Bears

Bears are in love with Ezekiel Elliott, according to Ezekiel Elliott

Bears are in love with Ezekiel Elliott, according to Ezekiel Elliott

Could there be a romance budding between the Bears and the top running back in this year's NFL Draft?

The connections between the Bears and Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott have been well outlined: Bears running backs coach Stan Drayton was Elliott's running backs coach at Ohio State.

And while the Bears might not have a glaring need at the running back position — they appear to be ready to hand the keys to the starting gig to Jeremy Langford after not bringing back Matt Forte — it would be mighty hard to pass up Elliott, who ran for 3,699 yards and scored 41 touchdowns over the past two seasons with the Buckeyes.

And according to Elliott, the Bears are certainly interested. In fact, interested might be putting it lightly. Here's an exchange from Tuesday's interview with Elliott on the Dan Patrick Show.

DP: "If I said to you, tell me the team you think is in love with you, would you be able to tell me? Like truly fallen in love with you. Do you have one of those teams?"

EE: "I think the Chicago Bears."

DP: "They're in love with you?"

EE: "I think they are."

Well. If we're taking Elliott's word for it, it sounds like the Bears would definitely be interested in selecting the running back with the No. 11 pick.

But here's the question: Will Elliott make it all the way to the No. 11 pick? That remains a total mystery. Some mock drafts have Elliott going as high as the top four picks, while Josh Norris' latest mock draft at Rotoworld has the Bears passing on Elliott and the Ohio State product falling all the way to No. 14.

The good news? We won't have to wait long to find out. The first round comes Thursday.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.