Da Big Board 2.0
With the free agent frenzy the Bears went through between now and the last big board, the table has turned. Signing Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman has turned some frowns upside down regarding the inside linebacker position.
In our last offseason show, Evan Fitzgerald of Fox32 Chicago said,
The position has improved by miles.”
That is definitely correct. The Bears went from possibly drafting an inside linebacker early, to drafting one only if it is the best available pick.
The defensive line also got upgraded by signing Akiem Hicks, a guy who started trending upward toward the end of the 2015 season in New England. Hicks is now in a position to excel by getting more playing time and having a more prominent role on the defensive line.
The last big signing (from another team) is Bobby Massie, an offensive tackle from Arizona. Being 6-6 and weighing 316 pounds, Massie will move Kyle Long back to right guard. The best part? The two are already working out together! Moving Long back to guard, and having Slauson play the left guard can help Hroniss Grasu continue to grow and possibly make up for his lack of size on the inside.
With all the free agent signings, Ryan Pace can know fully execute the “best available” draft strategy. In addition to his “best available” strategy, I think the priorities for the draft have changed in what to look for.
- Complete the defense, look secondary and defensive lineman
- Round out the wide receiver position
- Find Jay Cutler’s back-up
Lastly, another big storyline this offseason was the Bears trading away Martellus Bennett and a sixth-round pick to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round pick. Now, instead of three sixth round picks, the Bears will have two fourth-rounders and two sixth round picks.
Players I’m Looking At
DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon University
DeForest Buckner did not make the list on the first big board, but after further evaluation, he has arrived. In 2015, Buckner finished with 83 total tackles and 10.5 sacks. Standing 6-7, he has the size and wingspan to cover a lot of space, which is definitely an asset being in a 3-4 defensive scheme. He ran his 40-yard dash in 5.05 seconds. For a guy with a 6-7 frame, I would say that is moving pretty well. Overall he’s a good athlete. If he is available at pick number 11, the Bears could draft Buckner and complete the defensive front seven.
Shaquille Lawson, DL, Clemson University
Compared to Buckner, Shaq Lawson is a smaller guy at 6-3 and he weighs 269 pounds. Don’t worry, though, it all looks like muscle. I think his muscles have muscles. He can play either as a down lineman or he could be a stand-up rusher depending how the Bears want to use him. He finished 2015 with 58 total tackles and 12.5 sacks. Lawson is a violent player with a strong motor. His knack of getting to the quarterback and versatility is going to serve him well in his first year in the league. If for some reason both Buckner and Lawson are available, flip a coin on who you want. Honestly, both players will fit in this defensive scheme.
Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida University
The Bears re-signed Tracy Porter this offseason, but the cornerback position still lacks depth. Vernon Hargreaves III has the potential to come in day one and play in the nickel. He’s a little short (5-10) to cover the bigger guys in the league, so playing him in the nickel right away to get him experience would play to his advantage. He is a quick player that moves really well and wants to be part of the run defense. Hargreaves ran a 4.5 40 time at the combine and showed off his vertical jump reaching 39 inches. Tough to tell if Hargreaves will still be around at the 11th pick, but if he is… I can see him still in blue and orange.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss University
The wide receivers. Ummm…
I’m not sure what Bears fans think when looking at the wideout position. Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White are locks to play on the outside. After that, Eddie Royal had injury problems last year, Marquess Wilson kind of… sort of… showed us what he can do, then lastly there is Marc Mariani and Josh Bellamy at the end of the depth chart for security purposes.
This position could use an upgrade if you ask me. Laquon Treadwell is a good, safe upgrade. He isn’t going to blow anyone away with his speed, but he gets an “A” in getting the 50/50 balls, he comes back to the ball when receiving, and has a good catch radius. I view Treadwell as a possession receiver and not so much a deep threat because he struggles to gain separation. That being said, with Jeffery and White likely to be the deep threats anyway, I see Treadwell as being a solid addition as a possession guy.
A Running Back in Round One?
Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State University
Ezekiel Elliot is another name that is being tossed around by the Bears community as a possible draft pick in the first round. The dude is an athlete, just watch his tape and you will quickly see it. He ran a 4.47 40 time at the combine to show off his speed. An important attribute is that he is not scared of contact, but could possibly be costly in the long run. If Elliot is drafted by the Bears, where does he fit into the depth chart with Langford, Carey, Rodgers and Perry? How will he get implemented into the offense? How does he benefit the team? All tough questions, but all valid questions to ask in the war room on draft day when looking at the “best available.”
Finishing Up Round One
There are a few other players that got left off the list. For example, don’t think for a second if Carson Wentz falls to 11 Ryan Pace will just let him slide. Another example is Jalen Ramsey, a cornerback from Florida State. A talented player, and if for some reason he drops to 11 I would think that Ryan Pace picks him up.
This is a defensive heavy draft, so I would think the Bears are going to go to that side of the ball in the first two rounds to bolster an already good looking defense. Having a stronger front seven will help create a stronger secondary. I feel the Bears will finish off the defensive line in round one, then go secondary in the second.
However, if they feel very strongly about a cornerback that’s available in round one, that situation can be flip flopped really easily and still get good quality guys at each position. It’s still tough to tell who they will draft, but I think the picture will continue to get clearer once the Chicago Bears get closer to draft day.
Side Note: Everyone at Da Bears Brothers will be coming out with a mock draft later in the month.