MOBILE, Ala. — The NFL Draft begins three months from today, so let’s stress this before we begin: We don’t know what is going to happen on April 26. That picture only barely began to come into focus this week in Alabama for the Senior Bowl.
But there are a few possible scenarios that began to develop during practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium involving quarterbacks that could impact the Bears in April.
Consider this: Of the six teams picking ahead of the Bears in this year’s draft, four need quarterbacks. The Cleveland Browns (who have the Nos. 1 and 4 picks), New York Giants (No. 2), Denver Broncos and New York Jets all could be the market to draft a quarterback.
A year ago, there were four teams picking in the top 10 that also had a quarterback as a need: The Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Bears and Jets. The Bears were the only team of that group to draft a quarterback, and the Buffalo Bills traded out of the No. 10 pick to allow the Kansas City Chiefs to take Patrick Mahomes there. The Giants and Arizona Cardinals kicked their need for a quarterback a year down the road, while the Houston Texans traded up to No. 12 to draft DeShaun Watson.
This year’s group of teams that need a quarterback — which outside the top 10 could include Cincinnati, Washington, Arizona, the Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo and New Orleans — won’t all necessarily take someone from the Sam Darnold/Josh Rosen/Josh Allen/Baker Mayfield/Mason Rudolph pool. But at the Senior Bowl this week, Mayfield’s boosted his stock, while Allen hasn’t been particularly impressive. But then there’s this:
From North practice, courtesy @ZebraTechnology - tracking players this week:— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) January 24, 2018
Fastest Throw = Josh Allen – 66.14 MPH
Longest Throw = Tanner Lee – 54.7 yards
Highest Rotations Per Minute = Luke Falk 721.6 RPM
Most Throws = Luke Falk 112 throws pic.twitter.com/Lo0ZjEBZYT
Allen’s accuracy issues — he only completed 56.3 percent of his passing last year at Wyoming — were present during practice this week, but that arm strength could have some quarterback-driven coaches salivating. If Mayfield continues to impress outside of Mobile, he would force himself into being a top-10 pick alongside Darnold, Rosen and potentially Allen, too.
Mayfield, of course, isn't in play for the Bears -- according to Sports Illustrated's Robert Klemko, he told them as much himself: "You guys just drafted Mitchell Trubisky," Klemko reported Mayfield told a Bears scout, "so what do you want with me?"
So here’s the scenario for the Bears: There are four quarterbacks who prove to be legit top-10 picks in the coming months. The extreme end of this is all four being off the board by the time the Bears pick at No. 8, which would put the Bears in an enviable position to have their pick of one of the following players: Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, North Carolina State edge rusher Bradley Chubb, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson.
Not coincidentally, those five players comprise NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah’s top five prospects for the 2018 draft. The presence of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen may not make Barkley a realistic option, which could allow the Bears to trade down, but it’s also seems unlikely right now he’d fall to No. 8. Edmunds doesn’t necessarily fit the Bears’ need for an elite edge rusher, so No. 8 may be a stretch for him.
But if Chubb (the best edge rusher in this class, as of right now), Fitzpatrick (the best defensive back) or Nelson (the best offensive lineman) are available at No. 8, it’d be a coup for Ryan Pace to get one of them.
The more likely scenario is that a top quarterback is still on the board at No. 8, and the Bears swing a trade down in the draft to a team that needs a young quarterback (how about Washington if Kirk Cousins winds up somewhere else?). Adding a pick or two later on in the draft could help the Bears get a few more spins of the wheel at adding a productive wide receiver or cornerback.
There’s still plenty to play out between now and the combine in March, and the start of free agency shortly after, and then pro days later in March leading up to the draft in April. But as teams begin to leave Mobile, the quarterback scenarios — specifically, with Mayfield making a strong impression — that could impact the Bears are going to be fascinating to watch play out in the coming weeks and months.