I am planning to release a new Bears mock draft every Thursday leading up to the NFL Draft. Since the Draft opens on a Thursday, the final mock draft (my personal ideal scenario) will be released the week prior to the Draft, on April 20th. My plan is to use different scenarios that could play out in real life, although I do plan on having a Cleveland Browns-style trade back edition just for fun.
For this particular mock draft, I utilized the Fanspeak Premium edition so that I could introduce trades into the equation. While the program itself offers a bevy of trade proposals, I stuck with just the single trade for this mock. I had Ryan Pace trading the No. 3 overall pick to the Jets, for the No. 6 overall and No. 39 overall (second-round pick).
The word is that the Jets really love Mitch Trubisky and he is sitting there at No. 3 in this scenario. I realistically believe that the Bears could have also gotten the No. 107 pick (third-round compensatory pick) in the deal. Perhaps the Bears would need to toss in their seventh-rounder or a 2018 sixth-round pick as well, to even out the value. Fanspeak declined this proposal, so I went with picking up a high second-rounder to move back there spots in the first round.
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 Premium 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 #6 – 6th Overall: Jonathan Allen – DE – Alabama
Let me start off by saying that I don’t think the Bears should draft Jonathan Allen at No. 6 (Or at No. 3, for that matter). Personally, I do not see why so many draft experts claim that he is a great player. Other than scheme fit, which I think is very important when drafting, this doesn’t seem to be the type of player that the Bears really need on defense. Since his name comes up so frequently on other mocks, I wanted to watch his tape again with fresh eyes.
If you are looking for a run-stuffer, then Allen is your guy. He has long arms and does an excellent job of “bench-pressing” offensive lineman. He has some hand-fighting skills as well, which he uses to disengage from blockers. Tackles and guards rarely get into his body and keep him blocked. His play recognition is average and he does not move down the line well, which is where interior defensive linemen make their money. His “anchor” is excellent, but he tends get off balance and play too high when double-teamed.
Allen’s pass-rush ability is subpar. “But Andrew, he had 22.5 sacks his last two seasons!” He did rack up some numbers, but if you watch the film, those numbers are deceiving. I watched four games in which he had a total of 5.5 sacks. Only one of those sacks did he truly beat his man. For the other 4.5 sacks, he was either completely unblocked or a teammate drove the quarterback into his arms.
Jonathan Allen is a good football player, make no mistake about it. I just don’t think he is a high first-round talent. He reminds me a lot of a player on the Bears roster already: Akiem Hicks. I really like Hicks as a player, but he was a third-round pick and I think you need to have a true impact player in the top 10.
Round 2 – Pick #4 – 36th Overall: Sidney Jones – Cornerback – Washington
Let me start off by saying that Jones has an Achilles’ tendon issue but by most reports, the injury should be cleared-up prior to training camp. Given the current depth at cornerback on the Bears roster, I believe that he is still a good bet in the second round.
Jones’ production is similar to last week’s CB pick, Tre’Davious White: 8 interceptions and 21 passes defended in three full seasons. The reason for his relative lack of production is that he just didn’t have a lot of targets go his way. He simply shut his man down, which is saying a lot in a pass-heavy Pac-12 conference.
Washington plays a good mix of man and zone coverages, and Jones excels equally at both. He is not a press-man cornerback, so he doesn’t often use a “jam” at the line-of-scrimmage. Instead, he has a way of opening his hips just at the snap of the ball and anticipating a wide receiver’s route. Jones is the definition of a “technician.” His technique is near-perfect. He uses the boundary line as an additional defender and has a keen ability to keep himself between the quarterback and wide receiver.
Jones is the type of cornerback that you can play in any defense. While he’s not what I would describe as a physical defender, he doesn’t shy away from contact when making the tackle either. He is smart, has his eyes in the backfield and when given the opportunity, makes plays on the ball. Sidney Jones would make an excellent addition to any secondary.
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Round 2 – Pick #7 – 39th Overall: Budda Baker – Free Safety – Washington
Budda Baker is one of my favorite players to watch. He is not “flashy” in that he won’t always make huge plays. What he is though, is an excellent football player. Honestly, I believe that Baker is every bit as talented as Jamal Adams, and you can likely get him in the second round.
I don’t really like to compare players, but sometimes that is the easiest way to have the reader understand what I see. When I watch Baker on tape, he reminds of another second-round pick by the Bears, who also happened to play safety: Mike Brown. I am not saying he is the same player, but their play is very similar.
What I initially noticed is that he plays across from a wide receiver or tight end most of the time. Baker is not your typical “center field” type of free safety. He can cover his assignment in either man or zone (which noted above, Washington plays a lot of both). He is not as fluid of an athlete as you would like for a corner, but he has excellent speed to make up for any deficiencies in turning his hips.
Baker is also a physical player. He likes to stick his nose in the action on running plays and isn’t afraid to make a big hit over-the-middle. I saw him blitz several times as well and he has excellent timing, and the ability to “bend” the corner like a pass-rusher would. This led to several quarterback hits and tackles for losses (TFL).
Budda Baker is what I would describe as a football player, not just an athlete. He has the great instincts, coverage ability, physicality and athleticism to be an outstanding NFL player. This is the type of pick that you can instantly insert into almost any defensive backfield and improve over the incumbent player. I would personally be very excited if the Bears ended up with Baker.
Round 3 – Pick #3 – 67th Overall: TJ Watt – EDGE/ILB – Wisconsin
Initially, I just had TJ Watt listed as an EDGE player. Once I watched his tape, it became apparent that he was more than that, so I added inside linebacker to his position. Watt is not a flashy player by any means. He has a good motor, flashes athleticism and makes some plays, but he doesn’t “wow” you.
Watt is an excellent football player, though; he is sort of a jack-of-all-trades. He can rush the passer, defend against the run, set the edge (will need to add strength to do this in the NFL), looks natural in coverage and is a superior blitzer. Watt does all of the little things that make the players around him better.
He is a player that you can move around the defense to fill a variety of roles. He has good length and size but just needs to add some more strength and technique to truly become a great player at the next level. His football intelligence should carry him through his rookie year as a role player. After he builds strength and adds technique, he can be used similarly to how Clay Matthews has been used in Green Bay. I am not sure his ceiling is quite that high, but he can certainly be used in a similar type of role for the Bears.
Round 4 – Pick #4 – 111th Overall: Jake Butt – Tight End – Michigan
Jake Butt: funny name, serious prospect.
Let me first get this out of the way, Butt will likely not play his rookie season. He is currently rehabbing a torn ACL, which has kept him out of the Combine and limited him at Michigan’s Pro Day. Since the tear came in the Orange Bowl, it is very likely that he would start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
Butt, as a prospect, is quite exciting. I have seen comparisons to Zach Miller and while I do understand that comparison, that is not the player I am reminded of when watching his tape. A different (ex-)Bears tight end comes to mind: Greg Olsen. Butt is not quite as athletic as Olsen, but he shows the ability to be a very solid route-runner, with soft hands and an excellent feel for finding holes in zone coverage.
The reason I really like Jake Butt’s game though is his blocking. The knock on tight ends this size (6’6”, 250 pounds) is always their inability or their desire to block. Coming from Michigan and playing for Jim Harbaugh, Butt had no choice but to be a good blocker. He could use a little work on technique, but he is adequate and shows the desire needed to excel as a blocker. After a “redshirt” year in the NFL, Butt could be the perfect replacement for Miller and would pair well with Dion Sims.
Round 4 – Pick #10 – 117th Overall: Josh Reynolds – Wide Receiver – Texas A&M
Josh Reynolds was a very difficult player to get an accurate read on. First off, wide receivers are tough to watch without having “all-22” film since you tend to miss much of their route. Secondly, the Texas A&M quarterback situation has been atrocious at times since Reynolds has been there. Despite all of that, he still managed to put up very consistent numbers in his 3 seasons.
There is a lot to like about Reynolds but obviously, he wouldn’t still be on the board in the fourth round if there weren’t some questions as well. I think the biggest question mark is his hands or perhaps, a lack of concentration. He also lacks top-end speed, having run a 4.52 40-yard dash at the Combine.
Speed isn’t Josh Reynolds’ game though, size is. At 6’3” and 194 pounds, he is the prototypical go-up-and-get-it WR. He just seems to have that knack for “high-pointing” the ball and making big catches over smaller defenders. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is. He has a lot of Alshon Jeffery in his game – more so the Jeffery coming out of South Carolina than the Chicago Bear. If things click for Reynolds in the NFL, he can be an elite big-body receiver, I have no doubt about that.
Round 5 – Pick #3 – 147th Overall: Noble Nwachukwu – EDGE – West Virginia
Noble Nwachukwu is a powerful man. He plays violently with tremendous strength but somewhat limited athleticism. It can be difficult to take a 4-3 DE and project him as a stand-up 3-4 OLB but that is exactly the type of switch that should benefit Nwachukwu.
Nwachukwu’s incredible strength allows him to play the strong side outside linebacker on base downs to set the edge on running plays. He consistently pushes Offensive Lineman into the backfield and is very disruptive to the timing of running plays. He has the bend and speed to chase down running backs from the back-side.
Nwachukwu’s pass rushing can use a little work. He is mainly a bull-rusher, using his strength and a good club-move to get the offensive lineman off balance. He then bulldozes them straight back. That type of move has its uses but in the NFL, he needs a counter-move to compliment the club. Moving to edge rusher should help give him the extra step or two he needs to build up speed on his pass rush.
Noble Nwachukwu has the potential to become a beast of a player. He would sit most of his Rookie year and gain experience as a situational player. If he can learn to harness that strength and explosion while adding some moves to his arsenal, there is no reason he cannot become a Pernell McPhee-type of player at the next level.
Round 7 – Pick #3 – 221st Overall: Zane Gonzalez – Kicker – Arizona State
I can honestly say that I have never watched tape of a kicker before. Why would you?
After the Bears cut Robbie Gould loose, it became apparent that this was a position that needed to be addressed. Kickers can often be found on the street or as undrafted free agents. However, not all kickers are Zane Gonzalez.
As I watched Gonzalez lineup for his FBS record-setting kick against UCLA, one thing immediately caught my eye: his demeanor. He was cool, calm and collected. This was the biggest kick of his life and he nailed it.
One of the biggest knocks I have always had on Gould is that he didn’t seem to have a predictable ball flight. This wasn’t really necessary as Gould is one of the best kickers by percentage of made field goals in NFL history. Gonzalez on the other hand, has a very consistent draw (a right-to-left ball flight, for those non-golfers out there) and he seems to play it very well.
Given the need for a consistent kicker in a home stadium like Soldier Field, where the wind tends to swirl, it is important to have a strong kicker. The fact that he has such a consistent ball flight is the reason to spend a seventh-round pick on him. Zane Gonzalez can be that steadying force for a team that generally plays between five to eight games outdoors and in the cold. Paired with the bruising style of Jordan Howard and an up-and-coming defense, this pick is a serious value for the Bears.
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