Bears

Rotoworld's NFL mock draft: At No. 11, the Bears select...

mylesjackuclaslidenew.png

Rotoworld's NFL mock draft: At No. 11, the Bears select...

NBCSports' and Rotoworld's NFL Draft expert Josh Norris released his first 2016 NFL mock draft. Here are the Top 11 picks. Also, be sure to check out the entire mock draft here:

The time has come for my dreams to be heard. My mock drafts will not be pushed aside and turned. Into your own, all ’cause you won’t listen. Less than five percent of you are actually reading this introduction. Thank you to those who are. These “projections” will change frequently. Don’t take these guesses as “X player is projected in the first-round.” It is too early to make such a statement. I suggest using early mocks as watch lists.

I am keeping the analysis portion to the top 20, since those teams are locked in. Do not read into the 21-31 order. It was done by lowest seed/worst to best record.

1. Tennessee Titans - Ole Miss T Laremy Tunsil - The “top prospect” will not be a unanimous ranking this year. For years it has been accepted that left tackle is the most important offensive line position. In the past, it seemed all of the top pass rushers played opposite the left tackle. That played into the importance of the position. Now pass rushers are deployed from all different alignments. Basically I’m trying to explain why tackle will not be the pick here, since Tennessee’s interior seemed to struggle just as much as the edge. But, with no trade down possible at the moment, the Titans add a quality offensive line prospect.

2. Cleveland Browns - Memphis QB Paxton Lynch - We would all be shocked if the Browns don’t select a quarterback, right? There are many questions, however. Who is making the pick? Who is coaching? And which quarterback? Perhaps more than any other position, the NFL looks for a certain “type” at quarterback, and Lynch checks many of those boxes.

3. San Diego Chargers - Notre Dame OL Ronnie Stanley - The Chargers might have ended the season with the worst roster in the NFL, and a big part of that was injuries. The Chargers have acquired big and powerful offensive line over the last few offseasons, and it has not really worked. Stanley fits the length/athleticism mold more, so some self-scouting would have to be done for this pick to happen.

4. Dallas Cowboys - Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell - Treadwell and Dez Bryant on the same team? Why?.... Why not. Terrance Williams’ contract is up and he is an average talent at best. Jason Witten is very close to transitioning from Dad Running to Dad Power Walking. Treadwell is an ultra-physical receiver both before and after the catch.

[ROTOWORLD: Complete NFL News]

5. Jacksonville Jaguars - Ohio State edge player Joey Bosa - But they took an edge rusher last year?... So. The Jaguars will likely lose three edge rushers this offseason (Clemons played 675 snaps, Branch played 616 and Davis played 250) and were in dire need of pass rushing productivity this year. Bosa is all explosion and power, shedding his opposition with strength and extension. He is one of the best run defending edge players I have seen.

6. Baltimore Ravens - FSU DB Jalen Ramsey - The Ravens’ secondary was horrendous for long stretches of the season. Ozzie Newsome loves to build his team from the inside - out. Ramsey could play safety in the NFL, or teams could evaluate him at corner. I bet we see the smart ones play him in both spots, as well as use him on blitzes.

7. San Francisco 49ers - Cal QB Jared Goff - There would be massive pressure with this selection, as Goff wears No. 16 for Joe Montana. Goff made so many highlight reel bucket throws this season. The 49ers seem like a total mess, which complicates things even more.

8. Miami Dolphins - Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III - Hargreaves’ 2015 season did not match 2014, but is was far from bad or even average. I was a big Jamar Taylor fan out of Boise State, but he has not played well. Unless the team really believes in young corners Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett as full time starters, expect them to address this position early.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

9. Tampa Bay Bucs - Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander - I can see why a lot of people like Alexander. In fact, many love his game. Hate it or love it, corner is now a position of size and stature. It can be difficult to find sub 5’10” corner who successfully plays the ball in contested situations. Jason Verrett was one, and Alexander needs to follow that path.

10. New York Giants - Oregon DL DeForest Buckner - I’m not completely sold on Buckner’s pass rushing success early on. However, I am sold on Buckner's individual traits that can result in a powerful pass rusher. Let me explain. Buckner has desired size and length. He is not slow off the football. He has strength in his hands and uses length. All of these show up as a run defender. Once he shows urgency and intent to play behind the line of scrimmage and shed against the pass, he can be a huge factor on a defense. The Giants might see a Justin Tuck comparison here.

11. Chicago Bears - UCLA LB Myles Jack - As of now, I consider Jack the top prospect in this draft class. There it is, in digital print. Jack can play like a 260 lbs power linebacker or move like a 230 lbs coverage specialist. He moves differently than most players at the position. John Fox has invested in linebackers throughout his coaching career.

Read more at Rotoworld.com.

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.

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.