Oakland Raiders

Imperfect 10: First look at who might be available for Bears in NFL Draft

Imperfect 10: First look at who might be available for Bears in NFL Draft

With the NFL draft three months from this Friday, our Bears insiders JJ Stankevitz & Moon Mullin take their first look at the Top 10 picks and evaluate the Bears options with the 8th overall pick.

Quarterback picks could scramble the Top 10, which would work to the Bears' benefit by pushing talent at other positions down toward No. 8.

GM Ryan Pace has traded up to land each of his last two first-rounders (Leonard Floyd, Mitch Trubisky) and he will have options to move up or down and draft whatever he didn’t secure in free agency.

1. Cleveland Browns 

Moon: Sam Darnold, QB USC

Browns failed to restart their franchise with a QB in ’17. Darnold has flaws and has been a turnover risk, but Browns can’t be picky at 0-16.

JJ: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold seemed like a lock to be 2018’s No. 1 overall pick a year ago, but he went from a 31/9 TD/INT ratio in 2016 to a 26/13 TD/INT ratio in 2017. Still, the tools are there, and Cleveland could see in him the quarterback who finally leads them out of such a dark stretch of losing. 

2. New York Giants

Moon: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Eli may want to follow Brady and Brees in the longevity dream but Giants need a pipeline’er like Garoppolo was for Brady, and Rosen will need development.

JJ: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

How Darnold, Allen and Josh Rosen shake out is going to be fascinating to watch from now until late April, with two of the three likely going in the first two picks. Allen’s stock is high as draft evaluations begin, though that could change between now, the Combine, pro days and then the draft. 

3. Indianapolis Colts

Moon: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

GM Chris Ballard will want to give his new coach a jump start and a pass rusher on the fast Lucas Oil turf is a must for NFL’s 31st sack ‘D’ corps. Too high to take a flyer on LSU’s Arden Key with his concerns.

JJ: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

Chubb is an absolute menace who instantly would give the Colts’ lackluster pass rush a disruptive jolt. With quarterbacks going off the board in the first two selections, Chris Ballard gets his pick of the best players available — and goes with the best one. 

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston)

Moon: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

Letting Joe Haden go hurt in more ways than one and Browns need a shutdown force in division with elite defenses, all except for the Browns’ (7 INT).

JJ: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

The thought of pairing Barkley with Darnold is awfully enticing for a Browns team that hasn’t ranked in the top half of the league in points scored since 2008. Barkley is as complete a running back as you’ll find in the draft, rushing for 1,271 yards but also catching 54 passes for 632 yards at Penn State last year. 

5. Denver Broncos 

Moon: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Since Peyton Manning finished, Broncos have had woeful QB results, and bringing back Brock Osweiler was a low point among several (Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian), all playing in ’17.

JJ: Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame

Nelson may be the best offensive player in this draft — and yes, that includes Barkley in this discussion — and has the physicality and athleticism to be a Pro Bowler from Year 1 to Year 10 in the league. Denver needs to address its quarterback situation, and they could opt for Rosen here, but Nelson seems too good to pass up in this spot. 

6. New York Jets 

Moon: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

RBs were devalued a few years ago. Not now, with 6 of top 8 rushers in playoffs, the need for a run game is back in vogue.

JJ: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

The Jets could be the landing spot for whatever quarterback is squeezed out of the top two, with 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg looking like a bust at this point. The Jets need to do more to improve their offensive structure around the quarterback with a better offensive line and running game, and could look for Texas tackle Connor Williams here. But in a year that could be a bumper crop of quarterbacks, the Jets get theirs. 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Moon: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Ward was a backfield mate of Marshon Lattimore and consistently solid. Bucs haven’t gone DL at No. 1 in 5 years and want to remain elite up front but Ward projects as day-one starter.

JJ: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

Fitzpatrick looks like the second-best defensive player in the draft, and the Bucs might be jumping for joy if he falls to them at No. 7. Fitzpatrick could be either a corner or a safety, but no matter where he is, he seems like a good bet to be great. 

8. Chicago Bears

Moon: Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame

Too high to take a WR. OL coach Harry Hiestand developed Nelson, and protecting Mitch Trubisky is a franchise-grade mandate. Texas OT Connor Williams is the other option, with more experience on the edge.

JJ: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

In going through the first seven picks here, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears traded out of this spot, since I agree with Moon that it’s probably too high to take a wide receiver. Perhaps Ryan Pace is able to trade up for the third consecutive year to snag Fitzpatrick or Nelson; or maybe he’ll look to trade down to add some more picks and still have a shot at landing Ridley, a corner (like Ohio State’s Denzel Ward), an outside linebacker (like Texas’ Malik Jefferson) or a tackle (like Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, who played under OL coach Harry Hiestand in college) later in the first round. 

9. San Francisco 49ers

Moon: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Pairing a force player with Reuben Foster immediately creates a defensive core, and Smith is a hedge against Foster injury issues. But Alabama WR Calvin Ridley may be too good to pass up as complement to QB Jimmy Garoppolo.

JJ: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

The lure of adding a go-to wide receiver to pair with Jimmy Garoppolo — who made a ragtag bunch of pass-catchers look pretty good after getting the 49ers’ starting nod in December — is too strong to pass up here. Sutton caught 62 passes for 1,085 yards with 12 touchdowns for SMU in 2017.

10. Oakland Raiders

Moon: Vita Vae, DT, Washington

Ridley would fit Raiders’ tradition for impact passing offense if he lasts this long, and Raiders very likely to go offense to muscle up for Jon Gruden’s program and support Derek Carr. But Gruden’s Oakland and Tampa Bay teams were stout on defense. 

JJ: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

In Smith, the Raiders could see the rock of their defense for years to come under Jon Gruden. This may be a little high for an inside linebacker, though, and Ward could be an option here as well. 

Coaching rumor tracker: Bears will double-dip interviews with Vikings coordinators

Coaching rumor tracker: Bears will double-dip interviews with Vikings coordinators

Updated, Jan. 3 at 3:16 p.m.

Our coaching search rumor tracker moves past Black Monday and into a week where teams are permitted to interview assistant coaches from four playoff teams that have byes: The New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles. 

Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio

The Bears announced Fangio was interviewed by Ryan Pace on Wednesday. Here's why he could and couldn't be a fit for the opening

Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards

The Bears are the first team we've seen Edwards' connected to, and it's sort of surprising he hasn't been the subject of more rumors before Wednesday. He's been a defensive coordinator for three teams: Washington (2003), the Buffalo Bills (2011-2012) and Minnesota Vikings (2014-present). The Vikings finished the 2017 season ranked No. 2 in defensive DVOA and have steadily improved (from 23 to 14 to 8 to 2) since Mike Zimmer hired him four years ago. The soon-to-be 51-year-old former All-ACC linebacker is the second defensive coach the Bears reportedly have requested to interview. 

Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy

The 39-year-old Nagy has been on Andy Reid's staff in Kansas City since 2013, when he was hired to be the team's quarterbacks coach, and was previously an offensive quality control assistant under Reid in Philadelphia. Nagy was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2016, and his offense ranked 4th in DVOA this year. An interesting wrinkle here: Given the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft, Nagy probably has done extensive research on Mitchell Trubisky, which could either sway him to come to Chicago or keep him away, depending on how he evaluated him. 

Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo 

Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported a timeline for the Bears to interview DeFilippo:

Check out the full breakdown of DeFilippo's credentials and fit for the Bears in the latest in our latest coaching confidential series. 

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels

Paul Aspan and I looked at McDaniels yesterday, and debated this: With Ryan Pace not relinquishing control of the 53-man roster, is he even worth a serious look? Read our breakdown here

Also included on the Bears' reported interview list is Shurmur, who was the mastermind behind a Vikings offense that had plenty of success despite losing its starting quarterback (Sam Bradford) and starting running back (Dalvin Cook) early in the season. If he can find a way to make Case Keenum a better-than-average NFL quarterback, surely he can do the same for Mitch Trubisky, right?

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks

Wilks was the Bears' secondary coach from 2006-2008 under Lovie Smith and has been an assistant to Ron Rivera with the Carolina Panthers since 2012. While he only has one year of coordinator experience, he's highly thought of around the league, as evidenced by plenty of other teams already putting in requests to interview him. Check out our Coaching Confidential profile of Wilks here

This is worth noting, too, given Ryan Pace's connection to New Orleans:

And still dreaming about Jim Harbaugh coming to the Bears? There's this:

Arizona Cardinals

Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo

Briefly: So far, the Bears' only competition for DeFilippo is the Cardinals, who don't have a young quarterback in place yet. But perhaps the Cardinals could sell DeFilippo on drafting a young quarterback to develop, though the team might need to trade up from the 15th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to land that guy. But consider this: 

We'll see if that could pay off for Arizona in their pursuit of DeFillippo. But he's not the only name connected to the job opening in Glendale so far:

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz
New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia

New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores

Indianapolis Colts

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks 

Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel

Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy

Briefly: If McDaniels makes the jump back into the head coaching ranks, Indianapolis makes a lot of sense -- so long as he's willing to not demand full control of the roster. General manager Chris Ballard is highly regarded around the league, though, and McDaniels could be lured to the Colts by both Andrew Luck (if healthy) and Jacoby Brissett (his former pupil in New England). 

This is the first place we've seen Richard, who helped create the "Legion of Boom" in Seattle, be mentioned, and it's a little surprising he hasn't been connected to more openings yet. Don't be surprised if Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub gets a look here, too. 

Detroit Lions

New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks

Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur

Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin

Green Bay Packers linebackers coach Winston Moss

Briefly: The Lions have put the most requests out for interviews so far, with most of these guys on the defensive side of the ball. General manager Bob Quinn has New England connections that make Patricia an obvious choice. 

Detroit, though, is giving its own a chance, interviewing Austin and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter on Tuesday:

Oakland Raiders

Current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden

Briefly: The Raiders seemingly fired Del Rio with the knowledge they'd be able to hire Gruden, but Gruden will be on the ESPN call of this weekend's Titans-Chiefs playoff game, so this could take a little while to get done. 

New York Giants

New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks

Former Denver Broncos running backs coach/assistant head coach Eric Studesville

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur 

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz


Briefly: The Giants are in an interesting position, with Eli Manning still there but holding the No. 2 overall pick to possibly draft his replacement. 

Without Lamarr Houston, Bears have a problem

Without Lamarr Houston, Bears have a problem

On the first day of training camp, before the Bears even took the field for practice in Bourbonnais, Pernell McPhee was placed on the physically unable to perform list. Just two days later, we learned the self-proclaimed “violent” outside linebacker who was supposed to be the prized free agent signing of Ryan Pace’s first offseason as Bears GM, had arthroscopic surgery to “clean out” whatever had built up in his right knee between reporting day and minicamp in June. That came after offseason labrum surgery. Which came after surgery on his left knee last offseason.

A presumably healthier McPhee was coming back, stud edge rusher of the future Leonard Floyd was expected to make a leap in his second season, and Willie Young and his 24 sacks in three years with the Bears were returning.  So some believed Lamarr Houston and his nearly $7 million cap figure, which jumps to almost $9 million in the fifth and final season of his deal in 2018, were expendable. After the McPhee news this week, sometimes the best move is the one you don’t make. The Bears weren’t pushed against the salary cap, so they didn’t have to cut him loose. Good thing they didn’t. Houston heard the rumors and speculation, but didn’t pay much attention.

“No, I’m not worried about that,” the seven-year veteran said after Friday’s practice in Bourbonnais. “In the NFL, there’s 31 other teams. If it doesn’t work out for one team, I’m sure there’s something else that’ll happen.”

Houston’s been in Chicago for three years. The second was great, with eight sacks readjusting to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, which he had a taste of with the Oakland Raiders. The first and third seasons with the Bears were lousy, tearing an ACL in both knees, limiting him to just ten games, including only two last season. Those knee injuries added to the thinking his time at Halas Hall wouldn’t last much longer.

“It was rough but adversity breeds success in my mind so I believe it was all for the better," Houston said.

Houston blocked out the noise as he went through a long rehab for the second time in three years.

“This is a competitive league and anytime you get hurt, there’s always the 'next man up' theory," Houston said. "So you can’t really focus on whether it’s about you being missed. It’s more about the team being successful.”

Now the Bears have to consider themselves lucky to have Houston. And hope the injury bug doesn't bite him again, or Floyd, or Young, or Dan Skuta or Sam Acho before the games start to count. Houston was brought in by former Bears GM Phil Emery in 2014 after an 8-8 season under Marc Trestman. His first ACL injury on his first Bears sack during a blowout road loss to the New England Patriots was almost emblematic of that chaotic, at times embarrassing, season.

“It’s much different now,” Houston says entering year three under John Fox, despite the 9-23 record. “We have a more cohesive locker room. Guys are excited to be here, they want to play football, they want to win. You can feel the vibe around the building. Everybody’s really into what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, and I think that’s going to make us a much better football team."

Houston now looks to flash back, performance-wise, to 2015, in his first season under Vic Fangio, and most of a defensive staff that seems to have the minds and architects in place. Now it’s a matter of having the right talent, and keeping it as healthy as possible, despite the ominous start with McPhee.

“We have to put in the work to show our identity and what we want that to be. Right now (it’s early) we don’t have an identity," Houston said. "We’re working and we’re going to find one before camp is out. I think we’re all excited about that and putting our best foot forward doing it. I think that’s something we have to earn. We have to work to build it and we’re going to keep on punching away.

“Thankfully we have the same defense and same coaches so I can get right back in this defense and get rolling again. Just to be around practice, be around the guys, the coaches, I’m very grateful for it and very excited about it. I’m not really worried about proving what I can do. I’ve got the same coaches, they know what I can do. Right now I’m thinking of getting thru the process, making steady progress and getting back out on the field and playing hard."