2016 NFL Mock Draft: Chicago Bears Edition 3.0

2016 NFL Mock Draft: Chicago Bears Edition 3.0
Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune A Chicago Bears logo adorns the wall before the NFL draft.

With the draft officially starting on Thursday night with Round 1, here’s the third and final edition of my seven-round mock draft.

I successfully projected wide receiver Kevin White as the No. 7 overall pick by the Bears last year, so I’m back at it with my second mock draft for 2016. The Bears are one of six teams with nine selections in this month’s draft. San Francisco leads the way with 12 while four franchises own 10 picks.

For general manager Ryan Pace, he has much more to work with in his second draft ever as the man in charge. He had only six picks at his disposal last April, but hit on a few key starters in nose tackle Eddie Goldman (second round), center Hroniss Grasu (third round), running back Jeremy Langford (fourth round) and safety Adrian Amos (fifth round). Throw a healthy White into the mix and the 2015 draft class looks pretty solid for the first time general manager.

Of the nine picks this year, five come in the first 127 rounds as the Bears acquired a fourth rounder in exchange for tight end Martellus Bennett and a sixth rounder last month from New England.

This off-season, the Bears have signed 20 total players which include eight new faces. Of the big additions, inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, tackle Bobby Massie and defensive end Akiem Hicks. The smartest move was assigning the franchise tag on wide receiver Alshon Jeffery as the two sides look to carve out a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline.

The Bears are in a much better situation in this year’s draft not just because of their amount of picks, but because they have room to move around in the process and continue to build core pieces for the future. The word rebuilding should be removed rather soon as this group is getting better with each signing and draft pick under Pace’s command.

2016 NFL Draft dates

Thursday, April 28: Round 1
Friday, April 29: Rounds 2-3
Saturday, April 30: Rounds 4-7

Here is the third and final edition of my Bears mock draft with analysis and breakdowns of each selection.

Round 1 – No. 11 overall: OLB Shaq Lawson (Clemson)

I went back and forth between cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and outside linebacker Shaq Lawson for the last couple of days. But ulitimately at 6’3”, 269 lbs, Lawson is a very bulky athlete who projects well in the Bears’ 3-4 scheme and gives them a future star at a position of need. He goes all out against the run and can be an impressive speed rusher for any defense.

At Clemson, he totaled 79 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, a pass breakup and a forced fumble in a situational role as an underclassman. Last season, he exploded out of the gates as a starter on the way to being named a consensus All-American and first-team All-ACC with 25.5 tackles for a loss (best in the nation) and 12.5 sacks.

With 10-inch hands and 32 3’4” arms he has the ability to cover just about anybody at the second level of a defense and be moved around as a pass rusher along the line at times. Lawson led all defensive ends with a 4.70-second 40-yard dash and a 4.21 second 20-yard shuttle at the NFL Combine.

In the National Championship loss to Alabama in January, Lawson had four tackles (three solo) along with two sacks. He has all the tools to be a successful starter for years to come. With 30-year-old Willie Young set to be a free agent after this season and 28-year-old Lamarr Houston holding a high price tag ($7 million annually), Lawson’s addition would be a welcomed one across from Pernell McPhee.

Note: Either Hargreaves or Lawson would be big time additions for this defense if on the board at No. 11.

Previous pick: CB Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida)

Round 2 – No. 41 overall: DE Jonathan Bullard (Florida)

It may seem strange to draft two defensive ends in a row, but in the Bears’ 3-4 scheme, Lawson and Jonathan Bullard serve two different purposes. Bullard, the three-year starter racked up 175 tackles (34 for a loss), 12 sacks and five pass breakups at Florida.

Fresh off a career-best 6.5 sacks along with 18 tackles for a loss, Bullard is a fit as a run stuffer who can occasionally break through for a sack. At 6’3”, 285 lbs he isn’t the quickest (4.93-second 40-yard dash), but he is thickly built and looking to get stronger.

The Bears’ defensive line was an absolute joke last season and Bullard will come in and help against the run right away. His addition along with Lawson’s would give the Bears two highly talented players on the first two lines of defense. They can both bring down players in the backfield often.

I like Bullard’s overall game. He’s praised as a versatile defensive lineman who is following in the footsteps of former Gator stars Shariff Floyd and Dominique Easley.

Previous picks: S Karl Joseph (West Virginia), DT Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech)

Round 3 – No. 72 overall: CB Sean Davis (Maryland)

Sean Davis makes plays and after leading the FBS in forced fumbles (5) as a senior, the Maryland product will highly be coveted in the NFL Draft. The Bears need playmakers and Davis could be a guy who would fill the Charles Tillman role in terms of forcing turnovers.

At 6’1″, 201 lbs, he has the size and frame you desire for a physical corner. He fits Vic Fangio’s aggressive style of defense. After leading all defensive backs with 21 reps on the bench press and a 126-inch broad jump at the combine last month, Davis showed he has plenty of value. He also ran a solid 4.46 40-yard dash.

He totaled 319 tackles (10 for a loss), 14 pass breakups, five interceptions, seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 2.5 sacks in three years as a full-time starter. Perhaps best suited as a strong safety, Davis can come in as a lengthy corner as well.

If available in Round 3, I absolutely love the selection of Davis for any team, especially the Bears who crave a player of his caliber. Considering he totaled 100 tackles as both a sophomore and junior, including a Big-Ten best 80 solo stops in 2014, Davis can come up and make tackles more often than not.

Previous picks : DT Adolphus Washington (Ohio State), OLB Su’a Cravens (USC)

Round 4 – No. 106 overall: DT Hassan Ridgeway (Texas)

Hassan Ridgeway never put up eye-opening numbers at Texas hence his availability at this point in the draft, but he’d provide more young talent to this defensive line. The Bears struggled with injuries and moving parts on the defensive line last season forcing inexperienced players like Will Sutton, Mitch Unrein and Bruce Gaston into action.

Ridgeway is a 6’3″, 303-pounder who is both powerful and athletic, two attributes you look for in a defensive tackle. However, his poor conditioning led to multiple injuries (back and shoulder) as a junior where he totaled 36 tackles, 6.5 for a loss and 3.5 sacks in eight starts. His best season came as a sophomore where he made 43 tackles, 11 for a loss along with six sacks.

Poor conditioning can be improved in the NFL with the best training staffs arguably in the world. The Bears shouldn’t be afraid to take a chance on Ridgeway. Loading up on high-upside defensive linemen will help the cause. Along with Bullard, Ridgeway would strengthen a position that did not hold its own in 2015.

Previous picks: CB Deiondre’ Hall (Northern Iowa), TE Tyler Higbee (Western Kentucky)

Round 4 – No. 127 overall: T Le’Raven Clark (Texas Tech)

Talk about experienced. Le’Raven Clark started 51 consecutive games at Texas Tech. That sounds a whole lot like last year’s third round pick, center Hroniss Grasu, who played a ton at Oregon. As a freshman, Clark started at right guard before transitioning to left tackle for his last three seasons.

Named to the All-American second-team as a senior, at 6’5”, 316 lbs, Clark is a huge body who excels against the run and is solid against the pass. Whether he gets a crack at being a tackle or guard, the Bears could use his talents. They have a need for a swing tackle with Jermon Bushrod gone and inexperienced players Tayo Fabuluje and Nick Becton the lone options behind starters Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie.

Coming from a pro-style offense at Texas Tech, Clark is an intelligent player who has impressive foot speed. A very lengthy player, Clark would be an absolute steal in Round 4. He could easily be gone before Day 3, but if he’s there, the Bears would be getting a good one.

Previous picks: QB Christian Hackenberg (Penn State), DT Hassan Ridgeway (Texas)

Round 5 – No. 150 overall: TE Jerell Adams (South Carolina)

Jerell Adams was a star at the NFL Combine, finishing first among tight ends in the 40-yard dash (4.64 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.31 seconds) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.52 seconds). The Bears need all the help they can get at the tight end position with Martellus Bennett now in New England.

Adams is a former standout basketball player from the South Carolina area who chose to play for South Carolina over Clemson. A versatile football player at the prep level, he played quarterback, tight end, linebacker, defensive end and punter.

He started 18 of 37 games played in college, adding 66 grabs for 977 yards and seven touchdowns. As a senior, he started all 12 games, reeling in 28 passes for 421 yards (15.0 average) and three touchdowns, all career highs.

Despite the Gamecocks’s poor offense last season, Adams still excelled as the team’s second-leading receiver. He has upside as a speedy target and is a solid in-line blocker. He could go anywhere from the third to sixth round. In a thin tight end class, Adams represents an all-around option and I like his game a lot. If he’s available here the Bears would be getting an absolute steal.

Previous picks: OT Willie Beavers (Western Michigan), QB Cardale Jones (Ohio State)

Round 6 – No. 185 overall: S Justin Simmons (Boston College)

You may not be a fan of waiting until the sixth round to take a safety, but much like fifth round pick Adrian Amos from last year, Justin Simmons is a guy who quietly made a name for himself at the collegiate level.

The 6’2”, 202-pounder started seven games as a true freshman (six at free safety and one at cornerback). Although he didn’t make any starts as a sophomore, he came back as a junior by posting 76 tackles and two interceptions in 13 starts. In his final season, he went out with a bang by leading the Eagles with five interceptions.

At the combine, Simmons stood out in a big way with a 40-inch vertical jump and a 126-inch broad jump which both led his position. He may look rather skinny at first glance, but he’s a solid downhill tackler and isn’t afraid to mix it up with the biggest of defenders. He has value on special teams and should only improve with more muscle added. He has the ability to play cornerback in a pinch (7 starts) and he holds his own in coverage.

Simmons represents great value in Round 6. He could easily turn into a starter at free safety rather quickly and that would be great for the Bears.

Previous picks: TE Jerell Adams (South Carolina), S Elijah Shumate (Notre Dame)

Round 6 – No. 206 overall: QB Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech)

Not everyone is as high on Jeff Driskel as I am. But the former Louisiana Tech quarterback, who transferred from Florida shined at the NFL Combine with a 4.56-second 40-yard dash and a 122.0-inch broad jump, both top scores in Indy.

A star out of high school in Oviedo, FL, Driskel performed well for the Gators as a starter, tossing 12 touchdowns and five interceptions, while winning 10 games as a sophomore. But a broken leg in 2013 and an up-and-down 2014 campaign paved his way out of Gainesville after Will Muschamp was fired.

He revived his career with Louisiana Tech last season, recording 27 touchdowns, eight interceptions and 4,033 yards with a completion percentage of 62.4.

At 6’4″, 232 lbs, he’s a big kid, who is smart and loaded with a strong arm. The worry is the drop off from his UF days to Louisiana Tech. Has he really learned and taken that next step?

Late in the sixth round, Driskel is one of my favorite quarterbacks late and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him turn into a very solid NFL player in due time. Behind Cutler, Driskel would learn a lot and I think it would be a nice fit for the Bears.

Previous pick: WR D.J. Foster (Arizona State)

Round 7 (No. 230 overall): RB Josh Ferguson (Illinois)

Here’s a young player who can be a dynamic runner and pass catcher for any NFL franchise. Josh Ferguson (Illinois) stands at 5’10”, 200 lbs and proved to be an asset in his time in the collegiate ranks.

Ferguson missed three games a season ago with a shoulder issue, but still managed 708 rushing yards, three touchdowns (5.5 YPC) and 38 receptions, 280 yards and two receiving scores.

He totaled 4,093 yards from scrimmage in his time with the Illini adding 10 or more combined touchdowns as both a sophomore and junior. Ferguson caught 168 balls for 1,507 yards and eight touchdowns helping stretch the field as a receiver.

If he is still around this late, the Bears should pull the trigger to get this guy on board. Neither Jeremy Langford or Ka’Deem Carey have his set of paws and Ferguson would help build a young and versatile backfield in Chicago.

Previous pick: T Davante Harris (Appalachian State)

Thoughts on the final version of my Bears’ mock draft?

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Previous mocks

Version 1.0 (April 6)

Version 2.0 (April 24)

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