We are 35 days away from the start of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The first wave of free agency is in the books as there are still a plethora of veterans available to sign.
General manager Ryan Pace and first-year head coach Matt Nagy were awfully busy in the free agent period signing wide receiver’s Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Taylor Bray, kicker Cody Parkey, linebacker Aaron Lynch and tight end Trey Burton.
Also, cornerback Kyle Fuller reached a contract extension while Sam Acho, John Timu, Josh Bellamy (RFA), Cameron Meredith (RFA), Pat O’Donnell, Prince Amukamara, Bradley Sowell and Bryce Callahan (RFA) were re-signed.
Focusing on the draft, the Bears selected quarterback Mitch Trubisky with the No. 2 pick a year ago. Safety Eddie Jackson and running back Tarik Cohen were great value picks in the fourth round.
Other notable picks in 2017: Adam Shaheen (2nd round) and guard Jordan Morgan (6th round)
In 2016, 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 in 2016: Defensive end Jonathan Bullard (3rd round), inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (4th round), safety Deon Bush (4th round) and cornerback Deiondre’ Hall (4th round).
In Pace’s first draft, second round defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and fifth round safety Adrian Amos have proven to be steady contributors.
Other notable picks in 2015: Wide receiver Kevin White was take in the first round while center Hroniss Grasu was picked in the third round.
2017 NFL Draft dates
Thursday, April 26, 8 p.m. ET – Round 1
Friday, April 27, 7 p.m. ET – Rounds 2-3
Saturday, April 28, 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. 8 overall): S Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama)
Pairing Eddie Jackson with his former college teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick would certainly give the Bears a ton of athleticism on the back end. Certainly, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson or Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward would be solid picks here, but Fitzpatrick can solidify the Bears often issue at safety.
Adrian Amos performed very well next to Jackson a year ago, but having Fitzpatrick would allow the Bears to use a ton of different looks back there. The 6’1″, 201-pounder can move around from corner, slot corner to safety. He had nine interceptions in three seasons at Alabama including six picks two seasons ago with Jackson injured.
The Bears could do a lot worse than Fitzpatrick at No. 8 overall. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would have yet another young and athletic piece to help his defense trick other teams. Versatility boosts Fitzpatrick’s value to this spot.
Round 2 (No. 39 overall): LB Dorance Armstrong Jr. (Kansas)
Just two years ago, Pace shocked a lot of people by taking Leonard Floyd with the No. 9 pick. He based the selection off of potential and athleticism. Dorance Armstrong Jr. comes in a similar form than Floyd with his ability to get after the quarterback.
The Bears need pass rushers in the worst way with Floyd joined by only Aaron Lynch, Sam Acho, Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones at outside linebacker. Armstrong Jr. totaled 15.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for a loss in his three seasons at Kansas.
The 6’4″, 246-pounder was a 4-3 defensive end in college, but has the frame and speed to transition to outside linebacker. He led all edge rushers at the NFL Combine this year in the 3-cone drill (7.12 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.23 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.82 seconds).
Coached up correctly, Armstrong Jr. has all the traits you desire out of a pass rusher in a 3-4 defense. He has six forced fumbles in his career and started right out of the gates in college.
Round 4 (No. 105 overall): G Austin Corbett (Nevada)
The Bears have a need at guard with Josh Sitton now in Miami. Cody Whitehair should stay at center unless the Bears opt to move Hroniss Grasu back into the starting lineup which would move Whitehair to right guard and keep Kyle Long at left guard.
Austin Corbett is a 6’4″, 305-pounder who earned a walk-on spot at Nevada. He was a four-year starter between left and right tackle. The transition to guard could take some time for Corbett, but once he sheds some body fat, he’ll be better off. He is a strong lineman.
Round 4 (No. 115 overall): WR Keke Coutee (Texas Tech)
Wide receiver looks a whole lot better already for the Bears, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t stop trying to add playmakers. Keke Coutee is just that at 5’11”, 180 lbs.
A two-year starter at Texas Tech, Coutee totaled 19 touchdowns (17 receiving, one rushing and one kick return), 159 receptions and 2,424 receiving yards in three seasons. He has value as a kick returner as well.
Round 5 (No. 145 overall): DL Breeland Speaks (Mississippi)
Mitch Unrein signed with Tampa Bay and the Bears need some help up front. Eddie Goldman will man the middle while Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard will be asked to help out next to him. Breeland Speaks could come in and provide Goldman a break at times and bounce outside at defensive end.
Originally a defensive tackle to start in college, Speaks moved to defensive end as a junior where he posted seven of his nine career sacks. The Bears should target Speaks here.
Round 6 (No. 181 overall): RB Roc Thomas (Jacksonville State)
I know Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are locked in as the top two backs, but the Bears could use some other fresh legs in the running back room. How could you not want to give the rock to a guy named Roc Thomas?
He started out as a top recruit at Auburn, but injuries hampered him and he decided to transfer to Jacksonville State in 2016. The 5’11”, 193-pounder totaled 1,065 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground with a 5.9 YPC. He also had 21 catches for 244 yards. Thomas led all running backs at the NFL Combine with a 125.0 inch broad jump.
Round 7 (No. 224 overall): LS Tanner Carew (Oregon)
There have only been three long snappers drafted since 2010. However, the Bears haven’t found stability at the position since Patrick Mannelly retired in 2014. Tanner Carew, a former Oregon Duck could change that.
Thoughts on the first edition of the Bears’ mock draft?