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Believe it or not, the 2022 NFL Draft is right around the corner. The CHGO Bears team has been busy preparing for general manager Ryan Poles’ first-ever draft with multiple prospect breakdowns, mock drafts, and more.
I shared my first mock draft of the offseason immediately after the Chicago Bears traded Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers. I recently published my “anti” mock draft, which is where I aimed for a realistic worst-case scenario.
One thing that has been evident since the get-go is the fact that six draft picks for a rookie GM is a less-than-ideal situation. It would benefit Poles if he could find a trade partner, or two, to accumulate additional picks.
Rules of the Mock: For this draft, I explored what could be possible for the Bears if they move down the board and acquire some more draft capital.
I only chose players that were available during the draft simulation to make the consequences of trading back as realistic as possible.
It’s worth noting that I used The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine.
Trading Away Pick 39 to Baltimore
- Round 2, Pick 39
- Round 2, Pick 45
- Round 4, Pick 139
When Poles looks up at his team’s big board, he notices that there is a handful of players that he would be comfortable drafting at this spot. With the phone lines open, he receives a call from the Baltimore Ravens who want to swap second-round picks and would give the Bears their fourth-round compensatory pick in return.
Although Poles was hoping for perhaps just a little bit more, this is the best offer on the table. For a team that didn’t have a fourth-round pick heading into the draft, it’s nice to pick one up here and was worth sliding down six spots.
Trading Away Pick 45 to New England
- Round 2, Pick 45
- Round 2, Pick 54
- Round 5, Pick 158
- Round 5, Pick 170
Now back on the clock, the Bears are eager to make their first selection. There remain a few players they were hoping to land with their original pick at 39. The phone rings and it’s New England on the other end.
The Patriots offer the Bears their 54th overall pick and Pick 158 to move up to the 45th pick. Poles is intrigued as Chicago will make another selection in just three picks. He tells New England they have a deal, only if it throws in its other fifth-rounder.
Poles looks around the room to his staff and tells them that they now have nine picks, six of which are in the top-150. Knowing it’s a deep draft class, the room is buzzing at the thought of building a strong group of rookies that will be a part of the team’s core for years to come.
The new regime is in full force and things are underway.
Here’s what a draft class with nine picks could look like for the Bears.
Round 2, Pick 48
The Pick: Kaiir Elam, CB (Florida)
Elam qualifies as a player Poles would have drafted if the Bears stayed put at Pick 39. Why the former Florida cornerback fell this far is confusing, but Chicago doesn’t mind one bit as they just found their starting outside corner to pair with third-year Jaylon Johnson.
Elam possesses the prototypical build (6-foot-1, 191 pounds, 31-inch arms) and speed (4.39-40) that teams covet at the position. He is a natural fit in zone coverage where he’s able to unleash his athleticism and awareness to quickly read-react and make plays on the ball.
As a physical corner, Elam enjoys playing press coverage where he’s effective at jamming receivers and disrupting their timing.
Elam is a player that can come in and play immediately. He’s a perfect fit for coach Matt Eberflus’ defense. The Bears just got better as quarterbacks can’t pick on one half of the field like they were able to a year ago.
Round 2, Pick 54
The Pick: George Pickens, WR (Georgia)
Patience prevails for Poles here as he’s able to land a playmaker for Justin Fields by drafting Georgia’s George Pickens, who arguably has the best hands in the draft.
There are countless plays in college where Pickens made incredible receptions with his strong hands and impressive body control. At the catch point, Pickens makes sure nobody beats him.
Most are aware that Pickens tore his ACL during a spring practice in March 2021. His road to recovery is ultra-impressive as the wideout was able to return to game action just eight months later.
That demonstrates Pickens’ desire for the game and to be great, which really resonates with Poles.
Pickens has all of the tools to become a legitimate playmaker in the NFL and would be a great compliment to Darnell Mooney. Fields gets a sure-handed receiver that can make the toughest catches, and has a knack for big plays.
Mooney and Pickens is a receiving combo that could strike fear into defenses right away.
Round 3, Pick 71
The Pick: Cole Strange, IOL (Chattanooga)
In the third round, Poles could not pass up small-school prospect Cole Strange. He checks every box that he is looking for as the Bears rebuild their offensive line. At the NFL Combine, Poles said he wants the Bears’ line to get “lighter” and “quicker.”
At 6-foot-5 and 307 pounds, Strange would be one of the leanest linemen on the roster. In fact, he’s 20 pounds lighter than former Bear James Daniels.
Strange proved he is one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the draft, finishing in the top-five in multiple drills at the combine in his position group.
Strange’s athletic ability, paired with his strong spatial awareness and high football IQ makes him a perfect fit for the Bears’ outside zone rushing attack.
In addition to the physical tools, Strange has that “hot” motor Poles is looking for. He is a player that gives top-notch effort on every play and is always playing through the whistle. This “nasty” temperament would be welcomed in Chicago.
Strange would push for playing time right away as the Bears are still needing to find Daniels’ replacement. He also offers versatility as Strange has experience playing both guard and center.
By drafting Strange, Poles brings in a third player who can immediately contribute. This is impressive considering he traded back twice.
Round 4, Pick 139
The Pick: Dominique Robinson, EDGE (Miami, OH)
Poles swings for the fences with his newly acquired fourth-round pick as he bets on a promising player with a ton of upside.
Robinson’s path has been very much unorthodox as he’s made the seldom transition from wide receiver to defensive end.
Even though he is still very much raw as he learns this new position, Robinson has proven that he has the makeup to become an effective EDGE player at the next level. He accumulated seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss in just 15 games over the past two seasons.
What makes Robinson an intriguing draft pick despite being somewhat raw is all of the athleticism that he offers. He is a very fluid mover in space who explodes off the line and can change direction better than a lot of his peers in the draft.
Chicago’s situation is fine at defensive end with Robert Quinn, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Trevis Gipson and potentially Jeremiah Attaochu. Drafting Robinson gives the Bears a young talent that can make an impact in a limited role as a rookie.
Robinson still needs to work on the fundamentals and develop additional pass rush moves in order to reach his full potential.
Eberflus trusts his staff to develop Robinson and turn him into a force to be reckoned with off the edge in this defense for years.
Round 5, Pick 148
The Pick: Velus Jones Jr, WR (Tennessee)
Like most Bears Fans, Poles agrees — walking away with only one receiver in this draft is not enough. Chicago found its outside threat in Pickens earlier. Now it’s time to find a player who can do some damage inside … and after the catch.
In fact, making plays after the catch was an integral talent that the Bears highlighted at the combine in February as they want Fields to get the ball out quick to his playmakers.
Yards after the catch is something the Bears struggled with last year. Out of the 94 receivers who had at least 46 targets, Mooney ranked 25th with 4.8 YAC/REC. The only other qualifying Bear was Allen Robinson who was third-to-last at 92 (2.4 YAC/REC).
Making plays with the ball in his hands is something that Jones does better than most. In fact, he led the entire draft class with 8.32 YAC/REC on his 62 catches.
Jones is able to make these plays with his physical toughness where he fights through tackles and extraordinary vision where he makes cuts and finds open field. He is a player that can catch a slant or screen, make the initial defender miss and run away from the rest of the defense.
The Bears need players like that.
He’s also a dynamite returner. Jones averaged 27.3 yards per kickoff return including a 96-yard touchdown last season. He also had a 100-yard touchdown return back in 2019 when he was at USC.
Last season, Jones was asked to return punts for the first time in his career. He answered by ending the season as the second-most effective punt returner in the nation averaging 15.1 yards per punt return.
Oh, and that’s not all. Jones can also be a gunner on punt coverage. His special teams value is multi-faceted.
Now, the fact that Jones will be a 25-year-old rookie after spending six seasons in the NCAA is a definite drawback. However, some players just take more time to tap into their potential.
Not every player follows the prototypical path. If anything, this is a testament to Jones’ willingness to continue working toward achieving his NFL dream.
Jones doesn’t have the most robust route tree and there are still some things you’d like to see refined. Poles sees a player that can be an instant contributor in the third phase, and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy can surely carve out a role for Jones where he gets the ball and space and let him work his magic.
Round 5, Pick 150
The Pick: Eyioma Uwazurike, DL (Iowa State)
There’s been plenty of turnover upfront for the Bears’ defense. Chicago no longer has Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols or Eddie Goldman. Poles, unfortunately, couldn’t get his top choice in Larry Ogunjobi and settled for Justin Jones.
With this pick, Poles finds good value as Uwazurike has the upside to turn into a starter. Like Hicks, he’s a good “two-way” defender as he’s effective in stopping the run and getting after the quarterback. Uwazurike had nine sacks, 29 QB hurries, and 12 tackles for loss last season.
According to NFL.com’s draft prospect rankings, Uwazurike comes in eighth at the position — right behind Perrion Winfrey and Demarvin Leal, which are Day 2 locks. Snagging Uwazurike here feels like an accomplishment in its own right.
Poles is looking for players that can overcome obstacles and demonstrate resilience. Uwazurike’s personal life story is full of adversity that he’s been able to overcome and mature from. He’s a player that Poles would welcome into the locker room with open arms.
Round 5, Pick 158
The Pick: Max Mitchell, OT (Louisiana)
If Bears minicamp was any indication, Chicago is in the market for a left tackle as second-year Teven Jenkins has been playing right tackle with Larry Borom on the opposite side.
Mitchell is an athletic tackle that fits the Bears’ zone scheme and provides versatility to line up on either side of the line. He moves well in space and excels in pass protection. His quickness and hustle allow him to stay with rushers off the edge.
Fields will welcome a pass-blocking specialist protecting his blindside.
Mitchell has good awareness and can pick up different blitz packages defenses throw his way. He needs to work on refining his technique and adding some upper body strength in order to become more effective as a run blocker.
He also has natural leadership traits and a work ethic that would fit right into what the Bears are building.
Round 5, Pick 170
The Pick: Pierre Strong Jr., RB (South Dakota State)
This is a best player available pick all the way as Strong was ranked 126th on the big board. Even though running back is not a current need, the luxury of trading down for more picks is the ability to draft the best available talent instead of forcing a need.
And who knows? After this season, David Montgomery may end up playing for a different team. So, this pick is a security blanket of sorts.
Strong led the FCS last season with 1,686 yards on the ground and his 18 rushing touchdowns were the second-highest. He also added 150 yards receiving on 22 catches.
Strong is best suited for a zone scheme like Chicago’s where he is able to utilize his impressive vision and instincts to find the running lane. And if he finds open space, Strong can take it to the house, which is evident by the fact that he had 10 rushing touchdowns that came from 50-plus yards throughout his career.
And by the fact that he led all running backs with a 4.37-40.
Chicago gets another big-play guy in Strong as the Bears bolster perhaps the deepest position on offense.
Round 6, Pick 186
The Pick: Verone McKinley III, SAF (Oregon)
Chicago would benefit from adding another safety to its ranks as currently newcomer Dane Cruikshank, who has his own injury concerns, projects as the starter alongside Eddie Jackson.
With their final pick in the draft, the Bears select a safety that excels in coverage and possesses plus ball skills. McKinley knows how to get his fair share of takeaways. He tied for the most interceptions in the nation last season (6) and finished his collegiate career with 11. He also had 8 PBUs over his last 21 games.
Even though he can benefit from improving his tackling, McKinley is no slouch when it comes to taking down ball carriers. He’s comfortable with attacking downhill and getting his nose dirty.
McKinley caps off the draft class as a player who can come in and contribute on special teams and compete for playing time on defense sooner rather than later.
By playing the long game and trading down, Poles is able to give this Bears team the youth infusion it desperately needs.
Despite trading down twice, he was able to put together a complete and well-rounded draft class.
Poles found a physical corner to pair with Johnson in Elam. He brought in a sure-handed playmaker in Pickens for Fields, and found an athletic starting guard in Strange in Round 3.
The Bears get a defensive end with an extremely high ceiling in Robinson. Poles double-dipped at wideout by drafting Jones who also can become a lethal return man for Chicago. Uwazurike provides plenty of value and potential to grow into an impactful 3-tech, and the same can be said with the next pick in Mitchell at offensive tackle.
Going BPA, Poles bolstered the already deep running back room by drafting Strong. His final selection gives Eberflus an instinctual ball-hawk at safety to develop.
Even though Bears Fans would wait quite a while for their team to make a pick after trading back two times, when all is said and done, they are impressed by the haul Chicago’s rookie general manager was able to put together.
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