Trading Down is Best Option for Bears

| April 28th, 2015

“What if I told you the Bears could come out of the 2015 NFL Draft with four starters taken in the first three rounds? You’d be intrigued, right? Well, that’s exactly what the Bears have a chance to do if they play their cards right Thursday night.”

With a top 10 pick, the Bears need to think one of two ways: Either get a great player or get a few good players. The problem with the Bears having the seventh pick in this year’s draft is that there doesn’t seem to be seven great players, which means their best option will likely be to trade back.

Here are the standards for a top 10 pick:

  • Will either start or play on significant snaps (third downs) as a rookie, unless he’s a QB.
  • Someone who plays a crucial position. He either helps your QB or makes the other team’s QB’s life hell.
  • A great athlete. The best players are almost always great athletes.
  • Had at least a moderately productive collegiate career.
  • Has to be a key part of their identity for the next five-to-10 years.

How many of this year’s consensus top picks fit that criteria? The most common names are Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Amari Cooper, Kevin White, Leonard Williams, Vic Beasley and Brandon Scherff. Seven guys and the Bears have the seventh pick. Easy, right?

Not if the seventh guy doesn’t fit a crucial position or if you can get a similarly-graded player later.

Factor in team needs because every team does. Don’t listen when they say “best player available.” They’re lying. Unless it is a player who is ranked so much higher than everyone else and they just can’t believe that player dropped, they’re drafting a position that makes sense for their team. The Bears have a 60-year-old coach, he didn’t come to the team to rebuild. He might be convinced to take a franchise quarterback, but they aren’t going to take a player at another position to sit on the bench for a year. If they don’t win in Year 1, he wants to win big in Year 2.

As I’ve covered in the past, I don’t like the other pass rushers and I don’t think a complementary player should be drafted that high. It’s impossible to predict how the draft will play out.

My guess is that Winston will go first and Mariota second, I’ll say to the Jets. I think Beasley will go third, White will be selected fourth, Cooper fifth and Williams sixth. That leaves the Bears with Scherff at seventh.

If that’s the way they want to go, it would be hard to complain. Throw Scherff at right tackle and let him and Kyle Long kick ass for the next decade. It would fit John Fox’s desire to pound the ball and keep Jay Cutler (and whatever quarterback comes next) clean. It would be very similar to what the Cowboys did last year with Zack Martin at guard. It makes sense.The Bears would be a better team with Scherff.

Scherff might be a great player, but he’s a right tackle. Does even the best right tackle move the needle for his team? The Bears had James “Big Cat” Williams at right tackle for years. He was awesome. They were awful.

If the Bears are really going to commit to the running game more, Scherff will help as a mauler, but it would also put less priority on pass-blocking from the position. If they’re committed to a power running game, could they survive with Jordan Mills there again? Mills was a good run-blocker and there’s no guarantee that Scherff is going to be a better pass-blocker, some don’t even see him as a tackle. Could Mike Ola continue to develop into a starter? Charles Leno? It doesn’t make sense to move Kyle Long. Couldn’t they get a starter later in the draft at that position? The Packers built the best offensive line in the league with mostly mid-round picks. Ryan Pace’s former team, the Saints, did so too.

I’m a big fan of Scherff as a prospect. If the Bears were an offensive lineman away from contending, I’d be all for it. But who do they take in the second round? A defensive lineman? Receiver? Running back? Pass rusher? Defensive back? You can argue they need every one of those positions urgently. They can’t fill them all this year, but what if they can get a prospect similar to Scherff later in the draft and get fill another hole?

Teams are going to want to move up. They’re going to want the seventh pick to grab a pass rusher or a receiver and the Bears need to take advantage of their desperation. Obviously, there’s a chance that another player could go in the top seven and cause  Kevin White or Vic Beasley to drop. I love Beasley, but I suspect the Bears don’t because of how much they’ve spoken about wanting length.

There’s a rumor that the Saints want Beasley and they’re certainly in the market for a pass-rusher. There are also rumors that the Dolphins are looking to move up. The cost for either to get the Bears pick would be their first and second round picks. The Saints, especially, have the ammunition to do so since they also possess the 31st pick of the draft. Say the Bears move back to 13 and take back the 44th pick. Or to 14 and take the Dolphins’ 47th pick. Players taken in the top 50 should start right away.

With the 13th or 14th pick, the Bears suddenly have more options that make sense for them. For one, I don’t think anyone should rule out Scherff dropping, or they could look at one of the other top tackles. They could also be filling a huge void in their secondary.

Landon Collins is widely considered to be the best safety in the draft, he’d almost certainly be there at 13. They could also have a chance at the top cornerbacks. I like Trae Waynes as an outside cornerback. Someone with the size, length and speed to keep up with Jordy Nelson and Megatron. They could draft Waynes and move Kyle Fuller to the nickel/rover that Charles Woodson mastered in a very similar defense with the Packers. Or they could take super athlete Byron Jones to play the rover spot. Let him run around and take the ball away while he develops as either a cornerback or safety.

Really, all of the cornerbacks are options as there’s no consensus at that position.

Then, we get to the 39th pick for the Bears and likely a ton of options. A receiver like Phillip Dorsett or Devin Smith will probably be available. They could double up on defensive backs with Eric Rowe or grab a defensive lineman like Henry Anderson or, one of my personal favorites, Preston Smith.

Whatever they don’t do with the 39th pick, they could do with the 44th or their other pick, giving them three starters.

Now moving on to the 71st pick. Say they drafted a wide receiver and a defensive lineman in the second round, they could still likely get an offensive tackle like Donovan Smith to compete with Ola and Mills. If they’re looking more toward the future, they could go with another defensive back like Ibraheim Campbell or Josh Shaw. Maybe they add a center, a quarterback or a running back?

The names and the positions aren’t necessarily important. What is important is that they get good players, preferably defenders because building a nasty defense is the best way to contend next year and going forward.

Unless they’re going to reach for a player, the Bears options are limited at seven. If they can move back and pick up another pick in the top of the second round, it should be an easy call.

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