Bears

Honing in on Round 1: Bears will have a handful to choose from

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Honing in on Round 1: Bears will have a handful to choose from

The 2012 NFL draft is fast approaching.Its hard not to peek at all the mock drafts, but I about lost it when I recently saw one mock projecting mammoth DT Dontari Poe from Memphis to the Bears. Poeweighs350 pounds.You only have to go back two training camps to know, the Bears held out former DT Marcus Harrison because heweighed over 310 pounds. When you factor in Lovies Tampa 2 defense -- it's all about quick, penetrating, undersized defensive tackles --you can quickly weed out Poe.Poe is a two gapping nose tackle for a 3-4 defense which is about as far from a penetrating 4-3 DT as you can get. Just look up Poes stats. Registering only one sack last year in a subpar conference isnt a glowing endorsement for Ooh, ooh, ooh, pick me!" Im not going to mock the mocker, but they suggested the Bears needed a run stuffer. The fact is the Bears were aTop 5defense last year versus the run yielding just over 96 yards per game. The Bears could utilize depth at DT, but it will be in the form of a lean, mean, fighting machine that fits what they do schematically. Lets try to hone in on a handful of guys who fit the Bears in Round 1.SecondaryMark Barron:SS Alabama, 6-foot-1 213 lbs.This is a wishprayer. Teams preceding the Bears starting with Dallas at 14 all need safety help. If Barron falls, the Bears should grab him and never look back. Barron would finally close the revolving door at safety.Stephon Gilmore: CB South Carolina, 6-foot-1 190 lbs.I wrote about Gilmore in a previous column for pick No. 19. Recent reports continue to have him moving up as high asNo. 7to the Jaguars. That is a little too high, but Gilmore, like Barron, may not be there. The Bears may have to think about Alabamas CB Dre Kirkpatrick --6-foot-2, 186 lbs --whos marijuana charge was recently dropped.Defensive LineQuinton Coples: DE North Carolina, 6-foot-6, 284 lbsEverybody says his attitude has him dropping. Ill believe it when I see it, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is the perfect guy for any attitude adjustment.Whitney Mercilus: DE Illinois 6-foot-4, 261 lbsIs Mercilus a one year wonder? The fact is, Mercilus moved up and down the Illinois defensive front for matchup reasons. Lovie and Marinelli have dabbled in this the last three years with Izzy and the last two with Peppers. Mercilus is versatile.Wide receiverStephen Hill: Wr Georgia Tech, 6-foot-4, 215 lbsOther than Justin Blackmon in Round 1, I think Hill will be a very special NFL wide receiver. It is rare for a guy Hills size to run 4.36. Dont believe the hype about Georgia Techs offense not preparing wide receivers. Detroits Calvin Johnson and Denvers Demaryius Thomas are difference makers who block coming out of Tech.Watch what Thomas does this year with Peyton Manning. Jay Cutler would love to work wonders breaking in Hill.Offensive lineJonathan Martin: T Stanford, 6-foot-5, 312 lbsand Mike Adams: T Ohio State, 6-foot-7, 323 lbsOnly the Bears know where GabeCarimis health is at this point.Only offensive coordinator Mike Tice can truly tell you if he is comfortable with J'Marcus Webb at left tackle. Webb gave up sacks, but a handful was strictly on Mike Martzs play-calling. I personally like Adams over Martin, but a recent positive drug test by Adams has him dropping to late first round. Why? It's interesting that this news comes out prior to the draft.Some team leaked it, hoping Adams will fall. I dont think he will.Adams is too good.All are impactful players other than Whitney Mercilus who is young and may take some time, but the Bears would utilize Mercilus much like Mark Anderson his rookie season which resulted in double digit sacks.

NFL Mock Draft: Bears add pass-catching TE in 2nd round

NFL Mock Draft: Bears add pass-catching TE in 2nd round

Get used to the Bears being connected to just about all of the top tight end prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft as the mock-draft season kicks into high gear.

The latest mock draft from the Draft Wire is no exception. In this two-rounder, the Bears snag Washington tight end Hunter Bryant at No. 43 overall.

Here's how Bryant's game profiles, via The Draft Network's scouting report:

Hunter Bryant should be a dynamic receiving threat at the NFL level. Bryant brings excellent quickness, run after catch skills and versatility to a flex tight end role. Plugging Bryant into a traditional inline role will water down his receiving skills — he's best working off the LOS or as a flexed slot receiver who can serve as a H/W/S mismatch for opposing defenders. If Bryant it put in such a flex role, look for early production and long-term starter status in the pros. 

Sure sounds like the kind of player the Bears could use in the passing game, where the entire tight end depth chart combined for just 44 catches last season. Trey Burton led the way with 14. It was a brutal year at the position.

Naturally, adding a playmaker who can expand Matt Nagy's playcalling toolbox is a critical 'must' for Ryan Pace this offseason, and a prospect like Bryant could be an ideal fit.

In Round 2 of this mock draft, the Bears add Ohio State linebacker Malik Harrison. Like tight end, linebacker will be an area of need depending on what happens with free agents Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski. It's likely that one of them will return, but even with Trevathan or Kwiatkoski back in the fold, the Bears have to add depth behind the starters. Will they address that need as early as the second round? Probably not, especially with pressing needs along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield.

If, however, Harrison does end up being the pick, the Bears would be getting a strong run defender who doesn't project as an every-down player at this point in his evaluation. He's likely to slide into the third round, if not later.

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

If the NFL’s proposed collective bargaining agreement is ratified, seven teams from each conference will make the playoffs in 2020— a change that will immediately alter the league's player movement landscape in the coming weeks and months.

Under the proposed structure, the Los Angeles Rams would’ve been the NFC’s No. 7 seed in 2019, with the 8-8 Bears finishing one game out of a playoff spot (really, two games, given they lost to the Rams). But as the Tennessee Titans showed last year, just getting into the dance can spark an underdog run to a conference title game. The vast majority of the NFL — those not in full-on tank mode — should view the potential for a seventh playoff spot as a license to be more aggressive in the free agent and trade market as soon as a few weeks from now.

So, should the Bears look at this new CBA as reason to be more aggressive in pushing to acquire one of the big-name quarterbacks who will, or could, be available this year? After all, merely slightly better quarterback play could’ve leapfrogged the Bears past the Rams and into the playoffs a year ago.

The prospect of Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr or Andy Dalton representing that upgrade feels tantalizing on the surface, right?

But the CBA’s addition of a seventh playoff team does not, as far as we know, also include an addition of significantly more cap space available to teams in 2020, even if the salary cap has increased 40 percent over the last five years. An extra $25 million is not walking through that door to add to the roughly $14 million the Bears currently have in cap space, per the NFLPA’s public salary cap report.

So that means every reason we laid out why the Bears should not make a splash move at quarterback remains valid, even with the NFL lowering its postseason barrier to entry.

The Bears’ best bet in 2020 remains signing a cheaper quarterback like Case Keenum or Marcus Mariota (who shares an agent with Mitch Trubisky, potentially complicating things) and banking on roster improvements being the thing that gets them back into the playoffs. Adding a quarterback for $17 million — Dalton’s price — or more would hamstring the Bears’ ability to address critical needs at tight end, right guard, inside linebacker and safety, thus giving the Bears a worse roster around a quarterback who’s no sure bet to be good enough to cover for the holes his cap hit would create.

Does it feel like a good bet? No, and maybe feels worse if it’s easier to get in the playoffs in 2020. But a Trubisky-Keenum pairing, complete with a new starting right guard to help the run game and more than just Demetrius Harris to upgrade the tight end room, is a better bet than Dalton or Bridgewater and a worse roster around them.

Also: This new playoff structure will tilt the balance of power significantly toward the No. 1 seeds in each conference. The last time a team made the Super Bowl without the benefit of a first-round bye was after the 2012 season, when the No. 4 seed Baltimore Ravens won the title. Otherwise, every Super Bowl participant since hasn't played on wild card weekend. 

So while the Bears may become closer to the playoffs if the new CBA is ratified, they won’t be closer to getting a No. 1 seed. And that holds true even if they were to find a way to sign Tom Brady.

Getting in the playoffs can spark something special. But the Bears’ best path back to meaningful January football still involves an inexpensive approach to addressing their blaring need for better quarterback play. 
Is it ideal? No.

But it’s far less ideal to be in this situation three years after taking the first quarterback off the board with 2017’s No. 2 overall pick. 

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