Bears

2015 NFL Mock Draft: Bears Insider John 'Moon' Mullin makes his picks

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2015 NFL Mock Draft: Bears Insider John 'Moon' Mullin makes his picks

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.

[MORE NFL DRAFT: Check out our 200 player profiles]

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.

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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.

Matt Nagy describes Aaron Rodgers’ literal attempt to get first leg up on 2019 Bears

Matt Nagy describes Aaron Rodgers’ literal attempt to get first leg up on 2019 Bears

A year after finishing 6-9-1 and seeing the Bears win the NFC North, the Packers find themselves in an unfamiliar role in the division: hunter, not the hunted.

Green Bay very well could win the NFC North in 2019, though they’ll have stiff competition in the division in the Bears and Vikings. Thus, the Packers need to do what they can to get a leg up on the competition.

Enter Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers and Bears head coach Matt Nagy were two of the many sports celebrities to compete in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship Tournament in Nevada from July 12-14. Thursday, Nagy recalled a prank Rodgers pulled on him at the event.

“So we're all in there and I'm scrambling to get in the back and stand up, and there’s about 100 guys sitting down in the back row,” Nagy said. “As I’m walking, all of a sudden, I trip.

“I kind of catch my knee. Somebody is sitting down. I look back. Someone stuck their knee out to trip me. I look back, and (Rodgers is) just sitting there and he’s just staring at me laughing, giving me this grin.”

Okay, so Rodgers tripping Nagy doesn’t actually give the Packers a leg up on the Bears entering the 2019 season. However, it sure is a fun way to kick off the latest rendition of the rivalry, as the two teams square of on Sept. 5 to open the NFL season. Plus. Nagy took the whole thing in stride.

“I just looked at him, and all I thought about is: ‘This is going to be fun,’” he said.

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Allen Robinson is looking like a true No. 1 receiver. Can he break the Bears' 1,000-yard drought?

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USA Today

Allen Robinson is looking like a true No. 1 receiver. Can he break the Bears' 1,000-yard drought?

Here’s a fact that feels surprising every time it’s brought up: Allen Robinson is still in his mid-20s, turning 26 on Aug. 24. 

This is a guy who’s entering his sixth season in the NFL, having debuted while Marc Trestman was still Bears' coach. He’s four years removed from his 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown explosion with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but is also two years removed from the torn ACL that wound up ending his career there. 

As he enters his second season with the Bears, the difference from Year 1 to Year 2 has been noticeable. 

“I look like a totally different player,” Robinson said. 

That statement runs deeper than in just how he’s played over the course of the Bears’ preseason practices. He was able to grow his rapport with Mitch Trubisky during OTAs — a year ago, he wasn’t participating in those — and no longer has to focus on rehabbing his knee to get back on the field. 

But how Robinson looks even goes beyond his connection with Trubisky or his health. Cornerback Prince Amukamara practiced against Robinson when the pair were in Jacksonville in 2016, and said the receiver he was then isn’t the receiver he is today — in a good way. 

“He was real good in Jacksonville, and I feel like he’s better now,” Amukamara said. “I feel like in Jacksonville he really just went up and got the ball, they threw him a lot of jump balls. But now he’s running routes, he’s very crafty, he changes his tempo and he just seems very polished right now. He makes our jobs harder on defense.”

Amukamara pointed out that, of course, Robinson can still go up and snag those jump balls. Trubisky’s confidence in Robinson’s go-up-and-get-it ability grew in 2018, and is stronger entering 2019’s season. 

“I have a lot of confidence within myself, with me and him's chemistry,” Trubisky said. “And just being on the same page, if I put it up in his area 12 is going to come down with it.”

But it’s clear Robinson is more than a jump ball guy to Trubisky. The Bears can use him in a number of different ways, and the detail he puts into his routes and his ability to read coverages makes him a threat anywhere on the field. 

Similarly encouraging: Robinson and Trubisky are seeing things the same way. 

“I think for me and Mitchell I think we’ve done that a lot, being able to see whether it’s the breaking angle out of a route or stuff like that,” Robinson said. “I think, for us, we got a chance to rep a lot of that and to be on the same page — like if the corner plays it like this or if they run this kind of pressure or whatever it may be.”

Coach Matt Nagy said he’s observed Trubisky’s trust in Robinson being “a lot higher” than it was a year ago, too. 

“(Robinson) understands coverages,” Nagy said. “I think that separates the good wide receivers from the ones that become great. He has that next-level awareness. When you have that and you put the 'want' into how bad he wants it with his quarterback, that's where it's gonna be fun to see what those guys, how they connect this year.”

The Bears haven’t had a receiver eclipse 1,000 yards since 2014, representing the longest drought in the NFL. This is an offense, though, that believes in its ability to spread the ball around to a number of weapons, from Robinson to Taylor Gabriel to Anthony Miller to Trey Burton to Tarik Cohen to Cordarrelle Patterson to David Montgomery, etc. Not having a 1,000-yard receiver — sorry, fantasy football players — wouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a bad thing inside Halas Hall. 

Yet Robinson will enter 2019 with the best shot at hitting that mark, as he did four years ago. He stood out more than any other receiver during training camp, looking like a go-to guy for Trubisky if the offense is in a tight spot. That’s what he proved to be in the final seconds of January’s wild card loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, in which he dominated the final 20 minutes and made two critical catches that set up what could’ve been a game-winning field goal with time expiring (we all know what happened after that). 

So whether or not Robinson has a three or four-digit receiving yards total feels less important than the continuation of his development into a reliable, trustworthy target for his quarterback at any time in a game. And from what we've seen over the last month, that's what he'll be for Trubisky in 2019. 

“He's pretty much winning,” Trubisky said. “When it's one-on-one, the ball is going to 12 and he's unstoppable when he can go like that."

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