Pick one: Whom the Bears should draft first

The Sun-Times’ Bears experts make their case for what the Bears should do when the draft starts Thursday night:

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Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore celebrates a touchdown.

Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore celebrates a touchdown.

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Sun-Times’ Bears experts make their case for what the Bears should do when the draft starts Thursday night:

Patrick Finley

Whom will the Bears draft? 

Stanford quarterback Davis Mills. Mills isn’t the 20th best player in the draft. But he’ll certainly be drafted higher than No. 52, which is when the Bears pick next. 

One solution: the Bears could trade back in the first round, draft Mills and, because he was a Day 1 pick, retain the fifth-year option on a rookie contract.

Is this pick a reach? For sure. But the draft never has had a wider variety of possible outcomes. Mills started only five games last year, thanks to the Pac-12’s truncated season and his own false positive coronavirus test before the opener. But Mills was the nation’s top drop-back passer recruit in high school. Stanford coach David Shaw swears by him.

Bears quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo was front-and-center during his impressive pro day. The Bears might be scared off by Mills’ knee injuries, which date to high school, and the fact that he threw 134 fewer passes than Mitch Trubisky did in his brief college career.

Which QB makes the most sense? 

I’ll offer the same answer experts give about the vaccine: the best quarterback is the one they can get. Pace simply can’t mortgage three years’ worth of first-round picks — plus more — to move up to the fourth selection. But if he can trade his first-rounder this year and next to pick a passer at No. 10 — Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Alabama’s Mac Jones — he should do it.

Short of that, I’d explore trading back in Round 1 and eyeing either Mills or Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond. 

Ryan Pace’s priority should be . . . 

Adding offensive weapons. Besides quarterback Andy Dalton, the Bears signed only two offensive skill position players this offseason — and neither played a snap last year because of coronavirus concerns. The team that posted the seventh-fewest yards in the NFL last year added Damien Williams, who’s penciled in as the third running back, and receiver Marquise Goodwin, who has caught only 35 passes since the end of 2017. Particularly if Pace plans on trading Anthony Miller, he needs to draft a receiver or two — and maybe a tight end, too. 

Jason Lieser

Whom will the Bears draft? 

Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore. This offense desperately needs more playmakers, and Moore looks like someone who could add a spark right away.

He’s small (5-9, 178 pounds) but incredibly fast (4.35 in the 40-yard dash). ESPN ranks him the No. 4 receiver in his class, NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein likened his skill set to Antonio Brown’s, and most mock drafts have him going in the 20s. 

He led the FBS with 149.1 yards receiving per game — including 11 catches for 143 against Alabama — and had eight touchdowns.

The early run on quarterbacks and offensive tackles could leave the Bears sifting through second-tier players at those positions, but it also could cause an elite talent to slide to them at receiver. With Miller likely on his way out, the Bears would go into next season with a dynamic trio of Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney and Moore.

Which QB makes the most sense? 

The most athletic, high-ceiling player they can find in the fifth round or later. While the Bears desperately need a franchise quarterback, they can’t get one in this draft unless they further mortgage their future to trade up.

As sad as this is to say, given the path they’ve chosen, they’re better off delaying this decision to 2022. Chances are, they’ll be picking higher then. For now, take a flyer on someone with a lot of potential late in the draft, preferably someone more agile — Notre Dame’s Ian Book? — than their current cement-footed quarterbacks.

Ryan Pace’s priority should be . . . 

Filling the holes he left empty during a forgettable free agency. Can anyone argue that the Bears are better now than when they ended the season with a blowout loss to the Packers and a listless playoff loss to the Saints?

This was the ideal time to blow up the roster, stockpile draft picks and bring in a new general manager and coach to rebuild. Instead, the Bears went all in for 2021 with mostly the same roster — subtract Kyle Fuller; add Dalton — that went .500 over the last two seasons.

Mark Potash

Whom will the Bears draft? 

Oklahoma State offensive tackle Teven Jenkins. Unless one of the top five quarterbacks drops far enough for Pace to trade up for him, the Bears’ best opportunity for immediate impact is an offensive tackle. It’s considered a deep class, and the expected quarterback frenzy could push a top-10 talent down to 20. 

Even first-round lineman can be dicey — Tristan Wirfs (13th overall last year) was the Buccaneers’ best offensive linemen as a rookie on a Super Bowl winning team. The 49ers’ Mike McGlinchey (ninth in 2018) started on a Super Bowl team but is not yet a transformational player. The Broncos’ Garrett Bolles (20th in 2017) was a bust after three seasons but an All-Pro in his fourth season last year. The Bengals’ Cedric Ogbuehi (21st in 2015) couldn’t cut it. Though most first-round linemen end up being starters, the Bears need a big hit, not just a minor upgrade over Bobby Massie. 

Which QB makes the most sense? 

The Bears under coach Matt Nagy have yet to show a knack for maxing out quarterbacks — either by player development or an inventive scheme that allows them to succeed. So unless the Nagy-DeFilippo-Lazor combination clicks in 2021, even top-tier guys such as Trey Lance, Mac Jones and Justin Fields would not be sure things in the Bears’ offense. And below that level, it really gets dicey.

That said, Florida’s Kyle Trask might be a worthwhile gamble if he drops into the third round. He lacks mobility, but if he can develop escapability — the ability to gain that extra split-second under pressure — he has the tools to be a hit in the NFL.

Ryan Pace’s priority should be . . . 

Building an offense that can lift the quarterback. It would be nice to have it the other way around, but those guys are tough to find — especially at No. 20 when five quarterbacks are expected to go in the top 11. The Bears need help on defense — cornerback, defensive line rotation depth — but Pace should be fixated on improving the Bears’ offense any way he can. He needs to give Nagy every weapon he can to see if Nagy is the offensive guy he hired in 2018. 

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