Bears

2021 NFL Draft top 5 picks and how the order might affect Bears

Bears
Jaylen Waddle

The Chicago Bears don’t have the resources to get into the top 5 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft, but fans should have a stake in how the top of the board plays out.

Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson might be givens at 1-2, but a run on quarterbacks at the very beginning of the draft order could benefit the Bears later when Ryan Pace and Co. snag a premier pass catcher or a dominant corner at No. 20 who in other years would be picked higher.

There has been much speculation around San Francisco’s pick at No. 3, but they’re hardly alone in drawing rumors. Atlanta, who sits at No. 4 overall, could take a franchise QB like they’ve been slotted to do for months or they could opt to add a weapon like Kyle Pitts. Of course, there’s always the business of trading down to consider.

 

While the teams picking at the top of the draft board may or may not change between now and Thursday, the different possible scenarios will continue to draw speculation. Here are five possible outcomes ranked from least surprising to crazy enough to shut down Twitter.

Justin Fields slides out of top 5

  1. Jaguars -- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
  2. Jets -- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU 
  3. San Francisco -- Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
  4. Falcons -- Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida 
  5. Bengals -- Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU 

Kyle Shanahan’s long-term plan is actualized. The San Francisco 49ers land Alabama’s Mac Jones over Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. To make matters worse for Fields and Lance, the Falcons decide they’re good at QB with Matt Ryan and the Bengals decide to pair Joe Burrow with his favorite top target from his days in Baton Rouge -- Ja'Marr Chase.

It might look weird to see two quarterbacks fall out of the top five picks in this scenario, especially given the fact Mitch Trubisky went No. 2 overall to the Bears not long ago. Don't be mistaken though: Pitts is the most attractive option to Atlanta. The Florida tight end is a possible generational talent and ranked as high as No. 2 overall player on some big boards. And given the high price tag the fourth overall pick will demand this year, the Falcons seem more likely to stay put than trade down. 

49ers go with Trey Lance, Mac Jones falls

  1. Jaguars -- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
  2. Jets -- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU 
  3. 49ers -- Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
  4. Falcons -- Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida 
  5. Bengals -- Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon 

There’s been a lot of debate between Jones and Fields as the 49ers’ heir apparent to Jimmy Garappolo. While fans are clamoring for Fields, it appears this is a two-man race between Jones and Lance.

Under this simulation, John Lynch and Co. take the underdog for the No. 3 overall pick -- Lance. While the oddsmakers peg Jones here, Lance certainly brings a strong arm and plenty of ability to run Shanahan’s play-action scheme.

With Lance off the board at No. 3, Atlanta has no choice but to call in Pitts’ name again -- opting for the “win now” pick that serves to benefit Ryan and the team short term versus “build for the future” with Justin Fields. 

Unlike Pitts at No. 4, there is intrigue with Cincinnati's pick at No. 5 here. In this scenario, the Bengals decide they’ve been burned one too many times by playmakers in the top 10 of the NFL Draft (see: KaJa Carter, Peter Warrick, John Ross) and opt to protect their investment in Burrow. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft was sacked 32 times in his first season.

 

Tough luck, Ja'Marr Chase. Do the Bears start making calls to make sure the former LSU standout doesn't fall to Detroit at No. 7?

Lance goes fourth to Falcons, no Fields in top 5

  1. Jaguars -- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
  2. Jets -- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU 
  3. 49ers -- Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
  4. Falcons -- Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State 
  5. Bengals -- Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida 

Lawrence, Wilson, Jones … this is starting to get repetitive. But wait, there is a shake-up with Atlanta’s this time around. With limited collegiate experience on his resume, Lance is the ideal bridge QB to learn under Ryan and the Falcons see the clear path towards mentorship. It’s a lost season with Tom Brady in the division anyway, right?

At No. 5, the Bengals make Pitts top 5 proof by again shunting Chase. Fields is the only QB available after top of the NFL Draft order. The more he falls, the more attractive he becomes for fans in the Windy City.

Jaylen Waddle is first WR off the board

  1. Jaguars -- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
  2. Jets -- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU 
  3. 49ers -- Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
  4. Falcons -- Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida 
  5. Bengals -- Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama 

Fields playing the odd man out role seems to become a trend. Under this scenario, the top 4 go as expected, but Cincinnati seemingly doesn’t learn from its past, electing to go with the burner (Waddle) over the safer, physical bet (Chase). Bengal fans still trying to recover from John Ross don’t like this one, but it is plausible. As nice as it is to pair Burrow with Chase and recreate the LSU lovefest from 2019, the more sensical football pick would be adding Waddle as a do-it-all explosive weapon who can become Cincinnati’s version of Tyreek Hill. The Bengals already have a physical receiver (Tee Higgins) and a slot guru (Tyler Boyd). All Burrow and Co. are missing -- other than a tight end like Pitts -- is a gadget who can line up all over the field and give the opposing defensive coordinators nightmares. That’s the case for Waddle as a top 5 pick. 

Jets take Fields, 49ers hop on Wilson

  1. Jaguars -- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
  2. Jets -- Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
  3. 49ers -- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
  4. Falcons -- Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
  5. Bengals -- Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida 

There was the promise of Twitter blowing up, and here it is. New coach Robert Saleh makes his introduction to New York by shaking up the entire NFL Draft and taking Justin Fields second overall. Does Mac Jones still go to San Francisco at No. 3 under this crazy hypothetical? Nope, they go with BYU’s Zach Wilson -- a quarterback they were connected to in the pre, pre-draft process, and who will serve them well when being rushed out of the pocket by the likes of Aaron Donald and JJ Watt in the NFC West.  

Of course, it wouldn’t be a crazy scenario without Lance going to Atlanta and giving us four quarterbacks in a row to start the draft for the first time in history. This leaves Jones as the odd man out, which might actually be the most plausible outcome of this scenario. Could he drop all the way to pick No. 20? Ryan Pace would love that outcome.