Hello friends, it’s been awhile. For those who don’t know, I work for a TV news station in Rockford, Illinois. I’m sorry I haven’t been around for all the offseason banter, especially when it comes to the draft. COVID-19 coverage has completely overwhelmed me over the last month and a half, but not even a global pandemic will stop me from at least putting my thoughts on paper for what the Bears should do when they’re on the clock.
First off, my objectives for this draft:
1. Find a day one starter in the secondary.
Plenty of arguments can be made for whether safety or corner is the position in greater need of a boost, but defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano loves filling the field with defensive backs. With both Prince Amukamara and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix exiting stage right, the Bears need at least one player to fill the gap and sustain what’s been a strong group for the Bears over the last two seasons.
2. Draft a day one starter on the offensive line.
No need to sugar coat it, the Bears got bullied in the trenches for the entirety of 2019. I won’t absolve a run scheme or a hapless quarterback, but I won’t turn a blind eye to a position group that saw regression across the board last season. Whether it’s at tackle or guard, the offensive line needs a boost coming out of this draft.
3. Bring in a quarterback.
Remember hearing about “bridge quarterbacks” in 2017? Yeah, that made my stomach churn, too. We’re in a better place than 2017, but that could topple quickly without a true prospect on the roster. Even if Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles ball out this season, Trubisky is a free agent and Foles has outs in his contract if he hits certain performance standards.
Obviously 2020 is the focus, but who is the Bears quarterback in 2021? The likelihood of that quarterback being on the roster today is about as good as Ryan Pace finally returning my call to be their 10th string tight end (no seriously, go look at the roster). Chicago doesn’t need a day one player, but they do need someone to develop should both Foles and Trubisky either bomb or perform well and leave town.
*Lastly, I will also do this draft with the proposed Seattle trade that both Nicholas Moreano and Will DeWitt did for their most recent mock drafts, which was originally brought up by Adam Jahns of The Athletic.*
As a reminder:
50th overall pick
59th overall pick
133rd overall pick
2021 fourth-round pick
Round 2, Pick 43
The Pick: Utah CB Jaylon Johnson (6-0, 193)
Not too many options exist for teams that want to beat an aggressive pass rush, but also try to avoid a good safety like Eddie Jackson. One of the few options is to get the ball out quick with screen, quick slants and quick outs. Executing those plays become even more difficult when you have someone who excels in press coverage like Jaylon Johnson.
Johnson thrives off contact around the line of scrimmage and uses that contact to smoothly transition to his “in phase” technique. He trails receivers aggressively and continues that aggression with active hands at the catch point.
His size and speed are much closer to good than elite, but his ability to get hands on receivers and break downhill on passes make up for what little raw athleticism he gives up to certain receivers. In general, the closer to the line of scrimmage Johnson is, the more effective he is. That’s great news when the likes of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Robert Quinn will chase quarterbacks on the vast majority of defensive snaps.
If there is one concern with Johnson, it has to do with his injury history. Multiple labrum surgeries aren’t encouraging, but Johnson did play some great football in his junior and senior season before getting another surgery in March.
Injuries aside, Johnson checks so many boxes that would make life absolutely miserable for opposing offenses. I love him as the Bears’ first pick in the draft to bring stability that will help a great unit keep producing at a high level.
Round 2, Pick 59
The Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette OG Robert Hunt (6’5, 323)
This feels reminiscent of the Cody Whitehair pick a few years ago. Pace moves down in the second round for a versatile lineman. Whereas Whitehair stabilized the interior three sports of the offensive line, Robert Hunt brings utility as a guard and tackle. Many draft specialists see him fitting in as a guard at the NFL level, but his experience at tackle is invaluable.
The way I see this playing out is Hunt competing for the starting job at right guard in 2020.
His combination of size, strength and athleticism give him a great shot to beat out the rest of the field. If Hunt stays there the rest of his career, great, but ideally, after a year of adjusting to the NFL, he can kick back outside to his natural tackle position and replace Bobbie Massie in 2021.
Regardless of where Hunt fits in post-2020, he would bring a spark and stability that this offensive line desperately needs.
Round 4, Pick 133
The Pick: Clemson S K’Von Wallace (5’11, 206)
This is the type of player Pace loves to take a shot on. Sized like a corner, Wallace reads like a safety and ignites to the ball like a linebacker. He always brings a pop to the party. To me, Wallace reminds me of a less refined Adrian Amos when it comes to coverage, but strikingly similar when it comes to aggressive, downhill play.
As mentioned prior, Wallace hasn’t shown the skills to play a traditional two-high safety role, but could be a great chess piece for Pagano in nickel packages. While Pagano doesn’t run his safeties like Vic Fangio did in 2018, Wallace could develop into the role Amos had when he and Jackson formed a great 1-2 duo. Amos took care of shallow routes and Jackson was freed up to be a ballhawk.
Wallace lacks the size NFL teams want out of a safety and even a nickel/rover player to some extent. That said, it takes a certain kind of crazy to fly upfield from safety depth to lay a hit on someone who is bigger than you trying to do the same thing to you. Wallace has that kind of crazy, and it’s a kind of crazy that could help elevate this defense.
Round 5, Pick 163
The Pick: Florida International QB James Morgan (6’4, 229)
Waiting to take Morgan here could be a risk. Special arm talent is the type of high risk, high reward teams don’t mind gambling early Day 3 picks on. That said, a number of mock drafts put a fifth to sixth round grade on Morgan, so it’s certainly plausible Morgan is there for the taking.
Simply put, Morgan has an NFL level arm with Day 3 prospect inconsistency. That ranges from accuracy to fundamentals to decision making. There’s a reason why Morgan went to Florida International instead of the University of Florida.
That said, Day 3 picks are all about capturing upside. Morgan’s arm could prove to be the upside that finally gives the Bears a franchise quarterback with at least a year under Matt Nagy and company.
Round 6, Pick 196
The Pick: Virginia Tech TE Dalton Keene (6’4, 253)
Where Morgan is a shot on upside, Dalton Keene is a low-ceiling player, but offers a ton of uses to the Bears.
It’s probably easier to talk about where Keene didn’t line up throughout his career. Virginia Tech lined him up as an H-back, in-line tight end, slot receiver, full back and as a wing back. Keene is the type of player Nagy loves to have when scheming up formations and motions and the type of player defenses hate to scheme against.
His receiving numbers won’t set the world on fire, and while his short-yardage utility as a runner (five touchdowns last year) could prove useful in Chicago, it’s not like Keene will all of a sudden fix the tight end position.
However, in a flood of names that Bears fans either don’t know or names that they know but would rather forget, Keene offers a lot of utility on the offensive side of the ball and on special teams. He’s great value at this point in the draft.
Round 6, Pick 200
The Pick: Southern Mississippi WR Quez Watkins (6’0, 185)
With Taylor Gabriel’s exit, the Bears lack someone who can take the top off of a defense. Enter Quez Watkins who seemingly goes from first gear to fifth gear in two steps. It’s not easy to make division one defensive backs look slow, but that’s what 4.3 speed does when it’s paired with inhuman acceleration.
Better yet, Watkins is more than the one-trick pony than Gabriel was with speed. Despite only being 6-foot, Watkins is great at tracking deep throws and is great at competing for contested catches.
That said, Watkins does have some of the same drawbacks that Gabriel had. Press coverage often neutralizes his speed, and his intermediate route running lacks polish making him a bubble or go player.
Even with a limited route tree and problems with press coverage, this is the kind of speed that makes Nagy’s sideline-to-sideline offense dangerous.
Round 7, Pick 226
The Pick: Texas Tech OT Terence Steele (6’6, 312)
Seventh round picks are preferred free agents in my book. Might as well take a flier on a tackle with great measurable, good experience but lackluster technique.
Playing for Texas Tech’s air raid system will expose ability or inability quickly. Starting four years at multiple spots on the line shows that Steele was more than up for the challenge.
Steele’s length and strength made it hard for rushes to overpower him, but flaws in both his pass setting and timing with his hands cost him the edge and his balance on multiple occasions.
He might need a year on the practice squad, but an experienced, able-bodied lineman will be more important than ever with an extra game added to the regular season schedule.
Round 7, Pick 233
The Pick: Mississippi State EDGE Chauncy Rivers (6’2, 262)
I pride myself on picking players that scream Pace, but I take a departure from that here. Many football fans might remember Chauncy Rivers from “Last Chance U” after three marijuana arrests lead to his dismissal from Georgia.
However, it’s the seventh round, and I’m willing to gamble on a player with traits. Rivers knows how to utilize his length and his hands as a pass rusher. Additionally, his power and first-step quickness make him an every play threat when quarterbacks drop back to pass.
What makes Rivers available at this point in the draft is an overall lack of polish. He often diminishes the good of his first step quickness with his high pad level. His performance against the run as well as his overall technique with his pass rush moves leaves something to be desired as well.
All things considered, Rivers has the foundation to be a rotational pass rusher in the NFL, which is exactly what the Bears lack right now behind Mack and Quinn.