2015 Chicago Bears Mock Draft: Early Offseason 7-Round Predictions
Now that the 2014 season has ended for those who didn’t make the postseason, it’s time to start looking forward. After finishing 5-11, the Chicago Bears are one of those teams.
On Monday, we did an early look at the free-agent market and how it could affect what will be the new-look Bears, staffed with a new general manager, head coach and offensive coordinator. And that’s only the beginning. The Bears still have a few coaches on staff who likely won’t be with the team when it comes time to begin the offseason program.
So let's not waste any more time. Here's an early look at who the Bears could target in the 2015 NFL draft.
All draft position information is from Pro Sport Transactions.
1st Round: Missouri DE Shane Ray
Seeing as the Bears don’t yet know who will be coaching the team next season, an end who also can play linebacker is a must. Missouri’s Shane Ray is one of the more versatile defensive players in this draft, and he's someone the Bears shouldn't pass on at No. 7 overall.
As of right now, the Bears are thin at both defensive end and linebacker. With Willie Young and Lamarr Houston rehabbing from season-ending injuries, and Jared Allen’s future in doubt, the Bears will need someone who can step in and contribute on the first day of camp.
Ray recorded 14 sacks in 13 games for Missouri this season.
The one thing that could change the direction of this pick for Chicago is the availability of a top-tier quarterback.
2nd Round, 39th Overall: Mississippi State LB Benardrick McKinney
When the offseason officially begins, the Bears more than likely will have to replace starting linebackers Lance Briggs and Shea McClellin. As a result, an NFL-ready linebacker is something the Bears should be on the lookout for.
Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney is a guy who plays the run very well and has better-than-average coverage skills.
McKinney led the Bulldogs with 61 tackles in 12 starts in the regular season. He finished 2014 with three sacks and eight tackles for loss.
The junior has yet to declare for the draft, but head coach Dan Mullen told ESPN.com’s Alex Scarborough that McKinney is likely headed to the NFL.
Third Round, 71st Overall: West Virginia FS Karl Joseph
Free safety Chris Conte is a free agent and appears to be on his way out of town, leaving the Bears with a hole to fill at the back end of the secondary. The Bears really could use a free safety who strikes fear in the opposition.
Karl Joseph is one of the hardest hitters (seen here) in college football. While his coverage ability needs to improve, his physical style of play and tackling ability (seen here) makes him a candidate to contribute immediately in run defense.
The junior from West Virginia didn’t record an interception in 2014, but he did have three games of 10-plus tackles. Joseph acted as a Swiss Army Knife of sorts for the Mountaineers, playing over the top, at the line of scrimmage against the run and rushing the passer.
Fourth Round, 103rd Overall: UCLA QB Brett Hundley
While it’s still too early to know whether Jay Cutler will be under center next season in Chicago, the Bears will need quarterback depth either way. Current backup Jimmy Clausen is set to be a free agent and likely will command on the open market more than the Bears will be willing to pay
If Cutler does return, it likely will only be for one more season. So the Bears will be in need of a starting quarterback in 2016. It would be wise to start preparing now.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is not yet NFL ready, but he possesses skills that can be developed. Hundley is agile on his feet and has better-than-average arm strength. Where his struggles lie are in reading defenses, locking onto a receiver and feeling pressure.
Given time to develop, Hundley has the potential to be a quality NFL starting quarterback.
Sixth Round, 167th Overall: Stanford CB Alex Carter
This is the point in the draft when NFL teams begin looking for value. Stanford cornerback Alex Carter could be the value Chicago is looking for.
With veteran Charles Tillman done in Chicago, the Bears will need to fill the void opposite Kyle Fuller. Tim Jennings struggled mightily in 2014 and is best suited to be the nickel corner.
Carter is someone who could at the very least develop into a cornerback who could contribute 25-35 snaps per game. Carter possesses the size (6'0" 202 pounds) and speed to compete with the top receivers in the NFC North.
The Cardinal cornerback has ties to the Bears as well. Carter’s father, Tom, played for the Bears during his nine-year NFL career after being selected in the first round of the 1993 draft.
Carter, a junior, has yet to declare for the draft but a decision is expected soon.
Seventh Round, 199th Overall: UConn CB Byron Jones
Cornerback depth was an issue this season in Chicago. Behind Kyle Fuller and Tim Jennings, the Bears really don’t have anyone of value.
The seventh round looks like a good spot to bulk up depth at the back end. UConn’s Byron Jones is a very dependable cornerback. He has a knack for finding the ball, as he finished his collegiate career with 223 tackles and eight interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown (vs. South Florida in 2014).
Jones suffered a shoulder injury in October and missed the rest of the Huskies' season after requiring surgery. The injury is what will drop Jones down many draft boards, as cornerbacks coming off shoulder injuries could spark fear in NFL front offices.