In our Chicago Bears mock draft, we examine a few paramount team needs, but more importantly, we'll also get into the many decisions this team will have to face on draft day, and the months before.
One of the major issue for the Bears this off-season, is the bevy of players who are either restricted or unrestricted free agents which include as many as 11 players—at least three of them who are high-profile.
Let's take a look at what could happen for the Bears in April, and discuss the thinking behind this mock draft, shall we?
1st Round: Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin:
6'2", 220 pounds:
The Chicago Bears face a tough choice with their first pick: take a tackle to protect Cutler, or taking a receiver to give Cutler someone to pass to.
Now it would be easy to say that the Bears can just go and get a FA receiver. This would allow them to grab an OT with the first pick, but keep in mind they have unrestricted FA running back Matt Forte ( who will not hit the open market without the FA tag according to Bears CEO Ted Phillips), unrestricted FA corner Tim Jennings and RESTRICTED FA Kalil Bell to deal with—they will at least have to make Bell an offer close to 2 million because of the restricted tag.
Nick Toon becomes the more valuable desire here by default, especially if the Bears want to retain their stars and save some cash.
Make no mistake, though, the kid comes with a highly aggressive side making him very difficult to press at the line, and enough athleticism and size to provide Jay Cutler with the one thing he really didn't have in 2011: a solid sizable target on the outside.
Toon is as solid of a route runner as they come, and has very sure hands which is always a plus.
Other possibilities could also include OT Jonathan Martin from Stanford if the Bears do grab a veteran WR while out shopping at the market.
2nd Round: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
6' 7", 323 pounds:
Sticking with the theme that the Bears could go with a WR first, their second immediate focus will surely be acquiring an offensive tackle to add some protection for Jay Cutler.
The Bears have some serious issues at the tackle position, particularly on the left-hand side. This is a situation that must be dealt with early in the draft if the Bears are to avoid the lack of protection issues that they dealt with last season.
Mike Adams is a massive presence on the line and almost unmovable off the snap with his ability to lock horns with just about anyone he faces—a prime candidate to shut down the better "bull-rushers" at the pro level.
The other advantage to his size and power is his natural bullish run blocking skill that Matt Forte has been missing on the outside.
The only issue the Bears could find with Adams is the fact that tackles his size tend to be a liability against speed rushers, due to their inadequate balance to compensate for the outside speed of the rusher, which opens the door for Florida's Zebrie Sanders as a possible option here as well.
Either way, I think the Bears go tackle.
3rd Round (from Carolina),Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana
6'2", 204 pounds:
The Bears have three corners who are unrestricted free agents this year in Zach Bowman, Corey Graham and Tim Jennings.
Jennings was the best out of the three but is expected to ask for more money than the Bears could potentially think he's worth.
Graham is expected to test the market once again as he did last season, but the Bears could wind up keeping him as a nickel specialist while Bowman is expected to go elsewhere to a team who does not deploy the Cover 2 which is where he failed miserably at.
In other words, the Bears have no wing man for Chris Tillman and Trumaine Johnson could be viewed as just that candidate.
Johnson has better than ideal size, speed and athleticism for a corner. Johnson displayed a solid college career playing as a man corner (which the Bears run about 50% of the time) while also showing his above average ability as a closing zone corner, and run defender—all the traits the Bears are currently seeking.
Another possibility for Chicago could also be Leonard Johnson from Iowa State or even Josh Norman from Coastal Carolina—both serviceable players, but not quite at the level Johnson is.
3rd Round: Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri
6' 5", 245 pounds:
The third round is the area of the draft the Bears can really do themselves some big favors with two selections and with the Kellen Davis experiment showing itself to be a monumental failure, the Bears will ultimately let him walk which means they will need to replace him.
Michael Egnew is the sort of TE that fits the bigger pass-catching TE mold, and if we assume the Bears grab an elite WR out of the draft, the need for a physical presence at TE in a vertical passing game becomes evident.
Egnew also has experience as a slot receiver and could give Chicago that big, physical red-zone target they were without all last year. The Missouri product functioned in a system that utilized him as a vertical threat, a shallow threat and as quick throw option—he'd be a perfect fit in Chicago.
4th Round: Cam Johnson, DE, Virginia
6' 3", 270 pounds:
The defensive end position is beginning to age rapidly in Chicago making the time to grab some fresh students now.
The Bears are expected to keep veteran Israel Idonije for another year or two despite not exactly setting the world on fire last season, and even though Julius Peppers is still one of the game's best, he is 32—still these would be great mentors to learn from.
What I personally like with Cam Johnson is the fact that the kid was an outstanding OLB for two years, and was an even better DE his in his last two seasons.
Johnson has very deceptive power on the edge and is unusually fast. The Bears could take Johnson and mold him as an outside speed rusher off the line, or even as a backer which is also a position the Bears could use—Did I mention the guy was also a standout WR and DB in high school?
The Bears could also target a more traditional dual LB threat such as Pittsburgh's Brandon Lindsey who would also provide the outside pass-rusher mold the Bears are looking for.
5th Round: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois
6' 2", 220 pounds:
Like many teams, the Bears will have to think about a QB at some point, especially with Josh McCown as the perpetual backup QB and Caleb Hanie not likely to return.
Chandler Harnish is another late-round quarterback who is a bit underestimated ala Wisconsin's Russell Wilson.
Harnish—already an Illinois product—has a deceptively good arm and played in a spread-style offense for the Huskies, so the experience is a plus. His other selling points are hinged upon his above average mobility which makes him not just an open-field threat, but also a passing threat due to his accuracy as a mobile passer.
The Bears could get lucky here, as Harnish's stock will likely keep him down due to his size which scouts aren't too crazy about.
6th Round: Damien Jackson, FS, Ole Miss
6' 2", 210 pounds:
At this point, the Bears could very easily be looking around for a quality FS prospect who could be developed into a future starter for the team, and Jackson could wind up being that player—assuming he isn't scooped up by another team of course.
Damien Jackson has great range for a safety alongside pretty good speed, which could work toward his pro development. But what the Bears could find even greater interest in is his aggressive side, which would fit right into Chicago's forceful defensive play.
The biggest knock on Jackson is his lack of girth, which is nothing a few 100 hours in the weight room can't fix. Another consideration could also be a developmental OG such as Desmond Wynn from Rutgers (6'5", 305).
Round 7: RB/KR, Adonis Thomas, Toledo
5' 10", 185 pounds:
A lot of options here, so I'll make a decision on a player that I feel could give the Bears plenty to work with—Adonis Thomas.
Thomas is a shifty, speedy runner who has great lateral running skills which challenges backers to beat him at the cutoff point, while also possessing the ability to get lost in traffic with his 5' 10" frame.
Thomas also was above average in return coverage skills, which could come in handy for Chicago either as a coverage player or a return man.
Other options include LS Josh Harris from Wisconsin, OLB Demario Davis from Arkansas State and WR Keshawn Martin from Michigan State.
Have a player you think the Bears could or should take? leave your nomination below and get the debate going.