NFL mock drafts are crossword puzzles for football geeks. Which piece fits where and why. There's also a lot of speculation and b.s. involved; not so much on the journalists' end as much as with the sources. At this time of year, NFL scouts, GMs, front office guys etc. take lying to a level that resembles an art form.
That's why these can be so hard to predict by the time the Bears draft pick is on the board. Usually, you can get the first few picks right, but then draft day trades happen and dominoes fall, and it rips apart the NFL mock draft at the seams. This could all make for a more interesting Bears draft than in recent years.
To find the logic, I enlisted the help of my Chicago Bears beat writer Joey Flaherty. He does good work. Here's his first Bears mock composite and his second. Back by unpopular demand is my NFL Draft stock report: combine edition.
So who do the Bears draft at #20? Here's what the "experts" say:
Mel Kiper, ESPN: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Josh Norris, NFL.com: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Todd McShay, ESPN: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
Albert Breer, NFL.com: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports: Tyler Eifert, TE, Stanford
Seven of the 13 experts didn’t seem to be swayed too much by last week’s Scouting Combine. Either that, or they’ll release an updated mock draft in a few days that will blow this composite to smithereens.
But that means six of them had a change of heart on who the Bears draft. And some of these changes may surprise you.
Walter Cherepinsky, Walter Football: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (previously OT D.J. Fluker)
Rob Rang, CBS Sports: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (previously OT Lane Johnson)
Matt Fitzgerald, Bleacher Report: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford (previously, Alex Kay picked OT Lane Johnson)
Charles Davis, NFL.com: No pick available (previously OT Lane Johnson)
Gil Brandt, NFL.com: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (previously TE Zach Ertz)
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (previously ILB Kevin Minter)
OT Lane Johnson has shot up the boards and is now projected as a top-10 pick, which is why he is no longer linked to the Bears.
ILB Kevin Minter, on the other hand, seems to be falling. The highest I’ve seen him lately is 28th to the Denver Broncos, and he’s mostly linked to the Baltimore Ravens with the 32nd pick.
The two new names that buck the OL/LB/TE trend are WR Tavon Austin and DT Sheldon Richardson. We’ll take a look at these two new names, as well as OL Barrett Jones and TE Tyler Eifert.
Of course, the only mock draft that matters is mine, which you can see here. It's like March Madness brackets, yours is the most interesting thing in the world to you, the most boring thing in the world to others. Here's who I have mocked to Bears and why.
20. Chicago Bears, D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Bears window for a title is now closed. Their defense has aged and their offense is nothing beyond Brandon Marshall. They have problems aplenty, but the biggest issue is the OL. Ever since he got here, Jay Cutler has received no protection. Drafting Gabe Carimi proved to be a massive bust. They'll try to erase that mistake with this pick.
Fluker is a physical beast. He started 36 games over his final three seasons at right tackle for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. His height and arm length allow him to maul oncoming defenders and keep them at bay as they pass rush. His 335 lbs are solid, and even though he’s no Terron Armstead (a lineman who ran a 4.71 40-yard dash) when it comes to speed, he can still maneuver his size to create running lanes on the edge.
Fluker is no stranger to playing against top-flight talent having played in the SEC, and he plays with his heart on his sleeve. He wants to step into a leadership role on any team that drafts him, even at the young age of 21.
The biggest knock on Fluker is his lack of that top-tier athleticism. He gives up a few too many secondary rushes because he doesn’t have the best recovery speed, and quicker rushers can easily avoid him in space. Fluker has the base skill set to become a star offensive tackle in the NFL, but he has to become more athletic in order to do that.
Something that makes Fluker more attractive to the Bears is his experience at tackle. This would allow the Bears to move Gabe Carimi, the former starting right tackle, to the interior of the line. Historically, Carimi has faired better at the guard position. Drafting Fluker may end up improving two positions on the line, not just one.
But be warned: Fluker’s name is rising fast. Depending on how he performs at the combine, he may find himself inside the top 15. But as it stands right now, Fluker is just what the doctor ordered for the Bears at the 20th pick.
A Fulbright scholar, author and MBA, Banks has appeared on the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB)
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