Bears

NFL Mock Draft 2016: Moon makes his final picks

NFL Mock Draft 2016: Moon makes his final picks

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)

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner.