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2015 NFL Mock Draft: Could Bears' Ryan Pace trade back from No. 7?

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2015 NFL Mock Draft: Could Bears' Ryan Pace trade back from No. 7?

The NFL Draft always provides surprises and 2015 will be no different.

The only first-round lock appears to be Jameis Winston going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 1. After that it's a crapshoot. Will Marcus Mariota land in Tennessee or is he destined to reunite with Chip Kelly in Philadelphia? Will a running back finally be drafted in the first round? And how will Ryan Pace fare in his first foray into the draft as GM of the Bears?

[MORE NFL DRAFT: Check out our 200 player profiles]

With less than two days until the 2015 NFL Draft officially kicks off, CSNChicago.com's Scott Krinch tries mocking the first round.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston (QB), Florida State

Lovie Smith does not have the best poker face. Winston will be the pick here and he has been all along.

2. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota (QB), Oregon

Does Mariota stay in Tennessee or get flipped on draft night? Regardless, expect the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner to come off the board at No. 2.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Williams (DL), USC

David Caldwell passes on in-state edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. and elects to snag the draft's most complete defensive lineman in Leonard Williams.  

4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper (WR), Alabama

If this was 10 years ago the Raiders choice would probably be the enigma that is Breshad Perriman, but Reggie McKenzie goes the safe route with Amari Cooper.

5. Washington Redskins: Dante Fowler Jr. (OLB), Florida

The Redskins are floored to see Fowler Jr. still on the board, who they hope becomes the next LaVar Arrington — minus the injuries.

6. New York Jets: Vic Beasley (OLB), Clemson

The rich get richer as Todd Bowles' defense adds arguably the best pass rusher in the 2015 NFL Draft. 

7. New Orleans Saints via trade with Chicago Bears: Bud Dupree (OLB), Kentucky

Ryan Pace swings a draft deal with his former club, who desperately need help on the defensive side of the ball. Chicago swaps No. 7 for New Orleans' Nos. 13 and 31 picks in the first round. 

8. Atlanta Falcons: Randy Gregory (OLB), Nebraska

Dan Quinn ignores Gregory's off-the-field issues, and gets his first major rebuilding piece for the Falcons defense. 

9. New York Giants: Brandon Scherff (OT), Iowa

The Giants take a page out of their NFC East counterpart Dallas Cowboys' book, and snatch up the most versatile offensive lineman in this year's draft. 

10. St. Louis Rams: Andrus Peat (OT), Stanford

Rams have to find a way to protect whoever is playing quarterback for them in 2015.  

11. Minnesota Vikings: DeVante Parker (WR), Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater gets his former Louisville running mate in Parker, who gives the Vikings a dangerous tandem in the NFC North for years to come. 

12. Cleveland Browns: Kevin White (WR), West Virginia

The slide finally ends for White here. The Browns have a glaring need at wide receiver and White gives Josh McCown/Johnny Manziel a bonafide No. 1 wideout.

13. Chicago Bears via trade with New Orleans Saints: Danny Shelton (DT), Washington

The Bears trade down, pick up an extra first rounder and get the guy they wanted all along. Shelton fills an immediate need and has a chance to be a dominant presence in the middle of Chicago's defense.

14. Miami Dolphins: Kevin Johnson (CB), Wake Forest

Johnson's stock is sky high and the Dolphins fill a major need at corner.

15. San Francisco 49ers: Arik Armstead (DT), Oregon

Armstead and the 49ers are a match made in heaven. The 49ers desperately need help on the defensive line as Armstead becomes San Francisco's heir apparent to Justin Smith. 

16. Houston Texans: Breshad Perriman (WR), Central Florida

Perriman was one of the most explosive players in college football last season and the Texans elect to fill the void at WR left by Andre Johnson.  

17. San Diego Chargers: La'el Collins (OT), LSU

Collins could step in and play either right tackle or right guard in Week 1. 

18. Kansas City Chiefs: Trae Waynes (CB), Michigan State

Wide receiver or secondary seem to be the route the Chiefs will go at No. 18. With an early run-on of receivers, Kansas City snags the next best corner on the board.

19. Cleveland Browns: Malcom Brown (DT), Texas

Brown fills a huge need on the D-line for Cleveland. Ray Farmer makes out like a bandit with both White and Brown in the fold.  

20. Philadelphia Eagles: Phillip Dorsett (WR), Miami

All the pre-draft talk of the Eagles moving up comes to a halt as Chip Kelly stays at No. 20 and finds a Jeremy Maclin replacement in the speedy Dorsett.  

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Ereck Flowers (OT), Miami

How do you make Andy Dalton better? Well, the Bengals have given him numerous weapons to work with at WR, RB and TE, so why not find him some O-line help this time around?

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Peters (CB), Washington

Peters is probably the most talented corner in the draft, but his stock has plummeted due to off-the-field issues. Mike Tomlin and the Steelers go for the home run with the former Husky.

23. Detroit Lions: Jordan Phillips (DT), Oklahoma

The Lions would love a chance to grab either Danny Shelton or Malcom Brown to fill the hole left at defensive tackle after offseason departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, but Phillips is no slouch as a consolation prize. 

24. Arizona Cardinals: Todd Gurley (RB), Georgia

The Cardinals waste little time ending Gurley's slide and finally find a legitimate weapon at running back. The former Bulldog has Top 5 talent.

25. Carolina Panthers: T.J. Clemmings (OT), Pittsburgh

The Panthers need to find a way to protect Cam Newton and take the first step in doing so with the athletic Clemmings. 

26. Baltimore Ravens: Melvin Gordon (RB), Wisconsin

Gordon is a steal for the Ravens at No. 26. Matt Forte had two of his most productive years under Marc Trestman, who will have that same affect on Gordon in Baltimore.

27. Dallas Cowboys: Byron Jones (CB), Connecticut

What a tough break for the Cowboys after missing out on both Gurley and Gordon. Instead, Dallas goes with the high character corner in Jones. Not like they need some good character guys for the locker room or anything...

28. Denver Broncos: D.J. Humphries (OT), Florida

Humphries is snatched up by the Broncos and fills an immediate need on the right side of the offensive line.

29. Indianapolis Colts: Landon Collins (S), Alabama

The draft's first safety finally comes off the board. The Colts need a playmaker on the back end of their defense and Collins fits the bill.

30. Green Bay Packers: Eric Kendricks (ILB), UCLA

The instinctive Kendricks would be a tackling machine in Green Bay's 3-4 defense.  

31. Chicago Bears via trade with New Orleans Saints: Shane Ray (OLB), Missouri

Shane Ray finally hears his name called after a whirlwind week. Pace and the Bears use their additional first rounder to get a Top 10 talent, and hope Ray's character issues are a thing of the past.

32. New England Patriots: Jalen Collins (CB), LSU

No Darrelle Revis. No Brandon Browner. The Pats re-tool at corner with Collins. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bears use Jags/Vikes as blueprints and build an elite defense over offense?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bears use Jags/Vikes as blueprints and build an elite defense over offense?

On this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Schuster (670 The Score), Dan Cahill (Chicago Sun-Times) and Jordan Bernfield join David Kaplan on the panel.

The Bulls keep on winning. Should they try to make the playoffs? NBCSportsChicago.com’s Vincent Goodwill joins the guys to discuss.

Plus, with Bortles, Foles and Keenum starting in this weekend’s Championship Games should the Bears prioritize improving their defense this offseason?

Will Bears see instant improvement under Matt Nagy? Putting his first-year expectations in context

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Will Bears see instant improvement under Matt Nagy? Putting his first-year expectations in context

Circling back around from the playoffs to the Bears, or at least to the Bears using the current postseason as a bit of a prism, magnifying glass, measuring stick, all of the above:

The ultimate question, obviously meaningfully unanswerable for perhaps another 10 or 11 months, revolves around expectations that were ushered in along with Matt Nagy and the rest of his coaching staff. One early guess is that there’ll be an inevitable positive bump in the record, the only true measuring stick. Depending on changes in practices, strength training, luck, whatever, Nagy might fare better than John Fox simply by virtue of having a presumably healthier roster — pick any three Bears who were injured during the 2017 season: Leonard Floyd, Cameron Meredith, Eric Kush, Kyle Long, Pernell McPhee, Mitch Unrein, Kevin White and Willie Young — and a broken-in Mitch Trubisky from the get-go.

This is far from a given, however. Far, far from a given for the Bears. Of the 10 coaches hired in the 50 years since George Halas stopped, only Fox, Dick Jauron and Dave Wannstedt improved on the winning percentage of their immediate predecessor. All dipped, save for Jack Pardee, who in 1975 equaled the 4-10 finish of Abe Gibron before him. And Pardee was getting Walter Payton in that year’s draft, so things started looking up in a hurry.

And maybe that should be the expectation for Nagy, who projects to get some or all of Fox’s wounded back, plus a draft class beginning with No. 8 overall.

Better Bears record in 2018? Maybe, but ...

The Bears are perhaps something of an anomaly (imagine that) in the near constant of incoming coaches failing to improve matters in their first years. One of the more memorable aspects of this writer’s first year on the Bears beat (1992) — besides the obvious pyrotechnics of Mike Ditka’s epic final season — was the startling turnarounds effected by first-year (and first-time) NFL coaches that year, with several teams on the Bears’ schedule that year, meaning there were chances to study those in depth.

Consider: Bill Cowher took the Steelers from 7-9 to 11-5, Dennis Green took the Vikings from 8-8 to 11-5, Mike Holmgren took the Packers from 4-12 to 11-5, Bobby Ross took the Chargers from 4-12 to 11-5, and Dave Shula took the Bengals from 3-13 to 5-11.

The Bears played all but the Chargers that year, losing twice to Green, once to Holmgren and defeating the Cowher and Shula teams. Holmgren’s Packers didn’t make the playoffs, but he had to make an in-season quarterback change, which worked out pretty well long-term (Brett Favre).

Bears coaching-change history notwithstanding, the Nagy bar should be well above the five wins of Fox’s 2017. Nagy is a first-time head coach, but none of Cowher, Green, Holmgren, Ross or Shula had ever been NFL head coaches previously, either. Green and Ross had been college head coaches, albeit Green with a losing record and Ross barely .500 in those tenures.

And those coaches were taking over in the last year before the advent of free agency, which began in 1993. The Bears “landed” Anthony Blaylock and Craig Heyward. The Vikings secured Jack Del Rio. The Packers, Reggie White.

Odd years coming

Expectations vs. results will be interesting to observe in quite a few places this season. In some spots, the situation wasn’t completely broken but they “fixed” it anyway, in the dubious tradition of the Bears axing Lovie Smith after consecutive seasons of 11-5, 8-8 and 10-6 — two more wins (29) than Fox and Marc Trestman had combined (27) over the next five years.

Sometimes that sort of thing can work out. Phil Jackson did get the Michael Jordan Bulls to the next level that Doug Collins hadn’t. And Joe Maddon got the Cubs over the Rick Renteria hump, though adding Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler and Jon Lester probably helped, too. Fox got the Broncos into a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning, but Gary Kubiak won one with Manning. Fox’s Broncos went against the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, one of the top 10 defenses of all time, while Kubiak had the good fortune of instead having one of the all-time great defenses in 2015.

But back to current NFL case studies:

— The Lions fired Jim Caldwell after a 9-7 season, his third winning year out of four there, two of those going to the playoffs.

— The Titans concluded their playoff year with the exit of Mike Mularkey, his reward for a second straight 9-7 that reversed four straight losing years under others.

— Chuck Pagano had five .500-or-better seasons with the Colts, didn’t have Andrew Luck all year, and was fired two years after going 5-3 with Matt Hasselbeck filling in for Luck.

What the expectations are in those venues is their business, just as it was when Phil Emery launched Smith in a fashion similar to the Titans with Mularkey. Smith didn’t reach the 2012 playoffs but would have been fired for anything short of a Super Bowl appearance, as Mularkey was for only winning one playoff game with Marcus Mariota as his quarterback.

All of which makes the Nagy/Pace Era more than a little intriguing. Nagy takes over a team with a No. 2-overall quarterback, as Mularkey did with Mariota. Some of Mularkey’s undoing traced to failing to maximize Mariota with an offense suited to how his quarterback plays his best, and force-fitting a player into a scheme is high-risk at best.

That doesn’t really apply in the case of a conservatively wired Fox, who directed that the offense be kept under ball-security control with a rookie quarterback. Fox and Dowell Loggains arguably were as constrained by Trubisky as he was by them.

But Nick Foles flourished with the Eagles under Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson, struggling a bit under Jeff Fisher. Case Keenum, a teammate of Foles when the Rams played in St. Louis, was so-so under the defense-based Fisher with the Rams, yet went supernova this year under the defense-based Mike Zimmer with the Vikings, which speaks to the value of the right coordinator irrespective of the head coach’s offensive or defensive background.

In the end Nagy’s achievements will be player-based. They always are. What he can do with what he’s got and given, via draft, free agency or whatever, vs. the successes and non-successes of others in his situation, is the work in progress now.