Under Ryan Pace, the Bears have primarily targeted great athletes at positions of need in the first round. After the Combine, there’s no reason to expect that to be different this year. Here is how I suspect the team’s Big Board may look, as of today, with the assumption that top players like Bradley Chubb, Saquon Barkley and Minkah Fitzpatrick will already be off the board.
10. Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama
It’s entirely possible that the Bears are sick of waiting for Jon Bullard to emerge. There’s no reason Bullard shouldn’t have been starting over Mitch Unrein in his second season, but it didn’t happen. The Bears need a third stud up front so they don’t run Akiem Hicks into the ground.
9. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Ridley came in a bit smaller than expected and didn’t test very well, coming in the seventh SPARQ percentile. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a good receiver, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be a great one and probably not worth a top 10 pick. Still, he could be a good option for the Bears if they were to trade back into the middle of the first round. More likely, their best bet will be addressing the receiver position in free agency.
8. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Doesn’t have the size or length the Bears look for at cornerback but he’s such a great athlete, they could overlook that. Generally thought to be the best CB in the draft.
7. Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame
There’s a lot to be said about taking a guard in the top 10 but much of it could be moot if a team were to switch Nelson to tackle. Regardless, I don’t think the Bears would’ve hired the best offensive line coach in the world to take an already-polished guard in the top 10. Harry Hiestand gives the Bears the ability to take a guard in the mid-round and count on him developing into a stud so they can use their premium picks on premium positions.
6. Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
This is my personal favorite option for the Bears but he falls just short of their arm-length standard. Landry’s arms measured 32.875 inches and if you look back at Pace and Fangio’s recent histories, you’ll see that 17 of the 19 defensive line and edge players their teams have drafted have had arms measuring at least 33 inches with the only exceptions being late round picks. Is Landry close enough? I hope so, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
5. Lorenzo Carter, Edge, Georgia
This is a lot higher than most people would have Carter but I see Leonard Floyd in him. If Pace loved Floyd, why wouldn’t he love Carter? The two had very similar statistics at Georgia, Carter is a little shorter and a little heavier, but he’s just as athletic. My biggest question is if the Bears want to duplicate Floyd or if they’re looking for a bigger, more physical player on the other side.
4. Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA
He’s raw, but pass rushers are hard to find so the Bears could grab him and make him Vic Fangio’s pet project. Davenport tested about the same as Chubb, who is expected to be drafted in the top five.
3. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Rare size for an inside linebacker at roughly 6’5″, 250 pounds. He also has extremely long arms and can really pose problems for teams trying to pass in the middle of the field. He’s a bit raw and doesn’t quite have the instincts teams would generally like, but makes up for it with his size and athleticism. The Bears defense was at its best last season when Christian Jones was playing next to Danny Trevathan. Edmunds is like Jones on steroids.
2. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
A player with the size and length the Bears like, but is he fast enough? That was the big question raised by his tape and it’s still a bit of a mystery. He ran a 4.49 in his first attempt in the 40-yard dash at the combine, then put up a 4.6. It doesn’t make sense. I hope he runs again at his pro day because, if he can get in the 4.4-range consistently, he’s a top-10 pick. One-year wonders haven’t scared Pace in the past and Jackson had a huge year with eight picks and two touchdowns. Pace has long been after a premier cornerback.
1. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
We learned two years ago that the Bears really value the inside linebacker position and Smith is among the best prospects at that position to enter the league in a number of years. Edmunds has gotten a lot of the buzz in the off-season but Smith was the consensus best defensive player in college football last season and is a freak athlete himself. The Bears don’t have any long-term locks at linebacker. Trevathan has suffered a number of serious injuries in his career and Nick Kwiatkoski seems to be a solid backup, but certainly not a star. The Bears can grab Smith and have their defensive leader for the next decade.