It’s that time of year again: mock draft season is in full-swing as we approach April. I have been an avid reader of mock drafts since I was a teenager. There is just something inherently magical about this time of the year. Of course, the actual Bears drafts from 2007-2014 was an eight-year wasteland, but April is a glorious time of year nonetheless.
Given that Ryan Pace plugged virtually every hole in the roster with veteran players, this opens up the vaunted “Best Player Available” strategy. However, I believe that there are some needs which are stronger than others. There are also some positions being valued higher than others. Those positions, in my opinion, are: quarterback, offensive tackle and oupside linebacker. Those are the premier positions in the NFL, hands-down.
Disclaimer: I am not a draft expert. By no means do I claim to know everything about all of these prospects. Every year as the NFL Draft approaches, I like to familiarize myself with as many prospects as I can with a focus on the Bears’ needs. For this exercise, I used the Fanspeak mock draft tool with Matt Miller’s “Big Board.” The point being to run a mock where I had to do some research on players that I was not wholly familiar with.
Round 1 – Pick #3 – 3rd Overall: Solomon Thomas – EDGE/DE – Stanford
Thomas is a guy that I have really fallen in love with. His prospects have picked up steam as the elevation process intensifies. After watching several of his game films, I can see why. Thomas really started to stick out to me when watching tape of Mitch Trubisky. Thomas really had a big game in the Sun Bowl (seven tackles, two TFL and one sack). He could have had a monster game too had he been a little more disciplined in the backfield. Trubisky is pretty slick in the pocket, though.
Having watched all available games, I came away highly impressed. Thomas has a lightning-quick get-off. He is always the first player to move at the snap of the ball. He has incredibly active hands, which he uses to keep offensive linemen from getting engaged. These skills help tremendously as a single-gap player. His strongest points are as a pass-rusher and overall disrupter, as he does not have the sheer mass to hold up at the point-of-attack.
What I like most about this pick is that it comes with a lot of versatility. A creative defensive mind, like Vic Fangio, should be able to get the most out of Thomas’ skill set. I envision Fangio lining up Thomas as both a stand-up edge rusher and as a defensive end. His size is similar to Justin Smith, who excelled in Fangio’s scheme when both were in San Francisco. There is obviously upside to having an end that is smaller and quicker, as opposed to the behemoth Akiem Hicks.
In summary, Solomon Thomas is a scheme-transcending player. He has enough size, speed, quickness and technique to be a difference-maker from Day 1. His motor never stops running. He is the ultimate chess piece. Which if used correctly, should instantly turn the Bears front-seven into a deadly, QB-hunting machine.
Prospect Watch: Looking at the latest team to show interest in RB Joe Mixion
Round 2 – Pick #4 – 36th Overall: Tre’Davious White – Cornerback – LSU
White is a player that caught my eye while doing some homework on Jamal Adams. He is an excellent athlete, with very fluid hips. He has the ability to “mirror” a wide receiver’s route with the best of them. The anticipation he shows is good as well. That lets me know that White watches film and understands route concepts. This skill shows up particularly when playing in zone coverage.
White is at his best in off-man coverage and seems to play both sides of the field equally well. The biggest downside here is that he is not a particularly physical player. In fact, he often shies away from contact in the running game. This is unlikely to change as he enters the NFL. His jam at the line-of-scrimmage is subpar, but that is not to say this aspect won’t improve with coaching.
The bottom line is, White can flat-out cover. That is a skill that the Bears defense is sorely lacking. His interception numbers don’t jump off the screen (six as a four-year starter) but that mostly had to do with limited opportunities. He simply took his man out of the play. Tre’Davious White would instantly be the best cover-corner on the team. It might be worthwhile to ease him into the No. 1 cornerback spot, but I think he gets there by season’s end.
Round 3 – Pick #3 – 67th Overall: Davis Webb – Quarterback – Cal
Webb is the guy who truly impressed evaluators at the Senior Bowl. It was obvious to people who followed along that Webb was the best quarterback in Mobile, AL. Mitch Trubisky, in my opinion, is the safest signal-caller in the draft, but Davis Webb may be the most talented. I popped on some tape and it was immediately apparent to me, not only how talented he was, but exactly what his flaws were.
Webb is the prototypical QB: 6’5” 229lbs. He has more than adequate athleticism. His 59-mph velocity at the NFL Combine was second only to Patrick Mahomes. Webb’s arm strength is off-the-charts. His deep ball is accurate and well-placed. He also shows solid decision-making skills.
The drawbacks are typical in today’s college football world. Webb plays in a spread offense; he doesn’t take snaps from under center. Instead, his reads are pre-determined. Those same arguments apply to virtually every quarterback prospect in this draft. The maddening part of his game is what I consider “laziness.” Some call it a mechanical breakdown, but I see him just getting lazy with his footwork. This causes most of his inaccurate throws. When he sets his feet, and throws from a “good base,” and he is very accurate.
I view Davis Webb as the kind of QB that you sit for two years. He needs to drill his mechanics and footwork constantly. He would benefit from being around a player that has a more conservative game, like Mike Glennon, as he’s prone to force the ball. My belief is that Davis Webb has the ceiling to be the best quarterback in this draft. He simply need the right opportunity at the right time for it all to come together for him. The Bears appear to be a perfect fit, given their current timeline.
Round 4 – Pick #4 – 111th Overall: Derek Rivers – EDGE – Youngstown State
Rivers is a player who, admittedly, I had never heard of until the NFL Combine. When I see a small-school kid come out and perform well at the Combine, I want to know more about him. First thing to know is that he was highly productive for his last there seasons (52 TFL’s and 38 sacks). There wasn’t a ton of film out there, but I was able to watch four games of his.
The first thing you notice about him is his size: he is listed at 6’4” and 248 lbs. That might be large enough in the FCS to play defensive end, but not large enough to stay there in the NFL. He can’t hold the point-of-attack, which you would assume by his size, but he doesn’t get beaten up either. He is very assignment-sound, due to the number of option teams in the FCS, and does not often lose contain on back-side runs.
When rushing the passer, Rivers is excellent at converting speed to power, as his 4.61 40-yard dash and 30 bench reps at the NFL Combine would indicate. He lacks finesse and a go-to move as a pass-rusher, but he still has the speed, athleticism and strength to overwhelm offensive tackles. If he can learn some go-to moves, he could be another arrow in Vic Fangio’s quiver to hunt opposing quarterback. Derek Rivers would initially be a situational pass-rusher who I can see growing into a nice rotational outside linebacker for the Bears.
Round 4 – Pick #10 – 117th Overall: Gerald Everett – Tight End – South Alabama
I could literally say the same things about Gerald Everett as I did with Derek Rivers. FCS school, impressive Combine, yadda, yadda. There were only games that I could watch of his but that tape is quite impressive. Everett came it at 6’3” and 239 pounces with a blazing 4.62 40-yard dash. While that sounds more like a large wide receiver than a tight end, you truly have to watch him to appreciate his skills.
Everett mainly lined up as an H-Back. This is similar to how the Bears use Zach Miller now. He is on the outside of the tackle but off of the line-of-scrimmage, which is technically in the backfield. Gerald Everett is not an in-line tight end like Dion Sims was brought in to be. Unlike Miller though, Everett is a very willing and capable blocker. He shows the desire to do what he can to help the running game. Because of his size, he isn’t always successful but his effort is extremely rare in a “move” tight end.
Everett’s ability as a pass-catcher is what makes him worth this pick though. The typical basketball-player-turned-tight-end rules apply here. He uses his body well and is much too athletic for linebackers to cover one-on-one. His hands, in the tape that I have seen, are very sticky. The main drawback for Everett is he is a touch raw with his routes. Route-running is always something that can be taught and he will have an excellent tutor in Zach Miller. Gerald Everett looks like the kind of weapon that Miller has always promised to be but has yet to truly become.
Round 5 – Pick #3 – 147th Overall: Tedric Thompson – Free Safety – Colorado
Thompson is the perfect example of why I went through this whole exercise. I had never heard of him until he was on the board for my fifth-round pick. I looked at a quick scouting report and drafted him (I really hope this isn’t how Ryan Pace picks player, eek!). I watched four games and I always come to the same conclusion with safeties: They are really hard to watch film on! Don’t be fooled by his 40-time, Thompson does not play at 4.6 on film. He can cover plenty of ground.
Thompson reminds me an awful lot of Tre’Davious White. Thompson clearly has some coverage skills but isn’t the most physical prospect. Although the entire Colorado defense struggles to tackle, so perhaps that is a coaching issue. Thompson is a pure ball-hawking free safety, as evidenced by his 13 interceptions and 23 pass deflections in his last there seasons. Due to his lack of physicality, Thompson is your prototypical “center fielder.” Pair him with a more physical safety, like Adrian Amos, and you can have a serviceable to above-average back-end of the defense.
Round 7 – Pick #3 – 221st Overall: ArDarius Stewart – Wide Receiver – Alabama
Stewart is your classic “flyer” type of prospect. Watching a WR playing in the offense that Alabama played this past year is not easy. I will say this about Stewart: he can block! That is an important skill in the NFL, especially on a team with a power running bac like Jordan Howard.
He appears to have plenty of speed and can get behind the defense. Stewart’s speed is also evident on end-arounds and jet-sweeps. There just isn’t that much tape to go off of. When you have a program that produced Julio Jones and Amari Cooper though, I am willing to take a swing in the sevents round.