Our Pledge To You

News

Whom should Bears draft at 7? Sun-Times mock draft 1.0

Now that free agency has hit a lull before the NFL owners meetings this week in Phoenix, Bears general manager Ryan Pace’s patient approach to spending means more patience is required from fans.

The Bears will be rebuilt through the draft under Pace, and it all starts with the seventh overall pick.

‘‘We have the draft going forward,’’ Pace said this month. ‘‘So we have a lot of time to continue to build the roster, build the chemistry and build the locker room.’’

Here’s the Sun-Times’ first look at what the Bears should do at No. 7:

ADAM L. JAHNS ajahns@suntimes.com / @adamjahns

Projected Top Six

1. Buccaneers — Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

2. Titans — Leonard Williams, DE, USC

3. Jaguars — Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

4. Raiders — Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

5. Redskins — Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida

6. Jets — Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

And with the No. 7 selection, the Bears choose …

Danny Shelton, DT, Washington:
This may have Shelton going earlier than some projections, but the Bears’ own evaluations are what count, and Shelton can be a game-changer at defensive tackle from Day 1.

Shelton may not be the sexy pick, but he would fill a drastic need for an interior defensive lineman. Some veteran free agents remain, but coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio need more to work with. The only interior defensive linemen on the Bears’ roster are 11-year veteran Jeremiah Ratliff, second-year tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton and undrafted tackle Brandon Dunn.

The 6-2 Shelton, an academic All-American, met with the Bears at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he did 34 repetitions of 225 pounds and displayed a vertical jump of over 30 inches. His weight (339 pounds) could be an issue, though he rarely came off the field at Washington.

He has the bulk and strength to handle nose tackle in the Bears’ 3-4 defense. He handled other defensive-line techniques for the Huskies, and scouts believe he can do the same in multiple-look defenses in the NFL.

Shelton has been compared physically to several players, including B.J. Raji and Vince Wilfork. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah likened him to former Baltimore Ravens brute Haloti Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowl tackle now with the Detroit Lions. Jeremiah was a scout for the Ravens when Ngata was the 12th overall pick in 2006.

The next Ngata?

Sign the Bears up.

 

MARK POTASH mpotash@suntimes.com / @markpotash

Projected Top Six

1. Buccaneers — Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

2. Titans — Leonard Williams, DE, USC

3. Jaguars — Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida

4. Raiders —
Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

5. Redskins — Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

6. Jets — Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

And with the No. 7 selection, the Bears choose …

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: Nebraska outside linebacker Randy Gregory might be the best player on the board at this point, but although the Bears will never have enough linebackers in Vic Fangio’s defense, it’s unlikely they can afford the luxury of drafting Gregory after signing linebacker Pernell McPhee in free agency (and expecting Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston to play outside linebacker).

They have more acute needs elsewhere, and the best value figures to be Cooper, a 6-0, 210-pounder who has the speed the Bears are looking for but, more important, is considered to be an expert, NFL-quality route-runner — an absolute must for a team with Jay Cutler at quarterback. Cooper, a Miami native who won’t turn 21 until June, played three seasons at Alabama and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best receiver last year.

‘‘I take pride in the way I release off the line and coming out of breaks,’’ Cooper said last month at the combine. ‘‘That’s really the only two ways you can get open.’’

With multiple holes to fill, the Bears are a candidate to trade this pick, especially if Mariota is available. This draft is deep enough in most of the Bears’ primary need areas that a trade that keeps them in the middle of the first round and gives them another quality pick likely would be well worth the expense. In fact, it would not be surprising if the Bears end up soliciting offers for the No. 7 pick even if Mariota is already gone.

 

PATRICK FINLEY pfinley@suntimes.com / @patrickfinley

PROJECTED TOP SIX

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 — Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida

6. Jets — Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska

And with the No. 7 selection, the Bears choose …

Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: I know, I’m surprised, too. I’ve thought the Bears would be foolish to get cute here. They need so much help on defense — more than just Pernell McPhee and Antrel Rolle — and should focus on that side almost exclusively for a second straight draft.

But remember what Pace said about free agency? The point is to fill needs so you can draft the best player available. And, in the above scenario, White is that.

And then there’s this, too: The Bears owe Alshon Jeffery a contract extension this offseason, one year before his rookie deal expires. In an SEC filing for the athlete stock company Fantex, the company said Jeffery and his agent estimated he’d get a six-year, $79.4 million contract.

If his deal comes close to that figure, the Bears simply can’t afford to pay decent free-agent dollars for a No. 2 wide receiver to replace Brandon Marshall. They just gave slot receiver Eddie Royal $10 million guaranteed, after all.

Drafting a No. 2 receiver, then — be it White or Cooper — makes good financial sense. Just ask Pace, whose New Orleans Saints selected star-in-the-making Brandin Cooks last year.

The best argument against drafting a receiver first is that there will be talented ones available in the later rounds, too. But if the Bears decide White is the best player, they owe it to themselves to pick him.