Having second-guessed and changed virtually every pick in the Top 10 over the past 48 hours, the final thought here for the Bears at No. 7 is the best available pass rusher: Clemson linebacker Vic Beasley.
They will be able to get a desired quality wide receiver with their pick at No. 7 in the second round, possibly as the Philadelphia Eagles did last year with Jordan Matthews (42nd overall, 67 catches, eight touchdowns).
This is a switch from the conclusion going into the weekend that the Bears will happily grab Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. And they well could.
But shift away from wideout is based on several specifics:
A comment by GM Ryan Pace that the 2015 draft class is deep at wide receiver. The implication, and Pace is not alone in this thinking, is that there will be quality options when the Bears’ turn comes at No. 7 of the second round.
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The history of Pace’s time with the New Orleans Saints, whose selection of Brandin Cooks last year at No. 1 was the first offensive player taken after six straight drafts going defense with their first pick, sometimes their first two or three. Those are past drafts but they represent Pace’s experience with how a winning team is built.
Similarly, the Denver Broncos used their first draft picks on defensive players in all four of John Fox’s years with them, beginning with Von Miller in 2011. (Beasley is a Miller clone.)
And in other draft “news"
The Moon initial mock draft posited Jameis Winston going to Tampa Bay No. 1 overall. But apart from character questions, which obviously can’t be ignored, Marcus Mariota is more accurate and finished his three Oregon seasons with an interception percentage of 1.8 – roughly one-third the rate that Winston throws picks (5.0)
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a major unknown. They desperately need defensive help but their passing yards per game ranked 31st, making Cooper an even more desperate need. And after the impact of rookie wideouts last year, Jacksonville taking Cooper would drop one of the quarterbacks or top pass rushers unexpectedly.
Weekend wild cards
Every draft has its surprises, whether a player who falls inexplicably (Aaron Rodgers in 2005), a team that grabs a stunner early (Blake Bortles No. 3 last year) or a player whose persona overhangs the whole process (Johnny Manziel). This year the wild cards are everywhere, starting with Mariota, who could go No. 1 to Tampa Bay, No. 2 to a team like Philadelphia dealing up for him, or Mariota falling even to the point of being on the board when the Bears go on the clock at No. 7.
The Bears in fact represent their own individual wild card. Both Pace and Fox are from traditions of defense-building and edge pass rushers. This draft has a cluster of them, just as the 2012 draft did when the Bears opted for Shea McClellin amid a stretch that included Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones, Bruce Irvin, Whitney Mercilus and Courtney Upshaw.
The 2015 draft is deep at wide receiver and rush linebacker – the two top targets for the Bears. What makes the Bears especially worth watching is their pick at No. 7 in the second round, which could turn into a first-rounder with a trade up late in Thursday’s opening round.
For now and barring trade predictions:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota (QB), Oregon
Lovie Smith has said all the right things about Jameis Winston and that well could be the call. But offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has a connection to Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich and Mariota’s accuracy is a tipping point over Winston.
2. Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams (DE), USC
Mariota to someone in this slot is possible but Williams is an elite talent.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Amari Cooper (WR), Alabama
Cooper would instantly upgrade Bortles’ wideout options.
4. Oakland Raiders: Dante Fowler Jr. (OLB), Florida
The Al Davis Raiduhs would’ve taken a speed receiver to help the No. 32 ranked offense, and if Cooper slips this far, he is a solid call. But Jack Del Rio is a defense-based coach and Oakland was No. 30 in sack percentage.
5. Washington Redskins: Shane Ray (DE), Missouri
Lots of needs but grabbing immediate-impact pass rusher, even with injury question is a must.
6. New York Jets: Jameis Winston (QB), Florida St.
Winston’s slide finally stops. Geno Smith isn’t the answer and new head coach Todd Bowles knows it.
7. Chicago Bears: Vic Beasley (OLB), Clemson
Pace and Fox love pass rushers and are on record that you can never have too many. Beasley, with a school-record 33 sacks, an NFL Combine showing of 4.53 speed and benching 225 pounds 35 times, is a speed-strength comp to Von Miller (Fox’s first pick at Denver in 2011).
8. Atlanta Falcons: Alvin Dupree (OLB), Kentucky
Dupree could be a Week 1 starter for one of the only 2014 defenses worse than the Bears.
9. New York Giants: Ereck Flowers (OT), Miami
Former GM George Young called Top 15 picks “Dance of the Elephants” and Giants need help protecting Eli Manning.
10. St. Louis Rams: Brandon Scherff (OT), Iowa
Rams addressed defensive line in offseason, need a fixture to anchor blindside protection for whoever their QB ends up being.
11. Minnesota Vikings: La’el Collins (OT), LSU
Vikings want OL upgrade, run on tackles makes for a squeeze. Andrus Peat more polished and Rick Spielman likes Pac-12 talent.
12. Cleveland Browns: Danny Shelton (DT), Washington
Parker would fill a big hole, but NFL’s worst run defense needs a quick fix and Shelton is in the Vince Wilfork mold.
13. New Orleans Saints: Kevin White (WR), West Virginia
Saints went wide receiver with their first round pick last year in Brandin Cooks but White is too good to pass on with Marques Colston turning 32 in June and Jimmy Graham traded.
14. Miami Dolphins: DeVante Parker (WR), Louisville
If Parker goes earlier, look for pick of Breshad Perriman to help pedestrian Dolphins pass game.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Trae Waynes (CB), Michigan State
Unusual for the top corner to last this long and Waynes may be much value to pass on higher up.
16. Houston Texans: Kevin Johnson (CB), Wake Forest
Texans have built pass rush and need secondary help to take advantage of Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt up front.
17. San Diego Chargers: Randy Gregory (OLB), Nebraska
Lack of sack threats has to be addressed for Chargers to stay on Denver’s heels.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Arik Armstead (DT), Oregon
Chiefs would have grabbed a corner but have to settle with upgrading a soft run defense.
19. Cleveland Browns: Malcom Brown (DT), Texas
NFL’s No. 32 run defense needs muscle up front and some have Brown as elite potential.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Phillip Dorsett (WR), Miami
Chip Kelly may have given up this pick in an earlier deal to land Marcus Mariota. But Eagles have gone either O-line or D-line with last five No. 1’s and need outside speed.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Andrus Peat (OT), Stanford
Bengals want to fortify DL but Peat projects as Week 1 starter at RT and eventual fill for Andrew Whitworth at LT.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Landon Collins (S), Alabama
Great value at this slot and Steelers want an heir-immediate for retired Troy Polamalu.
23. Detroit Lions: Eddie Goldman (DT), Florida State
Losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley leaves gaps even with Haloti Ngata coming over from Baltimore. Better values here at OT but need trumps pure value and Goldman is first-round talent.
24. Arizona Cardinals: Melvin Gordon (RB), Wisconsin
Cardinals among NFL’s worst run offenses and need to match power of Seattle and NFC West with more than aging Carson Palmer passing.
25. Carolina Panthers: D.J. Humphries (OT), Florida
Ron Rivera wants someone other than Cam Newton running and needs muscle to protect up front.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Todd Gurley (RB), Georgia
A better pure runner than Gordon but knee questions drop Gurley to either Ravens or Cowboys, or out of the first round. Zero backs taken in last two first rounds and only two in last 96 combined first rounds.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Collins (CB), LSU
Safer character pick than Marcus Peters for a need back-end position in Rod Marinelli’s system.
28. Denver Broncos: T.J. Clemmings (OT), Pittsburgh
Broncos lost RT Orlando Franklin to San Diego and new coach Gary Kubiak is an ex-QB who knows import of edge protectors.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Breshad Perriman (WR), Central Florida
Graded higher but Colts won’t let this playmaker get away from Andrew Luck.
30. Green Bay Packers: Eric Kendricks (ILB), UCLA
Exits of A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones leave need areas in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. Packers haven’t gotten enough front-7 impact from Datone Jones and Nick Perry and DE could demand help.
31. New Orleans Saints: Jaelen Strong (WR), Arizona State
Lost firepower from Graham trade has to be replaced while Drew Brees still has enough to use it deep.
32. New England Patriots: Jordan Phillips (DT), Oklahoma
Losing Wilfork (to Houston) needs to be addressed and Phillips at 329 pounds can fit multiple fronts.