Way back in November, I wrote what I called a “way too early” draft article, which focused on the Bears needing a left tackle and a wide receiver. Since then, a lot has changed. Although the Bears needs haven’t changed, they have a different lens from which they are being watched; that lens being new head coach Matt Nagy. We know that John Fox and Ryan Pace were fine with Charles Leno at LT, but I am not. Still, even though we don’t know what Nagy is thinking, I can’t see the Bears even looking in that direction unless they trade down.
The Bears have the eighth pick in the draft, and they have needs at wideout, offensive line, and defense (corner, safety, pass rush), among others. I know that teams don’t normally take guards this high in the draft, but this year is going to be an exception. Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson is going to somebody in the top 10. Meanwhile, this is a solid draft for QBs, but we all know the Bears feel they have their guy, so we can ignore those players for now (man, how I love Baker Mayfield, but oh well).
So let’s get to it. Here is my analysis of the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, and the football players I would take if I was the man making those decisions.
1st Round—Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
I know, this is wishful thinking on my part, as many prognosticators, including ESPN’s Todd McShay, are expecting the Denver Broncos to take Nelson with the fifth selection in the draft, but hey, I’m an optimist, what can I say?
So why is this kid garnering all the attention?
Well, first of all, retired DE Stephen White on SB Nation says:
“The Notre Dame product has everything you want in an NFL lineman, including some extra nastiness.”
He not only plays to the whistle, he plays through the whistle. He dominates opponents as a road grader in run protection, with superior strength, and yet is athletic enough to be effective in passing downs. WalterFootball even had some “league sources say that Nelson is the highest graded guard they’ve ever scouted, and that includes the likes of Logan Mankins and David DeCastro.” That’s some high praise, folks.
Meanwhile, the Bears may never again see that Pro Bowl caliber production level from Kyle Long. Therefore, it’s a need. And while they do need a WR, Calvin Ridley, who is the highest ranked wideout on the board, didn’t impress at the Combine, and if Mitch Trubisky is going to be successful—and Pace is risking his entire legacy on that—he’s going to need strong, effective blocking upfront.
Meanwhile, the left tackle position is the one that protects the QB’s blind spot, so it’s always considered the most important position on the line. However, Connor Williams of Texas may not project as a LT in the NFL due to short arms, and he has medical issues, so I’d stay far away from him.
UTEP’s Will Hernandez grades out well, but he’s also a guard, like Nelson, and Nelson is better. In fact, McShay doesn’t have a single true LT going in the first round at all.
Hopefully, Denver fails to get Case Keenam and decides to draft a QB, although even that scenario doesn’t guarantee that Nelson will be on the board for Chicago. The Jets could snap him up and heck, the Giants could even take him if they keep the second pick in the draft.
So what if he’s off the board? Then the Bears will certainly look at Ridley, although his broad jump and verticals were disappointing at the Combine. Still, he’s the best WR available. Another direction the Bears could go in is cornerback. They slapped the transition tag on Kyle Fuller, but that’s no guarantee he comes back, and even if he does they could use another one.
So, enter Ohio State CB Denzel Ward, who both McShay and WalterFootball have the Bears taking in their latest mocks (links above). He’s a playmaker, and that is something the Bears desperately need. He ran a 4.32 in the 40-yard at the Combine, so he has the speed to cover like a blanket.
Georgia Junior linebacker Roquan Smith won the Dick Butkus award in 2017, and he should still be on the board if Pace wanted to go defense with the pick. In the title loss to Alabama, he had 13 tackles, nine solo, and a sack. He’s also considered to be a leader with high character.
2nd Round—DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
There are plenty of different directions that Ryan Pace could go in with the Bears second pick in the draft. Of course, a lot depends on what they do in free agency, and who they take in the first round. Since I have them taking a guard with their first pick, I think they must take a wideout and now is the time.
Moore, a Junior, lacks size, at 5’11”, but had 80 receptions for over 1,000 yards lasts season, so he was productive. He ran a 4.42 at the Combine, so he has speed as he had the fifth best time among WRs. He also had the second best vertical among the wideouts.
LSU’s DJ Chark is another intriguing wideout. He posted the fastest time among WRs. He stands 6’3″, so he has much better size than Moore, although he hasn’t been nearly as productive. He didn’t have any catches his first two years during the regular season. If he improves his upper body strength, he could turn into a solid number two in the NFL.
If they don’t want a receiver, or don’t like the ones on the board, another way they could go is addressing the cornerback position with North Carolina’s MJ Stewart or Mike Hughes out of Central Florida. Stewart, who also projects at safety, is physical and a solid hitter. Like Stewart, Hughes is 5’11” and has good hands and is fast. The kid emerged as a shutdown corner and a very willing tackler. He is also an outstanding punt and kick returner.
If the Bears want to go with a pass rusher, Florida State’s Josh Sweat would be a great fit in a 3-4 defense. A freak of an athlete, Sweat may be gone by the time the Bears pick, but if he’s on the board, I would strongly consider taking him. He has good hands and is decent vs. the run.
3rd Round—Anthony Averett, DB, Alabama
The thing that prevents Averett from going in the first or second round is his limited production. He had only one interception in 29 games, and lacks ideal length. But as a mid-round pick, I believe Averett can be a diamond in the rough. The Bears have addressed the offensive side of the football with their first two selections, so it’s time to look to defense, and even if Fuller returns, the Bears definitely need another top corner.
Averett, a senior, stands 6’0″ and 185 lbs, and is fast. As Touchdown Alabama’s Jake Weaver writes, “His 40-yard time of 4.36 was good for sixth-best among all defensive backs and he tested out in the above average range for nearly every other category.” Weaver also notes that the hours that he has spent covering teammate Calvin Ridley in practice bodes well for his future.
If Pace doesn’t go with corner, or they don’t like who is left on the board in round three, I like Georgia OLB Lorenzo Carter. The senior stands 6’6″, 240, so he has good length, but scouts see him as adding bulk and becoming more of a 4-3 end, so there is also Auburn’s Jeff Holland, who is more of an ideal 3-4 with great hands.
What do you think—who would you like to see the Bears draft? Let me know in the comments.
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