It’s NFL Draft season and for many an inter-nerd or sports-related talking head, that means it’s time to make bold predictions about how four hours of unscripted television are going to play out before it happens.  99.8675309% of the mock drafts you see around the web these past few weeks are compiled by people who didn’t attend the Senior Bowl and they were not present at the Combine (ironically they did find themselves watching both events on the NFL Network at 3:00 on a Tuesday in February/March – it doesn’t matter whether it was AM or PM since the same level of apathy applies).  They were not invited to attend a pro day nor have they ever spoken to an actual scout employed by an NFL team – no, that guy in that chatroom with the username: RedskinHogWatcher is not affiliated with the team in any way despite how he presented himself.

Essentially these mock drafts are fan fiction or wish lists of who they think their team should draft based on the feedback they’ve accumulated from watching three college football games a weekend last fall and reading content posted by others of their ilk (some of whom actually get paid by publications to do so).  By now most of these prognosticators have published four or five editions of their guesses so they’ve covered their bases for an “I told you so” response on Thursday night as best as possible.

The way I figure it, why should these guys have all the fun?  Without further ado please enjoy my twist on the popular format as pertains to our beloved Monsters of the Midway…

***Note: I’m only going to comment on players that reasonably could be available in and around the 14th pick in the draft where the Bears select based on the feedback I’ve gathered from all sources I just trashed above***

Don’t Do It Phil.  Just walk away…

Anthony Barr – OLB/DE UCLA

If there’s one thing I hope doesn’t happen in this draft it’s that the Bears try and get clever and take a project with their first pick.  In Phil Emery’s first two drafts he’s gone the surprise route with his first pick and has been met with mixed results.  Shea McClellin was an OLB playing in a 3-4 at Boise St. who the Bears tried (and failed) to make a DE and Kyle Long was a left tackle with all of four starts to his Division 1 football résumé whom they converted to a right guard.      Anthony Barr had a successful career at UCLA accumulating healthy sack totals and disrupting the back field.  Unfortunately he fits the mold of a good college “rusher” who’s not big enough to play with his hand on the ground in the pros.  Many teams view him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme whose skill will be to rush the passer.  Sound like anyone you’ve heard of?  The Bears need not make the same mistake twice.  Trying to project Barr’s production in the trenches on Sunday’s is a fool’s errand.  Let a team like the Steelers take him and I’m sure he’ll have a great NFL career.  Good for him.  He will not find that success in Chicago where the system will not take advantage of his skills.

I Just Broke My TV

Johnny Manziel – QB Texas A&M

If Emery “goes off the board” and drafts Manziel (or any of the other quarterbacks for that matter) so help me god…  Don’t worry though because I don’t think this is going to happen.  I mean, it can’t happen right?

I Don’t Like It But I Get It

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – FS Alabama

Calvin Pryor – SS Louisville

The Bears’ need a safety – there’s just no two ways about it.  The current players on the roster in the position group include two career special teamers, two cast-offs from other franchises, and Chris Conte.  So yes, there’s room for improvement here.  With that said I think Clinton-Dix and Pryor are being overrated due to the recent infatuation with the position across the league and the fact that they are the two best prospects in the draft at the position in what is a very shallow talent pool.  I don’t see an Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu between them.  If the Bears can find a way to trade down from 14 to 22 and pickup a 3rd round pick in the process I would be very happy to have either of these gentlemen join the roster.  At 14 they’re over-valued though.  For the record I think Pryor is going to be the better player of the two because who is ever going to buy a ‘Clinton-Dix’ jersey?  Something about that name just screams Cleveland.

Avoid Being Cornered Into A Selection

Justin Gilbert – CB Oklahoma St.

Kyle Fuller – CB Virginia Tech

Darqueze Dennard – CB Michigan State

Both Bears starting cornerbacks are on the wrong side of thirty at this point.  If the team doesn’t invest a high draft pick in a corner this year then they pretty much absolutely have to next year.  The smart play is to address cornerback now to cover their interests in case of an injury and to provide the next generation a chance to learn the art of the ball-punch from Peanut Tillman.  I’m not in love with any of the three corners currently projected to go in the first round.  Hyped corners/returners like Gilbert rarely pan out but he’s got the size and play making potential teams covet.  Kyle Fuller is probably the most likely of the group to have a solid 7-10 year career and Darqueze Dennard is vastly overrated in my opinion.  I watched a lot of Big Ten football last fall and give all the credit in the world to Michigan State’s defense, but I think Mr. Dennard is a product of the system & it’s overall talent more so than a particularly skilled individual (thus I really hope Detroit takes him).  Personally I’ll understand and support the Bears taking a shot with Gilbert or Fuller but I also would not oppose their going another direction in the first round and coming back to the cornerback position later in the draft with Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste (he’s 6’3”!) or for a deeper sleeper keep an eye on Pierre Desir from I-didn’t-know-it-was-a-school-either Division II Lindenwood.

Let’s Hope We Learned From Last Year

CJ Mosley – ILB Alabama

Many draft experts speak very highly of Mr. Mosley.  I don’t see it.  I think it’s much more likely he’s the next in a long line of underperforming Alabama linebackers in the NFL.  I work with just about the biggest Alabama football fan on the planet (I know – not a title to throw around lightly) and he’s in agreement with me.  He can’t see Mosely holding up in the middle of a 4-3 defense which is what the Bears would draft him to do.  Don’t do it Phil.  Last year the Bears took an undersized SEC linebacker known for his speed over size and we then spent twelve weeks complaining about Jon Bostic being runover on Sunday afternoons.  Let’s not go through that again if we don’t have to.  For what it’s worth I think BYU’s Kyle Van Noy has a lot of Lavonte David in him and I think he has the size the anchor the center of the Bears D for years to come (I feared David when he was at Nebraska but for some reason the NFL out thought themselves and let him fall to the 2nd round in 2012 and now under Lovie Smith he’ll be the next household name in the Derrick Brooks/Lance Briggs mold).  If he’s sitting there in the 2nd round at pick #51 that’s a no brainer choice for Phil in my eyes.

**For the record I do not want Wisconsin’s Chris Borland on the Bears in any way shape or form.  I watched him for four years and color me not-impressed.  He’s a glorified special teamer – you heard it here first**

In An Ideal World

Aaron Donald – DT Pittsburgh

In the very first mock draft I read back in January it showed the Bears drafting Justin Gilbert with the 14th pick followed by their drafting Aaron Donald in the second round.  Ever since that point Aaron Donald has done just about everything to rocket up draft boards around the league short of growing three inches.  This is one of those things I hate about the draft.  Aaron Donald is as fast and as disruptive a defensive tackle as you will find (think Tommie Harris circa 2006).  At only 285 lbs he can get pushed by larger offensive guards – if they can get their hands on him.  He’s the kind of player that can blow up three or four plays a game by getting to the quarterback or into the offensive backfield by taking the shortest route possible.  At 6’ 1” he’s considered a little too short for the position however.  My question is what in the hell do two inches have anything to do with a gap penetrating tackle?  His game is not one of knocking down passes, he knocks down the guys throwing them.  This is a classic case of a meaningless measurement causing people to overlook a potentially game changing player on the defensive side of the ball.  Phil Emery talks about his goal to find difference makers and guys who disrupt the quarterback – when he does he’s talking about Aaron Donald.

Some have said that with re-signing Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins this offseason, and having Stephen Paea on the roster already the Bears are spoken for at the defensive tackle position.  I would heartily disagree with this logic.  While each of the three players named above could play the three-technique, each would bring more value to the table in the nose position.  Also, none of those three are going to be on the team two years from now.  This draft is about adding young impact talent to the defense that you can build around in the years to come.

Of late there’s been lots of talk that Donald may not make it to the Bears with Lovie Smith’s Buncaneers at #7, Minnesota at #8, Detroit at #10, or Dallas jumping up ahead of the Bears at #14 to take him.  Any one of those scenarios very well may happen but something tells me that the Donald love-fest of the past few weeks is going to lose just enough steam as draft day arrives because NFL people are dumb and no one is going to want to be the guy who took the tackle that’s two inches too short.  I’m probably going to be wrong about this but if he’s there when the Bears are on the clock he’s my pick with no apologies.

*** Bonus Note: I like Georgia’s Aaron Murray as a sleeper quarterback selection as early as the 4th or 5th round.  He’s coming off an ACL tear (thus driving down his value) but I think he’s got a little Drew Brees in him.  He’s a little shorter than you’d want for the position (6’0”) and a little more athletic than you remember.  He single-handedly won Georgia several games in a very competitive SEC over his four year career.  Mark my words, he’s one of the top quarterbacks in this draft and at the point in the draft you can get him he’d be a great value for our Bears.

P.S. – In a related note I’m not buying all the Jordan Palmer love coming out of Halas Hall of late.  They lucked out with Josh McCown last year (he was a holdover from the Lovie Smith era) and to think that they can get similar results from Palmer if called upon is wishful thinking ***