Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft 3.0: Bears wavering on Alabama DT A'Shawn Robinson?

Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft 3.0: Bears wavering on Alabama DT A'Shawn Robinson?

The problem with “news” this time of NFL year is that information is easy; what is decidedly not easy is determining with any certainty exactly in what direction the trail of breadcrumbs is actually leading.

So it is with myriad teams and players, and very specifically the Bears and the No. 11 pick of the draft coming up two weeks hence.’s “Mini-Mock Draft” is positing the Bears selecting Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson with that pick, but isn’t feeling super-great about it, and now is owning up to the inevitable second, third and fourth thoughts, largely in the direction of either Georgia’s Leonard Floyd or Clemson sack terror Shaq Lawson.

Here’s the thinking:

NFL teams are permitted to host up to 30 visits with prospects. The Bears have had multiple drop-in’s, ranging from Lawson to Emmanuel Ogbah to Jarran Reed to and-so-on. The tilt toward defense (with multiple pass rushers in the 255-275-pound range in for visits) has been, at the very least…suggestive.

(Then again, the Denver Broncos in 2006 never showed any particular interest in a quarterback, never had that one from Vanderbilt in for a visit or special workout or meeting, then surprised the NFL by trading up from 15 to 11 to grab Jay Cutler. The Bears have had Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in for a visit, just for the record.)

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The twin factors of need and best-available have pointed toward Robinson as the Bears’ pick at 11, given the 3-4 defensive-line situation with Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks in place but Ego Ferguson coming off season-ending knee surgery.

Robinson, having had private time with Carolina, Detroit, Pittsburgh and the Jets, but not known to have done the same with the Bears, may be a case of a team like Chicago not wishing to tip its hand as far as interest but that’s endemic to the pre-draft run-up.

Are the Bears doing with Robinson, or Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins, what the Broncos once did with Cutler? And besides the Bears, who else is practicing the ancient art of “which shell hides the defensive tackle?”’s “Mini-Mock” is staying the course on Robinson to the Bears – for now. Because they are canvassing the front-seven neighborhood looking at options. And because Floyd and Lawson are seriously good at pass rushing, which too few Bears are.

Every NFL team has its draft board, ranking the upcoming candidates for the year’s selection process that begins Thursday, Apr. 28. Those grades can fluctuate based on private workouts, pro days, uncovered information and any number of factors that emerge on a weekly - sometimes daily - basis.

[MORE: Bears OL competition scenarios intensifying as draft approaches]

Accordingly, publishes its timely, up-do-the-latest “Mini-Mock” draft every Thursday, culminating the day of the 2016 first round. “Mini-Mock” will target the Top 15 picks of the draft, the range in which the Bears reside (No. 11). “Mini-Mock” also will incorporate all the latest mock-draft predictions for the Bears’ pick, news, reports, information from pro days and workouts, and relevant available data, as well as specific updates on selected other significant draft prospects.

Reflecting some shuffling in the Top 10:

Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft

1. Los Angeles Rams: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

Comment: Teams usually make deals like Rams’ trade-up only for a QB. Exactly which one Rams will grab is TBD but Wentz has people recalling Terry Bradshaw, another small-school hit at No. 1 overall.

2. Cleveland Browns: Laremy Tunsil, T, Mississippi

Comment: Rams likely expected Browns to take a QB; hence the trade-up. Browns have hopes for RGIII, can trade Joe Thomas and add his successor right now, although Jared Goff will be tempting here.

3. San Diego Chargers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

Comment: CB Jalen Ramsey rising on some boards, could go here, but elite DL talent is more prized, and Buckner considered elite. Team wanting QB could trade up to here for Goff.

4. Dallas Cowboys: Jared Goff, QB, California

Comment: ‘Boys have had private’s with six different QB’s plus meetings with multiple others. Over past three seasons, they were 1-13 in games without Tony Romo, 1-11 last year. Dallas desperately needs a successor in the pipeline.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State

Comment: Look for OSU RB Ezekiel Elliott to start dropping. Ramsey is a Top 5 talent and 15 of Jags’ first 18 player visits were on defense. Those included OSU’s Joey Bosa but Ramsey too good to pass up.

6. Baltimore Ravens: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Comment: Had projected Myles Jack here but Terrell Suggs turns 34 in-season and Bosa offers more pass-rush flexibility.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

Comment: Chip Kelly wants a franchise QB to start his makeover with and Cook is more mobile and accomplished in more areas than some of the bigger names. Surprise pick here.

.8. Philadelphia Eagles: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Comment: April 1 Pro day performance dispelled knee concerns for many and could move Jack Top 5. Every team covets his skill set on top of good football character, but safer health picks will go first.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida 

Comment: Mini-run on DB’s? Brent Grimes settles one CB spot but Hargreaves best-available if Bucs don’t grab ‘Bama’s DT Robinson or go OL with Jack Conklin or Ronnie Stanley.

10. New York Giants: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

Comment: First 5 FA signings were on defense. G’ints shopped for FA OT’s but this is chance to get Eli successor.

11. BEARS: A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama

Comment: Leonard Floyd and Shaq Lawson are ideal fits as edge rushers but MMM (“Moon Mini-Mock”) is staying with (for now) the ideal fit and best-available for the open five-technique spot in Bears’ base 3-4.

12. New Orleans Saints: Shaq Lawson, DE/LB, Clemson

Comment: Lawson is getting increased play and scrutiny and production trumps all. Lawson or Georgia’s Leonard Floyd fill need for edge pressure.

13. Miami Dolphins: Leonard Floyd, DE, Georgia

Comment: Floyd a bit of a wild card, could go anywhere from 8-15.

14. Oakland Raiders: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Comment: Reggie Ragland brings more size, power, but search is on for LB’s who can cover.

15. Tennessee Titans: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Comment: Stanley or Jack Conklin a bargain here, and Titans want help blocking for Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray.

How some others see the Bears pick:

Leonard Floyd, LB/DE, Georgia (Daniel Jeremiah,; Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, ESPN)

William Jackson III, CB, Houston (Aaron Leming, Bear Report/

Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (Pat Kirwan, SiriusXM; Ike Taylor, NFL Media analyst)

A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama (Jim Miller, Comcast SportsNet/Sirius Radio; Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune; Charlie Casserly and Lance Zierlein,

Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama (Will Brinson and Rob Rang, CBS Sports)

Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville (Dane Brugler, CBS Sports; Charles Davis,

Ronnie Stanley, T, Notre Dame (Pete Prisco,

Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida (Charles Davis, NFL Network)

DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon (Lester Wiltfong Jr., Windy City Gridiron/SB Nation)

Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State (Cris Collinsworth, NBC)

Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky (Michelle Bruton, Bleacher Report)

Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State (Matt Miller, Bleacher Report)

[MORE: Complete NFL Draft coverage on]          

Remaining first round order:

16. Detroit Lions
17. Atlanta Falcons
18. Indianapolis
19. Buffalo
20. N.Y. Jets
21. Washington
22. Houston
23. Minnesota
24. Cincinnati
25. Pittsburgh
26. Seattle
27. Green Bay
28. Kansas City
29. Arizona
30. Carolina
31. Denver

(Note: New England forfeited first-round pick)

Three reasons why the Bears' offense should have success against the Patriots' defense

USA Today Sports Images

Three reasons why the Bears' offense should have success against the Patriots' defense

Every team will try to scheme against what its opponent does best. Not every team does it as well as Bill Belichick consistently has in his Hall of Fame tenure as the coach of the New England Patriots. 
This is what Belichick is famous for, beyond the five Super Bowl trophies and historic partnership with Tom Brady. That thing your team’s offense does best? He’s going to take it away. 
That can create a mental challenge for an opposing coach during the week. Do you focus on doing something other than what your offense does best because Belichick is going to identify and scheme against it, or do you try to accentuate what you do best so it can’t be taken away? 
“That’s that whole chasing the cat’s tail thing,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “All of the sudden you start out-thinking to yourself, ‘What the heck?’ That’s the mystique, and that’s what they do. They’ve earned that over time because of the success they’ve had. 
“When you don’t go too crazy with that and balance it and control what you can control. Then in the end, win, lose or draw, no matter what, you at least feel good you approached it the right way, and you weren’t, ‘Oh shoot, I should have done this. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.’”
When Taylor Gabriel and the Atlanta Falcons faced the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, everybody on that team knew Belichick would do what he could to take Julio Jones out of the game. But that didn’t make preparations any easier. 
“We knew he was going to take away Julio, but we didn’t know how he was going to do it,” Gabriel said. “So it’s just just something you kind of have to adjust to when you get in the game.”
Jones only had four catches in that game, and the Falcons were able to quickly adjust to how he was taken away — though it wasn’t enough to keep them from a historic collapse and ultimate overtime loss. 
Tight end Dion Sims played New England eight times during his four years with the Miami Dolphins, and came away with a healthy respect for the scheme and the players on that defense. 
“They’re fundamentally sound, they got good coaching over there, a good staff,” Sims said. “You gotta be prepared because they come out and they play their ass off.” 
But what should give the Bears confidence they can mentally and physically beat New England’s defense?
1. The Patriots’ defense isn’t what it once was
The way Bears coaches and players have talked about New England’s defense this week has been with reverence and respect. But lately, the Patriots’ defense production hasn’t quite equalled its reputation. 
Maybe it started with Nagy’s Kansas City Chiefs launching 42 points and over 500 yards of offense against New England in 2017’s nationally-televised season opener. Maybe Super Bowl LII, in which the Philadelphia Eagles ripped off 41 points with a backup quarterback, was another turning point. Or maybe the Patriots’ 43-40 win over the Chiefs on Sunday night, which looked more like a Big 12 game than an NFL game, further chipped away at that mystique. 
New England’s defense heads to Chicago ranked 18th in points allowed (24.7) and has allowed 400 or more yards of offense in four of six games this year. They’re 19th in defensive DVOA, though Pro Football Focus’ grades do peg this group fourth, behind only the Bears, Rams and Eagles. 
What this defense does well is take the ball away, with eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries critical in propping up a defense that isn’t good on third down (44 percent conversion rate, 25th) or in the red zone (68 percent, 26th). But as long as the Bears' ball security is better than its two-turnovers-inside-the-five-yard-line showing in Miami on Sunday, an offense that scored 48 and 28 points in its last two games should be in good shape. 
2. Multiple weapons
How Belichick schemes against a Bears offense that’s been explosive and productive in its last two weeks will be fascinating to see on Sunday. Maybe it’ll be Tarik Cohen, who Belichick said is “a special player that you gotta know where he is at all times.” Maybe it’ll be making sure Taylor Gabriel doesn’t beat them deep (“The execution on that was like 99 out of 100,” Belichick said of Mitch Trubisky’s 54-yard deep ball to Gabriel against Miami). Or maybe it’ll be dropping seven or eight guys into coverage, spying Trubisky and forcing the second-year Bears quarterback to make good decisions and fit passes into tight windows. Or maybe it’ll be something else entirely. 
This goes back to the guessing game, though, and it’s one the Bears can’t allow themselves to play. 
“I think you can spend too much time on that,” Nagy said. “I look at that and I think I've said it before, it can be kind of like chasing the cat's tail. You've got to be careful of that and when you just start worrying about what you do — and of course here or there you might so something a little bit different — but if you just start doing things different because of one coach, now you've stopped worrying about just controlling what you can control and I haven't found too much success with that.”
The good news for the Bears, though, is they seem to have the multitude of weapons necessary to have success against a Belichick defense. Kansas City showed it on Sunday — when the Patriots took away Kelce, Kareem Hunt racked up 185 yards from scrimmage, while Tyreek Hill gouged New England for 142 yards on seven catches with three touchdowns.
So if the plan is to take away Cohen, that could lead to opportunities for Gabriel, or vice versa. Or if the plan is to drop seven or eight into coverage, that would give Jordan Howard an opportunity to carve out yards on the ground.  
“They utilize all their players, the backs, the tight ends, the receivers, the quarterback, they all have production, so if you take one away, they just go to the next guy, and that’s hard to defend,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of options on some of those plays, which guy is going to end up with the ball based on a quarterback’s decision, if it’s a check-with me type of play, bubbles and look passes and RPOs and things like that, it’s up to the quarterback to make the right decision and Trubisky’s done a good job of that. I think all those things, they keep getting better and they’re hard to defend.”
3. History repeating itself
In Nagy’s only meeting with New England as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator, his offense scored 42 points — and that’s a number that has resonated in the Bears’ locker room and practice fields this week.  
“You have to go into this game with confidence and know that we’re playing against a great group of guys who’ve been there, been to the Super Bowl and then they also have Tom Brady on the other side,” Sims said. “It’s important that we capitalize on everything and try to be mistake-free.” 
“What the defense is giving you is what the offense will take — what good offenses will do,” Gabriel said. “I feel like we have those type of minds up there in the booth and on the field with us to figure out what those guys are doing and how we want to attack it.”
The Bears’ offense is young, from the coach to offensive coordinator to most of the players that populate it. Beating New England, even if its defense isn’t what it used to be, would send a message around the league that the Bears are for real. Until the Patriots are dethroned in consecutive years, or even finish a season with fewer than, say, 12 wins, they’re still the Patriots.  
But while this team is young, it does have a handful of guys who’ve competed against New England on some of the NFL’s biggest stages. So expect guys like Gabriel, Burton and even Nagy to not allow this team to let facing the Patriots become daunting on Sunday. 
“It’s not difficult at all,” Gabriel said of avoiding thinking about that mystique. “Just like this team, we have the weapons to take advantage of those one-on-one matchups. I don’t care what defense you are, you’re going to have a one-on-one matchup somewhere unless you’re dropping everybody. So as long as you’re staying the pace and being confident in what you’re doing, I feel like we’ll be okay.” 

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

The Bears were getting used to life in the big chair. Chicago was favored in each of their last four games, but it all came crashing down at the hands of Brock Osweiler in overtime last week.

The Miami Dolphins pulled off the upset, and now the Bears return home to take on one of the best teams in the league.

Even if they had won in Miami, Chicago likely still would have been underdogs to the New England Patriots on Sunday, but as it stands, Bill Belichick and company are favored by three on most major sportsbooks, according to Vegas Insider.

The line initially opened at Patriots by 2.5, but it would seem that money placed on New England pushed the spread a little more in the Bears’ favor.

Vegas is expecting another higher-scoring game for both teams, with the over/under sitting at 49. Given that the Patriots have scored at least 38 points in each of their last three games, the Bears’ defense may have some trouble keeping this game low on the scoreboard.

In Week 6, home underdogs went 4-1 against the spread and 3-2 straight up. According to Bet America, home underdogs have covered in 20 of their 30 games this season, which bodes well for a Bears team facing a tough task at Soldier Field.