The Chicago Bears have a big decision ahead of them. With the NFL draft being less than two weeks away, the Bears surely are having discussions on what to do with the third overall selection. The Bears haven’t had a draft pick this high since the 1972 draft. Although general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox and his staff have shown some encouraging signs with the rebuilding of the franchise, this pick could easily make or break their futures with the team. When you have a pick this high you simply can’t afford to miss out on selecting a franchise-changing player.
As recent as last week, the consensus among draft experts was that the Cleveland Browns would select edge rusher Myles Garrett with the first overall pick. Garrett showed that he has the potential to be a dominant force in the NFL for years to come. However, there has been rumblings that the Browns may opt to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. This would make the San Francisco 49ers’ pick a coveted resource for teams looking to trade up and steal Garrett with the second pick. There are rumors that the Bears would love to trade down and gain extra picks in what is considered the deepest draft in recent history. However, teams know that the draft is deep and most likely won’t be willing to give up draft capital. This would all change, however, if Garrett inexplicably fell to the Bears draft slot. This would make this pick very valuable. Assuming that this doesn’t happen, the Bears are realistically looking at filling one of two positions with their first-round pick.
The Bears will have a chance at a highly-graded defensive lineman with their first-round pick. There is an outside chance that Garrett falls to them, but they have a realistic chance at both Solomon Thomas and Jonathan Allen. Thomas is a defensive end from Stanford. He has good size and strength and dominated the Pac-12 with 8.5 sacks last year. The only knock on him is that he projects better in a 4-3 defense than the 3-4 defense that Vic Fangio runs. However, he has stated that he believes he can be an impact player in either system. Jonathan Allen projects best as a 5-technique lineman in a 3-4 system. He is dominant against the run and showed the ability to get after the quarterback with 5.5 sacks last year. The only knock on Allen is his shoulder injury. He is dealing with arthritic shoulders and this could very well stick with him for his entire career. Teams such as the Bears will have to conduct extensive medical checks on Allen who has the talent to be the top overall selection.
If the Bears chose one of these defensive linemen it would be considered more of a “luxury pick” rather than filling a specific need. The Bears front seven was one of their strengths last year and is where they have the most depth on the defensive side of the ball.
Many people, including myself, believe that the Bears would be better off selecting a difference-maker for the secondary with their first-round pick. Safeties Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker along with cornerback Marshon Lattimore all project as top-10 talent. If the Bears were picking tenth in this draft, they would be delighted to have any of these players fall to them. However, the Bears are picking third and therefore cannot afford to choose the wrong player.
Most mock drafts have the Bears selecting Adams. Adams has NFL-pedigree considering his father played in the league. He is a hard-hitting safety who can anchor a defense for years to come. He would be slated in as an immediate starter for the Bears and compares favorably to Darren Woodson. Hooker is the Bears other option at safety. He is a true ball-hawk. He had seven interceptions last year and recorded 74 tackles. The only knock on Hooker is that he only had one year of collegiate experience after redshirting. He has a higher ceiling than Adams but currently isn’t quite as polished.
Lattimore, like Hooker, helped anchor the Ohio State Buckeye’s defense last year. He was a shutdown corner for Urban Meyer’s team last year and earned All-Big Ten honors. He intercepted four passes and showed great speed and footwork that allowed him to stay with receivers. He also tackles very well in the open field. Like Hooker, Lattimore only has one year of true experience and also experienced injury problems in college. He has the ability to be a future Pro Bowl cornerback in the NFL. In my opinion, the Bears will focus more on Adams and Hooker considering they spent resources on the cornerback position in free agency by signing Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper. Considering the Bears recently released incumbent starter Tracy Porter, both of these players should be slated to start at cornerback when the 2017-2018 campaign opens. Considering they are only 28 and 27 respectively, Ryan Pace and company are hoping they can be long-term options.
Ryan Pace has shown that he will not over think draft picks and that he will choose the best player available while keeping the team’s needs in mind. Look for Jamal Adams to hear his name called by Roger Goodell when the Bears are on the clock. Adams will look to shore up the safety position that has haunted the Bears in past seasons. Meanwhile, Ryan Pace will rest easy knowing that he chose a defensive playmaker with his first pick. This will allow him to look for edge rushers and offensive weapons, such as a quarterback of the future, in rounds 2-7.
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