From trades to needs to sure things, where the Bears could turn on draft night

SHARE From trades to needs to sure things, where the Bears could turn on draft night
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UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport picks up a Rice fumble. (AP)

ARLINGTON, Texas — The prospects loaded into a bus Wednesday bound for the parking lot at AT&T Stadium, where a makeshift turf field and energetic children awaited them for a football camp.

Along the way, they agreed: They couldn’t believe it was almost draft day.

‘‘That’s a crazy thought,’’ Texas-San Antonio edge rusher Marcus Davenport said. ‘‘I never thought I’d be here. I never thought I’d come this far.’’

Not that any of them know, exactly, where they’ll go Thursday.

‘‘No idea,’’ N.C. State edge rusher Bradley Chubb said. ‘‘None at all.’’

Here’s who might be bound for the Bears, who draft eighth:

The bold move

Considered the top pass rusher in a weak class — and the best defensive player overall — Chubb visited only three teams’ facilities leading up to the draft. He met with the Giants, who draft second; the Buccaneers, who pick seventh; and the Bears.

Chicago’s inclusion on his itinerary lends some credence to the thought that Bears general manager Ryan Pace might move up if Chubb falls to No. 6, where the Colts are open for business.

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The Bears don’t have a third-round pick this year after trading it last year as part of the package for Mitch Trubisky, so they’d have to get creative to move up. But Pace values decisive strikes, and Chubb might be the only player he deems worthy of such a leap.

‘‘You never know what’s going to happen in the draft,’’ Chubb said. ‘‘I might fall down there; they can trade up. You just never know. I’m glad I got the opportunity to go out there and talk to them and show them who I am as a person.’’

At Halas Hall, Chubb and Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley discussed how they would use him in their 3-4 and sub packages.

‘‘The base packages — when they had the linebacker set up as a rush end, pretty much — luckily for me, I was able to do both in college,’’ Chubb said. ‘‘We had packages where I was standing up, dropping back, doing everything, doing this and that, playing like a linebacker on my feet.’’

The sure thing

Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson might be the safest pick in the draft — and that’s before you consider the Bears employ his mentor, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.

His position, though, rarely gets drafted so early.

‘‘If you’ve got another generational player that’s available, it’s tough to take a guard over that guy,’’ said Stanford coach David Shaw, whose team faced Nelson the last three years. ‘‘There are a few in this draft.’’

It’s a short list: Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and perhaps Chubb. They won’t be available at No. 8.

‘‘But if you’ve got a generational quarterback that needs a guard, that’s hard to pass up, as well,’’ Shaw said.

The Bears think they have the former. Shaw stressed that Nelson, who didn’t travel to the Dallas area for the draft, makes even more sense in the modern NFL. The Bears, of course, have a starting spot open for him.

‘‘With all these 250-pound guys that run a 4.4 [40-yard dash] that are rushing the edge, the quarterback has to step up in the pocket,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘And if he can’t, then you’re done. If you have that quarterback that you need to stay clean, drafting a guard high in the draft is a great idea.’’

The inside guys

An inside linebacker with the skills to rush from the edge, Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds could help fill two of the Bears’ need positions. Saying he enjoyed his visit to Halas Hall, the 6-5, 253-pounder demurred when asked how he’d fit in schematically.

‘‘I really don’t want to talk about that as much, if you don’t mind,’’ he said.

Maybe that’s a clue, given that Trubisky clammed up at the predraft event last year, falsely claiming he had yet to meet with the Bears.

The son of former NFL tight end Ferrell Edmunds turns only 20 next week, which makes him more intriguing to GMs. He’s a tall inside linebacker with room to grow as an edge rusher. But Edmunds insisted he can help immediately.

‘‘I’m going to come in there and be the player that a lot of people expect me to be,’’ Edmunds said. ‘‘I know the type of player I am.’’

Is he better than Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, though? Smith, who also visited Halas Hall, is more instinctive and would be more effective on Day 1.

At 6-1 and 236 pounds, the Butkus Award winner’s coverage ability is intriguing, but he doesn’t offer the same edge-rush potential Edmunds does.

Smith might be off the board by the time the Bears pick. He has been linked as high as the Colts at No. 6.

‘‘I think [Smith] is a great player,’’ NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. ‘‘I think they both have high floors and high ceilings.’’

The DBs

Just because the Bears return all four of their starting defensive backs doesn’t mean they won’t be tempted by one. They might have their choice of the two best cornerbacks in the draft in Ohio State’s Denzel Ward and Iowa’s Josh Jackson, as well as the two best safeties available in Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and Florida State’s Derwin James.

Ward said there’s room for him on the Bears, judging by a fruitful meeting at Halas Hall, and Jackson, who led the NCAA with eight interceptions last season, said the Bears need someone just like him.

‘‘Somebody that can go get the ball,’’ he said.

Ward has recent history on his side. Former teammate Marshon Lattimore, another Ohio State cornerback, was named the NFL defensive rookie of the year in 2017.

‘‘He and I have been talking,’’ Ward said. ‘‘I don’t think there’s any secret. It’s more so just getting the playbook and working out and watching film and being a student of the game.’’

Fitzpatrick, a safety with the cover skills of a cornerback, might fill in immediately in the Bears’ sub packages — if he doesn’t take a starting job outright.

Unlike Fitzpatrick, James didn’t visit the Bears.

‘‘Maybe they don’t like me, I don’t know,’’ James said. ‘‘Some teams, they like to keep it a surprise.’’

The need position

Davenport isn’t the best edge rusher in the draft, though he’s probably No. 2, ahead of Boston College’s Harold Landry.

For a team whose outside-linebacker options include a recuperating Leonard Floyd, a banged-up Aaron Lynch and the steady, if unspectacular, Sam Acho, the Bears’ need might be enough draft him — particularly if they trade down.

Davenport seemed to fall in love with Bears staffers in Lake Forest.

‘‘It was a lot about personality and getting to know me and getting to know the fit,’’ he said. ‘‘Hmm. How would I describe it? They’re a family. They take care of each other. They have a long history of great players, and they’re trying to get back to that.’’

Thursday is their best chance to get one.

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