The Chicago Bears have many first-round options in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.
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The only good thing to come out of a 3-13 season is that the Chicago Bears will pick third overall in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This year’s draft is considered to be very deep for cornerbacks, defensive lineman, and safeties, all positons of needs for the Bears (yet truthfully, nearly every position is a need for the team).
What the Bears decide to do with the third pick could alter the franchise for the next decade. Will the team find its next franchise quarterback, or a talented pass rusher or cornerback who could catapult the defense into elite status?
There are a ton of options for general manager Ryan Pace to decide from. The Bears could keep the third pick and take the best player available (which has been their strategy the past couple of years), or trade down to collect more picks. Regardless, the Bears need to hit on their first-round pick. Bears fans too often have seen the team swing and miss with high draft picks, ranging from Curtis Enis to Cedric Benson to, more recently, Gabe Carimi.
Pace is entering his third year with the team, and through the first two years, the team has gone 9-23. The clock is ticking, and another year of disappointment could cost Pace his job. There’s no better time like the present to hit a homerun with the third overall pick and change the complexion of this franchise for the better.
With this being said, here are five options that Pace could be looking at.
After taking outside Leonard Floyd with the ninth overall pick last season, the Bears could look to add another impact pass rusher in the first-round this year with Jonathan Allen. Aside from having a terrific character, Allen is an impact defensive lineman who can play the three-technique in a 4-3 or a five-technique in a 3-4 (where he would play with the Bears).
His run defense is his calling card, and he finishes tackles very well. He is said to have some of the best hands of any defensive lineman, allowing him to shed blockers and win the battle of leverage. His best pass rushing move is the bull rush, but he should be able to add more moves to his repertoire with proper NFL coaching.
The Bears have quietly built a formidable front seven, with Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman the current starters on the defensive line. Jonathan Bullard, a 2016 third-round pick, and veteran Mitch Unrein are projected to be competing for the other starting spot, but neither has proven to be a difference maker. Allen, who has been compared to Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh, would be an immediate upgrade and give opposing offenses fits. The only concern with Allen is arthritis in his shoulders, but most doctors believe that it will not impact his future NFL career.
In all, Allen is a dominant force who would be a welcomed sight for a defense badly lacking playmakers.
Oct 15, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) celebrates after picking up a fumble during the third quarter of a game against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
4. Jamal Adams, SS – LSU
The Bears have had nightmares with their two safety positions ever since Mike Brown left. Every year it’s a revolving door at the position, with no one stepping up and taking over the reins.
Entering the 2016 season, the Bears thought that they had at least one competent safety in Adrian Amos, but this was not the case. The more Amos played, the more he was exposed in both coverage and tackling. He was eventually benched later in the season, and his grasp on the starting job is nearly non-existent.
Enter Jamal Adams, a tough and physical safety from LSU who would be a huge upgrade at the position. His intangibles are off the charts, he diagnoses plays extremely well, and his physical presence is intimidating for any wide receiver or running back. While he’s not as adept at creating turnovers as Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, Adams’ athleticism and overall instincts surely make up for it. He is a polished player who would give the Bears (finally) a Pro Bowl worthy safety.
Now, drafting a safety with the third overall pick is not following the usual convention, but when safety is one of your biggest needs, you’d be foolish to not look at the possibility. In an ideal world, the Bears are able to trade down a few spots and then select Adams. But if they can’t, Adams should still be option at No. 3.
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) tackles Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
3. Marshon Lattimore, CB – Ohio State
The Bears were aggressive in free agency trying to sign elite corners A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore, but their pursuit ultimately fell short. Despite the signings of Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper, the Bears still could use some more help. Amukamara is on a one-year “prove it” deal, and Cooper’s deal only includes $6 million in guarantees. Theoretically, both could be gone within a year.
Marshon Lattimore is the closest thing in this year’s draft to a true shutdown cornerback. While he has average size, Lattimore possess outstanding quickness, agility, and awareness. His technique is solid, he’s a willing tackler (including in run support), and his competitive juices are always flowing. In addition, he has proven to be a playmaker, something the Bears desperately crave on defense.
Lattimore would immediately become the Bears’ No. 1 corner and would probably shadow opposing teams’ go-to options from Day 1. In today’s pass-happy NFL, cornerback value is at an all-time high. Only a few defenses possess a shutdown player, but those who do usually end the season ranked pretty high statistically. Lattimore would be the best cornerback the Bears have had since Charles Tillman was still in his prime. Better yet, Lattimore projects to be an even better player than Tillman ever was.
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
2. Mike Williams, WR – Clemson
With the Bears saying goodbye to Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver has quickly become an area of need. Cameron Meredith had a breakout 2016 campaign, but no one is truly sure he can have a repeat performance in 2017. Kevin White has a ton of potential, but since he was drafted in the first-round in 2015, he has appeared in only four games due to injury. New starting quarterback Mike Glennon is already facing an uphill climb, but he has zero chance to succeed if his receivers don’t help him out.
Enter a player like Mike Williams, who might just be the best wide receiver in the upcoming draft. Williams has ideal size (6-3, 225 pounds) to battle bigger cornerbacks in the red zone, and with a forty-time of 4.53 seconds, he possess the speed to separate from cornerbacks in between the 20s. Williams knows how to use this size to his advantage, and his catch radius is extremely large because of it. He catches the ball with his hands not chest, and shows the concentration and focus required to make contested catches.
Western Michigan wide receiver Cory Davis could also be an option, but the level of competition he faced during his collegiate career raises some question marks. Williams would give Glennon a go-to target and take some pressure off of White and Meredith. Now, is Williams worthy of the No. 3 selection? Probably not. But he would make a significant difference from the moment he stepped on the field.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) looks to the bench against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
1. Deshaun Watson, QB – Clemson
This list would not be complete without a quarterback on it. Mike Glennon signed a three-year, $45 million contract during free agency, but the Bears could walk away after the first year. At this point, it seems like Glennon is simply a placeholder for the next young player.
The problem is that this is considered a weak year for quarterbacks in the draft. Deshaun Watson is one of the three quarterbacks garnering first-round buzz (along with DeShone Kizer and Mitch Trubisky), but he’s no sure thing either. His mobility is tremendous, as he possesses an uncanny ability to escape pressure in the pocket and make accurate throws on the run. Watson isn’t the biggest quarterback in the world (6-2, 210 pounds), and while his rushing ability is a strength, his arm strength isn’t.
As evidenced by his performance in the National Championship Game, Watson has incredible intangibles and leadership qualities. However, he could use some time to develop at the next level. This could work well for the Bears, as Watson could sit behind Glennon (and Mark Sanchez) for his rookie season before taking over as the starter in his second year. By no means is Watson a sure-fire Pro Bowl quarterback, for a team that needs one, he’s probably one of the best options out there.
The Bears are going to take a quarterback in this draft, but the real question is would Ryan Pace be willing to stick his neck out for a first-round quarterback, or would he prefer to wait and draft one in the later rounds?