Bears add much-needed help on both sides of ball in latest mock draft

Bears add much-needed help on both sides of ball in latest mock draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Super Bowl is over, and the Kansas City Chiefs are repeat champions.

Now the real fun begins for the fanbases of the other 31 NFL franchises, as wild speculation teases naive hopefulness for the next seven months.

The Chicago Bears sit atop the NFL Draft (for now) and, with two top 10 picks (#1 and #9), possess the means to dictate the opening night of drafting.

Will Mahomes’ MVP performance (third in as many chances) drive home the opinion that having a quintessential quarterback is ultimately how teams must build to win championships?

Or, will the 49ers’ appearances in two Super Bowls with two different quarterbacks in four years dictate investing in structure over superstar talent for sustained winning?

Let’s see if this week’s mock helps or adds to the dilemma of “choice” these teams will face in the off-season.

1. Chicago Bears (via Carolina): QB - Caleb Williams, USC

The “Mahomes Effect” is real, especially after winning three Super Bowls (3 Super Bowl MVPs) in just five short years. Ryan Poles was a part of the Chiefs’ organization for one of those and may rely on that experience to replicate a similar scenario for the Bears potentially.

Seattle’s backup quarterback Drew Lock played under Bears’ newly hired offensive coordinator Shane Waldron over the last two seasons. Lock is an unrestricted free agent and could be signed to mentor Williams. Lock could then provide competent and competitive play until the former Trojan is ready to start. This possibility could help Bears’ head coach Matt Eberflus keep his sanity and job until the rookie phenom acclimates to the NFL, much like Patrick Mahomes’ initiation into the pro game.

2. Washington Commanders: QB - Jayden Daniels, LSU

If Washington is unable to convince Chicago to trade the first overall pick, it’s likely they may turn toward drafting Daniels. Should Chicago select Williams, the Commanders may see Daniels as the next best dynamic, dual-threat quarterback prospect in this draft class. This past season, Daniels won the Heisman having passed for 3812 passing yards with 40 touchdown passes, while running for 1134 rushing yards and 10 rushing scores.

3. New England Patriots: QB - Drake Maye, North Carolina

The Patriots most likely remain patient and take the quarterback who best fits the cultural dynamic established during the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. Maye is a solid signal caller with physical attributes very similar to the Chargers’ Justin Herbert. New England hopes Maye plays like Herbert and possibly wins Offensive Rookie of the Year honors just like the Chargers triggerman did in 2020.

4. Arizona Cardinals: WR - Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State

It’s not hyperbole to comment on Harrison being a “generational talent,” especially considering he’s the son of Hall of Fame wideout Marvin Harrison Sr. The All-American is a phenomenal talent with stratospheric potential and little if any, downside to his game. A tremendous downfield weapon, Harrison averaged 16.9 yards per catch on 155 career receptions with 31 receiving scores. This potential outcome would put a tremendous smile on starting quarterback Kyler Murray’s face.

5. Los Angeles Chargers: TE - Brock Bowers, Georgia

Considering the Chargers’ new head coach, Jim Harbaugh, enjoyed utilizing tight ends at Michigan, it seems highly probable Los Angeles targets the multifaceted Bowers. Bowers is an explosive playmaker who can run past linebackers and plow through defensive backs’ arm tackles. He is considered by a few to be the best non-quarterback prospect in this draft class.

6. New York Giants: WR - Rome Odunze, Washington

New York may not have had an impactful primary receiver since they drafted Odel Beckham Jr. in 2014. Odunze is a versatile receiver with size (6-3, 215 lbs}, speed (4.3 40-time), and route running efficiency (92 receptions / 13 TDs) comparable to many number-one receivers currently in the NFL.

7. Tennessee Titans: OT - Joe Alt, Notre Dame

The Titans hired former Bengals’ offensive coordinator Brian Callahan as their new head coach. To properly develop second-year quarterback Will Levis, Callahan and general manager Ran Carthon might target Alt to protect Tennessee's starting quarterback. According to PFF, the massive Alt (6-8, 322 lbs) earned a pass-blocking grade of 90.7 and an overall blocking metric of 91.2 by the end of the 2023 campaign.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Edge - Dallas Turner, Alabama

Turner is the 41st Alabama player to earn consensus All-American status. He is a quick-twitch athlete with excellent length and bendability off the edge when rushing the passer. Turner exceeded last season’s totals in tackles for loss (14.5) and sacks (10) throughout the 14 games he’s played.

9. Chicago Bears: Edge - Laiatu Latu, UCLA

It’s possible the Bears forego drafting a receiver in this spot with both Harrison and Odunze being off the board. Although Nabers, a wideout from LSU, is an excellent receiver, his style of play is very similar to Chicago’s star pass catcher, D.J. Moore. If Chicago drafted a quarterback, they might choose to trade Justin (for a second-round pick) and use that high-end selection to possibly take a receiver on day two of the draft. Latu, on the other hand, offers immediate impact as a pass rusher opposite Montez Sweat.

10. New York Jets: OT - Olu Fashanu, Penn State

Fashaun is a dominant offensive tackle who moves lightly but powerfully when engaging defenders. His ability to efficiently execute run and pass-blocking schemes could immediately impact New York’s moribund offense.

11. Minnesota Vikings: Edge - Jared Verse, Florida State

With a consistent, quick burst off the snap coupled with above-average upper-body strength, Verse continually out-leverages opponents, causing disruption throughout the line of scrimmage. His last two seasons at Florida State, he produced 89 tackles with 18 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss.

12. Denver Broncos: QB - Bo Nix, Oregon

Between playing at Auburn and Oregon, Nix competed in over 60 games in college. While at Oregon, he completed 74.9 percent of his passes for over 8,000 yards and 74 aerial scores. Broncos head coach Sean Payton may see a taller, bigger, and more athletic Drew Brees in Nix.

13. Las Vegas Raiders: CB - Terrion Arnold, Alabama

Some pundits believe Arnold is the better pro prospect at cornerback than his teammate Kool-Aid McKinstry. Arnold definitely logged a more productive season than McKinstry, registering 63 tackles with 12 passes defended and five interceptions.

14. New Orleans Saints: WR - Malik Nabers, LSU

Nabers is considered a top-10 talent by many scouts and pundits, so if he were to fall to the Saints in the 14th slot, it would be difficult to pass on his tremendous talent. Having performed at LSU, Nabers would instantly become a fan favorite and revitalize an inconsistent Saints’ offense.

15. Indianapolis Colts: DL - Jer’ Zhan Newton, Illinois

Newton displays some alignment versatility but is better suited as a 3-technique defensive lineman whose quickness and leveraged strength win consistently at the point of attack. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year’s relentlessness on the field should translate well at the NFL level.

16. Seattle Seahawks: OL - Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State

Of all the participants at the 2024 Senior Bowl, Fuaga may have come away from that experience arguably as the top-rated offensive lineman in the upcoming draft. In over 1500 plus snaps, Fuaga has never surrendered a sack and provides immediate impact as a run-blocking mauler.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars: C - Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon

The consensus All-American and Rimington Award winner is more than just a powerful athlete; he is also a quality leader and accountable teammate. During the 2023 season, Powers-Johnson led an Oregon offensive line that finished first in the nation (FBS level) in team pass-blocking with a 91.3 PFF grade.

18. Cincinnati Bengals: WR - Brian Thomas Jr., LSU

The Louisiana native is a big play threat with NFL size (6-4 204 lbs) and an extra gear that creates fluid separation from defenders. Thomas posted incredible stats this past season hauling in 68 receptions for 1177 yards (17.3 yards per catch) and 17 touchdowns.

19. Los Angeles Rams: CB - Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

Playing at Toledo was akin to being a “tree in the forest that fell, and no one heard it fall.” Mitchell, Toledo’s all-time leader in pass breakups (46), excelled in obscurity on a national level even though he once recorded four interceptions in a single game (2022 vs NIU). After his performance during the practices leading into the Senior Bowl, Mitchell is finally getting his due.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB - Nate Wiggins, Clemson

Wiggins is an elite-level defensive back whose ability to cover, deflect, and intercept passes is second to none among his fellow 2024 draft prospects. The sinewy six-foot-two, 185-pound first-team All-ACC player is a tenacious defender who maximizes his length and agility, creating imbalance and discomfort for opposing receivers.

21. Miami Dolphins: OL - Troy Fautanu, Washington

Fautanu possesses the requisite NFL height (6’4”) and weight (317 lbs), but what sets him apart from his contemporaries is his explosiveness (32-inch vertical). His burst, agility, and overall quickness allow him to move rapidly into the second level of defense. Fautanu’s rugged physicality and relentless motor make him ideal in most pro schemes.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: CB - Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

Ga’Quincy McKinstry is a former high school Mr. Football from the state of Alabama who continued his aggressive play in college for the Crimson Tide. Expertly aware of his surroundings, McKinstry is rarely out of position and confidently challenges receivers in man or zone coverages.

23. Houston Texans (via Cleveland): DL - Byron Murphy II, Texas

The 2023 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year and First-Team All-Big 12 selection is a difficult man to block. This past season, the six-foot-one, 308-pound junior registered eight and a half tackles for loss and five sacks as an interior defensive lineman.

24. Dallas Cowboys: OT - J.C. Latham, Alabama

Aside from having to figure out how to pay franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, Dallas must also contend with other viable unrestricted free agents from its roster. Most notably, veteran left tackle Tyron Smith (33 years old) made 12.2 million dollars last season and may command more on the open market. Drafting a talented prospect like Latham may possibly appeal fiscally as well as physically for the Cowboys’ decision-makers.

25. Green Bay Packers: DB - Cooper DeJean, Iowa

A positionless defensive back with fluid coverage skills, DeJean set a single-season record in 2022 with three interceptions returned for scores. The first-team All-American is a scheme-friendly athlete, possessing a size/speed combination that allows him to shift between cornerback or safety with equal effectiveness.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR - Keon Coleman, Florida State

Amazingly, the six-foot-four, 215-pound Coleman may be one of the more underrated first-round talents in this draft class. The more highly publicized wideout prospects in this class may be getting more attention, but Coleman is every bit as good as most of them. An extensive catching radius, fly-paper hands, and quick, balanced footwork are bankable assets that make Coleman a probable day-one selection.

27. Arizona Cardinals (via Houston): CB - Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Missouri

Rakestraw is an SEC Academic Honor Roll member whose intelligence and hard-nosed approach to the game generate direct results. Having returned from a season-ending injury in 2021, Rakestraw registered 16 pass breakups in his final 22 games.

28. Buffalo Bills: Edge - Demeioun “Chop” Robinson, Penn State

The Bills have various unrestricted free agents at the defensive end and pass-rushing positions. A freakishly explosive athlete with unbridled speed and bendability, Robinson, in the right scheme, is a double-digit sack machine who could ease Buffalo’s loss of free-agent talent.

29. Detroit Lions: CB - T.J. Tampa, Iowa State

One of the more physical defensive backs in this draft class, Tampa delivers forceful hits against receivers that invariably impact games. A big corner (6’2” - 190 lbs), Tampa is a committed tackler with 107 career tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 19 defended passes. Temperament and energy-wise, he fits the Lions' current culture perfectly.

30. Baltimore Ravens: WR - Troy Franklin, Oregon

Baltimore is finally getting consistent contributions from its receiving corp, however, there are three unrestricted free agent receivers the team may not be able to afford for next season. Should the Ravens target Franklin, they’ll be acquiring a long-limbed, sinewy receiver with strong hands and the speed to threaten deep (81 receptions / 17.1 yards per catch / 14 TDs).

31. San Francisco 49ers: S - Kamren Kinchens, Miami (FL)

For the second straight year, Kinchens is a first-team All-ACC performer, having moved into Miami’s top 10 with 11 career interceptions. An aggressive playmaker with soft hands, Kinchens utilizes his acute vision and intuitive assessment skills to successfully anticipate where passes are being thrown. Kinchens averaged no less than five defended passes over the past three seasons.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: OT - Jordan Morgan, Arizona

Physically, Morgan embodies the preferred framing most scouts desire to see in offensive linemen. Standing six-feet-five inches and a svelte 315 pounds, it’s Morgan’s 10 ¾ sized hands and a wingspan of 81 ¼ inches that make him an ideal bookend blocker. Investing in an offensive lineman might be something the Champs consider, especially with Mahomes (QB) dominating much of the teams' cap dollars.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.