The 2017 NFL Draft is only nine 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 second edition of my Bears mock draft with analysis and breakdowns of each selection.
Round 1 (No. 3 overall): DE Solomon Thomas (Stanford)
Note: I had Thomas in the first edition and second editions and stuck with that selection here.
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, John Jenkins, C.J. Wilson 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): S Marcus Williams (Utah)
In a deep safety class, the Bears use their second round pick on Williams, a guy who can hold his own on the back end. At 6’1″, 202 lbs., he gets the job done with his pure athleticism.
Williams generated five interceptions last season despite battling injuries. He had five interceptions as a full-time starter as a sophomore and one pick as a true freshman starting half the season.
The Bears haven’t had a ball-hawking free safety in a long time. Adrian Amos has no picks in two seasons, Deon Bush showed little consistency as a rookie and Harold Jones-Quartey is better as a rotational third safety.
Veteran Quintin Demps signed with the team this off-season to add reliability to the safety spot and if you’d pair him with Williams that could really do wonders for this defense.
I really like Williams with this pick here.
Previous picks: QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson), QB Davis Webb (Cal)
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.
Previous pick: S Justin Evans (Texas A&M),
Round 4 (No. 111 overall): TE Bucky Hodges (Virginia Tech)
Zach Miller has been injury prone, to say the least for his career. Over the past two seasons, he’s flourished in the Bears’ offense, but he’s a free agent after this year. The Bears need a new young face to build around at the tight end spot. That is where Hodges comes in.
A former quarterback, much like Miller, Hodges stands at 6’6″, 257 lbs. He crushed the NFL Combine with a 4.57 second 40-yard dash to lead all tight ends.
Hodges totaled 20 touchdowns in three seasons at Virigina Tech with over 40 receptions in each. He’s still a raw route runner, but his brute strength and ability to stretch the field is undeniable.
The Bears could develop Hodges slowly behind Miller and free agent signee Dion Sims.
Previous picks: DE/OLB Vince Biegel (Wisconsin), Lorenzo Jerome (St. Francis)
Round 4 (No. 117 overall): T Roderick Johnson (Florida State)
A three-year contributor at Florida State, Johnson took over at left tackle halfway through his freshman season and stuck there.
At 6’7″, 298 lbs., Johnson would be a tackle to bring in and have compete with the likes of Charles Leno and Bobby Massie. His footwork needs improvement and if he went for another college year, his stock could have been higher.
But, this is a guy to take and let sit for a year or two while he soaks it all in. The Bears need a tackle of the future with Leno due for an extension after this season and Massie likely out of a job if he falters once again. Robinson is nice value here in the fourth round.
Previous picks: WR Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M), T Adam Bisnowaty (Pittsburgh)
Round 5 (No. 147 overall): CB Howard Wilson (Houston)
The Bears crave a cornerback of the future. Prince Amukamara was signed to a one-year deal to take over the No. 1 role left by Tracy Porter. Marcus Cooper agreed to a three-year deal to likely be the No. 2 guy for a while and Cre’Von LeBlanc, Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller, Johnthan Banks and B.W. Webb will all be out there competing.
Here in the fifth round, the Bears can find upside with a corner like Wilson. At 6’1″, 184 lbs., the Houston product had five interceptions as a junior. As a sophomore, he lasted only three games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He showed up as a freshman with three interceptions.
Long and determined, Wilson certainly needs to bulk up, but he made enough plays to show he can do it at the next level. He ran a 4.57 second 40-yard dash at the combine.
Wilson would be a guy to feel good about due to his ball skills and flashiness. As long as he adds muscle to his lean frame, he’ll be right on track.
Previous picks: TE Jonnu Smith (Florida International), CB Jeremy Cutrer (Middle Tennessee State)
Round 7 (No. 221 overall): QB C.J. Beathard (Iowa)
Barring a trade up in the early rounds, the Bears shouldn’t force the issue at quarterback. Davis Webb and Brad Kaaya are two guys I like in the mid-rounds. If they decide to wait, Beathard is an intriguing Day 3 prospect.
Playing in a pro style offense at Iowa, Beathard took a lot of sacks but showed poise in the pocket. At 6’2″, 219 lbs., he’s similar in size to Deshaun Watson and Mitch Trubisky, arguably the top two quarterbacks in this draft.
He had 17 touchdowns as a full-time starter in both his junior and senior seasons. He threw only five picks as a junior but 10 as a senior.
Beathard isn’t a complete prospect hence why he is here so late. He has tools to be successful with his smarts and pocket presence. He is able to ellude pressure and find guys outside of the pocket. His arm is an issue in terms of long throws.
Again, if the Bears wait on a quarterback, Beathard is not a bad fall back option on Day 3.
Previous picks: G Kyle Kalis (Michigan), OLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Tennessee)
Thoughts on the third and final edition of the Bears’ mock draft?
In case you missed it: