Audibles: First-Round Projections for the Bears

| April 13th, 2018

The draft is coming and the mocks are rolling in. Here are some projections for the Bears’ first-round selection. As has been proven in the Ryan Pace era, the chances of these being correct are not good.

Scott Wright, NFLDraftCountdown projects Quenton Nelson:

The Bears wisely noted a weak crop of wide receivers in the draft and instead used free agency to provide young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with some weapons to throw to.  Now they are free to shore up the offensive line with Nelson, who I feel is the best prospect in this class, regardless of position.  It also doesn’t hurt that Nelson’s college offensive line coach Harry Hiestand now holds the same position in the Windy City.

Nelson is a mountain of a man with outstanding strength and power, but also surprising athletic and nimble when pulling and blocking in space.  What really sets Nelson apart though is his aggressiveness, nasty on-field temperament and desire to finish blocks.  I don’t throw my “Elite” grade around lightly and this year Nelson and Penn St. RB Saquon Barkley were the only two prospects to earn that label.  In fact, Nelson is the best true offensive guard prospect I’ve seen in my two decades of covering the NFL Draft.

If Nelson is gone or they want to go in another direction, keep an eye on Virginia Tech OLB Tremaine Edmunds.  The young, athletic, rangy ‘backer has actually been compared to Bears great Brian Urlacher due to his well-rounded skill set and upside.

WGN’s Adam Hoge, in his Mock 3.0, agrees with me:

1st round, No. 8 overall — LB Roquan Smith (6-1, 236)

This one came down to either Smith or Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who may actually fit the Ryan Pace draft profile a little better. Edmunds is huge and freakishly athletic and it wouldn’t surprise me if he has Pace and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio drooling over him as a potential pass rusher, especially considering he’s only 19 years old. But there’s little on tape to suggest Edmunds is a sure-thing as a pass rusher, meaning he would be a high-upside project, not unlike Leonard Floyd was when he was drafted.

Let me be clear: I’m not opposed to that idea. Edmunds has a high-ceiling and could end up being even better than Bradley Chubb. But that’s a risky proposition.

Most project Edmunds as an enormous inside linebacker, which has brought on lofty Brian Urlacher comparisons. Sorry, but Edmunds doesn’t have Urlacher-like instincts. Not even close. In fact, that’s his biggest weakness and it’s a glaring weakness on tape.

Basically, this came down to either drafting a pass-rushing project in Edmunds, or a plug-and-play inside linebacker in Roquan Smith. Smith may be the smaller linebacker, but he has outstanding instincts and flies from sideline-to-sideline. He’s excellent in coverage and plays bigger than his actual size. He’s the type of high-character player who would quickly become a defensive captain and “quarterback” of the defense for years to come.

And let’s not overlook the inside linebacker position in terms of depth. Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski are your starters right now and both have had issues staying healthy. John Timu and Jonathan Anderson return as backups for what already seems like their 18th season (it’s actually their fourth). And Trevathan is already 28 years old, which can’t be ignored. This is a position of need for the Bears and Smith is an outstanding player who could start Week 1.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com says the Bears will add Denzel Ward:

Despite the Bears‘ focus on upgrading the offense earlier this offseason, adding an electric cover corner with exceptional speed, quickness and movement skills is a top priority for Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy.

Adam Rank mocks what the Bears SHOULD do and he believes it is Tremaine Edmunds:

You take Edmunds. It’s really the missing piece. Dang, though. While sweeping the AFC North was a lot of fun last year, had you not done that, you would have had a top-three pick. And seeing how your QB of the future is already in place, you could’ve loaded up on draft currency by trading down. Let’s not even think about that, though. Edmunds gives you your own version of Anthony Barr. Yep, I went there. (And I should be given credit for not being all, The Bears trade Jordan Howard and No. 8 to the Broncos to take Barkley. You’re welcome.)

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