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Bears Should Look To Emulate Raiders’ ’14 Draft
- Updated: April 18, 2017
The Chicago Bears have been stuck in rebuild mode for what feels like an eternity. With another high draft pick in 2017, Ryan Pace needs impact players, especially after a less-than-stellar free agency. The good news is that Pace has drafted well in his first two years as GM, especially last year when he nabbed starters Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard.
The Oakland Raiders are an example of a team that was in a similar situation as the Bears are in now. Yet they finally broke out last season and cruised to a 12-4 record. It is easy to spot what made Oakland rise from the ashes: Their 2014 draft class. The Raiders held the fifth pick in that draft. Their first-round selection was Khalil Mack, and in the second round they got Derek Carr. Those two players have come to lead Oakland’s defense and offense respectively, and turn the beleaguered franchise around.
There are a lot of similarities between this year’s draft class and the one in 2014. Perhaps even more so than in 2014, this draft is top heavy with defensive talent. Jadeveon Clowney went first overall in ’14, and Myles Garrett looks likely to be the first pick this year. The Bears will have a wealth of options both on the defensive line and in the secondary when they pick at 3rd overall.
Also similar to ’14, there is no consensus top quarterback in the draft. The early favorite to be the top quarterback three years ago was Teddy Bridgewater, and he slipped to the second round. With questions surrounding top quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky, DeShone Kizer, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes, at least one of them is likely to still be on the board when the Bears pick in the second round. If the Bears are able to nab a game-changing defensive talent in the first round, and pair that with a franchise QB in the second, they probably won’t be in rebuilding mode for much longer.
So what defense and quarterback pairing would be most ideal for the Bears?
- Jamal Adams S, LSU – There is a ton of defensive potential at the top of the draft, but Adams is the only can’t miss prospect that I see outside of Myles Garrett, who will be gone already. Third overall is high for a safety but Adams checks all the boxes both on the field and in the locker room. A field general who can also tackle, Adams is a rare safety who doesn’t sacrifice power for speed. His ability to both cover and tackle makes him worth the early selection. He will be a huge boost to a Bears secondary in desperate need of playmakers.
- Malik Hooker, S Ohio State – I’m high on the safeties in this draft. Hooker is not quite as complete as Adams and doesn’t have the same leadership qualities, but his ridiculous range and great instincts have led to Ed Reed comparisons. I think Hooker can be a guy that intercepts a lot of passes, which would be huge for the Bears who struggle to generate turnovers.
- Jonathan Allen, DE Alabama – Allen was considered the early favorite to go to the Bears, but concerns about his shoulder has knocked him down a few slots. That said, let’s not overreact. Allen was one of the best defensive players in the country for Alabama, and I think he could have a more immediate impact than players in the secondary. Allen would upgrade the Bears’ budding front seven, and you can never have enough good players in the trenches. I don’t think Allen will be a stat sheet-stuffer at the next level, but he would be a key cog in the Bears’ defense for years to come.
- Solomon Thomas, DE Stanford – Thomas makes me a bit nervous since he’s been labeled a “tweener” who may not have a true position in the NFL. Perhaps the Shea McClellin experience has destroyed my confidence in “versatile” defenders. That said, Thomas has a high motor and was extremely productive in college. He knows how to get to the quarterback and his sack potential is higher than Allen’s. Similar to last year’s pick, Leonard Floyd, he needs to get stronger at the next level. If he does, those two could form a formidable young duo. I guess Aaron Donald was considered undersized for his position too.
- Jabrill Peppers S, Michigan – Perhaps the most exciting prospect in the draft, Peppers was electric at Michigan. He can play several positions but likely projects as a safety in the NFL. I think the creative Vic Fangio would figure out ways to take advantage of Peppers’ athleticism. The concern with Peppers is that he didn’t generate many turnovers at the college level, with only one interception at Michigan. Peppers can play more positions than Adams and Hooker, but that doesn’t make him the better prospect. The superior coverage skills of Adams and Hooker is why Peppers is the third safety on my list.
Defensive Player to Avoid: Marshon Lattimore CB, Ohio State – Lattimore is touted as the best corner in the draft and the Bears need a top cover corner, so why isn’t this a match? Lattimore has had a nagging hamstring issue that has plagued him his entire career. He had a phenomenal season last year at Ohio State, but a speedy cornerback with a history of hamstring injuries is too risky at third overall. After what happened to Kevin White, the Bears need a player who can stay on the field.
- Mitchell Trubisky, QB UNC – After the combine and pro days, Trubisky has risen to be the top quarterback prospect in the draft. The Browns are reportedly considering him at first overall, but if he has a draft day slide the Bears should be thrilled to get him in the second round. Ryan Pace should consider a trade up for Trubisky or another QB if necessary.
- Patrick Mahomes, QB Texas Tech – Mahomes is the Jay Cutler of the 2017 draft, but I’ll tell you why that isn’t a bad thing. Unlike Cutler, Mahomes has the demeanor and leadership qualities to improve. Cutler was a great arm talent, but simply wasn’t coachable. Mahomes has a rocket arm, but at just 21 years old he can still be molded. His mechanics and decision-making need work, but the potential is there. With Mike Glennon locked in as the starter next season, a year or two on the bench could do Mahomes some good.
- DeShone Kizer, QB Notre Dame – Kizer is another raw talent who is a huge question mark at the next level. He can make all the throws and has some mobility that can add another element to his game. His lack of starting experience is a concern, and he threw too many interceptions. There isn’t a big gap between Mahomes and Kizer. Both will need to be coached up and are not ready to start immediately, but there is a lot to like. The potential makes either one a value in the second round.
Quarterback to Avoid: Deshaun Watson, Clemson – Watson was great in the national title game, and his great leadership qualities are well-documented. Yet, when I look at Watson, I see one of those quarterbacks who is great in college, but doesn’t project well to the NFL. Vince Young, Johnny Manziel, and RG3 are examples of players who relied on their mobility in college, and were exposed and/or injured in the NFL. Defensive players are much faster and stronger in the NFL, and Watson will need to learn to become a pocket passer. He benefited greatly from having a big receiver in Mike Williams, and Watson’s turnover numbers are concerning. He has a tendency to leave the pocket too early and try to run. I don’t think he falls to the second round anyways, but I’d like to see the Bears avoid Watson.
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