Bears

Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft 4.0: Staying on Alabama DT A’Shawn Robinson

Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft 4.0: Staying on Alabama DT A’Shawn Robinson

The Bears think enough of Leonard Floyd to bring the Georgia rush linebacker to Halas Hall for a pre-draft visit. The problem is that Floyd was on the guest lists of the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Giants GM Jerry Reese, player evaluation VP Marc Ross and new linebackers' coach Bill McGovern made a group road trip to see Floyd work out.

All three of those teams draft ahead of the Bears, who may need to go against their preference and trade up if they hope to land the player rated as perhaps the best future pass rusher in the 2016 draft.

“I just think he has a chance to be more productive in the NFL than he was even in college,” said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay. “I think for a 3-4 team in Chicago, that would be a really good fit.”

Coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio undoubtedly feel the same; their respective defensive successes at Carolina, Denver and San Francisco turned on edge pass rushers.

But chances are that Floyd does not last past the Giants at No. 10, even after the Giants stunned the market with an $85 million contract for Olivier Vernon as a foundation for their pass rush. As Chris Pflum at SBNation noted, Reese makes only occasional visits to Pro Days but when he does, it usually points to real interest. Reese went to LSU’s 2014 Pro Day and used his No. 1 for wideout Odell Beckham. In 2015, he attended Miami’s and then took Hurricane tackle Ereck Flowers with his No. 1.

With all that said, Mini-Mock is holding to the A’Shawn Robinson selection for the Bears at No. 11. Robinson has not been the subject of intense buzz around the NFL but is a young (21) force at a specific position of need for the Bears, that of defensive end in their base 3-4.

Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft

1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, California

Comment: Teams make deals like Rams’ trade-up only for a QB. Exactly which one Rams will grab – Goff or Wentz – is TBD but Goff considered more pro-ready. California connection won’t hurt Rams’ PR work.

2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

Comment: Someone was going to deal up for “the other QB” and it was Philly, who appear to have knowledge of what the Rams intend at No. 1. Wentz will have time to develop behind Sam Bradford, per Eagles GM.

3.  San Diego Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State

Comment: Strong possibility this pick gets traded just like the first two. If not, ‘Bolts signed Casey Heyward away from Green Bay, but Ramsey is elite and could start at any of 4 DB spots. True best-available and could be trade-up target for Baltimore in particular.

4. Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Comment: Tony Romo is 36 but ‘Boys crave pass rush desperately (Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory issues) Stephen Jones told 105.3 The Fan radio: "Ultimately we want to find a dominant type of pass rusher.” Bosa plays with an edge that fits Jerry Jones pattern.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Comment: Look for OSU RB Ezekiel Elliott dropping. Jags had Jack in for pre-draft visit, followed by coach and GM flying to LA for meeting last Saturday. Concerns over knee status seem to be allayed.

6. Baltimore Ravens: Laremy Tunsil, T, Mississippi  

Comment: Titans will likely take OT back at No. 15 but Tunsil a quality addition to protect Joe Flacco better and after Ravens lost Kelechi Osemele in free agency. Ravens targeting DB and are in discussions over Ramsey, Vernon Hargreaves III.

7. San Francisco 49ers: DeForest Buckner, Oregon

Comment: Chip Kelly can’t get his franchise QB here and Trent Baalke doesn’t want to mortgage future trading up. Kelly recruited Buckner to Oregon. Connor Cook could be surprise pick here if 49ers have a high enough grade.

8. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

Comment: Many options here for a bad Browns team that can’t help but draft for “need” somewhere. OT to succeed Joe Thomas a better call here but Browns are not going to help RGIII if Isaiah Crowell (706 rush yards) is their top back. But after the Trent Richardson fiasco at No. 3 in ’13, would Browns go RB this high again? In-state star Elliott would be popular, plus productive (1,800+ yards each of last two seasons and 6.7 ypc for career). But Browns have abysmal record drafting skill high (Richardson, Manziel, Weeden) last 10 years.

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 or go OL with Jack Conklin or Ronnie Stanley.

10. New York Giants: Leonard Floyd, DE/LB, Georgia

Comment: Bears would’ve loved Floyd falling to them but Giants have tradition of keeping pass rush at top levels, signing Olivier Vernon this offseason while losing Robert Ayers. Floyd gets call over OT.

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

Comment: Leonard Floyd and Shaq Lawson are fits as edge rushers but MMM (“Moon Mini-Mock”) is staying with the ideal fit and best-available for the open five-technique spot in Bears’ base 3-4.

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

Comment: Lawson is getting increased play and scrutiny and production trumps all. Saints need defense, Lawson upgrades edge play, and DT draft depth has talent in round 2.

13. Miami Dolphins: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

Comment: Dolphins want DB help and could target MacKensie Alexander out of Clemson or Vernon Hargreaves if he falls, but dominating D-linemen are prized. The wild card is new coach Adam Gase; will he want more at RB for a balanced offense?

14. Oakland Raiders: MacKensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

Comment: Best-available DB likely heads to Oakland and Raiduhs have history of draft surprises.

15. Tennessee Titans: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Comment: Stanley or Jack Conklin a bargain here, and Titans want help blocking for Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray. Made deal with Rams knowing OT help available outside Top 10.

How some others see the Bears pick:

Leonard Floyd, LB/DE, Georgia (Don Banks, Sports Illustrated; Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com; Todd McShay, ESPN; Pete Prisco, CBS Sports)

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

Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (Pat Kirwan, SiriusXM; Ike Taylor, NFL Media analyst)

A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama (Jim Miller, Comcast SportsNet/Sirius Radio; Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune; Charlie Casserly and Lance Zierlein, NFL.com; Hub Arkush, Pro Football Weekly)

Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama (Will Brinson and Rob Rang, CBS Sports)

Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville (Mel Kiper, ESPN; Dane Brugler, CBS Sports; Charles Davis, NFL.com; Pat Kirwan, Sirius Radio)

Ronnie Stanley, T, Notre Dame (Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated)

Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida (Charlie Campbell, Walter Football; Matt Miller, Bleacher Report)

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

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

Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky (Michelle Bruton, Bleacher Report)

Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State (Matt Miller, Bleacher Report)

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 first-round pick)

For Bears drafting at No. 8, the 'problem' with Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson is...

quenton-nelson.jpg
USA TODAY

For Bears drafting at No. 8, the 'problem' with Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson is...

In the aptly-named mock drafts to this point, this reporter has posited the Bears selecting Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. That’s not the complete story, however. There’s a “problem.”

The landscape: The Bears currently sit at No. 8 overall; Nelson is rated among the best prospects, regardless of position, in the 2018; Nelson is the consensus top offensive lineman in this draft; the Bears have an immediate need on the interior of their offensive line (at guard or center, depending upon where where the new coaching staff slots Cody Whitehair); and among the prime directives for GM Ryan Pace is the protection of franchise quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

And full disclosure: This reporter does see Nelson to the Bears, just not at No. 8, and presumably if the Bears do not address the post-Josh Sitton situation in free agency.

But there’s a problem. A couple, actually, and having nothing to do specifically with Nelson.

The “problem” centers (no pun intended) around his position: Guard.

Guards do not typically come off the board within the first 10 picks of drafts. Worse for guards, when they do, they don’t work out well. In the last five drafts, only two guards were selected within the first 10 picks, both in the 2013 draft, both (Jonathan Cooper, No. 7; Chance Warmack, No. 10) already undistinguished and both already on their second teams.

Great guards are indeed to be found in first rounds. But relevant NFL history says that they do not come early. Selectively, to wit:

Player Drafted Year
David DeCastro 24 2012
Alan Faneca* 26 1998
Steve Hutchinson* 17 2001
Kyle Long 20 2013
Zack Martin 16 2014

* 2017 Hall of Fame semifinalist

Meaning: Assuming the Bears do not spend starter money in free agency on the like of Andrew Norwell, Justin Pugh, Zach Fulton or (insert UFA name here). Parenthetically on the draft-value aspect of good guards, Norwell was undrafted, Pugh was the 2013 pick just ahead Long, as a tackle, and Fulton was a sixth-rounder.

Pace predilections: “stat” players

Pace is in desperate need of impact players in both the draft and free agency. A guard is simply not in the “impact” vein as Pace’s first three No. 1 draft picks, all top-10’ers and all with something in common that a guard does not bring: stats.

Stats themselves aren’t the point, and an elite offensive lineman contributes to the stats of everyone else on his unit. But 2015 No. 1 Kevin White is a wide receiver; they catch passes and score touchdowns. Pace’s 2016 No. 1 was a rush-linebacker who generates sacks; Leonard Floyd. And 2017 No. 1 was Mitch Trubisky. All players with the potential for producing major-impact, game-changing stat plays.

Conversely, Pace’s New Orleans touchstone was an offensive line that protected Drew Brees with mid-rounders Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks at guard, and no offensive lineman drafted higher than the second round (Jon Stinchcomb).

Best guess, too, is that new head coach Matt Nagy, who’ll obviously be an intimate part of the draft process, will not be pounding the table for a guard, or perhaps for any offensive lineman with that first first-round pick of his tenure. The Kansas City Chiefs got just a so-so starting tackle (Eric Fisher) with the No. 1-overall pick of the 2013 draft while Nagy was there. And the very good Philadelphia Eagles teams took exactly one offensive lineman higher than the fourth round during Nagy’s years there (2008-12) with Andy Reid – and that pick was a guard (Danny Watkins) picked at No. 23, and who was a bust.

Conclusion: If Nelson is far, far and away the highest-graded player on the Bears’ draft board, Pace will make that move – if, and only if, Pace cannot trade down and add the picks that every GM craves as part of franchise-building, which is where the Pace-Nagy administration stands.

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive backs

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive backs

2017 grade: B-

Level of need: High

Decisions to be made on: Kyle Fuller (free agent), Prince Amukamara (free agent), Marcus Cooper (contract), Sherrick McManis (free agent), Bryce Callahan (restricted free agent), Quintin Demps (contract)

Possible free agent targets: Trumaine Johnson, Malcolm Butler, Bashaud Breeland, E.J. Gaines, Rashaad Melvin, Robert McClain, Darrelle Revis

There’s a wide spectrum of scenarios for the Bears at cornerback, ranging from keeping the status quo to blowing the whole thing up, and everything in between. Safety is far more stable, with Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson proving to be a reliable pairing, so that’s set for 2018.

Let’s start with one end of that cornerback spectrum: The Bears keep the top of this unit intact. That means, No. 1, retaining Kyle Fuller via the franchise tag and/or a long-term contract. No. 2, it means bringing back Prince Amukamara, who didn’t record an interception and committed a few too many penalties, but otherwise was a fine enough cover corner. No. 3, it means keeping restricted free agent Bryce Callahan as the team’s No. 1 slot corner.

On paper, this doesn’t seem like an altogether bad option. The Bears weren’t spectacular at cornerback in 2017, but the position was a little better than average, which isn’t the worst place to be for a single unit. Couple with solid play from the safeties and the Bears’ defensive backs were overall a decent enough group. Outside of Marcus Cooper -- who is a candidate to be cut for cap savings -- the Bears may not need to make wholesale changes to this group.

That, though, is a rosier look at this unit. The Bears can certainly improve the personnel in it with a healthy amount of cap space and a strong crop of free agent cornerbacks about to hit the market. Keeping Fuller and then signing a top-tier player like Trumaine Johnson or Malcolm Butler would upgrade this group, as would bringing back Fuller and Amukamara but then using a high draft pick on a player like Ohio State’s Denzel Ward.

Unless the Bears sign two big-time cornerbacks -- i.e. Fuller and Johnson, or even a guy like Brashaud Breeland or E.J. Gaines -- it would seem reasonable for them to use a first or second-round pick on a cornerback in an effort to find a longer-term solution at the position. That doesn’t mean the Bears would absolutely have to go that route, especially with other needs at wide receiver, guard and outside linebacker.

But here’s another thought: It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Bears are able to sign a combination of two top cornerbacks in free agency. With plenty of cap space top-end free agents lacking at wide receiver and outside linebacker/edge rusher, could Pace allocate a good chunk of that money to, say, tagging Fuller and making runs at Johnson, Butler and/or Breeland? 2018 looks to be a good year to be aggressive in the free agent cornerback market, and that could play into the Bears’ strategy well.

Before we finish, we should carve out some space for Amos and Jackson. Pro Football Focus isn’t the only outlet that’s given Amos high marks -- Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 ranked him as the No. 1 free safety in the league, too. Jackson came in at No. 19 in B/R’s strong safety rankings, which is pretty solid for a fourth-round rookie.

But the larger point here isn’t exactly where Amos and Jackson are in outside evaluations -- it’s that, tangibly, the pair played well off each other on a consistent basis last year. Seeing as Amos didn’t enter the Bears’ starting lineup until Week 4 -- after Quintin Demps suffered a season-ending broken forearm against Pittsburgh -- how quickly and successfully he and Jackson meshed was one of the more impressive developments for the Bears’ 2017 defense. Amos needs to make more plays on the ball and Jackson has some things to clean up, but the Bears enter the 2018 league year not needing to address their safety position. That’s a good place to be for a team with other significant needs.