When the Bears make their selection on Thursday night it will be the first time since 2005 that they’ll have a top 10 pick at their dispense.
The last top 10 selection made by the Bears was running back Cedric Benson at No. 4.
This marks only the sixth time in franchise history that the Bears will pick No. 7 overall. Wide receiver Curtis Conway was selected at that slot most recently in 1993.
With a revamped front office led by first-time general manager Ryan Pace and veteran head coach John Fox, the Bears will be looking to rebuild their image after a disappointing 5-11 finish in 2014.
Here’s the schedule for the draft.
Round One – Thursday 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m CT
Rounds Two and Three – Friday 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT
Rounds Four through Seven – Saturday 12 p.m. ET/11 a.m. CT
With the draft being held in Chicago this year at the historic Auditorium Theatre, this draft will be even more special for the Bears and their staff.
After signing 19 players this off-season including 13 from different teams, Pace set himself up to build through the draft just like he planned to do during his introduction press conference in January.
Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee headlines the off-season signings for the Bears, while linebackers Sam Acho and Mason Foster, defensive end Ray McDonald, cornerback Alan Ball, safety Antrel Rolle and wide receiver Eddie Royal represent solid veteran depth added.
On offense, basically everything is set outside of a clear No. 2 receiver as Alshon Jeffery, Royal and Marquess Wilson man the top three spots as of now. A No. 2 power back behind aging Matt Forte would be smart to add and a center of the future with Will Montgomery signed only for this season.
Competition at right tackle is needed as Jordan Mills isn’t the most polished player and last year’s seventh-round pick Charles Leno Jr. is still raw.
On defense, a pure nose tackle is a necessity as Jeremiah Ratliff is the only player listed at that position. Second-year players Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton are defensive ends for now. Finding a cornerback of the future to pair with Kyle Fuller and safety competition is important as well.
Lastly, another outside linebacker wouldn’t be a bad idea as Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense thrives on pressure from that position and nice cover skills.
Here’s my six-round mock draft that I think the Bears should follow or at least consider over the three-day draft process at the Auditorium Theatre:
Personally, I’d prefer Alabama’s Amari Cooper over White, but with wide receiver needy teams like Jacksonville and Oakland ahead of the Bears it could be hard for Cooper to fall to the Bears at No. 7.
Cooper v.s. White in 2014 by the numbers:
Cooper – 124 catches, 1,727 yards, 16 TD’s
White – 109 catches, 1,447 yards, 10 TD’s
White ran an impressive 4.35 40-yard dash at the combine back in February and added 23 repetitions on the bench press which ranked first among the wide receiver group.
Although he played JUCO ball at Lackawanna College in Scranton, PA for his first two seasons, White quickly adapted to the spotlight at West Virginia. He started nine of 11 games in 2013 as he made 35 receptions for 507 yards with five touchdowns. He broke those totals by the third game of the 2014 season.
As solid as Cooper is and probably will be in the NFL, White is more of a mysterious man considering his one impressive season a year ago. He has unlimited potential at 6-foot-3, 215 lbs and has many similarities to Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones.
If the Bears can land either receiver and plug them in next to Alshon Jeffery as a starter their offense will have much more potential moving forward. Either way, drafting a receiver this early makes sense after veteran Brandon Marshall was shipped off to the Jets this off-season.
White could be the next big thing in this league among this deep class of receivers.
As mentioned above, the Bears need a pure nose tackle to man the middle of the defensive line in this new 3-4 scheme. Stephen Paea is now in Washington after an impressive 2014 season, but he never projected as a starting nose anyway.
Ratliff isn’t exactly a pure nose tackle and Sutton and Ferguson are undersized, so adding a big talented force here makes sense.
As a junior in 2014, Phillips added 39 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, two sacks and one pass batted. However, the game tape shows the 6-5, 329-pounder was much more disruptive than his stats show.
He projects to play zero-technique in a 3-4 scheme lining up just over the center. Phillips only started four games in two seasons prior (2012-13), making 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks. A back injury ended his season in 2013.
Much like White, Phillips is raw, but has plenty of upside as a dominant run stuffer and a player who can force a double-team and open up lanes for linebackers.
“He has the body type and length to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 front, but there is no reason to move him from the nose,” one AFC North scout told NFL.com. “If he gets that motor going, he could be a dominant pro.”
If Phillips is still around by the time the Bears pick in the second round, they shouldn’t hesitate to select him. He has all the tools to turn into a legitimate player in this defense.
The Bears have ignored the safety position for too long. With only three on the roster currently in veterans Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy and last year’s fourth-round pick Brock Vereen that needs to change.
Disappointing starter Chris Conte is officially in Tampa Bay after the Bears chose to let him go this off-season and the depth is lacking. Rolle and Mundy are both talented players, but they are over 30 years old respectively. It remains to be seen whether Vereen pans out as a safety or if he is simply just a slot corner at his 5-11 frame.
Sample is a big kid standing at 6-2, 209 lbs. He started off his collegiate career at Washington, but played in only two games in two seasons there as he underwent shoulder surgery in 2011. He then spent his junior season in JUCO before he appeared in 13 games in 2014 at Louisville.
He led the Cardinals with 90 tackles, which included 74 solo stops. He had a team-high four interceptions along with a second-best 12 pass deflections.
Sample ran a solid 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine and showed that he is a physical in-the-box safety. He needs to improve on his coverage skills and that could come in time as he is still unseasoned with just one full year and five games of collegiate experience.
He fits the mold of a big hard-hitting safety in Fangio’s scheme. Sample would be a nice addition at this point in the draft and could sit behind Rolle and Mundy for a season or two to develop.
Mauldin would mark the second straight Louisville player selected by the Bears in the draft. With such a mystery looming around the Bears’ linebacking core, Sam Acho and Pernell McPhee are the only two players who are pure outside linebackers.
Lamarr Houston has seen time at outside linebacker dating back to his Oakland days, but he’s coming off a torn ACL while Wille Young is returning from a torn Achilles that he suffered in Week 16.
Jared Allen, David Bass and Cornelius Washington are all projected to be pass rushers at both defensive end and outside linebacker. Shea McClellin and Christian Jones’ roles remain to be seen as well, while Jon Bostic and Mason Foster are inside backers.
Mauldin would represent more confusion at outside linebacker considering the crowd already there, but he is an outside linebacker first and could be for years to come.
In his senior season, he made 51 tackles in 12 games along with 6.5 sacks, 13 tackles-for-a-loss, 11 quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
He is a tough experienced player at 6-4, 259 and at the very least will be a situational pass rusher in year one. Mauldin has the chance to be a nice piece for Fangio’s defense and in the fourth round he would be a steal in my opinion.
A four-year starter for the Bobcats, the 5-11, 201 pound Mager made 48 starts which included seven interceptions.
He added 63 tackles, 46 coming as solo stops as he led the Sun Belt Conference with 13 passes defended and 10 pass breakups. Mager led all cornerbacks in the 40-yard-dash (4.44) and the broad jump (130 inches).
“I wanted to make him a safety because of how physical he is, but after seeing him in person, he may not be big enough,” an NFC director of player personnel told NFL.com .”He’s not as fast as you want, but he’s a player and he’s really, really tough.”
Much like the Bears’ safety position the cornerback position is older and mostly inexperienced. Tim Jennings and Alan Ball are both 30 or older. Second-year man Kyle Fuller shined at times as a first-round pick a year ago and is expected to improve this season.
Demontre Hurst, Al-Louis Jean both saw time, but proved how they need time as well to be groomed. Sherrick McManis and Terrance Mitchell round out the group as special teamers for now.
Mager would provide competition on the back end of the cornerback depth chart and he could eventually be in line for a promotion if he continues to play hard. I like the idea of adding a cornerback at some point in this draft anytime from Rounds 4-6 ideally.
Jones is a big kid at 6-2, 231. Outside of Forte, who stands at 6-2, 218, the Bears have little size currently at the running back position. Senorise Perry is a generous 6’0 and Ka’Deem Carey is 5-10, while Jacquizz Rodgers is just 5-6.
He appeared in 28 games making 15 starts in three seasons for the Gators. Jones carried the ball 297 times for 1,431 yards and 11 touchdowns. He finished with a 4.8 YPC average as his career-long rush was 67 yards.
Jones made 10 of his 15 starts a season ago as he added six rushing touchdowns along with 817 yards. He had four 100 plus rushing yards games.
He is a bruiser not a speedster, but that’s something the Bears need as they look to employ a run-first approach to help Jay Cutler and Co. in the first year under offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
Jones ran a respectable 4.61 40-yard-dash at the combine. He projects as a committee back which is something John Fox had often in his time with Denver and Carolina previously.
At the very least he could be a nice third-down back when Forte needs a rest and with Forte’s contract up after the season it would be wise to add some fresh legs to the position.
“I’ve come to realize that this year along with each reception or carry might be my last in a Bears uniform,” Forte said on Tuesday via his Instagram account.
How do you feel about this mock draft for the Bears?
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