Chicago Bears Mock Draft: Final 7-Round Predictions
After months of waiting, the 2014 NFL draft will finally take place this week in New York City at the Radio City Music Hall.
Teams have been scouting particular players for months, if not years, and hope they know something about a player that no one else does.
Despite making a splash in free agency with the signings of guys like Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery still needs to improve the team's depth and find players in this draft that can contribute in 2014.
After months of speculating which direction the team is going to go in during the draft, all of those questions will finally be answered after this weekend.
Here are our final seven-round predictions for the Chicago Bears' 2014 NFL draft.
1st Round: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
In 2013, the Bears defense as a whole was one of the worst in recent memory and the play by the safety tandem of Major Wright and Chris Conte was some of the worst in the league.
Wright has moved on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, signing a one-year deal last month. Conte remains on the roster, but the team announced that he will be out four to five months after undergoing shoulder surgery in late March.
With the 14th overall pick, the Bears can go in a variety of different directions, but they could help shore up the safety position by drafting Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller lists him as the best safety in this draft:
A do-it-all safety prospect, Clinton-Dix has upper-level abilities in every aspect of the game. He's the type of player who walks in and starts from Day 1. And while he may not be on a level with Earl Thomas or Kenny Vaccaro as a prospect, he's right on par with the next group of top-tier safeties.
Clinton-Dix is a prototypical ball-hawking safety, as he consistently has a great break on the ball and has good enough hands to haul in interceptions.
He plays well against the run, but has a tendency to take bad angles and will need to improve on that at the next level.
According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the Bears have shown interest in Clinton-Dix and had him in for a workout in early April.
For years, the Bears have searched for a playmaking safety in the later rounds of the draft. Given the talent that Clinton-Dix could bring to the defense, he will be too tough to pass up in the first round.
He has the ability to step in immediately and make an impact on a defense that struggled to find much success in 2013.
2nd Round: Will Sutton, Defensive Tackle, Arizona State
After addressing the safety position in the first round, Phil Emery will turn to the second round to find youth and depth at defensive tackle.
Emery has done a nice job of upgrading the team's need at defensive end this offseason by signing Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, but there is still a need at defensive tackle—particularly at the 3-technique.
Arizona State's Will Sutton was a force in 2012 when he played closer to 290 pounds, but he was asked to bulk up in 2013 and saw a drop in his play.
I'm intrigued by ASU DT Will Sutton…gained too much weight this yr but he's still one of the better interior pass rushers in the draft.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 27, 2014
Sutton is short and stout and uses his size to gain leverage against opposing offensive linemen. He anticipates the snap well and displays a terrific burst off of the line of scrimmage.
He is best-suited as a 3-technique at the next level because of his ability to get after the quarterback, but he has at times shown the ability to be effective against the run.
In order for Sutton to be an effective 3-technique like he was in 2012, he will have to prove that he can maintain his weight because he has proven to be more effective when he plays closer to 290 pounds.
As long as he can maintain his weight, adding Sutton to the current defensive tackle group of Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea, Nate Collins and Israel Idonije would give the team a young, effective 3-technique tackle.
Sutton would allow Ratliff the opportunity to rotate between the 3-technique and nose tackle positions in 2014, and could develop into an effective pass-rusher from the inside for years to come.
3rd Round: Bashaud Breeland, Cornerback, Clemson
The Bears made it a point this offseason to solidify their cornerback position for at least one more season by re-signing veterans Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman.
Fresh off of his second Pro Bowl selection in three seasons, the Bears re-signed Jennings to a four-year deal after the conclusion of the 2013 season.
A couple of months after re-signing Jennings, the team re-signed Tillman in March to a one-year deal.
Having both Jennings and Tillman re-signed for at least the 2014 season should be enough to secure the position for the upcoming season, but the team needs to look toward solidifying the position for the future in this year's draft.
Clemson's Bashaud Breeland does not carry the same type of name recognition that Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert or Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller do, but he could be a steal for the Bears in the third round.
At 5'11" and 197 pounds, Breeland is a rangy athlete with fluid hips that has the length to match up with bigger receivers and plays aggressively against the run.
2 games into my study of Clemson CB Bashaud Breeland…really like him. Good size, quick feet & fluid. Can play press and off cov.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) February 4, 2014
He can play a bit too out of control at times and struggles to shed blockers, but appears to be a player with untapped potential that can develop into a solid starter if given the right system and position coach.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller commented on Breeland's upside:
In the right system, Breeland could emerge as an early impact player in the NFL. There's good upside for him to improve his timing in coverage and man-to-man skills. He can become a much better pro cornerback than he was in college.
The advantage of waiting to take a guy like Breeland outside of the first two rounds is that it allows him to develop at his own pace without the added pressure of being a early-round selection.
Having an experienced defensive backs coach like Jon Hoke to work with him in his rookie season should help develop him into a potential starter by the time 2015 comes around.
4th Round: Ka'Deem Carey, Running Back, Arizona
In recent years, the Chicago Bears have gone out and paid high-end money for backup running backs like Chester Taylor, Marion Barber and Michael Bush, only to see them struggle when they got on the field.
The Bears are set for 2014 with Matt Forte as their starter at running back after he finished second in the league in rushing yards with 1,339 in 2013. He also had nine touchdowns to go along with his 74 catches for 594 yards and three touchdowns en route to his second career Pro Bowl.
The only other running backs currently on the roster behind Forte are second-year man Michael Ford and recently signed veteran Shaun Draughn.
Neither Ford nor Draughn has much NFL experience, with Ford playing in 12 games for the Bears in 2013—primarily as a contributor on special teams—and Draughn amassing 63 carries in 20 career games.
The 2014 running back class likely will not have a first-round pick, but there are plenty of talented backs that will be available later in the draft.
Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey has seen his stock drop a bit this offseason after running an unimpressive 4.70 40-yard dash in February's NFL Scouting Combine, but he could be a nice complement to Forte in Chicago.
While some may become fixated on his poor 40-yard dash time, his game tape shows a punishing, instinctive runner who keeps his legs moving to pick up additional yardage.
He displays terrific vision and is a slasher who utilizes his good footwork and body control to work his way up the field.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks thinks that Carey can have success in the NFL due to his physicality:
I'm convinced he excels largely because of his toughness, tenacity and physicality. He is best described as a grinder with a strong nose for finding creases in the middle of the defense on nifty cutbacks at the point of attack. Carey slithers into the open hole, but is also willing to punish defenders closing in for a big hit.
He may lack top-end speed, but his game tape shows he can be effective at spelling Forte in the backfield and he also has good hands that will allow him to be an added weapon in Marc Trestman's West Coast offense.
5th Round: Anthony Johnson, Defensive Tackle, LSU
Despite having the team taking Will Sutton in the second round, there is still a pressing need for the Bears at defensive tackle.
LSU's Anthony Johnson could help give the team much-needed depth at the position.
In 2013, Johnson was a second-team All-SEC selection after starting all 13 games for the Tigers and led the team with nine tackles for loss.
He has quick feet and great athleticism for an interior defensive lineman and could excel as a 3-technique defensive tackle in the NFL if given the time to grow. He is still raw, often playing too high, and he also lacks consistency with his pass rush.
His strength lends well to the run game and he consistently maintains his gaps. However, he relies too much on pure speed to beat offensive linemen, which will not always work in the NFL.
Despite some negatives in his game, he possesses a ton of upside and has all of the physical tools to become a force in the NFL. With that said, he will need to prove he has the desire to make himself better.
At just 21 years old, Johnson would benefit from playing and learning from those who have spent a lot of time around the game. Veteran defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff and new defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni are two people whom Johnson can learn from immediately in his rookie season.
Johnson would not be expected to step in and contribute immediately, but he could develop into a pass-rushing specialist early in his career before settling into a role as a full-time contributor.
6th Round (via Tampa Bay): Antone Exum, Defensive Back, Virginia Tech
In a press conference last week, general manager Phil Emery made it clear to the media that the team was interested in finding cornerbacks with the ability to play safety.
“We’ve looked at every corner that has length as a possible safety,” he said.
Emery noted that the transition could be hard, but the Bears like players with versatility:
We’ve looked at [long cornerbacks] as a scouting staff and I reassigned them again to go look at that equation. I asked our coaches to do that, and I continue to give them lists for players to look at their position versatility. The problem is, in fact, what you talked about: you have to project. Again, to take a college corner and make a safety out of him, that’s a big jump. You have to feel the player has the intelligence to do it; more importantly that he has the instincts to do it.
If the Bears are looking for a player with the versatility to play both cornerback and safety, Virginia Tech's Antone Exum could be a steal in the sixth round.
Due to his recovery from an ankle injury and an ACL tear, Exum was limited to just two games in 2013. Some teams may be scared off by his slow recovery time and he may drop down draft boards.
#VirginiaTech CB Antone Exum seems to be the forgotten man in this CB class. Outstanding JR tape (21 passes defended), durability is the ?— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 30, 2014
When on the field, he proved himself to be one of the most physical cornerbacks in all of college football, using his great size (6’1", 224 lbs) and strength to overwhelm his opponents.
Just as Matt Miller alluded to in his player comparison video above, Exum does play heavy-footed at times and might not have the elusive speed to catch up to plays behind him, but he does possess fluidity in his hips and has the ability to drop back in coverage.
Exum may slide down in this draft because of the questions surrounding his durability, but if he is available in the sixth round, he is exactly the type of player that Emery noted he was looking for in a cornerback/safety hybrid.
He would likely need some time to develop, but would immediately add youth and depth to a position that sorely needs it.
6th Round: Jalen Saunders, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma
Measuring in at the NFL Scouting Combine at 5'9" and 165 pounds, Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders stands as a stark contrast to the Bears' starting wide receiver duo of Alshon Jeffery (6'3", 216 lbs) and Brandon Marshall (6'4", 230 lbs).
Saunders' game relies on his fluid stride and quickness off the line of scrimmage. Despite his small frame, he is not afraid to play physical and rarely gets lost in traffic.
Jalen Saunders is better in traffic than I anticipated. Worry about his size... but he doesn't play like he's 163 if you ask me.— Thomas Melton (@TMeltonScouting) March 20, 2014
His size will bring up many questions about durability, but he played in all 22 games for the Sooners after transferring from Fresno State in 2012.
He is the type of player that can be effective in the slot and could be used in special packages in the Bears offense—particularly on reverses and end-arounds that would showcase his speed and shiftiness.
He also has experience as a return man, returning three punts for touchdowns in 25 attempts while at Oklahoma. He could be an ideal replacement for Devin Hester, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons this offseason.
Despite having one of the best wide receiver duos in the game with Marshall and Jeffery, there are still question marks about the depth behind them.
Saunders likely would not be a player that would fight for immediate reps if drafted, but he could find a role early as a return man and special teams contributor before developing into an offensive weapon in the future.
All stats and combine information courtesy of NFL.com.
Matt Eurich is an NFL/Chicago Bears Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.