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Crossing Up the Experts

Would a safety or edge rusher be something the Bears would pursue in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft?

Mock drafts are flying fast now with less than a month until Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, and one made by CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso brings up the possibility the Bears are preparing to fool everyone.

Pro Football Focus concurs on this, although not specifically with the pick.

The problem with this pick is they might be fooling themselves, as well.

Four basic Bears needs come up with every mock draft: cornerback, quarterback, tackle and slot or wide receiver.

Anything else is secondary, but Trapasso bucks conventional wisdom in his mock draft and has the Bears selecting Syracuse safety Andre Cisco at No. 20 in Round 1.

Seeing any safety selected by anyone in Round 1 invites some skepticism. It's a greatly undervalued position unless you're talking about someone of Jamal Adams' great skill set.

There is logic to the thinking.

Although the Bears have those four needs, they do need a safety, as well. Actually, there are two positions uncovered by a veteran starter at the moment and one is the safety opposite Eddie Jackson. The other is slot cornerback.

The level of those veteran starters definitely varies but at least they have legitimate NFL starters at the other positions besides safety and slot cornerback.

The two problems with the pick are Ryan Pace's past reliance on Day 3 of the draft for safeties and the player selected.

Pace took Jackson in Round 4, Adrian Amos in Round 5 and Deon Bush in Round 4. He's never come above the fourth round for a safety. DeAndre Houston-Carson was a sixth-rounder.

It's an important position but the skill set isn't rare enough to warrant selecting someone higher, the thinking goes.

High Ceiling, Low Floor

In Cisco's case, there is tremendous upside. His floor is the problem. It might be a basement floor.

Cisco is a hit-or-miss candidate. He is capable of spectacular big plays and then gets out of position and burned badly by receivers.

In 24 games for Syracuse, Cisco made a phenomenal 13 interceptions and 12 of those came in his first two seasons. He only played two games in 2020. He has 14 career passes defended.

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Cisco isn't the top safety on the board for NFL Draft Bible. Richie Grant of Central Florida gets that honor. Mel Kiper of ESPN has TCU's Trevon Moehrig going first among safeties, as a late first-round pick. Pro Football Focus agrees with Kiper.

Safeties who take such risk need to be taken later in drafts.

An Edge Rusher?

While PFF agrees with Kiper's assessment of the safety position, its latest mock draft found the Bears looking at another odd position in Round 1.

At least it's odd they had the Bears selecting Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari because GM Ryan Pace spent enough money in free agency for 2020 and several future years on Robert Quinn he cost the team a chance to retain cornerback Kyle Fuller another season. 

And now he'd draft an edge one year after sacrificing a 2021 fourth-round pick to move up and pick edge rusher Trevis Gipson?

Just like with the safety pick, there is undeniable logic. The first is simply you can never have enough good pass rushers, and the Bears currently have one. His name is Khalil Mack.

The other bit of logic is it's another Georgia edge rusher. Ojulari is called by PFF the "best pure speed rusher in the 2021 class."

Being from Georgia plays right to Pace's pattern of drafting. For some reason he continues to pursue Bulldogs. He drafted Leonard Floyd and in the end it turned out he was right—the Bears simply quit on him a year too early. He drafted Roquan Smith in Round 1 in 2018, the last Bears first-rounder taken. He drafted receivers Riley Ridley and Javon Wims from Georgia. They also have former Georgia receiver Reggie Davis on the roster.

NFL Draft Bible rates Ojulari the top 3-4 outside linebacker in the draft.

At 6-2 1/2, 240, they add, "His work in the run game is admirable, but he could use some added physical development."

The description sounds an awful lot like another former Georgia linebacker coming into the NFL. Floyd was viewed as undersized, although he's much taller than Ojulari. He was the same weight. 

A player of that speed fits in well in this scheme the Bears use. They didn't have this type of player complementing Mack's rush last year, and Floyd helped in pass coverage at times, as well.

It would bring the Bears back closer in style of personnel to where they were defensively when Vic Fangio was running the defense, and that's the style they're going toward this year with Fangio disciple Sean Desai running the defense for the first time.

The difference would be the other safety position and the slot cornerback spot. Picking a speed rusher here definitely doesn't solve those issues or their numerous offensive deficiencies.

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