Bears

Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft 2.0: Sticking with A'Shawn Robinson for Bears

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Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft 2.0: Sticking with A'Shawn Robinson for Bears

“Best-available” will be the order of battle for the Bears in the draft. But the Bears are about the business of expanding the realm of the possible for that descriptor, not only for No. 11 in Round one but also in the ensuing rounds.

Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson has been quiet on the visit tour, but was on the Pittsburgh and Dallas guest lists this week. Robinson may be a case of teams not wishing to tip their hands as far as interest but that’s endemic to the pre-draft run-up, where deception and misdirection are art forms.

CSNChicago.com’s “Mini-mock” is staying the course on Robinson to the Bears – for now. Because they are canvassing the front-seven neighborhood looking at options.

The Bears' pace of private meetings and workouts with some of the top defensive players – defensive linemen Robert Nkemdiche, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jarran Reed and Roy Robertson-Harris, linebackers Myles Jack and Reggie Ragland – suggests a continued emphasis on defense, particularly front seven.

[RELATED - Bears looking at speed, size in pre-draft visits with receivers, linemen]

Ogbah and Robertson-Harris are late rise’ers among pass rushers. Ogbah, out of Oklahoma State, is a likely first-rounder but at 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, his fit as an every down edge guy in the Bears’ 3-4 isn’t clear. But he has worked in two-point stances and this is a highly productive (24 sacks, 34 TFL’s last two seasons) player from a strong program and worth watching.

Robertson-Harris measured 6-foot-5, 256 pounds at the UTEP pro day and reportedly did both linebacker and defensive-end drills, indicating that teams operating 3-4 schemes are taking looks.

One position in particular, because of its value and short supply, always looms large. ESPN’s Mel Kiper in his latest mock draft posited three quarterbacks going in the first 15 picks. CSNChicago.com’s “Mini-Mock” has projected three in the Top 10, based on need and the common “run” scenario: Once a position is picked, teams hard after that position see a shrinking pool of options and can reach just to ensure they get one of the players.

Every NFL team has its draft board, ranking the upcoming candidates for the year’s selection process that begins Thursday, Apr. 28. Those grades can fluctuate based on private workouts, pro days, uncovered information and any number of factors that emerge on a weekly, sometimes daily basis.

Accordingly, CSNChicago.com publishes its timely, up-do-the-latest “Mini-Mock” draft every Thursday, culminating in Day 1 of the 2016 first round. “Mini-Mock” will target the Top 15 picks of the draft, the range in which the Bears reside (No. 11). “Mini-Mock” also will incorporate all the latest mock-draft predictions for the Bears’ pick, news, reports, information from pro days and workouts and relevant available data, as well as specific updates on selected other significant draft prospects.

Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft

1. Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil, T, Mississippi

Comment: Titans put pick in trade play and Tunsil not legend-grade talent, so somebody likely deals up for QB or position player all covet.

2. Cleveland Browns: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

Comment: Browns QB woes approaching historic levels but which one, between Wentz and Jared Goff? And Browns could net multiple picks dealing out of this spot.

3. San Diego Chargers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

Comment: CB Jalen Ramsey rising, could go here, but elite DL talent is more prized, and Buckner considered elite. Team wanting QB could trade up to here for Goff or Wentz.

4. Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

Comment: Interest in Matt Forte says RB a priority but issues with Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory could push ‘Boys toward pass rusher. Be wary of Elliott fall. Shaq Lawson in for visit.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Comment: Jags had Bosa in for visit and edge rusher complements Malik Jackson signing for interior. Bosa also did LB drills at OSU Pro Day.

6. Baltimore Ravens: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Comment: April 1 Pro day performance dispelled knee concerns and could move Jack Top 5. Every team covets his skill set on top of good football character.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Jared Goff, QB, California

Comment: Anybody else getting sick of reading Colin Kaepernick non-stories? Regardless of outcome, 49ers and Chip Kelly looking to new future.

8. Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State

Comment: New coach Doug Pederson put Goff and Wentz through private workouts. But Ramsey is self-proclaimed “best player in this year’s draft” and somebody’ll agree.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida 

Comment: Mini-run on DB’s? Brent Grimes settles one CB spot but Hargreaves best-available if Bucs don’t grab ‘Bama’s DT Robinson.

10. New York Giants: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

Comment: First 5 FA signings were on defense. G’ints shopped for FA OT’s but get Eli heir-apparent here.

11. BEARS: A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama

Comment: Still a DE spot open and Bears like the talent pool. Robinson not generating huge buzz yet but beware of misdirection.

12. New Orleans Saints: Shaq Lawson, DE/LB, Clemson

Comment: Lawson or Georgia’s Leonard Floyd fill need for edge pressure. Lawson a fluid option, with Dallas and Detroit visits.

13. Miami Dolphins: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky

Comment: Buzz building that Spence, who did only DL drills at pro day, has quieted some character concerns, which could bump him higher.

14. Oakland Raiders: Darron Lee, LB, Alabama

Comment: Reggie Ragland brings more size, power, but search is on for LB’s who can cover.

15. Los Angeles Rams: Leonard Floyd, DE, Georgia

Comment: Floyd a bit of a wild card, could go anywhere from 8-15.

How others see the Bears' pick:

Leonard Floyd (Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com, Mel Kiper, ESPN, and Lance Zierlein, NFL.com)

William Jackson III, CB, Houston (Aaron Leming, Bear Report/Scout.com)

Joey Bosa (Pat Kirwin, SiriusXM and Ike Taylor, NFL Media analyst)

A'Shawn Robinson (Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune and Jim Miller, ComcastSports Net/Sirius Radio)

Jarran Reed, DL Alabama (Rob Rang, CBS Sports)

Leonard Rankings, DT, Louisville (Dane Brugler, CBS Sports)

Ronnie Stanley, T, Notre Dame (Pete Prisco, CBS Sports)

Vernon Hargreaves III (Will Brinson, CBS Sports and Charles Davis, NFL Network)

DeForest Buckner (Lester Wiltfong Jr., Windy City Gridiron/SB Nation)

Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State (Cris Collinsworth, NBC)

Noah Spence (Michelle Bruton, Bleacher Report)

Darron Lee (Matt Miller, Bleacher Report)

Shaq Lawson (Todd McShay, ESPN)

[MORE: Complete NFL Draft coverage on CSNChicago.com]

Remaining first round order:

16. Detroit Lions
17. Atlanta Falcons
18. Indianapolis
19. Buffalo
20. N.Y. Jets
21. Washington
22. Houston
23. Minnesota
24. Cincinnati
25. Pittsburgh
26. Seattle
27. Green Bay
28. Kansas City
29. Arizona
30. Carolina
31. Denver

(Note: New England forfeited 1st round pick)

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday.