Normally this is the week of the NFL scouting combine.
It has become a victim of the pandemic this year, with the league opting instead for pro day testing. Zoom interviews and regional medical exams come later. It's going to make for a difficult time at St. Elmo's steak house in Indianapolis this week, but Indy has the NCAA tournament this year so they can make up for some of the loss.
It's a good time to zero in on the draft, and the first seven-round BearDigest.com mock draft.
Expanding to seven rounds makes it easier to address as many Bears needs as possible.
If this draft has a distinct offensive flavor to it, many readers would find this understandable. The Bears have offensive needs unmet through years of drafting and it's time to solve this.
They're relying on this great "collaboration" between Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy this year and it's time to fix the real problems on offense, chiefly a lack of talent.
The Bears are on the clock and here's who they're taking in BearDigest.com Mock Draft 3.0, the seven-round version. A note: This one still does not involve trades, which will be added in subsequent mocks.
No. 20 Quarterback Mac Jones, Alabama
The first four quarterbacks went quickly and it was surprising Jones still sat there. It was a no-brainer. This was a mock conducted using Pro Football Focus' simulator, so perhaps the grades on the players led to Jones still being available. They have him graded as the 33rd best player, so it was a reach to take him at 20.
Then again, PFF gave this pick an A+ grade. Anyone who follows Bears misery at the position over the years would know why. A fundamentally superior quarterback, Jones would be a far cry from some of the passers who've walked through Halas Hall in recent years. He's lacking experience but what experience he has came at the highest level. It must be pointed out most of the best tackle candidates had been taken or this would have been an option. Only Rashawn Slater of Northwestern was available and he was rated the 12th best pick in the draft. Having seen all or parts of about half of Slater's games, I've never thought of him as a pick for the top half of the first round in the NFL draft. There was no regret in reaching for a quarterback who had a 95.8 grade last year from PFF, the highest they gave to a quarterback in 2020. It was higher than Trevor Lawrence's mark.
No. 52. Tackle Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
Now the Bears have three Notre Dame offensive linemen for Juan Castillo to mold. Kyle Trask was the highest rated player on the board when this pick came up, and obviously there wouldn't be interest after taking Jones. But the Bears need a tackle, haven't selected one this high since Kyle Long, and can plug in a three-year starter at left tackle who is 6-foot-6, 305 pounds.
No. 83 Running Back Michael Carter, North Carolina
The flaws in PFF's simulator came up here, if not the flaws in my thinking. There was no wide receiver available here who measured up. The closest to what the Beas need was Amon-Ra St. Brown, the 100th rated player. So obviously this was too great of a reach. But Carter is a potential difference maker, a real big-play threat. While I'd personally favor teammate Javonte Williams over Carter because of a punishing, explosive style, Carter is a real fit for the Bears because he is a receiver, and a runner who can change his path with a mean jump-cut at the line of scrimmage. He can help make up for any deficiency if Tarik Cohen is not yet at full speed for the start of the year following an ACL tear. At 5-8, 202, he's not so small he has to be regarded as a third-down back like Cohen. Carter can be the back the Bears needed when David Montgomery suffered a concussion, but didn't have. They lost that game to Minnesota because they had no running back.
No. 165 Wide Receiver Jonathan Adams, Arkansas State
Labeled the NCAA's best-kept secret by Draft Diamond, Adams is a classic X-receiver who suddenly exploded in his final season. He'd be playing Allen Robinson's spot, hopefully in the distant future, maybe after next season if Robinson is tagged and then leaves in 2022. Adams was described by NFL Draft Network as being a "...physical menace at the catch point who bullies defenders in coverage and plays with the kind of attitude and confidence that you would find in a stereotypical possession receiver." Adams was graded the 157th best player on the board when he was there at 165 to be plucked, and the Bears could have used more of a speed receiver but fortunately he was found later. The greatest criticism of Adams is he needs to improve at route running, but this is true of most NFL rookie receivers.
No. 205 Wide Receiver D'Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan
A gift that fell into my lap. In real life he might be worth taking at No. 165, not 205. Eskridge impressed in early Senior Bowl practices and had flashed speed estimated in the low- to mid-4.3s. We'll know more come pro days. PFF had graded him the 10th best receiver in college football last season, so to get him in Round 6 seems a total steal. Eskridge is a slot receiver with great speed, something the Bears currently do not possess. He could help make the offense become more vertical. I pondered taking tackle Cole Van Lanen of Wisconsin here, and also Notre Dame guard Tommy Kraemer but balked. This speed is difficult to find and he was on the board higher than both linemen. Besides, another gift from the simulator occurred right after this selection.
No. 219 Guard Tommy Kraemer, Notre Dame
The Bears really don't need another guard but Kraemer was a player ranked much higher and would have been a steal at No. 205. So it was impossible to pass on him. A fourth Notre Dame lineman for the Bears, but check out which school Sports Illustrated says produces the best offensive linemen.
With this many sixth-round picks bunched together, it won't be a surprise in the real draft to see Pace try to move up and deal two of them, or two of them and a seventh-round pick much the way he did last year to get an extra late Round 5 pick.
No. 224 Linebacker Tony Fields II, West Virginia
The only defensive player of my mock 3.0. A Nick Kwiatkoski type to groom as a backup on the inside and for special teams. He is an Arizona transfer who might actually have more overall athleticism than Kwiatkoski has but not the size and power. He's viewed more as a fit for a team playing plenty of five- or six-defensive back alignments because he's not just a downhill type, but can deploy in coverage.
No. 230 Tight End Tre' McKitty, Georgia
Partly because they'll need another tight end when Jimmy Graham is gone, and because Demetrius Harris didn't produce much last year, this could be a help to them. Besides, Pace always goes after Georgia players. McKitty is called a willing blocker and potential second tight end for a team by NFL Draft Network. McKitty actually started out with Florida State, then transferred.
This pick completed a draft class which PFF gave an overall grade of B+ to, largely thanks to the big A+ at the top with the quarterback.