Free agency has begun and our Chicago Bears were busy locking up Jimmy Graham and Robert Quinn to deals while trading for veteran quarterback Nick Foles along with a couple of additional depth signings.
I personally don’t agree with some of the big Bears moves so far this offseason. But we at least have a better idea of how the Bears might attack the draft.
Ryan Pace appears to be in win-now mode as he has opted to sign older players as well as trade a pick for a new quarterback. I imagine he will attack the draft in the same manner and address some of their most glaring needs early on, which means … offensive line and cornerback.
Excuses are running out for Pace and company, and with limited resources, he needs to make sure he finds two immediate starters with his first two picks. Anything less than a playoff spot could mean major changes coming to Halas Hall.
Picking for need over best player available is a risky move in the long run although the Bears might not have any choice, especially on offensive line.
Luckily, using the NFL mock draft database simulator, the Bears’ needs aligned perfectly with the best player on the board for the first pick in my post free agency mock draft.
Round 2 Pick 50: C/G Cesar Ruiz (Michigan)
Around this time last offseason, the Bears offensive line seemed somewhat steady and set for the future.
Charles Leno and Bobby Massie were locked into the tackle spots while Cody Whitehair, James Daniels and veteran Kyle Long manned the interior. However, Long has now retired, Leno and Massie took a step back, and Daniels hasn’t yet lived up to the hype, making both guard and tackle pressing needs for right now and the future.
Everyone knows the Bears will be targeting the offensive line with their first pick and that is exactly what I have done with Michigan’s Ruiz.
Ruiz played mostly center at Michigan, making 26 starts at the position along with an additional five games starting at right guard. His best position in the NFL is probably at center, which would mean Whitehair would have to make the transition to RG. However, I could see a scenario where Ruiz could start there as well.
Ruiz, in my opinion, is the best pass blocking interior offensive line prospect in this draft.
In three years as a starter and over 1,100 pass protection snaps, he allowed only three sacks (zero last season) and only 25 total pressures.
His pass blocking is far ahead of his run blocking at this point. No reason to be concerned as he is one of the younger prospects in the draft at only 20 years old, and he also proved to have the functional athleticism to thrive in a zone-heavy scheme similar to what the Bears run when he posted an 8.97 relative athletic score (RAS courtesy of @mathbomb).
Round 3 Pick 65: CB Cam Dantzler (Mississippi State)
You probably noticed that the first pick in this mock was at number 50. That is because I used the Bears pick at number 43 to trade down, twice, to accumulate some much-needed draft capital.
Round 2 Pick 43
Round 7 Pick 234
Round 2 Pick 57
Round 3 Pick 90
Round 5 Pick 172
Round 2 Pick 57
Round 5 Pick 172
Round 6 Pick 201
Round 3 Pick 65
Round 4 Pick 107
Round 5 Pick 147
When I was on the clock for the second time, now at pick number 65, I managed to get a player I really like in Mississippi State’s Dantzler. The only reason Dantzler was available all the way at number 65 is because he ran a 4.64 40-yard dash at the combine. I am sure he was looking forward to beating that time at his pro day but due to the COVID-19 outbreak was not afforded that opportunity.
All you have to do is watch the tape to know Dantzler has plenty of speed for the NFL.
He shut down some of the best wide receivers in the nation while playing in the SEC. Ja’Mar Chase, LSU’s top receiver and potential top-five pick in 2021, had his worst game of his season as Dantzler shadowed him all game. He finished with 48 yards and was held under 10 yards per reception for the only time.
Dantzler is a tall (6-foot-2), physical corner who excels in press-man coverage. At first glance, he is not flashy. You won’t see twitter threads and insane highlight-reel interceptions.
Instead, you’ll see a corner who rarely loses a rep and whom teams prefer to avoid altogether. He was only targeted 29 times this past season, surrendering only 14 receptions with only 4 of those receptions being for more than 10 yards.
He will need to live in the weight room over the summer as he is very skinny at only 188 pounds, but there is a lot to build on with Dantzler, and the Bears would be thrilled if he drops due to a poor combine time.
Dantzler is a bit of a gamble as there are just not many corners in the NFL with sub-4.6 speed. You have to trust the tape with Dantzler, and after trading back twice, he is well worth the risk.
Round 3 Pick 93: QB Jake Fromm (Georgia)
The Bears traded a fourth-round pick for Foles but don’t fool yourself: quarterback is still very much a need for the Bears.
Whether it’s a need this year or next, they need to draft a quarterback to groom for the future, and if Fromm doesn’t pan out, a late third-round investment far from prohibits you from trying again next year.
Fromm doesn’t possess huge upside, which is why he was the seventh quarterback off the board in this mock, but he makes up for it with intelligence and accuracy. That combined with his three-year starting experience give him a high floor as well.
Fromm’s biggest weakness is he only has average arm strength for the NFL. The thing is, we’ve seen quarterbacks get by in the NFL without elite arm strength. There are even some quarterbacks that see their arm strength improve with proper coaching and footwork.
What we have not seen is an inaccurate quarterback find success.
The same thought process that went into acquiring Foles applies to Fromm. He is a game manager who will make the right decisions and not turn the ball over. He is a near-perfect fit for Matt Nagy’s offense as his three years starting experience should allow him to diagnose coverages and consistently make the right moves.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see him starting at some point in 2020. Even if he doesn’t, he gives them a viable starting option down the road at best and a great backup quarterback for four years at worst.
Round 4 Pick 107: OT Saahdiq Charles (LSU)
With the only signing along the offensive line so far being Germain Ifedi, who it wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t make the final 53 man roster, the Bears need to spend multiple picks on the offensive line in this year’s draft. Ruiz is going to slot into the starting lineup right away but the Bears need a developmental tackle to take over a starting role potentially as soon as 2021.
Charles is exactly the type of high ceiling, low floor prospect on whom the Bears should take a chance.
He was wildly inconsistent in his three years as a starter and his early declaration caught many by surprise as he still needs more seasoning. However, it’s impossible to ignore his athletic traits and length.
While he has the athleticism to stay in front of speed rushers, Charles currently has no anchor to speak of and can be bull-rushed currently with ease. He needs to add strength and work on his technique. It could be a few years until he is ready but a fourth-round pick is worth the investment even if he never pans out.
Round 5 Pick 147: Josiah Deguara (Cincinnati)
Despite signing Graham and Burton’s presence (for now), the Bears still need youth and upside at the tight end position. Deguara might not be the best tight end in the draft but he might be my favorite.
Deguara’s greatest strength is he has no weaknesses. He is an above-average route runner, good blocker, has good hands and good athleticism. He just doesn’t have that one calling card which ultimately limits his upside.
This is a safe pick at a position the Bears have been searching for stability for years. Deguara should be able to play right away and fill in at both the “Y” and “U” tight end positions. He even could see some time as an H-back.
I had Deguara in my first 2020 mock draft, and as long as he continues to be underrated, I will continue to include him in future ones as well. He is one of my favorite prospects for the Bears.
Silver lining of the Bears being a dumpster fire is I get to start prepping for the draft early. TE is obviously a huge need and one guy I really like is Cincinnati's Josiah Deguara. Can play inline as well as in the slot
Route Running ✅
Blocking ✅ pic.twitter.com/rOtnsP1sIm
— Stephen Letizia (@StephenLetizia) November 19, 2019
Round 5 Pick 164: WR John Hightower (Boise State)
The Bears need to add a speed element to their offense this offseason. Tarik Cohen and Cordarrelle Patterson, while plenty fast, do most of their damage in the short and intermediate passing games. They need someone who can threaten the defense deep, which in turn opens up the short and intermediate game for their other playmakers.
Enter: John Hightower
Hightower’s straight-line speed is his calling card as evidenced by his 4.43 40-yard dash and should be able to be put to use right away as a rookie, even if the rest of his game isn’t quite there yet. His speed will require teams to keep safety help over the top, opening up the short and intermediate zones for the Bears’ other targets.
It’s a strong wide receiver class, and ideally, the Bears should look to draft a wide receiver early.
However, the value was never there in this simulation. Hightower is a good consolation prize and would bring much-needed speed to compliment the games of Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller.
Round 6 Pick 197: S/LB Khaleke Hudson (Michigan)
The defensive coordinator who gets his hands on Hudson is going to have to be creative. He is labeled as a “tweener” due to his size at 5-foot-11 and 224 pounds, but I see it differently.
Hudson is just a football player.
He lined up as the “viper” in Michigan’s defense (same role Jabrill Peppers played in college) playing as a safety, linebacker, slot cornerback, and edge defender on any given snap. He played over 100 snaps at each position in each of the last three seasons, making him a versatile weapon for a defensive coordinator to deploy.
His best season came as a sophomore in 2017, where he had 77 tackles, 16 for loss, 7.5 sacks, two interceptions, nine pass breakups and two fumbles forced. He was never able to capture that same magic the last two seasons, although, he did have over 100 tackles as a senior.
At worst, Hudson will be an elite special teams player in the NFL and at best he’s used as a defensive chess piece with whom Chuck Pagano can be creative. Hudson’s motor and drive makes him one of my favorite players and there is not a doubt in my mind he will have a successful NFL career in some capacity.
Round 7 Pick 227: OLB Bryce Huff (Memphis)
The Bears still need depth at outside linebacker and in an ideal world with more picks, I would have addressed the position earlier. But with Khalil Mack and Quinn presumably taking most of the snaps, and Barkevious Mingo brought in to compete, the need is slightly less dire.
Huff is a player who isn’t getting enough love. He wasn’t even technically a draftable player in the simulator I used despite having 34.5 tackles for loss and 17 sacks over the last two seasons.
Huff has a relentless motor and is always around the football. He is a little stiff, which prevents him from bending around the edge, but his explosive first step and violent hands should make him a formidable player on all three downs after a redshirt year or two.
Right away he should be a valuable special teams player. And maybe that eventually is his ceiling, but in the seventh round, the Bears could do a lot worse.