With less than three remaining before the NFL draft, the Bears are in the thick of prospect evaluations, looking at film by position.
It’s something John Fox said last month he was looking forward to.
“It’s hard to be a good coach if you’re not a good evaluator,” the Bears first-year coach said. “How do you pick your own team? All right. So I enjoy it. That’s how I started in coaching. In college coaching, you’re the scout and the coach. And not only just your position …
“So you can say I grew up as a scout. So yeah, I do enjoy the process.”
So do others, who have linked the Bears to everything from quarterbacks to defensive tackles to wideouts to trades.
Three weeks after the Sun-Times’ last mock draft and about three weeks before the real thing, here’s a look at who we think the Bears will choose with the seventh overall pick in the NFL draft:
ADAM L. JAHNS
1. Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State; 2. Titans – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon; 3. Jaguars – Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida; 4. Raiders — Leonard Williams, DE, USC; 5. Redskins — Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama; 6. Jets –Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri.
And with the No.7 selection, the Bears select …
A trade proposal
The NFL’s pre-draft buildup is full of smokescreens and outright lies. But right now I’m taking Bears general manager Ryan Pace and Fox at their word.
And what the Bears’ new decision-makers have said about this year’s wide receiver class makes me believe that they’d be willing to pass on one at this point — even West Virginia’s Kevin White — especially if right trade proposal comes their way.
Adding a draft pick or two could help Pace hasten his rebuilding process.
“If that’s an area we decide to address in the draft, it’s deep,” Pace said last month. “There are a lot of good receivers in this year’s draft.”
“Receiver is strong,” Fox added.
If White is the highest rated player on the Bears’ board at No. 7, it’s best to stick to it and select him. But if he’s not and other teams are looking to trade up in the first round, the Bears will have a huge bargaining chip at their disposal.
The same can be said about Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Alabama receiver Amari Cooper or even Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff.
Fox’s teams over the years have leaned toward defense in the first round, and he said this year is deep when it comes to front-seven defenders.
My first mock draft had the Bears selecting Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton at No. 7. But the Bears might be able to grab him later in the first round.
1. Buccaneers — Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State; 2. Titans — Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon; 3. Jaguars — Leonard Williams, DE, USC; 4. Raiders — Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. 5. Redskins —Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska; 6. Jets — Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida.
And with the No.7 selection, the Bears select …
Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Since our last mock draft three weeks ago, the Bears have signed eight players to one-year contacts. Six of them play defense. Does that sound like a team hell-bent on taking a defensive player in the first round?
Rather, Pace’s stated goal during free agency was to get to get his roster to where the Bears could draft the best available player. In this scenario, White is just that.
Signs of mutual interest are abound. Bears receivers coach Mike Groh worked out White at his pro day last month. White has scheduled a pre-draft meeting with the Bears.
The team might prefer the Raiders draft White’s upside and leave them the more reliable Cooper — a move that would reinforce decades of Oakland draft decisions — and could even consider trading down to gather more assets.
Some fear White is a one-year wonder after he totaled 1,447 yards on 109 catches in his senior season. The year before, his first in Div. I-A after a JuCo stint, he had almost one-third the production, catching 35 passes for 507 yards.
Still, White is electric — he ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine — and could slide seamlessly into the hole left by Brandon Marshall.
1. Buccaneers — Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State; 2. Titans — Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon; 3. Jaguars — Leonard Williams, DE, USC; 4. Raiders — Kevin White , WR, West Virginia; 5. Redskins — Dante Fowler, DE, Florida; 6. Jets — Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa.
And with the seventh pick in the 2015 NFL draft, the Chicago Bears select …
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Three weeks without any actual football being played hasn’t changed the draft scenario much for the Bears — as it should not. They still need a wide receiver to complement Alshon Jeffery after trading Brandon Marshall. They still can’t get Dante Fowler. They still won’t take Washington DT Danny Shelton when he’s not the best player available at No. 7.
The analysis of Cooper to the Bears remains the same as well: Besides athleticism and speed and good-enough size at 6-1, 211, he’s an expert route-runner — an NFL-ready quality particularly important with a finicky quarterback like Jay Cutler, who sometimes seems to tune out guys who don’t know their job. The only question is whether the Raiders take Cooper at No. 4. That would leave the Bears with West Virginia’s Kevin White, which might not be a little tougher decision for them, or not.
Sources indicate the Bears are keeping all their options open at this point. Trading the No. 7 pick still is on the table — especially if Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is still on the board. That would give the Bears an excellent opportunity to trade down, perhaps get Shelton or perhaps Eddie Goldman at a more draft-efficient spot in the first round and still acquire a quality player to fill needs at wide receiver, edge rusher or safety.