By Greg Gabriel–
(CBS) — With the start of the NFL Draft looming on April 27, pro days are over and so are private workouts, for the most part. The scouting departments of most clubs are now in meetings, setting their value boards as they get ready.
As we draw closer to the draft, one certainty we have is that little information about who the Bears like or dislike has come out of Halas Hall. General manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox do an excellent job of staying quiet. While the names of a few players the Bears have worked out or had in for visits have surfaced, that number isn’t close to the total of 30 players that teams can bring in.
During free agency, the Bears essentially signed at least one player at every need position, which leaves no obvious need at any one position. That means the Bears could go in just about any direction with their premium picks and draft the proverbial “best player available.”
Having previously worked in NFL front offices, I view situations through that lens and put myself into the shoes of the primary decision makers and their thought process. And the more I think about it, the more I strongly feel that the Bears will pick a quarterback with their first pick.
Does that mean their first pick will be at No. 3 overall? Not necessarily, as the Bears could move down a few slots and pick up an extra premium-round pick by making a trade. Even if the Bears don’t trade down, I feel that quarterback is the position they will select.
Why? Because it’s the most important position on any football team and as of today, the Bears’ quarterbacks are all question marks. While Chicago did sign Mike Glennon to a three-year deal in free agency with the hope that he’ll be a solid starter, no one really knows for sure that he can be one. Glennon hasn’t played in two years except for some mop-up duty and preseason competition. That’s not enough playing time to have a thorough knowledge as to how he’ll fare in 2017. It’s more hope than certainty.
When you look at the contract Glennon signed, it also tells us the Bears are protecting themselves if he doesn’t play as well as hoped. The reality is the Bears can get out of his contract after one season if they so choose at a minimal cost. With the Bears having had losing seasons in each of the first two years of the Pace/Fox regime, they have to show improvement this season. That means that if Glennon doesn’t play as hoped, there has to be a viable option to step in. That has to be a rookie who can eventually become a winning NFL quarterback.
The Bears showed interest in three of the top four quarterbacks in March. Pace, Fox and much of the offensive coaching staff was on hand for Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson’s pro day. The Bears are also said to have had private workouts with both Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. There has been no reported contact with North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky.
I’ve always felt that this quarterback class is much better than many of the analysts have given it credit for. The fact that there have been numerous private workouts in recent weeks with many of the quarterbacks backs this line of thinking. In fact, it has become quite apparent that there will be four quarterbacks drafted in the first round. How high they go remains to be seen, but I would bet at least two go in the top 10. While there’s no Andrew Luck in this class, I can easily say that the top ones are at least as good as Marcus Mariota.
Figuring all that into the equation, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Bears select a quarterback at No. 3. Who will that player be? My guess right now is Watson, who closely fits the profile that Pace has established for a quarterback. He has been a winner and a leader in taking his team to the last two national championship games, including winning a title this past season.
With Glennon in place, Watson should have the time to adjust to an NFL-style offense and not be forced into action before he’s ready. And that’s the smartest way to bring along a rookie quarterback in the NFL.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.