By Chris Emma–
(CBS) The hay is in the barn for general manager Ryan Pace and the Bears brass.
Months have passed with the Bears doing thorough work, examining any and every prospect for their big board. Pace and his trusted team of Bears executives have countless pages of scouting notes for each prospect, preparing for all scenarios that could arise in the NFL Draft.
When it comes to picking at No. 11 overall, there are of course fewer preceding possibilities. Quarterbacks will go first and second — likely Jared Goff to the Rams and Carson Wentz to the Eagles — and players like Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack will likely be off the board. As noted in my mock draft, two quarterbacks going in the top 10 is critical for Chicago and a third in Paxton Lynch would be monumental, pushing playmakers out to the No. 11 pick.
Pace referred to that first-round big board prior to his first Bears draft in 2015, in which his team picked seventh overall. Receive Kevin White fit just what Chicago was looking for in the form of being a playmaker, though he ended up being out all of 2015.
As the Bears prepare to make the No. 11 overall pick, Pace will have his final list of names on the big board as commissioner Roger Goodell announces the top 10 selections.
So, who should be on Pace’s big board? Here are my picks, as best suited to the Bears’ needs.
Note: “Bears’ odds” state the likelihood of availability at the 11th pick.
1.) Jalen Ramsey, CB (Florida State) — Bears’ odds: Highly unlikely
The Rams and Eagles are taking gambles on finding a franchise quarterback. They could both badly regret passing on this outstanding defensive back prospect. Ramsey can play cornerback or safety, bringing the cover skills and physical play to manage either spot. Ramsey’s going to be a star in the NFL.
2.) Laremy Tunsil, OT (Ole Miss) — Bears’ odds: Highly unlikely
Some lucky team, perhaps the Chargers at No. 3 overall, will come away with a franchise left tackle. Tunsil’s a monstrous tackle, standing at 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, yet he’s also a nimble athlete with great feet. This is the man every NFL quarterback wants watching his blind side.
3.) Joey Bosa, DE (Ohio State) — Bears’ odds: Highly unlikely
Every NFL team dreams of finding its own J.J. Watt. Meet Bosa, whose ceiling projects out to Watt’s level. Bosa was an All-American defensive end at Ohio State who racked up 26 sacks in three seasons with the Buckeyes, many of which came by breaking through double teams. He’s an NFL-ready prospect deserving of his placement as a top selection in this draft field. The Bears would love for Bosa to fall, but it just won’t happen.
4.) Myles Jack, LB (UCLA) — Bears’ odds: Unlikely
NFL defensive coordinators are drooling over Jack’s potential in the league. While there remain questions to his medicals, Jack has left no concerns over his play. Teams must determine where the versatile athlete will play — inside or outside linebacker or perhaps even in the secondary. Jack can do it all.
5.) DeForest Buckner, DE (Oregon) — Bears’ odds: Slight possibility
If Bosa is the best defensive end in this draft class, Buckner could be 1B. He’s an NFL edge-rushing prototype, standing at 6-foot-7 and 291 pounds. Buckner’s explosive out of his stance and manages to consistently get low against blockers — a pass rusher who gains leverage and forces his way through. He’s the real deal, a disruptive rusher off the edge. However, he may not make it past the 49ers.
6.) Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Ohio State) — Bears’ odds: Medium
There’s an old adage in the NFL that suggests not to draft a running back in the first round, one proved with so many rising stars emerging from the abyss to backfields. Of course, Elliott appears to be an exception to that rule. There’s no better back in this draft class than Elliott, who brings the top-end speed and ability to change direction. Elliott prides himself on blocking and is working on becoming a more rounded receiver. Whichever team ends up with Elliott can consider itself lucky. That team very well could be the Bears.
7.) Ronnie Stanley, OT (Notre Dame) — Bears’ odds: Medium
Scouts have questioned the determination and passion of Stanley, but he doesn’t have a lot to prove with his game. Stanley seems to have what it takes to be a franchise left tackle, it’s just a matter of will. He has a large frame and long arms for pass protection and is aggressive in run blocking. Stanley should have a bright NFL future ahead.
8.) Vernon Hargreaves, CB (Florida) — Bears’ odds: Medium
The Bears have Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter in place at cornerback, though aren’t particularly convinced on either one being a shutdown-type player. Pace will want to shore up his secondary with a standout cornerback, and Hargreaves could be that guy. Though his 5-foot-10 frame is a concern, Hargreaves matched up well with top SEC receivers like Laquon Treadwell. He could be the Bears’ next top cornerback.
9.) Leonard Floyd, LB (Georgia) — Bears’ odds: High
Vic Fangio would love another talented edge rusher for his 3-4 defense. While Lamarr Houston played well alongside Pernell McPhee, teams can never have enough talented pass rushers. Floyd excelled at Georgia, becoming a dominant defender in the SEC. While the Bears can hope for better possibilities, Floyd would be a good selection.
10.) Shaq Lawson, DE (Clemson) — Bears’ odds: High
Lawson’s a prototype for what the Bears want in a 3-4 edge rusher. He’s built similarly to McPhee and has that type of potential to his game. Lawson has a strong frame to rush the passer and the mobility to drop into coverage and make plays. Surely, a Buckner or Bosa would be the ideal fits, but a Floyd or Lawson could be ideal picks, too.
11.) A’Shawn Robinson, DT (Alabama) — Bears’ odds: High
Chicago has something good in place with Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks rushing the passer. Adding Robinson to the mix would add that kind of versatility to rotate all three through difference placements, depending on matchups. Robinson played all over Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide defensive line, serving as the anchor to that unit.
12.) Kevin Dodd, DE (Clemson) — Bears’ odds: High
Don’t be mistaken: Dodd wasn’t just a one-year wonder with Clemson. He grabbed the attention of many scouts in the College Football Playoff after he’d been good all season long for the Tigers. Lawson seems like more of a sure thing, but his teammate, Dodd, could have the higher ceiling in the NFL.
Other candidates: William Jackson III, CB (Houston); Jack Conklin, OT (Michigan State); Jarran Reed, DT (Alabama); Sheldon Rankins, DT (Lousiville).