In his first mock draft released Thursday, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. predicts that the Bears will select Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen with the No. 3 overall pick.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. predicts that the Bears will select Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen with the No. 3 overall pick.
Kiper believes that Allen, who recorded 22.5 sacks over the past two seasons for the Crimson Tide, could play defensive end or defensive tackle in the NFL.
"Positional flexibility is a big selling point, and he'd likely play end in the Bears' 3-4 in this scenario," Kiper wrote. "He was one of the best players in college football in 2016. The Bears had a disappointing 2016 season and have needs across the board, including at quarterback, safety and potentially receiver, depending on what happens with free agent Alshon Jeffery."
Kiper predicts that the Browns will select Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett at No. 1, the 49ers will choose North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky at No. 2, and the Jaguars will follow the Bears and take LSU safety Jamal Adams at No. 4.
NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah has the same exact first four picks in his mock draft, writing that "the addition of Allen would give the Bears one of the best young defensive lines in the NFL. He can play multiple spots and is one of the most technically sound defensive linemen I've ever evaluated."
Young guns: Three Bears players are featured on Jeremiah's list of the top 25 rookies in the NFL for the 2016 season: running back Jordan Howard (No. 7), center Cody Whitehair (No. 15) and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (No. 24).
Howard set two Bears rookie rushing records with 1,313 yards and seven 100-yard games and ranked second in the NFL in rushing behind the Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott.
"Howard enjoyed a fantastic rookie campaign," Jeremiah wrote. "He provided a much-needed identity for the Bears' offense, and his physical running style is ideal for the NFC North."
Whitehair anchored the Bears offensive line, starting all 16 games at center. Jeremiah wrote that the second-round pick from Kansas State "showed the ability to develop into a multi-year Pro Bowl interior lineman. He isn't flashy, but showed this season he's dependable."
Floyd recorded 33 tackles and seven sacks in 12 games after being selected by the Bears with the ninth overall pick in the draft. Jeremiah wrote that "Floyd was inconsistent in his rookie campaign, but he flashed some big-time athleticism coming off the edge."
The top five rookies on Jeremiah's list are Elliott, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Passing fancy: NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt ranks the Bears as the fourth most "quarterback-needy" team in the league behind the Browns, 49ers and Jets.
"Though they've suffered from lackluster quarterback play, the Bears are better than people think," Brandt wrote. "There's a reason they're fourth in my 'worst to first' rankings for the 2017 season. Chicago already has a defense that ranked 15th overall, plus a strong running game led by rookie back Jordan Howard. If the Bears landed a legitimately good signal-caller, it could make a huge difference."
If it were up to Brandt, he would address another position with the third pick in the draft and seek a veteran quarterback from another NFL team.
"[Tony] Romo might be available," Brandt wrote, "but if I were in their shoes, I'd try to trade for [Jimmy] Garoppolo, a Chicago-area native who played for general manager Ryan Pace's alma mater, Eastern Illinois."
Open market: Jeffery is the only Bears player included on NFL.com analyst Gregg Rosenthal's list of the league's top 25 pending unrestricted free agents, ranking sixth.
"Injuries marred his 2015 campaign, and his suspension in 2016 is a concern, but there's no denying his ball skills or production," Rosenthal wrote. "True No. 1 receivers don't become available too often."
Rosenthal's top five players slated to become unrestricted free agents in March are Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, Chiefs safety Eric Berry, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short and Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones.