The 2017 NFL Draft is only 39 days away. The free agency frenzy is over for most teams despite some minor moves ahead, but now is the time to study and analyze this year’s draft class.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace is getting ready for his third draft alongside head coach John Fox and company.
Last year, Pace took linebacker Leonard Floyd No. 9 overall and he showed flashes. Second round center Cody Whitehair and fifth round running back Jordan Howard proved to be absolute steals for the Bears.
Other notable picks: Defensive end Jonathan Bullard (3rd round), inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (4th round), safety Deon Bush (4th round) and cornerback Deiondre’ Hall (4th round).
In 2015, second round defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and fifth round safety Adrian Amos have proven to be steady contributors.
Other notable picks: Wide receiver Kevin White was take in the first round while center Hroniss Grasu was picked in the third round and running back Jeremy Langford was taken in the fourth round.
In last year’s mock draft, I successfully picked Jonathan Bullard and Deiondre’ Hall while the year before I got it right with the selection of Kevin White for the Bears.
2017 NFL Draft dates
Thursday, April 27, 8 p.m. ET – Round 1
Friday, April 28, 7 p.m. ET – Rounds 2-3
Saturday, April 29, 12 p.m. ET – Rounds 4-7
Here is the first edition of my Bears mock draft with analysis and breakdowns of each selection.
Round 1 (No. 3 overall): DE Solomon Thomas (Stanford)
Myles Garrett is a lock for the No. 1 or No. 2 pick but San Francisco could pass up on Thomas. If the Stanford defensive end is there at No. 3, the Bears should pull the trigger. Barring a trade offer, I think Thomas is an absolute stud and a guy that would complete the front-7.
Alongside Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, Thomas would be a Week 1 starter. Last year’s third round pick Jonathan Bullard didn’t show consistency this season, but that doesn’t mean he won’t contribute. Veterans Mitch Unrein, Will Sutton, Ego Ferguson and Kapron Lewis-Moore won’t all make the roster.
At 6’3″, 273 lbs., he can be fit as a defensive end in both a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He crushed it at the NFL Combine last month with top performances in the bench press (30 repetitions), broad jump (126 inch), 3-cone drill (6.95 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.28 seconds). His 40-yard dash wasn’t bad either at 4.69 seconds.
Taking a redshirt season in 2014, he went on to start all 27 games the past two seasons, recording 101 tackles (25.5 for a loss), 11.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, a fumble recovery and two defensive touchdowns.
Originally born in Chicago, Thomas lived in Australia before coming back to the U.S. via Texas, where he played high school football. Coming from a family of athletes where both of his parents played college sports and his uncle as well, Thomas has a strong upper body and is a developed edge rusher. The Bears would be ecstatic if he is there at No. 3 overall next month.
Round 2 (No. 36 overall): QB Davis Webb (California)
David Fales was the last quarterback drafted by the Bears in 2013 in the sixth round. Before that it is two forgotten names in Nathan Enderle and Dan LeFevour. Kyle Orton, a 2005 fourth round pick is the last notable passer selected by the Bears.
Ryan Pace and his staff passed on quarterbacks the past two drafts, but with Jay Cutler gone and Mike Glennon given a one-year audition, it isn’t a secret that the Bears want to take a young quarterback to develop.
Webb is the guy that makes a ton of sense for the Bears’ offense. A 6’5″ captain at both Texas Tech and Cal, he went off as a senior in Northern California with 4,295 passing yards, 37 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Considering, Webb had 5,257 passing yards, 44 touchdowns and 22 touchdowns in his first two seasons under center at Texas Tech, you can tell he found his groove.
A torn labrum and an ankle injury gave way to Mahomes two years ago and then Webb asked for a transfer elsewhere so he could start. He has a high football IQ, studies the game often dissecting playbooks, breaking down his own film and watching the top guys in both the NFL and college.
Round 3 (No. 67 overall): WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC)
A three-year starter at USC, Smith-Schuster has put together two straight 10 touchdown campaigns. He would give the Bears a reliable field stretcher with Alshon Jeffery now in Philadelphia. Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright were signed to compete with 2014 first round pick Kevin White, Cameron Meredith, Daniel Braverman, Josh Bellamy and perhaps Eddie Royal if he is on the roster.
Smith-Schuster totaled 213 catches for 3,092 yards and 25 touchdowns for the Trojans while averaging 14.5 yards per reception. The 6’1″, 215-pounder ran a 4.54 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine last month which certainly hurt his draft stock. However, Jeffery only ran a slightly better 40-yard dash at 4.48 and Smith-Schuster’s hands (10 1/2″) and arm length (32 7/8″) are similar to the former Bear.
Occasionally this kid will break a big one, but he can rack up catches and yards in a hurry. He had 12 100-yard performances in three collegiate seasons. Smith-Schuster ended his career at USC with seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in a Rose Bowl win over Penn State.
The Bears crave playmakers all over the field and at wide receiver where they lost their top offensive target, Smith-Schuster could come in from Day 1 and provide stability at the position.
Round 4 (No. 111 overall): S Lorenzo Jerome (St. Francis)
Last year the Bears took Deon Bush in the fourth round and DeAndre Houston-Carson in the sixth round, the year prior it was Adrian Amos in the fifth round. Between Bush, Amos and on and off starter Harold Jones-Quartey, the trio had one interception a year ago. Veteran Quintin Demps was signed earlier this month, but the Bears can’t ignore the future.
Jerome gobbled up 18 interceptions in four seasons at St. Francis. Coached by former Bears guard Chris Villarial, he started all four years, compiling 252 tackles, 47 pass breakups, five sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and two defensive touchdowns. Jerome also flashed his pure speed by taking back three kick returns and a 27.2 YPR average in his career.
The 5’10”, 204-pounder was used as an occasional athlete on offense as he completed 2-of-2 passes for 86 yards, caught one pass for 48 yards and a touchdown and rushed four times for three yards in four seasons.
I know he may be undersized, but he has always had to play big. Starring at Class 8A J.P. Taravella in Sunrise, Fla., Jerome is used to covering lengthy targets. This is a deep draft class of safeties and Jerome could pan out as a gem and true playmaker the Bears can develop.
Round 4 (No. 117 overall): T Adam Bisnowaty (Pittsburgh)
A four-year starter at Pittsburgh, Bisnowaty is a bruiser at 6’6″, 305 lbs. Charles Leno Jr. will man the left side once again with Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long locking up the interior. The right side is Bobby Massie’s right now, but last year’s free agent addition shouldn’t be guaranteed a roster spot. He was not consistent at all.
Bisnowaty would bring experience and the ability to play both tackle spots. He started 43 games for the Panthers, each one at left tackle. This isn’t the fastest or most sound tackle, but giving him a chance at right tackle would be a good option.
He missed six games due to injuries in college, but for the most part was rock solid when on the field for Pittsburgh. He is a tough blocker and would gel with the mindset that this current offensive line brings. Tackle is an need for the Bears and this wouldn’t be a reach at all for a player with core leadership skills like Bisnowaty has.
Round 5 (No. 147 overall): CB Jeremy Cutrer (Middle Tennessee State)
The Bears have drafted only two cornerbacks in the last three seasons, 2016 fourth round pick Deiondre’ Hall and 2014 first round pick Kyle Fuller. The youth and promise is simply not there.
Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc showed flashes, but are both better served as slot corners. Hall will get a chance to compete for snaps with free agent additions Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper and veterans Fuller, Tracy Porter and Johnthan Banks. Drafting a guy like Cutrer would be wise though.
I know Bears fans are looking at this pick and likely thinking of Jay Cutler because the last name is so similar. Cutrer is a trooper. He was once left without home due to Hurricane Katrina. He was originally committed to LSU but didn’t qualify academically. The former high school safety left to play JUCO ball at Mississippi Gulf Coast. Tried again to return to LSU, but the same occurred.
Over the last two seasons at Middle Tennessee State, Cutrer started 20 games, recording 95 tackles, 29 pass breakups and six interceptions. The 6’2″, 180-pounder showed his athleticism in his second ever Division-I game in 2015 when he recorded a pick against Alabama and took it back 77 yards. The Bears need size and physicality and Cutrer brings both.
Round 7 (No. 221 overall): OLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Tennessee)
Reeves-Maybin is only available at this juncture of the draft because of nagging shoulder issues. ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks him as his No. 3 outside linebacker in this year’s draft.
A two-year starter for the Vols, the 6’0″, 230-pounder is undersized but plays a fierce style of football. Reeves-Maybin had back-to-back 100-yard tackle outputs in 2014 and 2015 as the team’s weakside linebacker. Last season, he made it through four games before suffering another shoulder injury. He was also ejected from the season opener due to targeting.
However, the Bears need a young body at outside linebacker with Pernell McPhee and Lamarr Houston battling injuries as of late and Willie Young not getting any younger. Last year’s top pick Leonard Floyd has yet to show he can last through a full season either.
Reeves-Maybin has a bad medical history, but if he can get healthy, he’d be an upside player. He had eight sacks and 27 tackles for a loss over the last three seasons (30 games).
Thoughts on the first edition of the Bears’ mock draft?