2014 NFL Mock Draft: Chicago Bears Edition

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Chicago Bears Edition

After a solid off-season, the Bears are completely focused on the NFL Draft.

The 2014 NFL Draft begins on Thursday night at 8 p.m.,while the second and third rounds will be held on Friday night at 7 p.m. before the action wraps up on Saturday at 12 p.m.

The additions of defensive linemen Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young gave the Bears much needed life in terms of pass rushers. Bringing safety Ryan Mundy and center Brian De La Puente in were two very under-the-radar moves as well.

Plus all of the players the Bears re-signed this off-season which included Jay Cutler, Roberto Garza, Robbie Gould, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, D.J. Williams, Eben Britton and Jeremiah Ratliff just made too much sense.

With all that being said, the Bears still need help, especially on defense and on offense with their depth.

On defense, the Bears really need some more big bodies at defensive tackle and a play-making safety. They could also use a cornerback of the future with Tillman and Jennings not getting any younger as well as a middle linebacker with the linebacking core aging as well.

On offense, the starters are set in place, but behind Cutler, Matt Forte and starting receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery things could be better. As well at tight end where Martellus Bennett is by far the only legitimate option on the roster.

Here’s my seven-round mock draft that I think the Bears should follow or at least consider over the next three days at Radio City Music Hall:

Round 1, No. 14: Safety Calvin Pryor, Louisville 

The Bears need safety help there is no way around that statement. Major Wright and Chris Conte consistently made too many mistakes last season as the defensive line struggled.

With Conte recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and entering his last year of his rookie contract he shouldn’t be counted on. Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Craig Steltz round out the depth at the position.

Pryor provides the Bears with an instant starter. Something they really haven’t had since Danieal Manning was drafted in 2005 in the first-round. Despite defensive tackle being another huge need for the Bears, this move would be solid.

Pittburgh’s Aaron Donald will certainly be gone before the Bears pick as Tampa Bay holds the seventh selection and Minnesota holds the eighth pick, both teams need help along the inside of their lines.

Louis Nix III, Ra’Shede Hagemen and Timmy Jernigan are all guys the Bears could pick here as well, but the defensive tackle position is deep in this year’s draft class.

Pryor started 32 games in three seasons at Louisville recording 218 tackles, two sacks, seven interceptions, nine forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. The 5-11, 207 pounder is said to be the hardest hitter among the 2014 safety class.

He would be a nice fit for in the Cover-2 shell as he can play the run and pass very well and is said to be rangy enough to play center field. His biggest weakness at this point seems to be his average leaping ability and questionable angles he takes at times.

With his range and help in run support, Pryor makes too much sense for the Bears in the first-round. Alabama’s Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix could very well be taken here if he is available, but he isn’t as natural in the box as Pryor and gets stuck on blocks often.

Round 2, No. 19 (No. 51 overall): Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, LSU

Henry Melton bolted for Dallas this off-season and with him and Nate Collins injured last season, the middle of the defensive line was a complete mess.

Johnson should be available by the time the Bears pick in the second round. The athletic defensive tackle started all 13 games last season for the Tigers, making 35 tackles, three sacks and an interception. He also had nine tackles for a loss and four quarterback hurries.

Those numbers certainly don’t wow anyone, but the 20-year-old junior has monster upside. At 6-2, 308 pounds, Johnson actually lost 30 pounds since his freshman season, where he played Michael Brockers and Bennie Logan.

The Bears don’t need a day one starter at the position with Collins and Ratliff back in the fold as well as Israel Idonije and Stephen Paea. But Johnson can serve as a nice rotational piece, who could build on his future moving forward.

Johnson has solid acceleration and sheds blocks well enough to get to quarterbacks when given the chance. He hasn’t been able to consistently put it all together just yet, but that has to do with his raw talent. He only started three games prior to his junior season at LSU.

The Bears have been able to develop defensive tackles with plenty of athleticism before, a perfect example is Melton. Johnson’s biggest weakness right now is that he doesn’t consistently convert his speed to power and his moves at the line of scrimmage need some revamping.

Johnson would be a nice piece to add considering he could turn into something much more than he is right now. He has all the tools to be a solid starting defensive tackle.

Round 3, No. 18 (No. 82 overall): Cornerback Dontae Johnson, North Carolina State

Like mentioned above Tillman is likely in his last year with the Bears, while Jennings isn’t getting much younger and isn’t a pure No. 1 corner. Kelvin Hayden is also an aging veteran, who will be competing with third-year nickel back Isiah Frey this season.

The Bears need a cornerback of the future. Someone who can come in and learn from Tillman for a year and take over his role as a ball-hawking corner, who forces turnovers.

Johnson spent all four seasons at NC State appearing in 50 games, making 28 starts. The 6-2, 200 pound defender started five games at corner and seven at free safety in 2013, while even starting two games at linebacker in his sophomore season.

His versatility and lengthiness makes him a nice grab here in the third round. He’s played nickel as well as been a solid contributor on special teams, something the Bears value tremendously.

Johnson is very athletic and has the length and size to compete for balls in the air. He is also a very good contributor in run defense as an aggressive tackler. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February.

His biggest flaw heading into this season has to be his frame. He is very lean and needs to get stronger all over. He still needs to polish up on his ball production and cover defense against elite receivers.

Johnson would be a nice addition as he could come in and contribute on special teams in basically a learning year behind Tillman and Jennings.

Rice’s Phillip Gaines or Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste could also be possibilities with this selection if the Bears wanted to aim at taking a cornerback.

Round 4, No. 17 (No. 117 overall): Wide receiver Josh Huff, Oregon

This might be a big surprise to everyone considering the Bears already have Marshall and Jeffery in the fold as well as second-year man Marquess Wilson, who is expected to get a legitimate chance to start this season.

However, Huff is the perfect guy to replace Earl Bennett. Here’s the reason why, the 5-11, 206 pounder has the ability to beat defenders downfield on the deep ball and play slot very well.

In 2013, Huff reeled in 62 receptions for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had six games of 100 yards receiving or more. He also started 23 games the three seasons prior.

Huff is a crafty receiver, who uses his speed to find spots in defenses. He also has experience returning punts and kicks, something the Bears would love to add at this point in the draft.

With Marshall entering his final season of his contract, but will likely have that taken care of in the near future it wouldn’t hurt to add someone who could add even more firepower to this offense.

Cutler lacked receivers for so many years and that’s why this team struggled. Why not give him another solid weapon to make this unit even more dangerous?

Huff could be a steal here in the fourth round. He could easily slide into the slot position next to Marshall and Jeffery. It’s just a matter of if the Bears are ready to give Wilson, a seventh-round selection from last season the job right now.

Huff’s biggest strength his solid hands and ability to make tough catches. He is also a solid blocker, who served as a playmaker in his senior campaign averaging 18.4 yards per reception.

His weaknesses right now are his route running and limited route tree as well as maturity off the field.

If the Bears don’t take a receiver here look for them to add a running back like Boston College’s Andre Williams or an inside linebacker like LSU’s Lamin Barrow.

Round 5, No. 16 (No. 156 overall): Running back Tyler Gaffney, Stanford

Michael Bush was released this off-season, so the Bears need a backup running back behind Matt Forte. Journeyman Shaun Draughn and second-year man Michael Ford are the only two backs on the depth chart besides Forte right now.

Gaffney could be a nice fit for the Bears, who are looking for a change-of-pace back, who can also come in and be a goal line bruiser. At 5-11, 220 pounds, he has a nice frame to pound through defenders.

He ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. In 2013, he rushed for 1,709 yards on 330 carries and added 21 touchdowns. He was the feature back for a great running Cardinal team, which feature arguably the nation’s top offensive line.

He also caught 15 passes for 86 yards and one touchdown reception. Gaffney has the power, but isn’t the quickest back. He is a solid blocker as well.

Gaffney has very good vision and patience and is in top-notch shape as he averaged 24 carries per game as a senior.

Despite playing on the Stanford baseball team for three years and in Class-A for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he came back with a superb senior season. It is said to be a weakness that he didn’t play his junior season, but he seems to be just fine.

His biggest weakness has to be his straight-line speed and straight-line moves. He doesn’t shake a lot of defenders with his cut moves.

Gaffney could be compared to his former teammate at Stanford Toby Gerhart, who is now getting his shot as a starter with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Bears could do much worse than Gaffney at this point in the draft. They need a backup runner, who has power and can catch passes out of the backfield. Gaffney would be just that.

A couple other possibilities with this selection are Coastal Carolina’s running back Lorenzo Taliaferra and Michigan State’s inside linebacker Max Bullough.

Round 6, No. 7 (No. 183 overall – from Tampa Bay): Middle linebacker Yawin Smallwood, Conneticut

D.J. Williams hasn’t been able to stay healthy the past couple of seasons in the NFL and in his first season with the Bears in 2013 he didn’t prove anyone wrong.

The Bears would be wise to wait until next season to find their next middle linebacker with Williams likely gone. Considering this year’s draft class isn’t packed with options it could be smart to add depth at the position in the later rounds.

Jon Bostic appears to be the replacement for Lance Briggs and Shea McClellin is moving around to strongside to compete for snaps.

Smallwood would be a nice snag this late in the draft. He was a senior captain who recorded 118 tackles, nine pass deflections, two forced fumbles and an interception for a touchdown in 2013.

The 6-2, 246 pounder projects into a 4-3 scheme with his athleticism and coverage skills. He could slide over to weakside as well if the Bears alter their plans.

He is able to hold his own in coverage with backs and covers his area of the field very well. The three-year starter at Conneticut showed impressive leaping ability, recording a 36 and a half inch vertical.

His biggest weakness right now is that he does not play downhill and can be a step late to the perimeter. He is also inconsistent in run fits and tackling and too often fails to wrap and drive through ball carriers.

Other options here could be Oregon’s tight end Colt Lyerla.

If Smallwood is still on the board this late in day three, the Bears should scoop him up without hesitation. He could pan out into something much more than just a special teams contributor.

Round 6, No. 15 (No. 191 overall): Safety Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State

The Bears need safety help and with Pryor (projected above) already in the fold for the Bears it wouldn’t be a bad move to add a guy like Whitley.

Whitley stands at 6-0, 205 pounds and was the FBS active leader last season with 15 interceptions. He is this far down on draft boards because consecutive off-season ACL surgeries.

Whitley collected five interceptions, two passes broken up and 55 tackles in 2013. His biggest game of the season came against Auburn, where he had two interceptions.

In 2012, coming off his first ACL surgery, he racked up 88 tackles, three interceptions and one forced fumble.

He made only 34 tackles during his sophomore season, but reeled in four interceptions. He missed the last four games due to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Whitley is certainly a red flag medical draftee, but at this stage of the draft there isn’t much risk. The Bears need safeties and they need depth at the position for the future.

At the very least, Whitley would come in and compete for a starting job while developing and seeing snaps on special teams.

He might miss part of the season due to opting to have surgery after the final game of his career at Mississippi State, but teams should like his ability to produce.

He made plays through four seasons despite injuries in the toughest collegiate conference, the SEC.

He needs to improve his tackling and doesn’t quite have the quickest get up which could prove his value as a rotational player at best.

Either way, Whitley would be a nice addition with the Bears last pick.

 

All player draft analysis information gathered from NFL.com.

Thoughts on this Bears NFL Mock Draft? Weigh in with your concerns and comments.

 

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