With Deshaun Watson believed to be outside of a Bears top three consisting of LSU safety Jamal Adams, Texas A&M Myles Garrett and linebacker/end Solomon Thomas, indications are growing that a trade down will be necessary for the Bears to select the Clemson quarterback in Thursday’s first round of the 2017 draft.
GM Ryan Pace said on Wednesday that the Bears have a core of three elite players from which they would select if they remained at the No. 3-overall spot in round one. Pace also strongly reiterated his firm belief in staying a course to land the best possible player, something that sounded vaguely like a caution against reaching for Watson, who is not rated on the absolute-value scale at the levels of Adams, Garrett or Thomas.
The Bears view Adams as a talent and personality that changes a locker-room culture that Pace already believes is trending sharply up anyway. Some internal opinions favor Thomas (assuming that Garrett goes No. 1 to Cleveland), preferring the pass rusher. But the revised mock draft here is that between Adams or Thomas going to the Bears, Adams becomes the choice, based only on the Bears’ dire need for an impact safety; not a strong “choice,” however, because John Fox and every defense-based coach will always want a potential top pass rusher.
Pace gave a hint of Bears thinking when he outlined the three-tiered structure being formulated at Halas Hall: the three elites, the supposed pool set for the eventuality of the Bears staying at No. 3; the mid-round “cloud,” pointing to the Bears planning for offers to trade down; and a late-round “cloud” that contemplated a surprise talent lasting deep into round one and the Bears moving up from early round two to strike.
Watson is believed to lie in that mid-first-round cluster the Bears have identified. The Cleveland Browns have initiated calls to other teams in the top eight seeking a trade up from No. 12; if the Bears become the Browns’ trade partner and take that No. 12 pick in addition to an additional two or three picks, Watson and his “cloud” come into play.
Many Bears fans already know the toll that Kevin White's injuries took on him physically. Leg breaks, hamstring tears, and shoulder fractures all contributed mightily to White's underwhelming time in Chicago, but the lesser known side of things centers on the emotional toll those injuries took. Talking with our Bears Insider JJ Stankevitz, White went into detail about what it was like for him to be living through that:
It was hard. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. It was hard because I love the game so much and want to be great so bad and did the right things, be a good person — forget about football, I try to be a super good person. And it was just like oh my gosh, when am I going to get my chance or my turn? Or when am I going to be like, oh my gosh I got through it and now I’m with this team or got this contract and I was able to score the winning touchdown or whatever. So I just kept thinking that’s gonna come, it’s gonna come, it has to happen. Just stay the course, keep fighting, keep battling. You got the talent, just stay healthy so we can show it. So that’s what every day kept me going.
... Like, you don’t understand what that player has to go through day in, day out. Even sleeping, it’s hard to sleep because your mind is like, I’m ready to play, I wanna go. Your body is like, no shot. So you gotta sleep on that. Then you get kind of bored, or sometimes you know what the media’s saying, fans are saying, it kind of gets you like, I’m gonna go out there and run a route. I want to be able to do it right now. Like I want to be able to do it now. So you gotta be able to deal with that mentally. Physically, your body’s not ready, so you gotta do treatment and extra things every single day. You don’t just go in for treatment from 9 to 11 and then you’re done for the day. That’s not it. It’s an every day battle, mentally and physically.
It's fascinating – not to mention a bit heartbreaking – to get such a first-hand account of what failure in the NFL feels like. You can listen to the entire interview on the latest episode of the Under Center Podcast:
No one steals thunder quite like the NFL.
On a day when the NHL is planning to publicly announce how their season will return, it's being reported that the NFL may take a significant step towards their own reopening – and soon.
Yahoo Sports' NFL columnist Charles Robinson is reporting that NFL coaches may return to team facilities as early as next week, and the league has its eyes on OTAs in mid-to-late June:
The sources told Yahoo Sports that if coaches resume their in-house work next week, minicamps including players could be scheduled as early as June 15 or as late as June 27, depending on COVID-19 data and whether a handful of franchises get a “go ahead” signal from state governments to resume full operations. Resuming full operations and getting a minicamp scheduled would represent the league's biggest step to date toward keeping the 2020 NFL season on track for a regularly scheduled fall kickoff.
Robinson's source adds that 'June 15 and June 27 are the dates that have been identified as potential full-squad minicamp windows,' and the 'key hurdle' is the timeline in which California governor Gavin Newsom begins to reopen the state. Newsom has already expressed a willingness to have professional sports team return under strict and specific guidelines.
The news is a good sign for the return of the NFL on a normal schedule – a reality that's looked increasingly likely over the past couple weeks.