By Adam Hoge-
This is the first in a series of mock drafts for the Chicago Bears leading up to the NFL Draft April 25-27.
(CBS) With the Super Bowl behind us, it’s once again NFL Draft season and for the third year in a row, I’m pleased to bring you my Bears mock draft series.
Unlike your typical NFL mock drafts, which normally simulate the first round for the entire league, my mock drafts concentrate on the Chicago Bears and simulate every pick they have in 2013 draft.
Over the next three months, I’ll release three versions of my mock draft. Draft strategies will change after free agency starts and we’ll also get a better idea of where the prospects will land after they go through the NFL Combine and pro days.
For now, we can sort through their college football experience and All-Star games like the Senior Bowl and match that with the Bears’ current needs.
As I emphasized the last two years, the point of this exercise isn’t to successfully predict who will be wearing a Bears uniform next season. Rather it’s to simulate possible ways in which the Bears will execute their draft selections this year. The picks I make are not based on what I think the Bears will do. They’re based on what I think the Bears should do. Keep in mind that I’m simulating an entire draft class — thus, if I take a linebacker in the first round, I probably won’t take one in the second round.
Let’s get to the picks:
1st Round, No. 20: C/OG Barrett Jones, Alabama (6-4, 305)
Early projections for Jones have him going late in the first round or early in the second. You may think it’s a reach to take him at No. 20, but he’s a very good fit for the Bears. Everyone obsesses about the need for offensive tackles, but the truth is that the Bears need help at every position on the line. Jones played right guard (third-team All-American in 2010), left tackle (Outland Trophy winner in 2011) and center (Rimington Award winner in 2012) at Alabama. Having that much success at three different positions in college is unheard of.
Jones projects as a center or guard in the NFL. Personally, he reminds me of Jeff Saturday and I think he’ll make a tremendous center for a long time. He was one of the smartest players in college football throughout his career and teammates rave about his leadership. The Bears could play him at guard for a season to get him ready to take over for Roberto Garza or they could play him at center immediately and move Garza back to guard where he was probably more effective.
It’s only fair to mention that Jones played the BCS Championship Game with torn ligaments in his left foot and needed surgery afterward. It’s also worth mentioning they he played very well with torn ligaments in his foot. Jones may slip a little bit because of the injury, but that may only help the Bears. Would they consider moving back in the first round to gain an extra pick? Remember, the Brandon Marshall and Brian Price trades cost them their third and seventh round picks, respectively.
For what it’s worth, my first round picks in my 1.0 drafts the last two seasons ended up on the Bears (Gabe Carimi and Alshon Jeffery).
OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama (6-5, 355) – Fluker probably has a higher ceiling than Jones, but he’s also a riskier pick. When I stood next to him at BCS Media Day last month, his arms were pretty much the same size as my head. He’s a mauler in the run game, but projects as a right tackle because of his size. I don’t think Phil Emery has given up on Gabe Carimi, which might make Fluker a questionable pick, expect for the fact that I think he can be an absolutely dominating guard in the NFL if he’s not already an upgrade at right tackle.
TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (6-6, 252) – I wasn’t all that impressed with Eifert’s senior season and as a pass-catcher, I would actually side more towards Stanford’s Zach Ertz. Eifert is a better blocker though and the decrease in production in 2012 can be pinned somewhat on Everett Golson’s development throughout the season. He’ll benefit by going to a team that needs a No. 1 tight end and the Bears certainly qualify as one of those teams.
2nd Round, Pick 18: WR Aaron Dobson, Marshall (6-3, 203)
If the Bears take an offensive lineman in the first round then you can make an argument for almost any other position in the second round. The problem is, if they don’t take Eifert or Ertz in the first round, there aren’t any dynamic tight ends left in the rest of the draft. Thus, it will be important to address the other big need in the passing game: a vertical receiving threat.
Dobson fits that mold, plus he has size. He’s not a Devin Hester-type burner, but hey, that might be a good thing. He has sneaky speed and is quick in and out of his breaks. With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the outside, Dobson is the kind of guy that can be a matchup nightmare vertically down the middle. If the Bears aren’t going to have a tight end to create matchup problems, a guy like Dobson will be necessary.
Other NFL teams have set the standard: you need playmakers. With Marshall and Jeffery already on the roster, the addition of Dobson would give Cutler more weapons than he has ever had before.
CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State (6-0, 182) – Poyer doesn’t have the elite size and speed to be a Top 15 pick, but he’s a pure playmaker who gets his hands on the ball. Cornerback might not be an immediate need for the Bears, but Poyer could be an overlooked guy who ends up being a regular Pro-Bowler. He needs to become a better tackler and a previous arrest after a bar fight will be a red flag, but he can blanket receivers and create takeaways.
OT Kyle Long, Oregon (6-6, 304) – Howie Long’s son also happens to be a former draft pick of the Chicago White Sox (2008). He has very limited experience after leaving Florida State because of academic reasons. He resurfaced at Oregon this year after two seasons at Saddleback College and showed some promise. He’s a gifted athlete who has a chance to be a tackle in the NFL, but he’s never played on the right side. The Bears can use all the help they can get on the offensive line and Long might end up being a steal in the second round.
4th Round, Pick 20: LB Kiko Alonso, Oregon (6-3, 242)
A fifth-year senior with an injury history and troubled past, Alonso is sure to be overlooked in the upcoming draft. But if you know his story, you know he has corrected his ways and turned into a really good football player. He played in a 3-4 at Oregon, but he’s a versatile player who has the size to play in the middle in a 4-3. He’s a playmaker who can drop into coverage and intercept the football.
Alonso may not be an obvious pick for the Bears, but he would be a good one this late in the draft.
WR Chris Harper, Kansas State (6-1, 228) – If the Bears haven’t taken a wide receiver yet and Harper is still on the board in the fourth round, he would be a great pick here. Harper started his college career at Oregon where he started at quarterback as a true freshman. He made the switch to receiver that same season and ultimately landed at Kansas State where he had two productive seasons to end his career. Harper has sneaky speed, building it up as he goes, and solid size.
DE Michael Buchanan, Illinois (6-5, 252) – I’m not completely sold on Buchanan and his performance at the Senior Bowl wasn’t overwhelming, but he still might be worth taking a chance on him in the fourth round. I’ve seen him projected anywhere from the late first round to the fifth round. The Bears have a good group of young defensive ends, but it never hurts to add depth and competition on the defensive line.
5th Round, Pick 20: TE Joseph Fauria, UCLA (6-7, 257)
This is another hard guy to get a read on. Some consider him to be a third round pick, but others don’t even see him getting drafted. I find it very doubtful that no one drafts him, but he may very well be available to the Bears in the fifth round.
The knock on Fauria is his blocking and it’s a major concern. But he also has great hands and runs routes well. Let’s put it this way, he’s built like Kellen Davis, but is a much better receiver. It’s just not clear if he can block as well as Davis and considering Davis is not a dominant blocker, that could be a problem.
TE Michael Williams, Alabama (6-6, 269) – If the Bears want to go the other way and draft an established blocking tight end who needs to improve as a receiving threat, Williams would be a good choice. Williams has good hands and catches the ball when it comes to him, but he’s not a great route runner and is not going to be that vertical match-up nightmare down the middle of the field. He’d be an ideal replacement for Matt Spaeth, not necessarily Kellen Davis.
RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon (5-9, 188) – Barner performed well at the Senior Bowl, but he’s still undersized and will be overlooked. I’m not sure he’ll still be around this late in the fifth round, but if he is, he’d be worth a look. He’s a tough runner for only being 5-9 and he’s a great pass-catching weapon out of the backfield. We don’t really know what Marc Trestman’s desires are, but the Bears have failed in recent years to back up Matt Forte with a legitimate weapon. And given how Forte performed last season, some competition might not be a bad idea.
6th Round, Pick 20: CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (5-9, 178)
This is not a pick I could see being made during the Lovie Smith era, but the Lovie Smith era is over. Not only does Mathieu have a very troubled past, he’s also undersized at 5-9. He’s also a hell of football player and Janoris Jenkins proved last season that a ball-hawking, undersized cornerback can be more than successful in the NFL.
The question is, after sitting out this past season, can Mathieu still be the dominant player he was as a freshman? The NFL Combine will be huge for him.
S Zeke Motta, Notre Dame (6-2, 215) – The Bears can’t draft their normal safety in the third round this year because they don’t have a third round pick. So why not do it in the sixth round? Even if Brandon Hardin is healthy enough to compete at safety this year, the Bears still could use more depth and competition at the position. Motta is a smart football player who should be a solid special teamer and reliable backup, if not a starter.
RB Ray Graham, Pittsburgh (5-9, 192) – I’m not sure why Graham doesn’t get more attention. He’s undersized, but he’s also a phenomenal runner. I’d draft him for the same reasons I listed above for Barner. In fact, he might even have more potential as a starting running back than Barner.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.