The 2021 NFL draft is only eight months away. That may seem like a silly thing to say considering we haven't even kicked off the 2020 NFL season yet, but the draft is a year-round process that's already one-third of the way complete.
This year's NFL draft will present greater challenges than 2020's virtual event. Sure, general managers and scouts were forced to pick players in a fantasy football format (from their mom's basement), but at least they were working with complete scouting reports that were built from a full season of film in 2019.
That won't be the case in 2020; two of the Power Five conferences have tabled the season until the Spring and multiple smaller schools have shelved fall sports. There's a good chance we won't see many of this year's top prospects in 2020, which means scouts will earn every penny of their salary this year.
Fortunately, we get to prognosticate from the outside and take our best swing at who the Bears should (and will) target next April. Take this new mock draft from The Draft Wire, for example, which has Chicago picking 12th overall and adding a new franchise quarterback in North Dakota State's Trey Lance.
I wrote on Monday about Lance getting a bizarre one-game showcase opportunity against Central Arkansas in October. That game, plus his redshirt freshman season in 2019, will be the only film decision-makers have at their disposal before pulling the trigger on a player that will represent a team's greatest investment. Yikes.
I'm getting some Mitch Trubisky vibes here, aren't you?
In the second round, Draft Wire has Chicago grabbing Cade Mays, a powerful interior offensive lineman from Tennessee. In Round 3, the Bears land Florida State cornerback, Asante Samuel Jr. Yes, he's the son of that Asante Samuel, the former star cornerback of the Patriots and Eagles.
Mays is facing a challenging 2020 season (even beyond COVID-19). He transferred from Georgia to Tennessee this year and was denied immediate eligibility for the 2020 season, which means he'd be forced to sit out a year before resuming his quest to the NFL. A starter of 18 games for the Bulldogs, Mays is considered one of the top interior linemen in next year's draft. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Mays make the leap to the NFL instead of hanging around for the Volunteers in 2021.
Chicago signed Germain Ifedi to replace Kyle Long at right guard, and there's some upside in the move. Ifedi, a former first-round pick in his own right, could work his way into a multi-year deal and eliminate any early-round need at the interior of the O-line for the Bears, but if he struggles in 2020, there's a really good chance the Bears will use an early draft pick on an offensive lineman like Mays.
Then we get to Samuel, who'd be a lot of fun to watch in Chicago's secondary. At 5-10, 184 pounds, he isn't the biggest or most physical defensive back in next year's class, but his NFL pedigree and ability to be left on an island against some of the nation's top receivers is a trait that all defensive backs coaches will covet.
Kyle Fuller, Jaylon Johnson, and Samuel would be quite the trio of cover-guys for what's an already vaunted Bears defense.