By Adam Hoge-
This is the second in a series of mock drafts for the Chicago Bears leading up to the NFL Draft April 25-27.
(CBS) A month has passed since my first mock draft and with the NFL Scouting Combine now over, we’re getting a better idea of where prospects might land in late-April.
With that in mind, it’s time to simulate the Bears’ draft for a second time. Last month, I focused on offense early with Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones in the first round and Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson in the second round. Since then, there’s been a lot of talk about going with a linebacker in the first round to replace Brian Urlacher in the middle. The problem is, the inside linebacker field is thin at the top, evident by the negative reviews of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o after the Combine.
That said, I’m making a change in the first round and no longer going with an offensive lineman with the 20th overall selection.
Let’s get to the picks:
1st Round, No. 20: TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (6-5, 250)
I expressed some hesitation in regards to Eifert in my first mock draft, mainly because I wasn’t overly impressed by his 2012 season. The numbers don’t pop out at you, but I do give him somewhat of a pass because it’s not easy being a receiver with a developing freshman quarterback. While Te’o gets bashed for his performance against Alabama, Eifert quietly had one of his most productive games of the season with six catches and 61 yards. The performance is even more impressive when you consider he was going up against cornerback Dee Milliner, widely considered a top 10 pick.
Furthermore, after going back and watching some of his games as a sophomore and early as a junior, you can’t help but be impressed with his ability to go up and make big catches. He’s not going to separate much off the line or during his routes, but he’s physical enough to make plays when covered. Eifert distanced himself from Stanford’s Zach Ertz at the Combine, in my opinion. Eifert ran a solid 4.68 and posted a good 35.50. Meanwhile, Ertz’s arms measured surprisingly short.
I’m not sure tight end is as pressing as offensive line for the Bears, but do think it’s a tougher position to fix this offseason given the free agent pool and depth at tight end in the draft. Eifert presents the quickest fix at No. 20.
LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia (6-2, 242)
Let’s make one thing clear: Te’o is a third-round linebacker. He’ll get drafted before the third round, but that’s what he is. If the Bears want to go with a linebacker in the first round, then they’re going to have to be more open to an outside backer. LSU’s Kevin Minter is intriguing, but he only ran a 4.81 at the Combine and like Te’o, he’s slipping on draft boards. No. 20 is a reach for him. Meanwhile, Ogletree is slipping too, but not because scouts doubt his ability. He’s got a shady off-the-field history, including a DUI in February. But on a team where Jarvis Jones got all the attention, Ogletree wasn’t far behind. He played inside in Georgia’s 3-4 defense and most scouts pin him as an outside linebacker. I’m not completely sold he can’t be a middle linebacker in a 4-3, but it’s not like the Bears can’t use help outside anyway. Ogletree has the athleticism to drop back, turn his hips and be effective in coverage. The questions are more about his tackling and ability to fill the gaps in the running game.
The Bears have a ton of needs, but only five draft picks. I’m sure Phil Emery would love to grab offensive linemen like Alabama’s Chance Warmack or North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper, but it’s unlikely they’ll still be around at No. 20. If they’re not sold on Eifert, there’s somewhat of a dropoff for offensive lineman and linebackers and the Bears could easily move back a few spots, still get their guy and add an additional second or third round pick. Remember, they don’t have a third round pick after the Brandon Marshall trade.
2nd Round, Pick 18: LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State (6-0, 241)
Frankly, I’m surprised Brown hasn’t made a big push up the draft boards yet. He’s undersized, but plays much bigger than he really is. Some consider him a weak-side project, but he’s a tackling machine and fits well in the middle of a 4-3, in my opinion. He’s got good instincts, can be an effective blitzer and can drop back in coverage. Even with their offensive line needs, it would be hard for the Bears to pass Brown up if he fell this far.
WR Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech (6-2, 217)
Built a lot like Alshon Jeffery, but even more explosive, Rogers is a first-round talent who is very unlikely to go that high. He’s got a very troubled past, which includes getting booted from Tennessee. Rogers says he’s matured and it’s impossible to ignore the 4.52 40-time and 39.5 inch vertical he posted at the Combine. Rogers might not be the exact deep-threat the Bears are looking for, but he might be even better given the size that accompanies his speed. This is passing league and you need elite weapons to put up points. Rogers might be just that.
C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin (6-4, 312)
The versatile Frederick was the first true freshman to start on Wisconsin’s offensive line ever. That’s saying something at an offensive linemen factory like that. Frederick decided forgo his senior season to enter the draft and some believe he has a higher ceiling at center than Alabama’s Barrett Jones. Unfortunately, with a disappointing Combine, the door probably closed on the first round for Frederick, but he’ll still go in the first two rounds. Bears fans might be weary about drafting a Badger after Gabe Carimi’s slow start, but Wisconsin has sent three reliable interior linemen into the NFL the last two years with the Seahawks’ John Moffitt, the Bengals’ Kevin Zeitler and the Falcons’ Peter Konz. Frederick can play both guard and center and scouts love his technique and reliability.
4th Round, Pick 20: OT Chris Faulk, LSU (6-5, 331)
Bears fans will likely balk at drafting an offensive lineman with an injury history, but it’s the fourth round and at this point, you’re looking for value. Before Chris Faulk tore his ACL in September, he was considered one of the top left tackle prospects in this year’s draft. Many were surprised when he decided to forgo his senior year at LSU, but if he can prove he’s healthy, Faulk would be a steal in the fourth round.
With the Bears likely looking to add a free agent tackle and J’Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi still in the fold, an interior lineman looks more likely in this year’s draft, but it would be hard to ignore a prospect like Faulk this late in the draft.
WR Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (6-1, 194)
If the Bears haven’t taken a wide receiver to this point, Kenny Stills would be a good pick in the fourth round. He’s sneaky fast and can stretch the field. A little undersized, he’ll work inside in the NFL, which is what the Bears need right now. He’s physical, aggressive and a good blocking wide receiver.
DT Jordan Hill, Penn State (6-1, 303)
After using the franchise tag on Henry Melton, the Bears don’t necessarily need defensive tackle help immediately, but they could use added depth at the position. Hill doesn’t look scary when you look at him, which is why he was under-recruited out of high school, but he plays incredibly hard and is athletic enough to make plays outside. Turn on the Wisconsin tape and you’ll see a guy that virtually won the game for Penn State.
5th Round, Pick 20: CB Terry Hawthorne, Illinois (6-0, 195)
Hawthorne’s senior year wasn’t what he was hoping, but let’s be honest, it was hard for anyone to shine on that terrible Illini team. A bad concussion held him back too. But Hawthorne is a good-sized corner and has done everything right since the season ended. He looked good in practices leading up to the East-West Shrine Game and his performance at the Combine (including a 4.44 40-time) will help. Hawthorne needs to get stronger, but the two-way star at Illinois still has potential and can grow into a solid cornerback in the NFL.
WR Connor Vernon, Duke (6-0, 165)
The ACC’s all-time leading receiver isn’t going to wow you with his size and speed, but he might be the most reliable receiver in the draft. He’ll be a possession receiver in the NFL and the Bears already have Earl Bennett, but I still go by the theory that they can use all the help they can get in the passing game. Vernon is not afraid to go over the middle, doesn’t have much of an injury history and caught at least one ball in every college game he played.
S Robert Lester, Alabama (6-1, 220)
You might be tired of the Bears drafting safeties, but they can still use depth at the position. Lester’s 4.66 40-time was disappointing, but he has ideal size and plays a lot faster than that 40-time suggests. He’ll need to improve his technique and accept the coaching he’ll get at the next level, but he has a pretty good ceiling and would be worth a gamble this late in the draft.
6th Round, Pick 20: RB Ray Graham, Pittsburgh (5-9, 199)
I mentioned Graham as an “also consider” in my first mock draft, but I haven’t taken a running back yet in this mock so he gets the nod in the sixth round. The 4.80 40-time in the Combine was
alarming, but anyone who has seen the tape knows he can play at a high level. His lack-of-size and a previous ACL injury are pushing him down draft boards, but he’s a tough runner and can be used in the return game. With the uncertainty surrounding Devin Hester right now, using a sixth-round pick on a third-down back and kick/punt returner wouldn’t be a bad idea.
DT Kwame Geathers, Georgia (6-5, 342)
Geathers is a massive defensive lineman, but it seems many scouts have their doubts. Geathers struggled to find consistent playing time until this past season and only has eight starts under his belt. Then, with the starting job virtually assured to him next season, he left Georgia after his junior year. The ceiling appears high, but the motivation level might not be. Still worth a hard look in the sixth round though as Geathers could be a big steal.
OG Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech (6-3, 302)
The problem with not addressing the offensive line in the first round is that it could leave Phil Emery reaching for linemen later in the draft. But in the sixth round, Uzzi could be a pretty safe pick. He’s an explosive athlete who will be a powerful run-blocker in the NFL. The question, of course, is his pass-blocking. You’re not going to get a sure-pass blocker in the sixth round though and Uzzi is worth a look to add depth to the interior line.
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.