.
Bushrod is only a slight upgrade over J'Marcus Webb at left tackle and now there are questions on if Webb will be a great right tackle. Switching sides isn't as easy as most seem to think.
The Bears' other alternatives are trying to get more out of former first-round pick Gabe Carimi or Jonathan Scott, who started at right tackle for the team at the end of last season.
If neither Webb nor Carimi are capable of holding down the right side, Scott would be an emergency, short-term solution.
Terron Armstead is considered a raw prospect with the strength to play right tackle and the athletic ability to play left tackle.
However, should Webb or Carimi be able to play the right side, the Bears could move Armstead to guard, where they're still weak, despite adding Matt Slauson.
Armstead is a project, but new offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer has had success with projects before.
Offensive Guard: Chance Warmack, Alabama
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North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper may be considered a better fit for the Bears zone-blocking scheme, but Chance Warmack gives them an attitude they don't have on the line.
I've already gone over the many things Warmack would bring to the Bears, as he'd be the first anchor they had on their line since Olin Kreutz.
Warmack's ESPN draft profile (subscription required) describes him as a "workhorse" who "never just goes through the motions." It also said "if he fails to execute the assignment on one play, he makes the defender pay the next snap."
Former Bears' first-round pick Marc Colombo said Warmack is "big, tough and nasty" and compared him to "Nate Newton with Larry Allen's strength."
The Bears simply don't have any attitude or toughness on their offensive line, and Warmack would bring that in addition to a big upgrade in talent.
Center: Brian Schwenke, Cal
Brian Schwenke had a very good performance at the combine in which he tied for the second-best performance in the three-cone drill, ran the sixth-fastest 40-yard dash and did the eighth-most bench press reps.
At 6'3" and 314 pounds, he brings very good size and athleticism to the table. He started his career at guard but played center last season. Should the Bears draft him, he could be their starting center from the first day of training camp on.
Like Warmack, Schwenke would bring toughness to the Bears offensive line. His Scouts Inc. (subscription required) said he "flashes a nasty side and can be downright dirty on occasion."
Defensive End: Cornellius Carradine, Florida State
Another position that is tough to project for the Bears. They have Julius Peppers at one end, and both Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin showed flashes last season, but teams can never have too many pass-rushers.
Cornellius Carradine was having a great season with 11 sacks before tearing his ACL in Florida State's 12th game. That injury has put his draft stock in question, but the Bears could feel he is worth the risk should they trade back or out of the first round.
In addition to his 11 sacks, Carradine had 80 tackles before being injured last season. Despite the injury, he received Scouts Inc.'s (subscription required) fifth-best grade amongst defensive ends.
At the combine, Carradine measured 6'4", weighed 276 pounds and did 28 reps of 225 pounds. Assuming he can get his knee healthy, he could help the Bears as both an interior and outside rusher, filling the role Israel Idonije played last season.
He would also give the Bears a potential future replacement for Peppers.
Defensive Tackle: Jesse Williams, Alabama
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In his first season as a starter, Stephen Paea failed to impress, so don't be surprised if the Bears bring in some competition for him in the draft.
With Melton as the 3-technique and speed at defensive end, the Bears could use a strong tackle to collapse the pocket.
Enter Jesse Williams.
Williams showed good strength with 30 bench press reps at the combine and saw his stock rise after his pro day, when he reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds.
He also performed well in other drills, so it looks like he won't be limited to being a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, as some originally thought.
Williams isn't the type of defensive tackle the Bears would take under Lovie Smith, but new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker appears to like bigger players inside. Both of the starters for the Jaguars weighed over 310 pounds last season. Williams came in at 323 pounds at the combine.
The Australian would give the Bears more versatility along their defense, allowing them to show more three-man fronts with McClellin lining up at linebacker.
Outside Linebacker: Zaviar Gooden, Missouri
Another guy who reportedly (per Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune) has already visited the Bears and would have an immediate impact.
Zaviar Gooden had the fastest 40-yard dash of any linebacker at the combine, running it in a blistering 4.47 seconds and was fourth with 27 bench press reps. Those physical skills would allow him to compete with James Anderson for the starting position opposite Lance Briggs.
Although fast, Gooden is raw and may not be physical enough for the NFL game right away. If he is unable to get a starting spot right away, he should still be able to contribute to the Bears' special teams unit while he sharpens his skills at linebacker.
If and when he did break the starting lineup, his athletic ability would allow the Bears to stay in their base defense more. According to Scouts Inc. (subscription required), he is "exceptional" in coverage. With his speed, he should be able to keep up with any tight end and quite a few wide receivers.
The Bears play in a division that has two of the best passing attacks in Green Bay and Detroit, as well as the best running back, Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. A player with Gooden's athleticism would be able to stay on the field against the passing teams, while his strength would also enable him to play against the Vikings.
Inside Linebacker: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
In my opinion, Arthur Brown is the most complete inside linebacker. He is more athletic than Manti Te'o and has better instincts than Alec Ogletree.
Brown reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67 and 4.68 seconds at Kansas State's pro day, where he also did 21 reps of 225 pounds.
Brown is an active defender, who is constantly around the ball, something that has been a trademark of the Bears defense in recent years.
Scouts Inc. (subscription required) noted that he has sideline-to-sideline range and he closes quickly. When it comes to coverage, they said he "has the athleticism to match up with most RBs in man coverage and flashes ability to match up with TEs downfield."
Brown is never going to be Brian Urlacher, but those players only come around once a decade. As a rookie, Brown would likely compete with D.J. Williams in the middle or Anderson outside. Should the Bears spend a first-round draft pick on him, he would be expected to win either battle.
Cornerback: Darius Slay, Mississippi St.
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The combine's fastest corner also brings one of the best combination of coverage and ball skills of all the players in this draft.
Scouts Inc. (subscription required) has Darius Slay ranked as the eighth-best cornerback in the draft, but he is the only player in the top 10 who they consider to be "above average" in both coverage and ball skills. That includes both Desmond Trufant and Dee Milliner, who are expected to be first-round picks.
The knock on Slay is experience. He has just 13 career starts and has raw instincts. Scouts Inc. (subscription required) stated he is more comfortable in zone coverage, but that he "flashes anticipations skills, but is inconsistent."
He's more of a project than others, but he has talent to work with.
Slay would be able to step in and play in the Bears' nickel package right away as he develops skills. Next season, he could take one of the starting jobs, should they not retain Charles Tillman or Tim Jennings.
He should fit in nicely with the Bears' ability to score on defense. Over the last two seasons, he has intercepted six passes, returning two for touchdowns.
Slay might be one of the most raw cornerback prospects in this draft, but it's entirely possible he'll be the best in a few years.
Safety: Earl Wolff, N.C. State
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Major Wright had a very good season and Chris Conte was solid for the Bears in 2012, but both have injury histories, and Earl Wolff would give them someone they can rely on.
Both Wright and Conte have missed significant time due to injury in the past, and the team's third-round pick last year—Brandon Hardin—missed the entire season. Wolff did not miss a single start over the last three years, a span of 39 games. He played in all 51 games during his collegiate career, leaving only one with an injury.
He performed well at the combine, running a 4.44 40-yard dash and registering a 39-inch vertical. He's known more as a coverage safety and would likely compete with Conte.
The Bears added veteran Tom Zbikowski in free agency, but it's unknown if they view him as someone who will compete for playing time or as a special teams player.
Wolff would be able to do both and should give the Bears someone they can rely on to stay on the field.