The 2019 college football regular season is over, which means the 2020 NFL draft season is right around the corner. Underclassmen are declaring by the day, all-star rosters are filling out and, of course, mock drafts are being published.
The really unique thing about the Bears in 2019 is how fluid their likely NFL draft needs have been. A few weeks ago, quarterback would've topped the list. Now? Not so much. Tight end, a position that's been non-existent in Chicago's offense all year, suddenly has two players (J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horsted) who've garnered some excitement.
Seasons like this year make trying to pinpoint which direction GM Ryan Pace will go in April's draft extremely challenging. According to the Draft Wire's latest three-round mock draft, the Bears will grab help for the secondary and offensive line in Round 2.
Their first selection (as of the start of Week 15) comes at No. 45 overall from the Raiders. Chicago uses that pick on Utah cornerback, Jaylon Johnson.
It's hard to argue this projection. The Bears may have a bigger need at cornerback by the time the draft rolls around than they do right now if they decide it's time to part ways with veteran starter Prince Amukamara. Chicago needs to make some difficult salary-cap decisions this offseason, and moving on from Amukamara would free up roughly $9 million in cap space.
Johnson (6-0, 190) will be part of the second wave of cornerbacks to get drafted this year. He isn't a first-round talent, and barring an elite showing at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, he should be available in the middle portion of the second round.
The Bears land offensive line help at No. 50 overall in this mock draft via Tennessee's Trey Smith.
A former five-star recruit, Smith's talent is undeniable. It's first-round worthy. His medicals, however, are not.
After dealing with blood clots in his lungs in 2018, Smith returned to action this season and was once again a dominant force. He projects as an interior player in the NFL and would be an ideal target for a Bears team that needs to add more talent at guard in their effort to replace longtime starter, Kyle Long.
Smith's medical history is likely to push him into Day 3, however, at which point he'll qualify as one of this year's best value selections.
The 2019 NFL season is in its final quarter, and with the Bears essentially needing to win out while also getting some help around the league to make the playoffs, it's important to keep track of the trending NFL Draft narrative building around this team.
The funny thing, however, is that that narrative continues to change.
Just a few weeks ago, the Bears were considered a team that would potentially dip into the pool of quarterback prospects in the early second round, but with the emergence of Mitch Trubisky (he's thrown for 582 yards and six touchdowns in the last two games alone), it appears less likely that GM Ryan Pace will use one of his few draft assets on one.
Tight end was also considered a target for the Bears in the second round, and that could remain the case as the season marches on. But Jesper Horsted is beginning to look like a legitimate sleeper to emerge as part of the answer at such a critical position in coach Matt Nagy's offense.
So where does that leave this team's hierarchy of draft needs as the offseason inches closer?
According to CBS Sports' new seven-round mock draft, the first two positions the Bears will address with their two second-round picks are cornerback and offensive tackle. In this mock, Chicago grabs TCU corner Jeff Gladney (No. 49 overall) and Iowa offensive tackle Alaris Jackson (No. 50 overall).
Gladney will participate in this year's Senior Bowl at the end of January after a standout career with the Horned Frogs. He was rated the No. 1 cornerback in the Big 12 by Pro Football Focus in 2018 and has been solid once again this season, although he's managed just one interception on the year.
At 6-foot, 183 pounds, Gladney has an NFL frame and the kind of high-end coverage skills the Bears should be looking to add to the roster. Prince Amukamara's contract expires at the end of next season, and drafting a player like Gladney, combined with 2019 sixth-round pick Dukey Shelley, would strengthen the team's pipeline of young cornerbacks who will eventually be called upon to play.
Jackson, who the Bears take with their second second-rounder in this scenario, suffered an early-season knee injury but returned to earn Third Team All-Big 10 honors this year.
Jackson combined with Tristan Wirfs to give Iowa one of the best offensive tackle duos in college football, but Jackson offers a little less upside on the edge moving forward. Still, the Bears have suffered from underwhelming offensive line play all season and won't hesitate to add a player with Jackson's pedigree early in this year's draft.
As for the rest of the Bears' draft haul, here are some highlights:
Round 4 (projected compensatory pick): Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford
Parkinson began the 2019 season with some chatter that suggested he'd end the year as the top tight end in the class. And while he ended the season with 48 catches for 589 yards and a touchdown, it wasn't quite the production expected from a player who was supposed to be the next in the long line of promising Stanford tight ends.
Parkinson's underwhelming season could be the Bears' gain, however. The best part of his game is his ability as a receiver, which is what Chicago is missing most from its offense right now. If he slides into Day 3 and the Bears end up with a compensatory pick in this range, he'd certainly be a viable target.
Round 5 (from Eagles): K.J. Costello, QB, Stanford
Why not tap into the Stanford program twice on Day 3? This time, the Bears go with the guy who was throwing passes to Parkinson. Costello is a solid Day-3 quarterback prospect who has some physical limitations and an awkward throwing motion, but it's critical that Pace adds a developmental passer to the roster even if it's just to become a long-term backup for Trubisky (assuming Trubisky keeps the job).
Costello's been injured all season and was limited to just five games in what was supposed to be a senior year that put him in the first-round conversation. Instead, he'll slide into the third day (at least, he should). He'd make a lot of sense for the Bears, especially from a public relations standpoint. He isn't quite good enough to legitimately challenge Trubisky in 2020, but he has enough talent to potentially develop into a respectable starter down the road.
Round 7: Tucker McCann (K, Missouri)
Kicker alert! Would the Bears dare using a draft pick on a kicker? It seems highly unlikely, especially since Eddy Pineiro is beginning to play better. He's made all of his field-goal attempts during Chicago's three-game winning streak.
That said, Pineiro is connecting on just 76% of his kicks this season, which ranks 25th in the NFL. Not good.
Pace is a pretty loyal guy, and with Pineiro kicking under some of the most intense pressure of any kicking situation in the NFL, one could argue he's weathered the storm pretty well.
The next three games will determine whether Pineiro's roster spot is safe in 2020. If he remains hot, he'll be back. It's as simple as that.
Here is the total Bears' mock draft:
Round 2: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
Round 2: Alaric Jackson, OL, Iowa
Round 4: Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford
Round 5: K.J. Costello, QB, Stanford
Round 5: Larrell Murchison, DL, NC State
Round 5: Kalija Lipscomb, WR, Vanderbilt
Round 6: Tyler Higby, G, Michigan State
Round 7: Tucker McCann, K, Missouri
The 2020 NFL draft is still more than four months away, but it hasn't stopped draft experts from publishing their early mock drafts. And fortunately for Bears fans, most mock drafts now extend beyond just the first round.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller published a new three-round mock draft Wednesday which has the Bears spending their first of two second-round selections on Georgia quarterback, Jake Fromm. The Fromm pick keeps with the trending narrative that general manager Ryan Pace will look to add competition for Mitch Trubisky this offseason.
Fromm would make a ton of sense for the Bears. He isn't overflowing with physical gifts and may end up settling in as an average NFL starter when it's all said and done, but he'd be a great insurance policy if Trubisky doesn't breakout in 2020. Fromm would provide Chicago with another young and talented option at quarterback who the Bears can insert into the lineup early next year if Trubisky fails.
The problem with this mock selection is that it might never have a chance to come to fruition. Fromm could sneak into the end of the first round and be off the board well before the Bears pick, which right now would be in the late-40's, early-50's.
With their second pick in the second round, Miller has the Bears taking Michigan offensive guard, Ben Bredeson. A veteran of more than 50 starts at guard, Bredeson would provide the Bears with the kind of physical toughness the interior of the offensive line has been missing since Kyle Long's injuries started mounting up.
Chicago isn't about to give up on 2018 second-round pick James Daniels, and Cody Whitehair appears set at center for as long as Trubisky is quarterback. But Rashaad Coward has done little to suggest he's the long-term answer at right guard which makes a prospect like Bredeson a logical target as a potential starter right away.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.