By Greg Gabriel–
(CBS) The NFL Draft begins Thursday night in Philadelphia. As usual for a rebuilding team like the Bears, this is a crucial event, especially considering the draft hasn’t been kind to Chicago in the past four years.
Drafting No. 3 overall gives the Bears the opportunity to select a potential impact player. Who will that be? I’ve already written that I feel the Bears will select a quarterback with their first pick — perhaps at No. 3 overall, perhaps in trading down — but that’s by no means a slam dunk to happen for sure. Why? Because a lot depends on what happens with the first two picks in the round.
The Browns hold the No. 1 pick, and there shouldn’t be any question about who they’ll pick. Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is head and shoulders better than the next-best player. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some question. The catch is there’s a faction within the Browns organization that wants to take North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the first pick, feeling the local product can be the team’s franchise quarterback of the future.
Because Cleveland also holds the 12th pick in the first round and a number of extra picks, they should have the resources to trade up from No. 12 to select Trubisky while still taking Garrett at No. 1. The problem for the Browns regarding their affinity for Trubisky is that 49ers could be a wild card in all this.
San Francisco has a new general manager in John Lynch and a new coach in Kyle Shanahan. Lynch has no experience scouting, let alone being the primary decision-maker. That inexperience has created uncertainty about what the 49ers may do.
In recent weeks, Shanahan has conducted private workouts with both Trubisky and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Some say that he would love to take either quarterback at No. 2, but because this is lying season, it’s impossible to know if that’s the truth.
Because of the uncertainty with San Francisco, Cleveland faces more of a dilemma that one might expect. While I feel the Browns will ultimately select Garrett, we won’t know for sure until Thursday night when the first round is conducted.
If the Browns do select Garrett, that gives the 49ers first choice of the quarterback class. Still, the possibility remains that the 49ers may have been sending out smokescreens by looking as if they prefer to draft a quarterback when their real intention is to select someone else. That would open up the possibility of picking up more picks with a team looking to trade up. The 49ers may instead want the second-best defensive player in this draft in Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.
The 49ers’ unpredictability has kept the Bears in the dark in not knowing who will be available at No. 3. Chicago could have first choice of any quarterback it wants. During the workout season of March and early April, the Bears spent a lot of time researching quarterbacks. The player they didn’t work out or spend time with is Trubisky. Does that rule him out? It may.
Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore, LSU safety Jamal Adams and Ohio State safety Malik Hooker all should become top players and figure to be a consideration for the Bears, while others feel Thomas is the player the Bears really want at No. 3, with an eye on taking a quarterback in the second round.
Here it is three days before the draft, and nothing is set in stone for the Bears, as it’s dependent on the moves of the Browns and 49ers. Such is the fascination with the NFL Draft.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.