Bears

NFL Mock Draft 2016: Moon makes his final picks

NFL Mock Draft 2016: Moon makes his final picks

After staying the combined course of best-available and need for the Bears, resulting in mock drafts positing the Bears selecting Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, “View from the Moon” has made a change.

Subject to picks ahead of theirs at No. 11 and their own grades, expect the Bears to make a move for an edge pass rusher in the person of Clemson hybrid end/linebacker Shaq Lawson.

Why the change of draft heart?

John Fox has anchored his successful teams in Carolina and Denver with early selections players (Julius Peppers, Von Miller) who were elite pass rushers and both taken No. 2 overall in their drafts. The real fangs of Vic Fangio’s San Francisco defense came in with Aldon Smith, a pass-rushing outside linebacker selected No. 7 in the 2011 draft.

The expectation here is that they will honor the template that has worked for Fox and Fangio — build a pass rush that can dominate a pass-first NFL. Robinson has a thin pass-rush resume and that is the foundation of defense now.

“We’re a 3-4 base [defense] but we’re in ‘sub’ 60 percent of the time now,” said GM Ryan Pace. “So when that’s happening, three receivers are on the field, a lot of times it’s a four-man front.”

That was largely how Willie Young put up his 6.5 sacks last year and the Bears want even more off the edges.

Exactly how the Bears have draft-board grades on Robinson and other top talents in the class remains to play out along with the selections right above their slot. Pace is a proponent of selecting best-available over reaching for need, with need serving as a tipping point in cases where more than one available player is their top-rated when their turns come.

“Need” would point to a stout down-lineman to put with Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks as the foundation of the 3-4. But Fox is on record that a defense cannot have too many pass rushers.

The Bears waited until the second round of the 2015 draft before addressing defensive tackle and landed Florida State’s Goldman, who settled in as what the franchise hopes will be the nose tackle anchoring the defense for years to come. The depth of the defensive tackle position in the 2016 draft is rated such that a day one starter-grade defensive end/5-technique should be available on day two of the draft.

The Bears draft No. 10 in the second round. Consensus evaluations have concluded that there will not be elite pass rushers on the board at that point, but there will be some top defensive-line talent to be had.

In the final best-guess mock draft, several wild cards hang over the lineup with the potential for provoking runs, upsetting team draft boards and affecting futures of both GM’s and coaches. In particular:

The quarterbacks — not so much Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, the presumptive 1-2, but Payton Lynch, Connor Cook and others at a position that defines franchises. Could a third go in the top 10? And who does that push down?

Ezekiel Elliott — could be picked by any team after No. 2, or slip into freefall.

The tackles — as many as four could fall in the top 20, three in the top 10. Or slip as teams pursue defense and QB’s.

Moon's Final NFL Mock 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 is considered more pro-ready. California connection won’t hurt Rams’ PR efforts.

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. Eagles wanted developmental time behind Sam Bradford, who’s demanding a trade. So maybe behind Chase Daniel instead? Should anybody have to wait behind Chase Daniel?

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 four 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 and Rod Marinelli’s 4-3 concepts.

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 but risks there and major needs could push Jags toward OT or CB.

6. Baltimore Ravens: Laremy Tunsil, T, Mississippi  

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

7. San Francisco 49ers: DeForest Buckner, Oregon

Comment: Chip Kelly probably 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 or Payton Lynch could be surprise pick here if 49ers have high enough grades and are definitely wanting Kaepernick’s replacement.

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

Comment: Browns are one of this draft’s true wild cards, between their bad draft history and now promoting their general counsel to be in charge of the roster, plus a baseball analytics guy to be something called a chief strategy officer. 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 2013, would Browns go RB this high again? In-state star Elliott would be popular, plus productive (1,800-plus yards each of last two seasons and 6.7 yards per carry 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: 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. Bucs have gone heavy on offense past two drafts and could scramble matters for Bears by filling a major need for pass rush.

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

Comment: Bears would love 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. Giants could grab Ezekiel Elliott if still on the board.

11. BEARS: Shaq Lawson, DE/LB, Clemson

Comment: If Leonard Floyd slips past New York, this spot gets seriously interesting. A stud 5-technique is a clear need but Bears very pleased with Ego Ferguson’s knee rehab for front-three. Bears’ best-available grades are state secrets, so Floyd vs. Lawson is unknown if both are available. John Fox loves pass rushers, though, didn’t get one in 2015 draft, and this draft is thin on top edge rushers.

 12. New Orleans Saints: A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama

Comment: Saints would prefer a pass rusher but a young disruptor fits any scheme and Robinson is very physical and plays with real attitude.

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. 

16. Detroit Lions: Jack Conklin, T, Michigan State

Comment: Glaring need for edge protection for oft-sacked Matthew Stafford. Conklin may be a surprise top-10’er, though.

17. Atlanta Falcons: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

Comment: Darron Lee from OSU offers more speed but Falcons were weak in middle vs. run.

18. Indianapolis Colts: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Mississippi

Comment: Character gamble but this was a bad defensive team and needs to control LOS. Good 2015 Stanford picks Henry Anderson and David Parry give young foundation.

19. Buffalo Bills: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State

Comment: One of NFL’s worst pass rush needs something outside Jerry Hughes.

20. New York Jets: Taylor Decker, T, Ohio State

Comment: D’Brickashaw Ferguson's retirement created a huge hole at LT and the Jets want to get something for their investment in Matt Forte.

21. Washington Redskins: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

Comment: 28th-ranked defense could not stop enough running games to force passing situations. Playoff team with needs everywhere.

22. Houston Texans: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

Comment: Brock Osweiler needs a playmate who can run really, really fast. Coleman could go much higher after netting 20 TD's in 2015 and 11 in 2014 with 138 catches over two seasons.

23. Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

Comment: Would prefer Coleman’s speed but has to upgrade deep passing somehow after Mike Wallace mistake.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

Comment: Bengals have A.J. Green and Marvin Jones but sorely need an anchor in front of Andy Dalton. Big need at LB could call for Darron Lee or other help as well.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

Comment: Best-available for an organization that values defense but was among NFL’s worst vs. pass in 2015.

26. Seatlle Seahawks: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

Comment: ‘Hawks would prefer OL help and TCU’s Germain Ifedi would upgrade OT, but interior defense has slipped from Super Bowl levels.

27. Green Bay Packers: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Comment: Smaller than ideal but speed and impact playmaker blends nicely with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers.

28. Kansas City Chiefs: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson

Comment: The demand for defense continues, Chiefs taking a flyer on a one-year (12 sacks) starter with size and power.

29. Arizona Cardinals: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky

Comment: Possibly top single pass rusher in 2016 draft but major character questions make risk

30. Carolina Panthers: William Jackson III, CB, Houston

Comment: Panthers pulled franchise tag off Josh Norman, who signed with Washington, making No. 1 cornerback a top priority.

31. Denver Broncos: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

Comment: Difficult to see Lynch or Connor Cook dropping to this point and Broncos could trade up for major position need.

(Note: New England forfeited first-round pick)

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

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USA TODAY

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

The Bears are looking for an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and there may be one available.

The Dolphins used the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry on Tuesday, in a move that many believe signals the team's desire to deal him instead of losing him in free agency for nothing.

Landry put up excellent numbers last season, catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in catches and was fourth in touchdown receptions but was just 17th in yards. His yards per reception ranked 108th of 139 qualifying players.

Still, it's no secret he'd be an upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver. Though they'll get Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injury, the corps largely struggled and didn't give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky much help.

Luckily, they may be interested in Landry, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

"There are a couple teams that we should keep an eye on as far as a potential Jarvis Landry landing spot......the Chicago Bears are looking for receviers," he said.

Rapoport also mentioned the Titans, Panthers and Saints as options for Landry. The franchise tag will pay Landry about $16 million before he becomes a free agent in 2019 (or has the franchise tag used on him again).

 

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 grade: D+

For these purposes, “management” encompasses the coaching staff and front office. We don’t need a lengthy re-litigation of the failures of the John Fox era, so briefly: The offense was unimaginative, predictable and unsuccessful; there were too many head-scratching coaching decisions, punctuated by that backfiring challenge flag against Green Bay; the defense was solid but not spectacular; special teams had plenty of highs (three touchdowns) and lows (Marcus Cooper’s gaffe against Pittsburgh, Connor Barth’s missed field goal against Detroit). Fox didn’t win enough games to justify a fourth year, even if he left the Bears in a better place than he found them back in 2015. But that 5-11 record drags the management grade down. 

But the larger thing we’re going to focus on here is the hits and misses for Ryan Pace in the 2017 league year. The hits: 

-- Drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Will this be a long-term success? That’s another question. But Pace hitched his future in Chicago to a quarterback last April. For a franchise that hasn’t had a “franchise” quarterback in ages, what more can you ask for? If Trubisky pans out, nobody should care that Pace traded up one spot -- effectively losing a third-round pick for his conviction in his guy -- to make the move. 

-- Moving quickly to hire Matt Nagy. As with Trubisky, Pace identified his guy and made sure he got him. The Bears hired Nagy just two days after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season ended with that playoff collapse against the Tennessee Titans, and with the Indianapolis Colts -- who eventually got burned by Josh McDaniels -- sniffing around Nagy, Pace made his move to hire a young, energetic, offensive-minded coach to pair with Trubisky. It’s tough to argue with any of the coaching hires made by Nagy, who had a head start on the competition: He retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and that entire defensive staff, kept Dave Ragone to be Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach and hired Mark Helfrich to bring some different concepts as offensive coordinator, and hired a special teams coach in Chris Tabor who must’ve been doing something right to survive seven years and a bunch of coaching changes in Cleveland. Like with Trubisky, it’s too early to say if Nagy will or won’t work out long-term, but it stands out that Pace had conviction in getting a franchise quarterback and a head coach who will make or break his tenure in Chicago. 

-- Drafting Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the fourth round. In Cohen, the Bears found an offensive spark (who was nonetheless under-utilized) who also was a key contributor on special teams. In Jackson, the Bears added a plug-and-play 16-game starter at safety who looks to have some upside after a solid rookie year. Both picks here were a triumph for the Bears’ amateur scouting department: Cohen wasn’t on everyone’s radar (special teams coach Chris Tabor, who previously was with the Browns, said Cohen’s name never came across his desk in Cleveland), while Jackson was coming off a broken leg that prematurely ended a solid career at Alabama. These were assuredly two hits. 

-- Signing Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension. The Bears rewarded Hicks a day before the season began; Hicks rewarded them with a Pro Bowl-caliber season (despite him only being a fourth alternate) and was the best player on the team in 2017. 

-- Signing Charles Leno to a four-year contract extension. Leno may not be an elite tackle, and still has some things to clean up in his game, but he’s 26 and his four-year, $37 million contract is the 14th-largest among left tackles (for what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Leno as the 20th best left tackle in the NFL). The Bears believe Leno is still improving, and could turn that contract into a bargain in the future. But this is important to note, too: Players notice when a team rewards one of its own, especially when that guy is a well-respected former seventh-round draft pick. 

-- Signing Mark Sanchez to a one-year deal. This wasn’t a miss, certainly, and while it’s not much of a “hit,” Sanchez was exactly what the Bears wanted: A veteran mentor to Trubisky. While Sanchez was inactive for all 16 games, he and the No. 2 overall pick struck up a good relationship that makes him a candidate to return in 2018 as a true backup. 

-- Releasing Josh Sitton when he did. Whether or not the Bears offensive line is better off in 2018 is a different question, but file cutting Sitton on Feb. 20 -- when the team had until mid-March to make a decision on him -- as one of those things that gets noticed by players around the league. 

-- Announcing the expansion to Halas Hall. The plan has Pace’s fingerprints on it, and should help make the Bears a more attractive destination to free agents in 2018 and beyond. 

And now, for the misses:

-- Signing Mike Glennon. That completely bombed out. While the Bears weren’t hurting for cap space a year ago, and Glennon’s contract essentially was a one-year prove-it deal, his play was so poor that he was benched after only four games -- when the initial plan was for him to start the entire season to give Trubisky time to develop. The wheels came off for Glennon on his seventh pass in Week 2, when after completing his first six he threw the ball right to Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander for an interception from which he never seemed to recover. He’ll be cut sometime soon. 

-- Signing Markus Wheaton. After signing a two-year, $11 million deal in the spring, Wheaton struggled to stay healthy, with an appendectomy and finger injury limiting him in training camp and the early part of the season, and then a groin injury knocking out a few weeks in the middle of the season. When Wheaton was healthy, he was ineffective, catching only three of his 17 targets. That places him with eight other players since 1992 who’ve been targeted at least 15 times and and caught fewer than 20 percent of their targets. He’s another one of Pace’s 2017 free agent signings who’s likely to be cut. 

-- Signing Marcus Cooper. The Bears thought they were signing an ascending player who picked off four passes in 2016 and would be a better scheme fit in Chicago than he was in Arizona. Instead, Cooper was a liability when he was on the field and didn’t live up to his three-year, $16 million contract (with $8 million guaranteed). Dropping the ball before he got in the end zone Week 3 against Pittsburgh was a lowlight. The Bears can net $4.5 million in cap savings if he’s cut, per Spotrac. 

-- Signing Dion Sims. Sims isn’t as likely to be cut as Glennon and Wheaton, and even Cooper, but his poor production in the passing game (15 catches, 29 targets, 180 yards, one touchdown) puts a spotlight on how the Bears evaluate how he was as a run blocker in 2017. If that grade was high, the Bears could justify keeping him and not garnering a little more than $5.5 million in cap savings. If it was low, and the Bears are confident in Adam Shaheen’s ability to improve, then Sims could be cut as well. 

-- Signing Quintin Demps. The loss here was mitigated by the strong play of Adrian Amos, but Demps didn’t make much of an impact on the field before his Week 3 injury besides getting plowed over by Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in Week 1. He’d be a decent guy to have back as a reserve given his veteran leadership -- he was a captain in 2017 -- but given how well Amos and Eddie Jackson worked together last year, he’s unlikely to get his starting spot back in 2018. 

-- The wide receiver position as a whole. Kendall Wright led the Bears in receptions and yards, but his numbers would’ve looked a lot better had he been surrounded by better players. The cupboard was bare at this position, and after the worst-case scenario happened -- Cameron Meredith tearing his ACL in August, and Kevin White breaking his collarbone in Week 1 -- the Bears were left with an overmatched and underperforming group of receivers. For Trubisky’s sake, Pace has to work to make sure 2018 isn’t a repeat of 2017. 

-- The kicker position as a whole. Since we’re focusing solely on Pace’s 2017 moves, the decision to release Robbie Gould and replace him with Connor Barth doesn’t fall into this grade. But Barth had struggled with consistency prior to this season, and Roberto Aguayo didn’t provide much competition in his short-lived stint in training camp. The Bears eventually released Barth after he missed a game-tying kick against Detroit in November, then replaced him with a guy in Cairo Santos who was coming off an injury and, as it turned out, wasn’t completely healthy yet. So the Bears then had to move on from Santos and sign Mike Nugent to get them through the rest of the season. Better consistency from this position will be important to find in 2018. 

A couple moves fall into the neither hits nor misses category:

-- Drafting Adam Shaheen. Tight ends rarely make a significant impact as rookies, but Shaheen was only targeted 14 times last year. He did catch three touchdowns and flash some good chemistry with Trubisky before suffering an injury against Cincinnati that wound up ending his season. The gains he makes with a year of experience under his belt and during his first full offseason as a pro will be critical in determining his success in Year 2, and whether or not taking him 45th overall was a hit or a miss. 

-- Signing Prince Amukamara. This was neither good nor bad, with Amukamara playing solidly in coverage but not making enough plays on the ball and committing a few too many penalties. 

Pace still has decisions to make on a few other potential cuts, including right tackle Bobby Massie ($5.584 million cap savings per Spotrac) and linebackers Willie Young ($4.5 million cap savings) and Pernell McPhee ($7.075 million cap savings). Whether or not to place the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller and potentially pay him $15 million in 2018 is another call Pace has to make before the official end of the 2017 league year. 

But for Pace, did the hits out-weigh the misses in 2017? The Glennon signing imploded, but Trubisky showed signs of promise during an average season for a rookie quarterback. Cooper was a bust, but Fuller emerged as a potential long-term option to cover for that. The most glaring misses, then, were at wide receiver and tight end where, after injuries sapped those units of Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller, there weren’t reliable targets for Trubisky. 

We’ll probably need more time to determine if Pace’s “hits” on Trubisky and Nagy truly are “hits.” But if they are, the misses of 2017 -- Glennon, Wheaton, Cooper, etc. -- will be nothing more than amusing footnotes to a successful era of Bears football.