After staying the combined course of best-available and need for the Bears, resulting in mock drafts positing the Bears selecting Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, “View from the Moon” has made a change.
Subject to picks ahead of theirs at No. 11 and their own grades, expect the Bears to make a move for an edge pass rusher in the person of Clemson hybrid end/linebacker Shaq Lawson.
Why the change of draft heart?
John Fox has anchored his successful teams in Carolina and Denver with early selections players (Julius Peppers, Von Miller) who were elite pass rushers and both taken No. 2 overall in their drafts. The real fangs of Vic Fangio’s San Francisco defense came in with Aldon Smith, a pass-rushing outside linebacker selected No. 7 in the 2011 draft.
The expectation here is that they will honor the template that has worked for Fox and Fangio — build a pass rush that can dominate a pass-first NFL. Robinson has a thin pass-rush resume and that is the foundation of defense now.
“We’re a 3-4 base [defense] but we’re in ‘sub’ 60 percent of the time now,” said GM Ryan Pace. “So when that’s happening, three receivers are on the field, a lot of times it’s a four-man front.”
That was largely how Willie Young put up his 6.5 sacks last year and the Bears want even more off the edges.
Exactly how the Bears have draft-board grades on Robinson and other top talents in the class remains to play out along with the selections right above their slot. Pace is a proponent of selecting best-available over reaching for need, with need serving as a tipping point in cases where more than one available player is their top-rated when their turns come.
“Need” would point to a stout down-lineman to put with Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks as the foundation of the 3-4. But Fox is on record that a defense cannot have too many pass rushers.
The Bears waited until the second round of the 2015 draft before addressing defensive tackle and landed Florida State’s Goldman, who settled in as what the franchise hopes will be the nose tackle anchoring the defense for years to come. The depth of the defensive tackle position in the 2016 draft is rated such that a day one starter-grade defensive end/5-technique should be available on day two of the draft.
The Bears draft No. 10 in the second round. Consensus evaluations have concluded that there will not be elite pass rushers on the board at that point, but there will be some top defensive-line talent to be had.
In the final best-guess mock draft, several wild cards hang over the lineup with the potential for provoking runs, upsetting team draft boards and affecting futures of both GM’s and coaches. In particular:
The quarterbacks — not so much Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, the presumptive 1-2, but Payton Lynch, Connor Cook and others at a position that defines franchises. Could a third go in the top 10? And who does that push down?
Ezekiel Elliott — could be picked by any team after No. 2, or slip into freefall.
The tackles — as many as four could fall in the top 20, three in the top 10. Or slip as teams pursue defense and QB’s.
Moon's Final NFL Mock Draft
1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, California
Comment: Teams make deals like Rams’ trade-up only for a QB. Exactly which one Rams will grab — Goff or Wentz — is TBD but Goff is considered more pro-ready. California connection won’t hurt Rams’ PR efforts.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Comment: Someone was going to deal up for “the other QB” and it was Philly, who appear to have knowledge of what the Rams intend at No. 1. Eagles wanted developmental time behind Sam Bradford, who’s demanding a trade. So maybe behind Chase Daniel instead? Should anybody have to wait behind Chase Daniel?
3. San Diego Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State
Comment: Strong possibility this pick gets traded just like the first two. If not, ‘Bolts signed Casey Heyward away from Green Bay but Ramsey is elite and could start at any of four DB spots. True best-available and could be trade-up target for Baltimore in particular.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Comment: Tony Romo is 36 but ‘Boys crave pass rush desperately (Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory issues). Stephen Jones told 105.3 The Fan radio: "Ultimately we want to find a dominant type of pass rusher.” Bosa plays with an edge that fits Jerry Jones' pattern and Rod Marinelli’s 4-3 concepts.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Comment: Look for OSU RB Ezekiel Elliott dropping. Jags had Jack in for pre-draft visit, followed by coach and GM flying to LA for meeting last Saturday. Concerns over knee status seem to be allayed but risks there and major needs could push Jags toward OT or CB.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Laremy Tunsil, T, Mississippi
Comment: Titans will likely take OT back at No. 15 but Tunsil is a quality addition to protect Joe Flacco better and after Ravens lost Kelechi Osemele in free agency. Ravens are targeting DB and are in discussions over Ramsey, Vernon Hargreaves III.
7. San Francisco 49ers: DeForest Buckner, Oregon
Comment: Chip Kelly probably can’t get his franchise QB here and Trent Baalke doesn’t want to mortgage future trading up. Kelly recruited Buckner to Oregon. Connor Cook or Payton Lynch could be surprise pick here if 49ers have high enough grades and are definitely wanting Kaepernick’s replacement.
8. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Comment: Browns are one of this draft’s true wild cards, between their bad draft history and now promoting their general counsel to be in charge of the roster, plus a baseball analytics guy to be something called a chief strategy officer. Many options here for a bad Browns team that can’t help but draft for “need” somewhere. OT to succeed Joe Thomas a better call here but Browns are not going to help RGIII if Isaiah Crowell (706 rush yards) is their top back. But after the Trent Richardson fiasco at No. 3 in 2013, would Browns go RB this high again? In-state star Elliott would be popular, plus productive (1,800-plus yards each of last two seasons and 6.7 yards per carry for career). But Browns have abysmal record drafting skill high (Richardson, Manziel, Weeden) last 10 years.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
Comment: 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. Bucs have gone heavy on offense past two drafts and could scramble matters for Bears by filling a major need for pass rush.
10. New York Giants: Leonard Floyd, DE/LB, Georgia
Comment: Bears would love Floyd falling to them but Giants have tradition of keeping pass rush at top levels, signing Olivier Vernon this offseason while losing Robert Ayers. Floyd gets call over OT. Giants could grab Ezekiel Elliott if still on the board.
11. BEARS: Shaq Lawson, DE/LB, Clemson
Comment: If Leonard Floyd slips past New York, this spot gets seriously interesting. A stud 5-technique is a clear need but Bears very pleased with Ego Ferguson’s knee rehab for front-three. Bears’ best-available grades are state secrets, so Floyd vs. Lawson is unknown if both are available. John Fox loves pass rushers, though, didn’t get one in 2015 draft, and this draft is thin on top edge rushers.
12. New Orleans Saints: A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
Comment: Saints would prefer a pass rusher but a young disruptor fits any scheme and Robinson is very physical and plays with real attitude.
13. Miami Dolphins: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
Comment: Dolphins want DB help and could target MacKensie Alexander out of Clemson or Vernon Hargreaves if he falls, but dominating D-linemen are prized. The wild card is new coach Adam Gase; will he want more at RB for a balanced offense?
14. Oakland Raiders: MacKensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Comment: Best-available DB likely heads to Oakland and Raiduhs have history of draft surprises.
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. Made deal with Rams knowing OT help available outside top-10.
16. Detroit Lions: Jack Conklin, T, Michigan State
Comment: Glaring need for edge protection for oft-sacked Matthew Stafford. Conklin may be a surprise top-10’er, though.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Comment: Darron Lee from OSU offers more speed but Falcons were weak in middle vs. run.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Mississippi
Comment: Character gamble but this was a bad defensive team and needs to control LOS. Good 2015 Stanford picks Henry Anderson and David Parry give young foundation.
19. Buffalo Bills: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
Comment: One of NFL’s worst pass rush needs something outside Jerry Hughes.
20. New York Jets: Taylor Decker, T, Ohio State
Comment: D’Brickashaw Ferguson's retirement created a huge hole at LT and the Jets want to get something for their investment in Matt Forte.
21. Washington Redskins: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
Comment: 28th-ranked defense could not stop enough running games to force passing situations. Playoff team with needs everywhere.
22. Houston Texans: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Comment: Brock Osweiler needs a playmate who can run really, really fast. Coleman could go much higher after netting 20 TD's in 2015 and 11 in 2014 with 138 catches over two seasons.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
Comment: Would prefer Coleman’s speed but has to upgrade deep passing somehow after Mike Wallace mistake.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
Comment: Bengals have A.J. Green and Marvin Jones but sorely need an anchor in front of Andy Dalton. Big need at LB could call for Darron Lee or other help as well.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Comment: Best-available for an organization that values defense but was among NFL’s worst vs. pass in 2015.
26. Seatlle Seahawks: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
Comment: ‘Hawks would prefer OL help and TCU’s Germain Ifedi would upgrade OT, but interior defense has slipped from Super Bowl levels.
27. Green Bay Packers: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
Comment: Smaller than ideal but speed and impact playmaker blends nicely with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
Comment: The demand for defense continues, Chiefs taking a flyer on a one-year (12 sacks) starter with size and power.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
Comment: Possibly top single pass rusher in 2016 draft but major character questions make risk
30. Carolina Panthers: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
Comment: Panthers pulled franchise tag off Josh Norman, who signed with Washington, making No. 1 cornerback a top priority.
31. Denver Broncos: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Comment: Difficult to see Lynch or Connor Cook dropping to this point and Broncos could trade up for major position need.
(Note: New England forfeited first-round pick)