The case for 8 players the Bears could draft third Thursday
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PHILADELPHIA — The draftees will run down, not up, the infamous ‘‘Rocky’’ steps at the temporary theater outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Thursday night.
Here are seven players that could put on a Bears cap after hugging commissioner Roger Goodell — and one who could jump up while watching on television with his family and friends:
Stanford DL Solomon Thomas
Curious how Thomas fits in a Vic Fangio defense? He has already played in one.
The Cardinal kept much of Fangio’s terminology and concepts from when he ran their defense in 2010.
“Our staffs are very tight, in that they’re similar in what they want to do,” Stanford coach David Shaw said Wednesday. I think it would be a great fit.”
Thomas, who Fangio watched at Stanford’s pro day, matches the uber-athletic profile of general manager Ryan Pace’s previous two first-round picks.
When Thomas visited Halas Hall, the Bears explained how he’d fit.
“Being a defensive end and moving down [over the guard] and, in a sub package, moving out to be a wide rusher,” Thomas said. “They plan on using my versatility.”
Alabama DL Jonathan Allen
At least one person is rooting for Allen to go to Chicago. His fiancée, who was born in Champaign, grew up a Bears fan.
Allen took one step toward making that a possibility when he passed a Bears physical while visiting Halas Hall, he said.
Doctors needed less than 10 minutes to tell him his shoulders — on which he has had surgery and has an arthritic condition — were fine.
Allen lacks Thomas’ versatility, but his production — his 22½ sacks the last two years are almost double that of Thomas — is ridiculous. Allen met with Pace, coach John Fox and defensive line coach Jay Rodgers, among others, at Halas Hall.
“I can definitely see myself fitting in the system,” he said.
LSU S Jamal Adams
Adams is a safer pick than Ohio State ballhawk Malik Hooker. Adams met with the Bears at the combine but didn’t take a private trip to Halas Hall. He smiled when asked whether he was surprised — “Am I supposed to be? You never know what’s going to happen,” he said — before saying that not all draft picks do team visits.
Adams has been praised for his leadership off the field and explosiveness on it. But if the Bears take the safety third — making Adams the highest one drafted since 1991 — it will be because they think takeaways come more from secondary play than a pass rush from Thomas or Allen.
“Who do they think is going to affect the pass game the most,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “The guy on the front or the guy on the back end?”
Ohio State S Malik Hooker
Hooker had surgery to repair a torn hip labrum and two sports hernias in January, but his checkup earlier this month went well.
His instincts are borderline otherworldly, even though he only started one year in college and played two years in high school. His seven interceptions last year were second-most; that would help a Bears team whose 11 takeaways tied the NFL record for futility last year.
“Just his ball skills and his play awareness,” teammate Marshon Lattimore said of Hooker, who stayed home to watch the draft. “He’s made some plays where I’m like, ‘Man, that’s unique.’ Just making reads. . . . Some things that he has, you just can’t teach. It’s in him. He’s a unique player.”
North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky
Trubisky joked that he likes surprises and mysteries. He should love Thursday.
While some still think he could make a serious challenge for the first pick by his home-state Browns, a more realistic debate will be whether he’s the first quarterback taken.
The Bears, though, didn’t bring either Trubisky or Clemson’s Deshaun Watson to Halas Hall for formal meetings — or, the quarterbacks said, work them out privately.
That surprised Trubisky, who had only started one year in college.
“I thought they’d be showing more interest,” he said. “But who knows — some teams like to be secretive about it.”
So no attention means they’re really interested?
“I have no idea,” he said. “It could be like that, or maybe they’re not at all. I’m not really sure.’’
It seems unlikely the Bears would invest the third pick in a quarterback they researched only covertly.
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
The Bears might not have invited Watson to Lake Forest, but they had quite a presence — Pace, Fox, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone and others — to Clemson’s pro day.
“Some teams, they’ve seen enough and they need to evaluate other people,” Watson said of not getting an invite to Halas Hall. “Some people want you to come and get to know you more. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Watson spent his team visits taking voluminous notes about everything from blitz pickup to reading defenses. The Bears love his attention to detail.
Pace has said he wants a player who has elevated his college program. Watson, more than any quarterback in the draft, certainly did.
Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore
Lattimore took MRIs at the combine in an effort to try to convince teams his college hamstring problems aren’t chronic. He said he passed physicals given at his private visits, including one to Halas Hall.
“There shouldn’t be any hamstring issues that come up,” he said. “If that’s what [teams] feel — that they can’t pick me because of that — that’s all right. Wherever I go, I’m going to show them I’m 100 percent.”
The case against Lattimore goes beyond hamstrings; in one of the deepest cornerback drafts ever, the Bears can get a starter as late as the third round.
“If I fit in their scheme and they pick me, I’ll be honored,” Lattimore said.
Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
Someone will fill the Liberty Bell’s crack with a putty knife before the Bears take Kizer with the third pick.
If they move back, or up from the second round, though, the Bears could bet on Kizer’s size, arm strength and youth late in the first round. He turned 21 in January.
Kizer visited Halas Hall twice, as allowed by a rule that considers Notre Dame a local team in Chicago. He’s been blunt about wanting to play in Chicago.
“I think the more time you spend with the teams, the teams are gonna get to know who you actually are,” Kizer said.
“You can go and prepare yourself all day long for a formal interview at the combine, but your true personality comes out the more you spend time with them.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.