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Let’s be honest. It’s been a weird offseason for the Chicago Bears.
At first, the organization did everything the fans wanted. They started over by hiring a new general manager and a new head coach. But since then, they haven’t done a whole lot. There are only 64 players on a roster that allows 90. Almost no one in the NFL believes second-year quarterback Justin Fields has enough around him to succeed. And the Bears don’t have a first-round draft pick.
Nonetheless, welcome to NFL Draft week — Ryan Poles’ most important week as general manager thus far.
Envisioning the perfect draft
Poles’ first few months as a general manager haven’t exactly been a smooth ride. His prized free agent — defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi — failed his physical and didn’t sign with the team. Poles called that “the toughest thing I’ve had to go through.”
Then Byron Pringle — the only new wide receiver fans had any excitement about — got arrested over the weekend.
But if you haven’t noticed, Poles isn’t exactly banking the Bears’ future on this free agent class. His eyes are set on building through the draft, despite only having six draft picks at his disposal.
To build through the draft, you need draft capital. No one is going to hit close to 1.000 in the draft. The good GMs barely survive above .500. The more swings, the better.
That’s why I spent a large portion of the last week simulating countless draft scenarios. Both Pro Football Focus and The Draft Network offer very useful tools to simulate a full seven-round mock draft, complete with trade scenarios. I went through these exercises many, many times, looked at possible trade partners and even ran a few scenarios past the minds of a couple current NFL personnel executives to see if they checked out. The goal: discover the best possible scenario that could play out for the Bears this weekend.
For me, that scenario was pretty simple: find help for Justin Fields, acquire players that can fill multiple holes quickly, and add draft capital.
Before we get to the actual players, I’ll start by telling you that I ended up turning six picks into seven and made two selections in the second, third, and fifth rounds, while also adding an additional fourth-round pick and two 2023 fifth-round picks.
How did I do it? Well, it wasn’t necessarily by design, but I ended up trading down three times in the second round. It started with a complicated trade with the Atlanta Falcons in which I actually moved back an average of 3.6 picks in the second, third and fifth rounds in order to turn the 186th overall pick in the sixth round into the 114th overall pick in the fourth. Acquiring a fourth-round pick was a goal of mine entering the mock draft.
A couple of things happened, including Georgia wide receiver George Pickens, Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum and Michigan EDGE David Ojabo all getting drafted within five picks of the Bears’ first selection at No. 39. Linderbaum was the one player I considered trading up for, but I checked with a couple of sources who highly doubted the center would actually be available in that range and I was also trying to make this whole experience as realistic as possible.
That left me with a cluster of targets (including three-techniques Logan Hall and Perrion Winfrey) still available, which made me very comfortable trading back a few selections. Of greater significance, Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett was still on the board. Keep in mind that the quarterback-needy Seattle Seahawks hold back-to-back picks at No. 40 and 41 and the Colts (42) and Falcons (43) linger right after that. All of those teams could be looking for a guy like Pickett in the second round. Sure enough, I had offers come in from both the Colts and Falcons to leapfrog the Seahawks. I took the Falcons’ deal and hypothetically thanked senior personnel executive Ryan Pace for the extra draft capital.
I could continue to bore you with the specifics, but despite the Seahawks taking two players I liked (Minnesota’s Boye Mafe and Penn State’s Jahan Dotson), I still felt like there were many options available when the Buccaneers called me at No. 43. The problem? A trade here meant moving all the way back to No. 60. Still, the Bucs were offering the No. 91 overall pick in the third round and a 2023 fifth-round pick. Since I still had the 48th pick coming up, I took the deal.
The bad news? Winfrey went to the Vikings at No. 46. The good news? Hall was still on the board and I originally was willing to take him at No. 39. That was going to be my pick until the Steelers called. I managed to add another fourth-round pick in this year’s draft and a 2023 fifth-rounder to move back another four slots. Done.
Believe it or not, I actually received more offers on the clock at No. 52, but it was time to grab my guy there (more on the pick in a moment). Moments later, there was one more trade to make. With my next second-round pick approaching at No. 60, the Cardinals called and offered me the No. 55 overall pick in exchange for No. 60 and the fourth-rounder I had received from the Steelers. Since I had already accomplished my goal of adding a fourth-rounder in the earlier Falcons trade, I was willing to do this to secure the offensive lineman I was targeting.
If you’re still following, congrats. It’s time to reveal the picks:
2nd round, No. 52 (via Steelers): DL Logan Hall, Houston
The Bears get their three-technique with a long, explosive pass rusher who is still scratching the surface as a football player.
2nd round, No. 55 (via Cardinals): OG Jamaree Salyer, Georgia
Salyer primarily played tackle at Georgia, but I believe he’s a plug-and-play starter at guard who would immediately fill the massive hole the Bears have at right guard.
3rd round, No. 74 (via Falcons): WR David Bell, Purdue
A classic traits vs production player, the tape is impressive enough to overlook the disappointing 4.65 40-time. Bell is simply a good football player who will pile up catches and touchdowns at the next level.
3rd round, No. 91 (via Bucs): WR Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky
Only 5-8, Robinson’s speed will give the Bears a mismatch weapon they haven’t had since Tarik Cohen suffered his knee injury. Robinson’s return ability is needed too.
4th round, No. 114 (via Falcons): P Matt Araiza, San Diego State
A punter, really? Really. Araiza had 18 punts over 60 yards last season and two punts over 80 (!) yards. If he can fine-tune his touch, he’s going to be one of the NFL’s best punters for a long time. And considering the Bears’ offense, they could use a field-flipping punter.
5th round, No. 150: LB Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin
A local kid who played at Lake Zurich, Sanborn won’t get drafted as high as teammate Leo Chenal, but he’s a tackling machine who at best can develop into a starting middle linebacker next to Roquan Smith and at worst can play the Sam spot and play a big role on special teams.
5th round, No. 151 (via Falcons): S Smoke Monday, Auburn
Coverage and penalty concerns will knock Monday back in the draft, but he’s a versatile safety who racked up 17 TFLs in college and can be dangerous lining up in the slot. Of his five college interceptions, three were returned for touchdowns. He’s also a core special teamer capable of being active Week 1 as a rookie.
So why is this the ideal Bears draft?
Again, the goals: Help Justin Fields, add more draft capital, and fill multiple holes/needs with players who should at least be active right away as rookies.
With my first three picks, I wanted dependable players who I believe can contribute as starters right away. Hall, Salyer and Bell accomplish that, with the first two offering upside as potential future Pro Bowlers. On the back end, I’m looking for experienced players who offer immediate special teams ability with the potential to grow into starters. Robinson is the type of dangerous weapon who can be worked onto the field in packages right away.
Regardless, I believe I came away with at least six players who can contribute in some form in Week 1 of this season, all while adding more draft capital. For a team in rebuild mode with as many needs as the Bears, that’s a perfect scenario this weekend.
- New offense. New receivers. Young quarterback trying out new footwork. It’s no wonder the Bears’ offense didn’t exactly impress in last week’s bonus voluntary minicamp. The reality: It happened. The perspective: This is a process and there’s a long way to go before games are played.
- Pringle’s arrest over the weekend was disappointing. How Poles responds will be telling.
- I love the NFL Draft. There’s a human element that is so rewarding — seeing so many young football players fulfill their lifelong dream. But the unpredictability of the whole thing, and the inevitable “wow” moments that occur, make it a must-watch event. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. I hope Bill Belichick’s dog makes an appearance.
What you missed…
Draft profiles. Draft Profiles. And more draft profiles. The breakdowns are all on the CHGO YouTube channel. You don’t want to miss Olin Kreutz breaking down the offensive linemen.
What’s on deck…
Get ready to hear a lot from the general manager. Poles will talk to reporters Tuesday, Friday and Saturday this week, with Eberflus joining him at the end of the draft.
As for us, we’ll have a live mock draft special Wednesday at 11 a.m. and live shows each day of the NFL Draft to break down everything the Bears do (and don’t do). CHGO is the place to be this week.
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