Jamal Adams

Revised mock draft: Why Deshaun Watson will only end up with Bears via trade

Revised mock draft: Why Deshaun Watson will only end up with Bears via trade

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.

View from the Moon: Should Bears draft offense or defense at No. 3?

View from the Moon: Should Bears draft offense or defense at No. 3?

GM Ryan Pace put forth a number of operating principles on Wednesday, one day before he and the Bears presumably decide on a player to become an integral part of the franchise for the years well beyond the 2017 draft. Some of those principles were clear – “you get yourself into trouble if you’re not sticking with our philosophy of best player available” – and some were less so, such as exactly how much weight is assigned to the intangibles of quarterback prospects.

Pace did elaborate on the structured approach to the Bears’ draft board – one that has identified three elite players with the prospect of the Bears remaining at No. 3 in the first round; a second “cloud” of players that would allow a drop down into the middle of the first round; and a third “cloud” of target players in the event that Bears trade up or down into a position just before the close of round one Thursday night.

Pace’s demeanor, notably upbeat and at times borderline jovial, spoke of having reached a critical meeting of minds. “By the time we get to this point, there's a handful of guys that we have a consensus on throughout our building,” Pace said, “and when I feel that backing from not just our coaches but from everybody, it makes those decisions easier when we're all on the same page.”

But Pace didn’t divulge which of the elite top three are offensive players or defensive players. Because a case can be made for targeting a talent on either side of the football, as long as he is best-available/best-possible:

The case for offense

The best: Pat Mahomes, Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson

The Bears have done exhaustive study of the quarterback position, the spot with the greatest ripple effect on not only on an offense, but on an offense. Whether one or more of Mahomes, Trubisky or Watson are in the elite-three, mid-round cloud, or late-round cloud remains closeted on the draft board upstairs at Halas Hall.

Pace has ID’d the need for a quarterback to bring a charge to the organization, something absent during the time of Jay Cutler, who checked all the “traits” boxes coming out of Vanderbilt, even for ball-security (1.9 percent INT percentage his final two seasons), but was a suspect leader. But Pace did not detail the Bears’ grading methodology, particularly whether intangibles top the list or are considerations only once all the requisite measurable are satisfied.

“With a quarterback, yeah, there's core beliefs that I have that have been probably put in me from Day 1 as a scout and what I believe a quarterback needs to have to be successful,” said Pace, whose template for a franchise quarterback begins with Drew Brees, who lasted into the 2001 second round in part because he was undersized at 6 feet. “Maybe guys that I've been around. Those are all traits that I look for.”

The Bears have had the most extensive in-person contact with Mahomes and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, the least with Watson; Trubisky has given two different accounts of interactions with the Bears, so the truth lies with the Bears and him. They sent the biggest staff contingents to Pro Days of Mahomes and Watson. A surprise will be if neither Mahomes nor Watson is not a Bear come sundown Thursday but Pace remains steadfast in not looking outside the known information about even a quarterback with character.

“When you start trying to manufacture things or create things, that’s when teams get into dangerous water,” Pace said. “I think if we just stay with guys we have a consensus on and best player available we’ll be in good shape.”

Do they have a “consensus” on a quarterback?

The case for defense

Most likely: DE Myles Garrett, DE/LB Solomon Thomas, S Jamal Adams

Considerably more NFL opinion is that the Bears will look for a franchise-grade pass rusher (or defensive back) with their first-round pick. Pace has been consistently reserved in offering overall assessments of drafts, which perhaps makes this year’s simply because Pace doesn’t do this sort of praising normally: “It would be accurate to say that this is a strong defensive draft this year,” he said. “That would be true.”

Selecting an elite defensive linchpin comes with arguably less risk than a quarterback. And the effects of a defensive hit can be franchise-altering: The Bears reached the playoffs four times, including the Super Bowl once, in the 2000-10 years of the Brian Urlacher tenure, with four different quarterbacks, not one of which was voted to a Pro Bowl as a Bear.

On the other hand: The Houston Texans have been to the postseason three times in the six years since drafting three-time NFL defensive player of the year J.J. Watt. Yet in spite of myriad additional defensive stars, including Jadeveon Clowney, they have never advanced beyond the divisional round in large part because of quarterback failures.

The Bears used the No. 9 pick of the 2000 draft on Urlacher (and No. 9 on Leonard Floyd last draft), plus 14th-overalls on Tommie Harris, Michael Haynes and Kyle Fuller (meaning: the hit-rate in picks in the upper half of the first round isn’t exactly a guarantee).

But an elite defense can endure, and produce long-term and repeated success. And makes another defensive centerpiece to pair with Floyd a franchise-grade pick.

2017 NFL Draft Preview: Breaking down options for the Bears at No. 3

deshaunwatsonnfldraftnew.jpg
AP

2017 NFL Draft Preview: Breaking down options for the Bears at No. 3

As we're less than 24 hours from the start of the 2017 NFL Draft, CSN's Chris Boden, JJ Stankevitz and Scott Krinch break down options for the Bears at No. 3 on Thursday night.

The guys run down five offensive players and discuss which quarterback would make the most sense for the Bears if they go that route at No. 3.

[VIVID SEATS: Get your Bears tickets right here!]

Later, the guys switch gears to the defensive side of the ball and debate which player would be the right choice for the Bears in the first round.

Also, we take a look at mid-round possibilities for the Bears and answer fan questions on Facebook Live.

Check out the full video below:

We're a day away from the 2017 NFL Draft and Chris Boden, JJ Stankevitz, and Scott Krinch are breaking down what the Bears options are with their first few picks. What questions do you have for the guys?

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Wednesday, April 26, 2017