Every February, legend tells of a groundhog waking from hibernation to predict the weather. Why is it that we rely on trained, human meteorologists for 10 months and then inquire upon a groundhog for the other two? That’s what comes to mind every time draft talk gets going after the Super Bowl. All season, loyal fans and scholarly analysts keep an eye on the up-and-coming college standouts and gauge their utility to a professional team. Then our friends Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay come rising up from their post-bowl season slumber. Mock drafts fly like Tony Romo trade speculation as each expert breaks down team needs and player rankings. Not saying draft experts are groundhogs! Just that people only pay attention to them in February…
Bears picking at #3
Chicago is a foreign name when it comes to the top three picks in the draft. The Bears haven’t made a pick earlier than the fourth overall since 1972. With this rare opportunity, I believe Chicago’s team needs are in the secondary and at the tackle position. However, this early in the Draft, sometimes it’s best to take the BPA (best player available) and work from there. This is reflected in most mock drafts in the media with Johnathan Allen being the BPA in question.
I think it will come down to one of six players at three different positions. Here’s my breakdown of Chicago’s potential first round picks and which of five experts predicts them. In the order of likelihood to be picked (by my estimation):
1. Johnathan Allen (DE / Alabama)
Likelihood of selection: 59%
Five of the seven major mock drafts have Allen going to Chicago. With Myles Garrett of Texas A&M receiving most nods at #1, Allen is the second best defensive lineman available. Allen is a ferocious pass rusher that spent all of 2016 terrorizing quarterbacks. Compiling 10.5 sacks, Allen also scored a couple touchdowns for the Tide’s historic defense. As the BPA at #3, Allen’s versatility is what likely moves him to the top of Chicago’s draft board. He can line up outside of the tackles and edge rush or shift towards the inside and fight through the middle. Chicago isn’t in dire need of a defensive line upgrade, but it’s hard to pass on a confident NFL future like Allen’s.
2. Malik Hooker (S / Ohio State)
Mock Drafts selecting Hooker for Chicago – None
Likelihood of selection: 15%
I had Malik Hooker picked for the Bears just after the end of the season. Hooker has been in a professional environment under Urban Meyer and is probably the best true free safety in the class. With the hopeful return of Kyle Fuller at cornerback, Hooker would be the best positional fit on defense. Our own college football analyst and draft expert Grant Baker compares Hooker to the great Ed Reed. “I can’t remember a safety with better range and ball skills than Hooker,” Baker says on his 2017 Draft Big Board.
3. Jamal Adams (S / LSU)
Mock Drafts selecting Adams for Chicago – Chris Burke of SI.com
Likelihood of selection: 13%
Jamal Adams contributes to the biggest need for Chicago while keeping options open in free agency. Adams has the capability to play free safety in coverage or strong safety to help stop the run. The selection of Adams leaves a free agent like Eric Berry on the table. Adams could play FS alongside Berry, a typical SS. Or Adams could start at SS if Berry isn’t landed. The late Sean Taylor is Grant Baker’s comparison for Jamal Adams, with his ability to stop the run or play in coverage in any system.
4. Jabrill Peppers (S / Michigan)
Mock Drafts selecting Peppers for Chicago – Todd McShay 1.0 of ESPN.com
Likelihood of selection: 8%
After missing the Wolverines’ bowl game, Jabrill Peppers is difficult to predict before the combine. When he declared for the draft, he became the first candidate I mentioned as the Bears potential 2017 first round pick. He appears to be a superior athlete; strong enough to play at linebacker and fast enough to play safety. The question then becomes “Is he good enough at either to play at the NFL level?” The combine should answer this question. Until then, he has been and will be scouted as anywhere between a top-5 pick and an early second rounder.
Mock Drafts selecting Watson/Trubisky for Chicago – None
Likelihood of selection: 5%
My opinion all along is that Jay Cutler should be the starting quarterback next season. With that said, this pick wouldn’t be a surprise. Let me put that in context. As of right now, no one is expecting Chicago to take any of the top QB prospects with their first round pick. However, once free agency begins in March, we are going to learn much about GM Ryan Pace’s plans for the Bears’ offense. Jay Cutler’s future is ambiguous at the moment. It won’t be that way for long. By the time you mark off April 26th on your calendar, I doubt Chicago’s preference between the previous four choices will be clear. But if Chicago plans on picking the national champion or former Tarheel, we’ll know it before Goodell gets the card.