Bears Mock Draft: Instant Contributors Chicago Can Find in Every Round
With a little more than a month until the NFL draft on May 8, teams are continuing to scout and analyze potential draft picks.
Every team in the league wants to find players in each round who have the ability to contribute from day one, whether as a starter, quality rotational player and/or special teams contributor.
In his first two drafts, Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has found some impact players (Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long) but has selected others who have failed to develop (Shea McClellin, Jon Bostic). His goal, like all other teams, will be to find a player in every round that can help contributor to this team in 2014.
Here is our latest mock draft with players from each round who can be instant contributors to the Bears in 2014.
1st Round: Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
In his one of his scouting notebooks, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has Donald going to the Bears in his mock draft. Along with having Donald going to the Bears at No. 14, he lists him as one of his "five up" players for the week, writing:
The love affair with Donald's game isn't so much about these new discoveries on his film, but rather about the instant impact he can bring to an NFL defensive line. If you're a team in need of a 3-technique pass-rusher, he's your guy. No questions asked.
CBSSports.com's Rob Rang also has the Bears selecting Donald at No. 14 in his latest mock draft and gave this analysis:
The free agent additions of Lamarr Houston and Willie Young (among others) certainly lessens the need for defensive linemen but penetrators like Donald don't come around often. Given the caliber of explosive offenses in the NFC North, getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks is paramount.
As Rang noted, the Bears did help solidify their defensive line with the additions of Houston and Young, and they also solidified it with their recent signing of defensive end Jared Allen (via ChicagoBears.com). But the team still needs a dominant 3-technique defensive tackle with burst and speed, and Donald fits the bill.
One of the biggest knocks on the 6'1", 285-pound Donald is that is a bit undersized for an NFL defensive lineman. He addressed those concerns about his size at the combine, saying in a press conference (via SI.com), "[My height] is what it is. Thinking about it isn’t going to get me no taller. All I can [do] is go play the game of football the way I play it: hard-nosed, out there trying to make plays."
Comparisons have been made between Donald and the Cincinnati Bengals' Geno Atkins, who is widely regarded as the league's best 3-technique defensive tackle. Atkins was asked if those comparisons were true and told Peter King of TheMMQB.com, “Yes, definitely. He has the tool set and skills to be a dominant three technique: motor, speed, leverage and strength. I’m definitely looking forward to see what he does in the league.”
Despite questions about his size, Donald was impressive this offseason in the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine and appears to be someone who fits the Bears' needs perfectly. Even with the signings of DEs Houston, Young and Allen, the Bears' pass rush could become that much more dominant with a guy like Donald getting pressure up the middle.
2nd Round: Deone Bucannon, Safety, Washington State
After a dismal performance by the safety duo of Major Wright and Chris Conte in 2013, the Bears have brought in competition at the safety position.
The team signed Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray and Craig Steltz to compete with the incumbent Chris Conte, but despite those signings, Emery has stated that he is not done looking at improving the team's safety position, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times: "We’re definitely going to look at the safety position. Continue to look at it extensively in the [free-agent] market and the draft and post-draft.”
The team could take a look at Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville's Calvin Pryor at No. 14 in the draft but could find more value in the second round if Washington State's Deone Bucannon is available.
Bucannon is a physical safety who is not afraid to come up in the box and make a tackle but will need to improve his coverage skills at the next level. He did show improved range in 2013, and he has the ability to be a playmaker.
At the combine, Bucannon showed off the speed by running a 4.49 40-yard dash. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller commented on his combination of speed and hitting ability:
When offensive players see the Cougars' strong safety coming in to make a play on the ball, you can forgive them for thinking he's an outside linebacker. Bucannon hits like a linebacker but moves like a smaller safety prospect. And he uses that speed to produce all over the field as a tackler, as a ball hawk and as a coverage safety.
Bucannon's aggressive play and ability to make big hits allow draw comparisons to Seattle's Kam Chancellor. He is the type of player who could fit in from the start and be viewed as a "tone-setter" in the secondary.
Bucannon probably won't be presented the starting job, but given the group of safeties the Bears currently have, he would immediately become one of the team's best safeties.
3rd Round: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Cornerback, Nebraska
In Matt Miller's latest scouting notebook for Bleacher Report, he writes about rumors he has heard that the Bears appear to be looking at cornerback in the first round.
While taking a cornerback in the first round with Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller all possibly in play, there is plenty of depth at the position. The team could still find suitable depth later in the draft.
In a league that will look towards acquiring bigger, more physical cornerbacks like Seattle's Richard Sherman, Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste has the size to appeal to a number of teams.
As reported by Gil Brandt of NFL.com, "Jean-Baptiste has rare size (6-foot-2 3/8, 215); he looks like a clone of Richard Sherman. I'm sure the Seahawks, among most NFL teams, will be paying close attention to this player."
A former wide receiver (like Sherman), Jean-Baptiste is able to use his size and physicality to match up with receivers and has a good break on the football. He is a bit stiff in the hips and doesn't adjust as quickly or smoothly as some of the top-level cornerback talents in this draft.
"I'm physical, I'm fast, I cover a lot of ground, and I can be good with run fits," Jean-Baptiste told NFL.com. "The advantage for me is I can take them (receivers) out of their game. I've got long arms and I can put it on them."
The reason he could slip to the third round is that he still is relatively new to the position. The Bears helped solidify their cornerback position for 2014 by re-signing Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman and Kelvin Hayden (via ChicagoBears.com), but Jean-Baptiste would bring youth and more depth to the position as well as someone who can contribute on special teams. And he could push for the starting role in 2015.
4th Round: Jordan Tripp, Linebacker, Montana
When injuries struck Bears starting linebackers Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams, rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene both struggled with starting in the NFL.
The team re-signed Williams to play middle linebacker and the team plans on having Bostic compete with former first-round pick Shea McClellin, who is converting from defensive end to linebacker, for the opening at strongside linebacker.
Despite having one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in the game in Lance Briggs, the linebacker corps lacks depth and needs to get younger.
Even though the team took two linebackers in last year's draft, Montana's Jordan Tripp may be too difficult to pass up in the fourth round.
"I don't want to sound arrogant, but I believe that I'm the most versatile linebacker in this draft," Tripp told FoxSports.com. "I believe I can run and cover better than any linebacker in this draft."
According to NFL.com, Tripp had the fastest 20-yard shuttle run (3.96) for a linebacker since A.J. Hawk in 2006. He also was in the top 10 among linebackers in the 40-yard dash (4.67 seconds, ninth best), three-cone drill (6.89 seconds, fourth-best), vertical jump (37.5 inches, tied for sixth best) and broad jump (10 feet, ninth best).
During the 2013 season, he had 100 tackles as well as three interceptions, two sacks and three fumble recoveries.
One of his biggest strengths is in coverage, where he has the speed to match up with tight ends and running backs and plays with good footwork and fluidity. He does a good job at times of taking on two blockers to free up opportunities for others, but he can sometimes get too caught up and lose containment in the running game.
“I just want to come in and contribute right away and I believe that I can,” Tripp said. “I know I can be an impact player right away. I just need a team to fall in love with me and I’ll get that opportunity.”
As a fourth-round selection, Tripp would not be expected to compete right away at strong-side linebacker, but he has the ability to develop down the road and should have an immediate impact on special teams.
5th Round: Aaron Lynch, Defensive End, South Florida
The Bears have done a nice job of improving the defensive end position with the signings of Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Jared Allen, but in the NFL, there is no such thing as too many good pass-rushers.
Houston, Young and Allen are the three givens at the defensive end position, but the team will have to choose its depth from players like Trevor Scott, Austen Lane, Cornelius Washington, David Bass and Cheta Ozougwu. While the three new free agents are all established NFL players, the rest is a mix of veterans and unproven young players.
The team may be content with the defensive ends that currently are on its roster, but the Bears would have to strongly consider South Florida's Aaron Lynch in the fifth round.
Lynch had an up-and-down collegiate career. Initially enrolled at Notre Dame in 2011, he recorded 33 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble as a freshman. He then transferred to USF to be closer to his family. He was forced to sit out his sophomore year due to NCAA rules, and despite a subpar junior season, he opted to declare for the 2014 draft.
He has good speed and length and plays well against the run. One of his biggest flaws is his over-aggressiveness, as he tends to get flagged for dumb penalties.
His drop in production his junior season will likely drop his draft stock, but he has the potential and the tools to become an elite pass-rusher with proper coaching.
NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki wrote that Lynch would benefit from a "strong, mentoring, veteran position coach." If the Bears do draft Lynch, they have a guy in place with Paul Pasqualoni who has over 30-plus years of experience coaching at the collegiate and NFL levels.
Lynch would not be expected to push Houston, Young or Allen for a starting role. He could, however, carve out a niche as a pass-rushing specialist and contribute on special teams.
6th Round (Two Selections): James White (Running Back), Colt Lyerla (Tight End)
In recent years, the Bears have had a penchant for signing veteran running backs to big contracts only to see them put up subpar production. Chester Taylor, Marion Barber and Michael Bush come to mind.
The team currently sits with Matt Forte as the obvious workhorse but only have 2013 undrafted free agent Michael Ford as Forte's current backup. Ford showed some promise during the 2013 preseason but did not contribute much during the regular season.
Chicago could still look to free agency to find a veteran to spell Forte, but the draft is the most cost-effective way to find depth.
The 5'9", 204-pound James White dealt with the naysayers throughout his career at Wisconsin due to his small size, but he finished his career as the program's fourth all-time leading rusher with 4,015 yards and ended up third all-time with 45 touchdowns—all despite spending much of his career splitting time with Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon.
Despite his size, White is strong and shows a good burst and uses his low center of gravity to find space. He's not necessarily a power back, but has a nose for the end zone, particularly near the goal line.
He would likely compete with Ford for either the No. 2 or No. 3 running back spot. White also has the ability to be a kick return, something the Bears need.
In 2013 the Bears finally found a tight end who is both an effective pass-catcher and blocker in Martellus Bennett. While the Bears are more than happy with the production that Bennett gave them in 2013, the team still needs depth at the position and could benefit from having a "hybrid" tight end who can help spread defenses.
Oregon's Colt Lyerla was once viewed as a dynamic pass-catching tight end who could become a force in the NFL until he was arrested and pled guilty to cocaine-possession charges in October and left the team.
Lyerla is built like the new-age hybrid tight ends that are becoming the norm in the NFL and is similar to former Bears draft pick Evan Rodriguez.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com said of Lyerla, "He has the speed to blow past defenders on vertical routes and displays the short-area quickness and burst to run away from linebackers out of breaks."
He showed his versatility at Oregon, being used both as an in-line tight end as well as lining up at times in the backfield.
He has all of the potential to be a playmaker in the NFL, but due to Lyerla's off-the-field issues, the Bears would have to look long and hard at him to determine whether or not he has righted himself in his personal life and can help the team on the field.
If they feel they can provide the right environment, Lyerla has the potential to push backups Dante Rosario and Fendi Onobun for the No. 2 spot and be a weapon for Jay Cutler and the Bears' dynamic offense.