In 24 days, the Chicago Bears will be on the clock.
And, oh, what an exciting time that will be.
Bears fans have been waiting anxiously for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to step up to that podium and announce the newest addition to the organization.
Who that will be, nobody knows for sure? Well, except me.
Here is how I think the Bears will approach the draft, and of course this will be 100 percent accurate because that’s how all mock drafts work, right?
Round 1, No. 8 Overall: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB (Alabama)
One word came to mind as I watched Fitzpatrick’s tape: versatile.
Something that general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy have coveted this offseason is versatility. Just look at the Bears free agent acquisitions in Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel, who are all guys that can line up in multiple spots on the offense.
At any point Fitzpatrick could line up as a single-high safety or move in the box as a linebacker ready to blitz up the middle. With the Alabama Crimson Tide there were countless options as to where the 6-foot-1, 201-pound athlete would be.
What makes Fitzpatrick special is regardless of where he lines up, his technique does not falter. He knows how to take the correct drop back and put himself in positions to make a play on the ball.
Look at this wheel turn with Fitzpatrick playing on the outside against a wide receiver. Even though Fitzpatrick gets turned the other way, he recovers and is able to make a great play on the ball.
On this play Fitzpatrick lines up in nickel, backpedals to watch the receiver in front of him and makes a great break on the ball to jump the route. Then it’s a cake-walk to the end zone.
Another attribute that Pace and Nagy like in a player is one that has high football IQ. As I watched Fitzpatrick’s tape, it was evident that he knew exactly where everyone on the defense should be, and also at times, what the opposing offense was running.
On The Herd, Hall of Fame inductee Ray Lewis told Colin Cowherd that Fitzpatrick is his favorite player in this draft. Lewis later in their discussion diagnoses a play that showcases Fitzpatrick’s intellect.
Now, imagine what defensive coordinator Vic Fangio could come up with in his defensive schemes with a player like Fitzpatrick. I know it’s a lot to take in and makes you anxious for the season to start right now.
But in all seriousness, the Bears need Fitzpatrick because they play in a division that has some dangerous quarterbacks. Last season Matthew Stafford finished third in the league in passing yards with 4,446, Kirk Cousins finished seventh in passing yards with 4,093 and if Aaron Rodgers didn’t get injured he would have finished in the top 10 as well.
Since the Bears don’t have many pass rushers, they better have an elite secondary. Fitzpatrick would be the last piece of the puzzle to help make the defense one that opposing quarterbacks struggle to pass against.
Round 2, No. 39 Overall: Lorenzo Carter, OLB (Georgia)
What if I told you the Bears could have two Leonard Floyds? Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?
Well that scenario can come to fruition with Carter playing on the opposite side of Floyd, which happened at the University of Georgia just three years ago.
At the NFL Combine, Carter was listed at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and ran a 4.50 40-yard dash. Comparably, Floyd measured in at 6-foot-6, 244 pounds and ran a 4.60 40-yard dash.
Now, is Carter exactly Floyd? No. But he plays very similarly to his former Georgia Bulldog teammate. Just like Floyd in college, Carter was asked to do multiple tasks on defense: rush from a 3-point stance, drop back into coverage and to primarily rush the quarterback as a standup outside linebacker.
What Carter was able to do in college will translate well with the Bears because Fangio asked Floyd to a lot of the same things. Carter’s versatility will pay dividends to get him into multiple defensive packages early on in his career.
Carter will also help himself to get on the field by continuing to use his 34-inch arms to his advantage. He excelled at keeping opposing blockers at bay and then using his vision to find the ball carrier and to finally make the tackle.
Here is a good example of that against Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson.
Another aspect of Carter’s game that stuck out to me is his relentlessness and pursuit to the ball. In my notes there were multiple times where I wrote down “great effort” after the play. Regardless of where Carter is on the field, expect him to be in the vicinity of the ball carrier.
Carter also has great get-off speed and used that to his advantage to beat offensive tackles around the edge. The Bears desperately need another player who can use his physical gifts to help get to the quarterback.
Here is that speed off the edge, and the consequences teams will face if they decide to have just a running back block Carter. He recovered the fumble on the play.
If the Bears decide to draft Carter, he would complete the pack and Fangio could then let his dogs lose to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Round 4, No. 105 Overall: Josey Jewell, ILB (Iowa)
For former Chicago athletes Matt Forte, Taj Gibson, Derek Lee, Joe Crede and Bryan Bickell there is something in common between them other than just the great city they represented for years. Each one, as Bulls color commentator Stacey King has made famous, embodies that “Hard hat, lunch pail” mentality when they played their respective sport.
That mentality is also seen in Iowa Hawkeye Josey Jewell.
Over the course of his four years at Iowa, Jewell accumulated 433 total tackles, 10 sacks, 6 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles. Additionally, he was a finalist for the Butkus Award in 2017 and was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season. Jewell also finished with the fifth most solo tackles in the Big Ten Conference with 211 and since 2005 has registered 26 passes defended, which is eighth all time.
He did all that despite being listed at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds and running a 4.82 40-yard dash.
What Jewell lacks in size and speed he makes up for in football IQ. All season for the Hawkeyes he blew up plays because he knew exactly what the opposing offense was doing.
On this play against the No. 4 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, Jewell engages with the offensive lineman and immediately peels back once he sees the right guard pull to the left side. Jewell then runs downhill and takes a direct route to meet Sauqon Barkley at the line of scrimmage.
Jewell also did a great job when he dropped back into coverage. He didn’t accumulate 26 passes defended in his career at Iowa by accident. In the play bellow against the No. 6 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, Jewell takes his drop back, then begins to shuffle right when he sees the receiver from his left side about to run behind him. He then gets his hand in the way to deflect the pass.
With me having gone to the University of Iowa and watching Jewell in person for three of my four years, I know that Bears fans would absolutely embrace him in Chicago.
Round 4, No. 115 Overall: Nathan Shepherd, DT (Fort Hays State)
Every defense needs a player that has the capability to rack up hits on the quarterback and Nathan Shepherd can do just that.
After watching his tape, it was common to find the opposing quarterback on the ground and No. 97 right beside him or standing and celebrating his accomplishment.
At the Division II level Shepherd was a handful for opposing offensive linemen. According to the CBS Sports Staff, in Shepherd’s senior season he ended as the MIAA Defensive Player of the Year after registering 38 tackles (12.5 for loss) and four sacks. As a junior Shepherd made 61 tackles (9.5 for a loss) three sacks and two forced fumbles. And in Shepherd’s first year at Fort Hays State as a sophomore he had 69 tackles (five for loss), three sacks and had two blocked kicks.
What stood out on tape was the power Shepherd generated when the ball was snapped. Opposing offensive lineman did not give the 6-foot-5, 315-pound defensive tackle any resistance.
There really isn’t any need for much explanation on this play. Just watch.
Shepherd doesn’t just possess brute strength but also great awareness when it comes to diagnosing screens. In the play below, Shepherd engages the first offensive lineman and then gets double teamed short after. He fights through both of the linemen, finds the ball carrier and makes a great tackle for a loss on the play.
Shepherd isn’t a guy who will contribute right away and may take some time to get acclimated to the size and speed of the NFL. But he does possess the raw talent to become a good player in the league.
Spoiler Alert: From here on out the analysis of each prospect will be shorter.
Round 5, No. 145 Overall: Allen Lazard, WR (Iowa State)
I’m not too fond of putting an Iowa State Cyclone in my mock draft, but Allen Lazard does have my respect.
The 6-foot-5, 227-pound receiver left his four-year career as the all-time receptions leader with 241. He also hauled in 26 touchdowns, 10 coming in his senior campaign, and accumulated 3,360 total receiving yards in that time.
With Lazard being a bigger bodied receiver, he used his size to his advantage when setting up the back shoulder fade. He also has a gift of being able to come down with those contested catches. Check out this play, where he uses his left hand to deflect the ball to his right for a touchdown.
One of the things I noticed after watching his film is that he adjusts well to the ball while it’s in the air. There were many times when the quarterback wasn’t accurate but Lazard was still able to make the catch.
The Bears brought in some much-needed weapons for Mitch Trubisky but they will still need to add depth and Lazard could be a nice addition, especially if unrestricted free agent Cameron Meredith signs with another team.
Round 6, No. 181 Overall: Taylor Hearn, G (Clemson)
In Nagy’s new offense, it will be up to offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to coach the offensive linemen to become more mobile. With Helfrich having been the head coach at Oregon and utilizing the run-pass option, the O-line will be asked to pull, move up to the second level and to sustain those crucial blocks.
Well, that’s exactly what Taylor Hearn did during his time at Clemson. Check out No. 51 and the key blocks he made in these highlights.
Hearns is listed at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds which is good size for a lineman. However, that size didn’t translate to the weight room as he was only able to put up 18 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine. He also does struggle at times finishing blocks, but is usually in the right position.
The Bears still need to add depth at guard especially since there is a vacant spot after Josh Sitton’s 2018 option wasn’t picked up by the organization.
Round 7, No. 224 Overall: Levi Wallace, CB (Alabama)
Who doesn’t like rooting for the underdog? Nobody. Well, that is exactly what Levi Wallace is because he had to walk on to play for Nick Saban’s defense.
As a senior, Wallace made 31 total tackles (4.5 for loss), two sacks, three interceptions and led the defense with 15 passes defended.
He isn’t the fastest guy, running a 4.63 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and isn’t the biggest, being listed at 6 feet, 183 pounds, but can be a contributor on special teams in the NFL.
With Wallace being a part of arguably the best program in college football, he will show NFL teams his competitiveness and will to stay on a roster.
So, that’s my mock draft. What do you think? Leave comments, follow me on Twitter @NicholasMoreano and make sure to keep up with all of DaBearsBros coverage of your Chicago Bears.