The chance for a special player or also a special athlete proved too appealing in BearDigest.com mock draft 5.0, the next to last mock draft and first one of April.
It's been two weeks of pro days since the last mock and the latest mock draft includes trades and a player sure to excite many Bears fans. It also met all needs, although in some cases with some risks and also with a few players who really carry along question marks.
What's a trade without a question mark, though.
In keeping with the thought GM Ryan Pace has no ability to draft players in Rounds 6 and 7 who count for much—he has seven total starts from players drafted in those rounds in six years—those picks the Bears have amassed this year in Round 6 were used as trade bait simply to move up and select better players.
It's quality over quantity if you're already in position and the Bears have been in the playoffs two of the last three years. They aren't Detroit or some other team starting over and trying to fill out roster spots with young bodies.
The Trade I
Before the draft, hoping to land Justin Fields, I offered the Atlanta Falcons a trade and they accepted. A team starting with a new staff
and with a quarterback in place might like more picks, although in reality it's going to cost the Bears far more than my offer made to Atlanta to get in position for a quarterback. I sent the 20th pick in Round 1, first- and second-round picks for next year and a sixth-round pick for next year to Atlanta to move up so I might be in position for Fields. If you remember, the 49ers dealt away three No. 1s and a third-rounder to go from No. 12 to No. 3, so my trade to go from 20 to 4 looks like a complete steal.
PFF awarded the deal only a C grade.
Tough. I liked it.
The Trade II
The goal was to get rid of some of the late-round trash that leads Pace to take fliers on people like Stephen Denmark or Kerrith Whyte, and get to a spot where a more productive player could be chosen. A three-for-one offer of 204, 208 and 228 for the 159th player was accepted by the Los Angeles Chargers and the Bears' old buddy Brandon Staley, who needs numbers as he rebuilds. So the Bears have an extra early fifth-rounder and lose sixth-rounders who wouldn't amount to much, anyway.
Round 1, Pick No. 4: Trey Lance, QB, N. Dakota St.
The New York Jets double-crossed everyone on the draft simulator. Instead of taking Zach Wilson, they picked Fields, the player I'd moven up to take.
The draft simulator was from Pro Football Focus and apparently it doesn't buy the 49ers-Mac Jones rumor. They then had the 49ers take Wilson.
These moves thwarted my trade up, but not entirely.
Trey Lance isn't the quarterback Wilson is or the combination athlete/proven passer Fields is, but he is a very special athlete. He's ust not a special quarterback yet, after so little exposure to top-level talent and almost no playing experience last year due to the pandemic.
But that ability to run both with speed and power, and the cannon arm are weapons any offense can use. He makes effortless throws far downfield, and with so much touch that it was easy to draft him over tackle Penei Sewell, who would have been an instant Bears starter and is the top tackle in this draft.
Lance will sit behind Andy Dalton and maybe even Nick Foles, learning for a year, much like Green Bay's Jordan Love has been doing behind Aaron Rodgers.
The trade up netted only a C, but the selection of Lance earned an "A" grade from PFF. Go figure.
Round 2, No. 52: Aaron Robinson, CB, Central Florida
Another attempt was made to trade up, this in Round 2, but no one was biting. The purpose of trade proposals was to draft cornerback Asante Samuel.
Instead, the Bears had to settle for a cornerback who was rated in this general area of the draft by PFF but has played mostly in the slot against lesser competition. He's larger than most slot corners at 6-1, 193 and has a skill set which allows him to play outside, as well. This could be a player who flips between outside and slot corner depending on the down and distance.
The experience he had against top receivers is limited, and so it's good Desmond Trufant was acquired as a bridge cornerback after the Bears foolishly let Kyle Fuller leave.
Round 3, No. 83: Brady Christensen, T, BYU
For skipping the chance to draft Sewell, and by focusing on a cornerback in Round 2, the Bear missed any chance at one of the better tackles. Instead, they'll draft the player who protected Wilson's blind side. Christensen was on PFF's board as the best available tackle at the time but they seem to think he'll be a guard. His footwork is too good to be a guard and his reach, at 6-6, 300, is perfect for a tackle. He'll be a left tackle who can start later in 2021 if necessary, or next year when Charles Leno Jr. has left after his contract expires.
Round 5, No. 159: Simi Fehoko, WR, Stanford
This is a potential boom-or-bust pick chosen with the draft pick acquired in the trade up from Round 6. Waiting this late deprives the Bears of a chance at some special speed at the slot position. This isn't simply speed, but is unique speed-and-size combined.
Fehoko is entirely inexperienced but is 6-4, 227 and ran a 4.39 40-yard dash. It's not just his 40 time which impressed scouts. His burst off the line of scrimmage is said to be virtually impossible to counter for defensive backs because he powers through press coverage. On the other hand, he is someone has to drastically improve his hands and route running. The Bears already have sure-handed, excellent route runners in Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney. They need a speed threat who can scare the secondary back in coverage, a field stretcher. This is it.
PFF compared Fehoko to a poor-man's version of D.K. Metcalf. He could play the Z receiver and the Bears could move Mooney into the slot at times. Whatever they do with him, Fehoko is someone capable of big plays who could help open up secondaries for other players to run underneath after the catch.
Round 5, No. 164: Damar Hamlin, S, Pitt
This is a player made for the Bears. They actually would be wise to take him in Round 4. He is the ideal safety for their style of defense. He can play a split-field situation but he has one quality they have lacked at safety since Adrian Amos left in free agency. "Relishes the chance to lay a hit. Fits so quick in the run game with some thumps on tape," was how PFF put it regarding Hamlin.
This isn't a classic box safety or a safety who a team would want in single-high, but is good enough in coverage for cover-2 or any zone as well as for playing combination or disguised coverages like the Bears emphasize. And he'll arrive to snuff out the run or short pass. PFF was enamored with this pick and awarded a B+ for it. They had Hamlin graded for the fourth round so he had fallen.
Round 6, No. 221: John Bates, TE, Boise State
Bates is a tight end who isn't special but does everything well enough and has gradually improved as a blocker. The Bears need to think beyond Jimmy Graham. Also, their third tight end from last year, Demetrius Harris, was never signed back to the team. Bates is a tremendous all-around athlete who will help on special teams. He was a track star and baseball standout in the past, besides being a football player. It's kind of a unique combination to be a javelin thrower, hurdler and jumper, but also a baseball player and tight end who is 6-foot-6, 259 pounds. He'll fit in as a U-tight end or Y.
There might be better late-round fits at U-tight end for the Bears, like Tre' McKitty of Georgia. He was available here to be drafted, as well. But McKitty was graded a seventh-rounder and Bates' was the best possible player overall when chosen at 221.
PFF awarded a total grade of A for this draft.
Apparently picking Lance and Hamlin carried plenty of weight because they were the only ones who brought in above-average grades as individual picks.
If the Bears can come away with an athletic talent like Lance at quarterback, it can make the inability to land a top overall tackle or a proven pass catcher less of a problem.