Chicago Bears' 7-Round Mock Draft and Top-100 Big Board
Following a 6-10 season and a last-place finish in the NFC North in 2015, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace made it a point to add both playmakers and depth to the roster this offseason.
The team added veteran linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, tackle Bobby Massie, safety Omar Bolden and guards Ted Larsen and Manny Ramirez in free agency. It traded tight end Martellus Bennett to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round pick and brought back a handful of its own free agents since the start of the new league year in March, but the team still needs a strong draft in order to be competitive in 2016.
Pace improved both sides of the ball via free agency, but the team still has needs along the defensive line, in the secondary and on the offensive side of the ball. 2015 first-round pick Kevin White missed all of last season due to a shin injury, but the young wide receiver is expected to return in 2016 and should help bolster Chicago's passing game.
After trading away Bennett and moving veteran Jared Allen to the Carolina Panthers during the season, the Bears have nine selections in the draft that begins on April 28.
Just ahead, we take a look at Chicago's big board—100 players the team could target in the early rounds—as well as give our predictions for all nine of the Bears' picks in this year's draft.
Top 100 Big Board
NFL teams use a big board to rank players who are available in the upcoming draft, and below, we list the top 100 players who should be on Chicago's big board. The Bears likely will not be in play for a quarterback like Carson Wentz or Jared Goff, but if both signal-callers are drafted before the 11th overall pick, the Bears may have a top-10-caliber player drop to them in the first round.
Projected top-five picks like Florida State safety/cornerback Jalen Ramsey and UCLA outside linebacker Myles Jack are not included because it appears highly unlikely they fall, but Ohio State defensive end/linebacker Joey Bosa and Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil are included because a run on quarterbacks could push them down the board.
|1||Joey Bosa||DE/OLB||Ohio State|
|3||Laremy Tunsil||OT||Ole Miss|
|4||Ezekiel Elliott||RB||Ohio State|
|6||Ronnie Stanley||OT||Notre Dame|
|9||Laquon Treadwell||WR||Ole Miss|
|11||Eli Apple||CB||Ohio State|
|12||Darron Lee||LB||Ohio State|
|13||Jack Conklin||OT||Michigan State|
|19||Taylor Decker||OT||Ohio State|
|20||Noah Spence||Edge||Eastern Kentucky|
|21||William Jackson III||CB||Houston|
|22||Robert Nkemdiche||DE||Ole Miss|
|23||Emmanuel Ogbah||DE||Oklahoma State|
|24||Will Fuller||WR||Notre Dame|
|27||Darian Thompson||S||Boise State|
|30||Vernon Butler||DT||Louisiana Tech|
|31||Connor Cook||QB||Michigan State|
|32||Jaylon Smith||LB||Notre Dame|
|33||Kendall Fuller||CB||Virginia Tech|
|35||Kamalei Correa||OLB||Boise State|
|36||Cody Whitehair||G||Kansas State|
|37||Vonn Bell||S||Ohio State|
|39||Michael Thomas||WR||Ohio State|
|41||Germain Ifedi||OT||Texas A&M|
|42||Austin Johnson||DT||Penn State|
|47||Adolphus Washington||DT||Ohio State|
|51||Shilique Calhoun||DE||Michigan State|
|57||Chris Jones||DL||Mississippi State|
|58||Braxton Miller||WR||Ohio State|
|59||Karl Joseph||S||West Virginia|
|61||Le'Raven Clark||OT||Texas Tech|
|62||Pharoh Cooper||WR||South Carolina|
|63||Christian Hackenberg||QB||Penn State|
|64||Kenneth Dixon||RB||Louisiana Tech|
|65||Carl Nassib||DL||Penn State|
|66||Christian Westerman||G||Arizona State|
|67||Kyler Fackrell||OLB||Utah State|
|72||Sheldon Day||DT||Notre Dame|
|73||Will Redmond||CB||Mississippi State|
|75||Nick Martin||C||Notre Dame|
|77||C.J. Prosise||RB||Notre Dame|
|78||Isaac Seumalo||G||Oregon State|
|81||Javon Hargrave||DT||South Carolina State|
|82||DeAndre Houston-Carson||FS||William & Mary|
|86||Rashard Higgins||WR||Colorado State|
|90||James Cowser||DE/OLB||Southern Utah|
|93||KeiVarae Russell||CB||Notre Dame|
|94||Cardale Jones||QB||Ohio State|
|95||Nick Vannett||TE||Ohio State|
|97||Miles Killebrew||S||Southern Utah|
|98||Fahn Cooper||OT||Ole Miss|
|99||Scooby Wright III||LB||Arizona|
|100||Roberto Aguayo||K||Florida State|
Round 1, Pick 11: Shaq Lawson, DE/OLB, Clemson
In an ideal situation for the Bears, someone like Bosa or Oregon's DeForest Buckner will slide and drop into their laps at No. 11, but with those two likely off the board, Clemson's Shaq Lawson could be the guy for Pace and Chicago in the first round.
A three-year contributor and one-year starter for Clemson, Lawson recorded 123 total tackles, 45.5 tackles for loss and 20 sacks during his time with the Tigers. In his final season, he registered 59 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. Clemson used Lawson both on the edge as a 5-technique defensive end and as a stand-up outside linebacker.
CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler and Rob Rang compared the young defender to current Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee in their scouting report.
"Like McPhee, Lawson lacks ideal height and length, but both are well-built with violent hands, ball awareness and versatility," they wrote.
At 6'3" and 269 pounds, Lawson lacks ideal size to be an every-down defensive end in coordinator Vic Fangio's scheme in Chicago, but his versatility would work well in Fangio's ever-changing scheme. The veteran coach likes to move his players around to create mismatches all along the line of scrimmage, and Lawson's ability to play with both his hand on the ground and as a stand-up linebacker makes him an intriguing choice for Chicago.
Like Brugler and Rang wrote, Lawson uses his hands well at the point of attack, and he possesses one of the strongest punches of any defensive player in this year's draft. He is quick and powerful, plays with good pad level and proved he has the ability to set the edge against the run.
Lawson needs to polish his pass-rushing technique, as he relied heavily on his effort and hand usage at Clemson. He will also need to improve his conditioning in the NFL because he appeared to wear out as he got deeper into games.
The Bears have an accomplished outside linebacker in McPhee and got solid sack totals out of defensive ends-turned-outside linebackers Lamarr Houston (eight) and Willie Young (6.5) last season, but the team has a need to get younger at the position.
Lawson would immediately help upgrade Chicago's pass rush, and the former Clemson Tiger would give Fangio a versatile piece he could use both on the outside and on the line of scrimmage in 2016 and beyond.
Round 2, Pick 41: Artie Burns, CB, Miami
The Bears addressed the cornerback position in the first round of the 2014 draft by selecting Kyle Fuller, but the team has had a lot of influx at the spot opposite of him on the field the last two seasons.
Fuller started last year slowly, but the former Virginia Tech standout finished the season with 55 tackles and two interceptions. He struggled with penalties early in the season, but he looked comfortable in Fangio's scheme as the year wore on. He is still a work in progress, but he is expected to enter next season as the team's No. 1 cornerback.
Chicago re-signed veteran Tracy Porter to a three-year deal this offseason after a strong 2015 campaign, but the team needs to add youthful depth to the position.
Florida's Vernon Hargreaves could be an option in the first round for the Bears, but if they wait to address the position in the second round, they could get a high-upside player in Miami's Artie Burns.
A three-year contributor and two-year starter, Burns recorded 93 total tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and seven interceptions—including six in 2015—during his time with the Hurricanes.
A track star in high school, Burns' speed translates well on the field. He possesses above-average athleticism for the position and is able to keep receivers within reach because of his long arms (33 ¼"). He breaks on the ball well and has good enough hands to make plays on the ball in the air.
Burns can play a bit out of control sometimes and will need to refine his skills in the NFL. He is still raw, but he is a willing tackler who can make an impact in the running game. While not the most physical defender on the outside, he does excel when asked to press at the line of scrimmage because of his length and aggressiveness.
With Porter on the roster, Burns would not be expected to immediately push for a starting role, but he would give the Bears much-needed depth at a position that has lacked playmakers the last two seasons.
Round 3, Pick 72: Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
The Bears allowed veteran running back Matt Forte to leave in free agency after the former second-round pick gained 8,602 rushing yards and 45 rushing touchdowns in eight seasons with the team.
Chicago used a fourth-round pick on Michigan State's Jeremy Langford last season and a fifth-round pick on Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey in 2014, but according to the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs, the team pursued Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson in free agency.
Anderson returned to the Broncos on a four-year contract, but Chicago's interest in the young running back proves the team still wants to add to the position.
Langford gained 537 yards on 148 touches in 2015, and Carey finished the year with 159 yards on 43 carries, but head coach John Fox has leaned on a running-back-by-committee approach in the past, meaning a running back could be in a play for the team in the third round.
Arkansas' Alex Collins was not a starter until 2015, but he recorded three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons during his time with the Razorbacks. After rushing for 1,026 yards in 2013 and 1,100 yards in 2014 as a backup, Collins finished his final season with 1,577 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 271 carries.
A prototypical north-south runner, Collins does not shy away from contact, but he also uses his feet well and makes smooth cuts. He has good vision, plays with terrific pad level and has a nose for the end zone.
Collins does not possess the speed to make many big plays off the edge because his game is more reliant on runs between the tackles. Despite his downhill running style, he does not break many tackles and struggled with fumbles at Arkansas.
In his running back rankings, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller listed Collins as the seventh-best back in this year's draft and compared him to Anderson.
Taking another running back early in this year's draft after taking Langford and Carey in the previous two drafts might seem like overkill for Chicago, but the team's previous interest in Anderson proves Pace and Fox still want to add to the position.
Collins is not the flashiest running back in the draft, but he could help give the Bears another young option in the backfield who could make a living in the red zone.
Round 4, Pick 106: Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford
Chicago added Massie in free agency this offseason to shore up the right side of the offensive line, but the team still has a big question mark at left tackle. Second-year man Charles Leno was thrust into the starting lineup following an injury to veteran Jermon Bushrod, and the former Boise State Bronco made 13 starts in 2015. He flashed his athleticism, but he struggled in the running game.
Leno is currently the front-runner to be Chicago’s starting left tackle next season, but Stanford’s Kyle Murphy could give him a run for his money if taken by the Bears in the draft.
Murphy is an athletic tackle who uses his hands well and plays with good pad level. Despite his athleticism, he needs to improve his footwork. He is solid in the running game and has the ability to get to the second level to make blocks, but he is at his best in pass protection.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Murphy’s arms measured in at 33.5 inches, and he uses his length to his advantage against quick edge-rushers. He has a tendency to get pushed around at times against bull-rushers, and he will need to improve his strength in the NFL.
While not a polished product, Murphy has the potential to be a day-one starter in the NFL. He could help push Leno this offseason, and if he is not able to secure the job in training camp and the preseason, he would enter the year as the team’s top swing tackle.
Round 4, Pick 127: Jacoby Brissett, QB, North Carolina State
Jay Cutler will turn 33 years old later this month, and while the veteran signal-caller had a solid 2015 campaign, the Bears need to start looking for a young quarterback to groom behind him.
North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett is not a household name, but he threw for over 5,000 yards with 43 touchdowns in two seasons with the Wolfpack.
At 6’4” and 231 pounds, Brissett has great size for the NFL. He played in a pro-style offense at North Carolina State and possesses the athleticism to get outside of the pocket to pick up yards with his legs when needed. He is an accurate passer who is at his best working the middle of the field, but he’s strong enough to make throws deep down the sidelines.
He protects the ball well and threw just 11 interceptions in two seasons, but a porous offensive line forced him into having bad habits in the pocket. He tends to shuffle his feet too much when feeling pressure and has a tendency to throw balls before setting his feet.
Despite some of the negatives to his game, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein thinks Brissett has the tools to be a starting quarterback if given the time to develop:
With his size, arm and competitiveness, there are times when Brissett will remind you of Jameis Winston, but Winston understood the nuances of the position early in his college career while Brissett is still learning. Brissett’s overall ability as a passer is NFL-caliber and he should continue to show rapid improvement on the next level with better weapons and protection. While an NFL staff will need to help him overcome his bad habits and learn to be more consistent with his pre-snap recognitions, Brissett has the tools to become an NFL starter.
Sitting behind Cutler for a season or two should help the young quarterback, and if Brissett can work hard in the classroom and improve his footwork and mechanics on the field, he could be in the running for a starting job in the near future.
Round 5, Pick 150: D.J. Reader, NT, Clemson
The Bears got solid production out of 2015 second-round pick Eddie Goldman at nose tackle last season, but the team lacks depth behind him.
2014 draft picks Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton will likely get some time on the inside at the 0-technique, but the team could add a dominant run-stopper in the fifth round of the draft in Clemson's D.J. Reader.
Measuring in at 6'3" and 327 pounds at the combine, Reader has great size for the nose tackle position and carries his weight well. He is a punisher off the snap of the ball and has the strength to take on two blockers. He is at his best against the run, but he can work his way up the field when going one-on-one against an opposing offensive lineman.
Reader does have a tendency to wear down as games go on, and he will need to improve his stamina. He missed the first six games of last season due to personal reasons and recorded just 13 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a half-sack in six games.
Goldman proved last season he can get after the quarterback by recording 4.5 sacks in 15 starts, but he was moved back on occasion against the run. While Reader does not offer much as a pass-rusher, he would be able to take some of the pressure off Goldman in obvious running situations.
If paired with Goldman, Reader and the former Florida State Seminole would give the Bears an impressive young duo on the inside at the nose tackle position for the next several years.
Round 6, Pick 185: Kevin Byard, S, Middle Tennessee State
The Bears found a sleeper in last year's draft in the fifth round in former Penn State safety Adrian Amos, and they could find another sleeper late in Middle Tennessee State's Kevin Byard.
In four seasons with the Blue Raiders, Byard registered 318 total tackles, six tackles for loss and an impressive 19 interceptions. While he put up impressive tackle totals in four seasons, he struggles at times when asked to play up in the box against the run.
While he struggles against the run, Byard is impressive in the back half of the field as a single-high safety. He reads quarterbacks' eyes well, makes great breaks on the ball and has strong hands. He can match up one-on-one versus a receiver in man coverage, and he can also drop back and cover large areas of the field when playing zone coverage.
His lack of in-game speed did not affect him against lesser talent in Conference USA, but he may struggle to match up with some of the NFL's speedy deep threats. There's a chance Byard could go higher in this draft if a team falls in love with his ball skills, but if he is still available in the sixth round, the Bears could find a solid free safety to pair up with Amos.
Round 6, Pick 206: Quinton Jefferson, DE, Maryland
Chicago can use as many young defensive ends as it can get its hands on this offseason, and Maryland's Quinton Jefferson has the chance to be a sleeper pick for the team late in the draft.
Used as 3-technique defensive tackle with the Terrapins last year, Jefferson capped off his final season with 39 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and one interception. At 6'4" and 291 pounds, he has the size to move to the outside in a 3-4 scheme.
According to ChicagoFootball.com's Arthur Arkush, Jefferson met with the Bears at the Senior Bowl, and he talked about where he thinks he fits in the NFL.
“I think a lot of teams see me as a 3-technique and maybe a [5-technique] in run situations. I think I’m very versatile,” Jefferson said, per Arkush.
Even though Fangio is rooted in 3-4 principles, he showed a lot of different looks up front last season. Jefferson is versatile enough to move inside in four-man fronts and can also anchor outside in a three-man front against the run.
Jefferson relies on a swim move and quick feet to apply pressure to the quarterback, and while he needs to improve his upper-body strength, he has enough functional strength to defend against the run.
He isn't flashy, but if Jefferson can work on getting stronger, he could be a part of Chicago's rotation along the defensive line in his rookie season.
Round 7, Pick 230: Ryan Malleck, TE, Virginia Tech
After trading Bennett to the Patriots earlier this offseason, the Bears re-signed Zach Miller, but they still have a need at the tight end position.
Miller caught 34 passes for 439 yards with five touchdowns last season, but he has struggled with injuries throughout his career. This year's draft does not have much depth at the position, but Virginia Tech's Ryan Malleck could be a good value pick in the seventh round.
Malleck caught 62 passes for 658 yards with four touchdowns in three seasons with the Hokies, and while his receiving totals do not jump off the page, he has the ability to stretch the field as a receiver. Virginia Tech used him both as a receiver and as a blocker, and he proved he can hold his own in the running game.
He needs to get stronger at the point of attack, but he could make a living as a run-blocker if he can refine his technique. Malleck plays the game hard and rarely gives up on his block, and as a receiver, he knows where to find space in the middle of the field.
Malleck will not be lobbying for starting reps as a rookie, but he is a good developmental prospect who could eventually develop into a No. 2 tight end.