Bears remain active in three get-better avenues as draft approaches

Bears remain active in three get-better avenues as draft approaches

First, truly sad notes...

On top of news that Gale Sayers is battling dementia and that Lance Briggs is talking of symptoms he links to CTE comes the very sad news that former 49ers tight end Dwight Clark has ALS. Clark, co-author of "The Catch" with Joe Montana, put the information out on Sunday night that he has the dreaded illness that has afflicted a number of former NFL'ers.

Take a moment before you read any further. Maybe hug your wife/husband/kids, call someone you haven't talked to in too long, something...

OK, now you can read some more...

After the initial crush of a less than spectacular 2017 free agency pool, the Bears have quietly continued to work at the task of upgrading themselves from the nightmare that was 2016. To wit:

Healing their own

How much better would the 2017 Bears be if they added a wide receiver with a top-10 draft pick, an emerging standout nose tackle at the center of their defensive line, a Pro Bowl guard, and they committed $24 million on a middle linebacker to anchor the defense?

Because those are among the projected starters the Bears anticipate getting back in 2017 from season-ending injuries: Kevin White, Eddie Goldman, Kyle Long and Danny Trevathan. Injuries were not an allowable "excuse" for the travails of 2016, but to critique the Bears without those four, plus the occasional Zach Miller, is silly.

The Bears' run defense allowed 4.8 yards per carry without Goldman, 3.8 with him, which would have ranked among the NFL's best. The Bears allowed 30 or more points in five games last season; four of those occurred when Trevathan was out injured.

And White, coming off season-ending bone breaks his first two years, leading the team after four games last season, is part of the plan, but how much is yet to play out. "He's rehabbed, been cleared medically," said coach John Fox. "He's a guy I think that's got good size, quickness, explosion, big hands. I think yards after catch can be a positive. But at the end of the day he has to go prove that. It's going to take some time. We've got time, and he's healthy."

Looking for new kids

Whether through the No. 3 or No. 36 picks or subsequent picks, or iterations spawned via trades, the Bears already are reportedly setting up some of their 30 allowed visits with prospects. The early names are on defense, and from Alabama: defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and linebacker Ruben Foster.

The process has been ongoing, obviously, involving the Senior Bowl, Combine, Pro Day's and soon the trips to Halas Hall. Notably, and not surprisingly, the Bears met at the Combine with Miami's Brad Kaaya, DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame, Pat Mahomes from Texas Tech, Nate Peterman from Pitt and North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky. And that's not including the task force the Bears sent to watch the workout of Clemson's Deshaun Watson.

Also notably, according to WalterFootball.com, the Bears' Halas Hall pre-draft guest list last year included Leonard Floyd and Cody Whitehair, their No. 1 and No. 2 picks.

More, many more, to come.

Vet looks

The Bears signed a backup nose tackle (John Jenkins) last week and also had former Washington defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois in for a visit last weekend, first reported by ESPN's Josina Anderson last Thursday. Jean-Francois tweeted about getting used to cold weather again but was then off to Seattle for a visit with the Seahawks.

Visits don't always turn into signings, but just as he did with the addition of QB Mike Glennon, GM Ryan Pace is making moves that dramatically lessen pressure to draft for position need. With Jenkins in place and if the Bears could secure Jean-Francois, for instance, using the No. 3 pick on Alabama's Allen seems increasingly unlikely.

CSN Bears analyst Chris Boden's 2017 NFL Mock Draft

CSN Bears analyst Chris Boden's 2017 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: QB Mitchell Trubisky (North Carolina)

Hue Jackson gets a taste of what working for Jimmy Haslam is like. The owner wants the kid from Ohio, but how long will he let him sit behind Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. They don't get the top-rated player in Myles Garrett, but can circle back and address the pass rush at 12.

2. San Francisco 49ers: DE Myles Garrett (Texas A&M)

Well look who dropped into their lap. Perhaps a bit redundant after drafting Oregon defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead in the first round the past two years, but they'll worry about running back, quarterback, you name it…later on.

3. CHICAGO BEARS: S Jamal Adams (LSU)

Tempted by Solomon Thomas, who's not a true 3-4 end, but Vic Fangio would move around, and feeling Jonathan Allen's topped out, potential-wise, they go with the proven, healthy guy who can lead the secondary for the next decade. Malik Hooker more of a playmaking center fielder, but the injury history helps this decision.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: TE O.J. Howard (Alabama)

They've sunk a ton of money and draft picks on defense the last few years, and while Blake Bortles is on "notice" with Tom Coughlin, he gets a perennial Pro Bowler to throw to with the wideout tandem of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Leonard Fournette also tempting, but they'll stick with T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory for the time being.

5. Tennessee Titans: CB Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State)

They'll circle back for a much-needed wide receiver at 18, but roll the dice with the protypical, if hamstrung by injury, top corner on the market to help the 30th-ranked pass defense.

6. New York Jets: WR Mike Williams (Clemson)

Tempted by DeShaun Watson after drafting quarterbacks three of the past four years, Josh McCown needs someone to throw to after parting ways with Brandon Marshall. They go with Watson's deep target from the national champs over Corey Davis.

7. Los Angeles Chargers: S Malik Hooker (Ohio State)

Eric Weddle was great for a lot of years in San Diego, but they found out how difficult he was to replace last season. Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa has another young star to build that side of the ball around, provided he stays healthy.

8. Carolina Panthers: RB Leonard Fournette (LSU)

The Cam Newton Preservation Society (of which the former MVP still isn't a member) wins the War Room vote in Charlotte.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: DE Solomon Thomas (Stanford)

A surprising drop based on the way his stock skyrocketed since the Sun Bowl, but the 3-4 teams who passed will discover he's a perfect fit for this 4-3 that has a need on the edge and has suffered a defensive exodus recently.

10. Buffalo Bills: LB Reuben Foster (Alabama)

New coach Sean McDermott gets himself the best inside linebacker on the board as he puts his stamp on a defense he hopes to re-create from Carolina.

11. New Orleans Saints: DE Derek Barnett (Tennessee)

Cameron Jordan gets a partner on the opposite side to rush the quarterback on a defense that ranked 27th (last against the pass).

12. Cleveland Browns: DL Jonathan Allen (Alabama)

Allen's ideally a 4-3 tackle, but is versatile enough to provide impact as a "5-tech," alongside stout nose tackle Danny Shelton. If not, blame the Browns after long-term concerns about his shoulders and how much higher he can raise his level after an excellent college career. 

13. Arizona Cardinals: QB Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech)

Choosing between Watson and Mahomes, Bruce Arians' confidence level over how he can shape Carson Palmer's heir guides him to the gun-slinger.

14. Philadelphia Eagles: RB Christian McCaffery (Stanford)

McCaffery a multi-dimensional weapon to pair with Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffery (for at least this year).

15. Indianapolis Colts: Edge Charles Harris (Missouri)

The league's 30th-ranked defense needs a lot of help. Harris is a start.

16. Baltimore Ravens: WR Corey Davis (Western Michigan)

Steve Smith has retired. The barely-recruited kid from Wheaton-Warrenville South slides in.

17. Washington Redskins: LB Hasson Reddick (Temple)

His status grew with every practice heading into the Senior Bowl and has gone nowhere but up.

18. Tennessee Titans: WR John Ross (Washington)

The Combine record 4.22 40 pushed him into the first round, but carries a risk with a history of knee injuries before finally staying healthy in 2016. Say hi to Marcus Mariota.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edge Taco Charlton (Michigan)

Say it. Taco Time in Tampa for a D that finished 22nd against both the run and pass.

20. Denver Broncos: T Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin)

There's ALWAYS concern and questions about the Broncos offensive line. Here's one answer.

21. Detroit Lions: LB Jarrad Davis (Florida)

DeAndre Levy's gone, and while they added Paul Worrilow and good use another edge rusher opposite Ziggy Ansah, Davis fits, and fills a need.

22. Miami Dolphins: CB Quincy Wilson (Florida)

Lots of defensive needs for Adam Gase to address. He starts here, and the team saves a bit on transportation costs.

23. New York Giants: TE David Njoku (Miami)

OBJ. Brandon Marshall. And now the fast-rising second-best tight end in the draft.

24. Oakland Raiders: LB Tim Williams (Alabama)

Silver-and-Black lost some defensive personnel this off-season. Williams can cause some distraction from Khalil Mack.

25. Houston Texans: QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson)

Well wasn't this conveeeeenient for Bill O'Brien.

26. Seattle Seahawks: OT Garrett Bolles (Utah)

Sexy? No. But the Seahawks seem to join the Broncos is sweating out O-Line issues every year. Protect Russ.

27. Kansas City Chiefs: DT Malik McDowell (Michigan State)

Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard were off-season salary cap victims.

28. Dallas Cowboys: S Jabril Peppers (Michigan)

Does this say Cowboys, or what?

29. Green Bay Packers: RB Dalvin Cook (Florida State)

Ty Montgomery was pretty good. Cook will be even better.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Takkarist McKinley (UCLA)

They can go inside with Raekwon McMillan, but decide to go for some James Harrison insurance after parting ways with Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones.

31. Atlanta Falcons: DE Demarcus Walker (Florida State)

The guy just made plays for an elite program and fills a need on Dan Quinn's emerging D.

32. New Orleans Saints: WR Curtis Samuel (Ohio State)

They'll get back to addressing the defense but for now, a Brandin Cooks replacement in the spot the Patriots gave them for Cooks.

 

Clemson's Deshaun Watson is the one situation where a Bears reach has epic upside

Clemson's Deshaun Watson is the one situation where a Bears reach has epic upside

First impressions are so often the right ones, and throughout much of the pre-draft process, View from the Moon has been of the mind that LSU safety Jamal Adams would be the Bears' first selection on Day 1 of the NFL Draft. GM Ryan Pace set forth the premium the organization was placing on a ballhawking safety; Malik Hooker’s injury history raised too many concerns, and Adams was rated among the draft’s premier talents regardless of position.
 
That has changed, which is absolutely zero assurance that it was a change for the better. Because the cone of silence over Bears intentions, which may set the media a-grumbling but is at least something that the Bears have in common with Green Bay and New England, naming just a couple, is securely in place, which is a credit to the administration. (If another Administration out East were as airtight, political pundits would be reading their kids' school poems just to fill air time).
 
The revised decision to posit the Bears selecting Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson came on a wave of second thoughts drawn from information from a variety of sources. Chief among the "sources" was Pace himself, who has placed a premium on an individual capable of lifting not just the defense, but the organization. That bespoke "quarterback," and Watson gains the highest grade by virtue of intangibles on top of experience and results, with nods toward North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky.
 
Usually the pre-draft process is to fault-find and nit-pick prospects, run 'em down a little, hedge bets. But with Watson, the closer this observer has looked, the better, not worse, the Clemson kid has looked.
 
The chief caveat or qualifier with Watson has been general consensus among draft analysts that Watson has some accuracy issues. Not that this would be any sort of picking nit to find something wrong with the guy, but his career completion percentage is 67.4, with all three of his season hit rate at or above 67 percent. No other top prospect (Trubisky Pat Mahomes, DeShone Kizer, Nathan Peterman, Brad Kaaya, Davis Webb – I stopped looking at that point) has three seasons at that level or anything approaching the consistency of all three of his college years being nearly identical for this one measure of accuracy.
 
But a mantra here this draft has been that stats and measurables should not be the starting point for evaluating quarterbacks; it should be intangibles, THEN the measurables. More on the stats in a moment.
 
On the intangibles/character graph, consider:
 
The kid finished his degree, in communications, in three years, which was how long he planned to be at Clemson. Notably, he’s not alone in this kind of degree-compartmentalizing; Leonard Fournette at LSU and Clemson teammate and wideout Artavis Scott are both on schedule for finishing their studies at about the same time as their football. This would be what this reporter considers a very, very big positive in the character area and one that more players are moving on, a good story for another time.

Watson’s chief negative cited has been turnovers, specifically his 17 interceptions in the 2016 season. That also was the season Watson took Clemson to the national championship over Alabama, and the one in which he threw 579 passes. I can’t do this at the moment, but if there are instances where Watson's play was a bit off for a particular game, it might be amusing to find out what finals/tests/labs he had due the day before. Hopefully teams don't gig him for studying something other than game film that week.
 
But back to the stats and measurables...

Watson’s 17 interceptions in 579 attempts this past college season means an interception rate of 2.9 percent – or just about exactly what Brett Favre had for his college career. Obviously, all purely for academic comparison purposes, Watson for his career was a little better than Favre, at 2.7 percent. Watson completed 67 percent or more of his passes in those three Clemson seasons, if accuracy is a concern. This year’s Super Bowl quarterbacks: Tom Brady’s Michigan pick rate was 2.7 percent; Matt Ryan threw 19 his senior year at Boston College before going No. 3 overall to Atlanta.
 
The Favre/Brady/Ryan point is this: Look beyond just the numbers, and even beyond some of the supposed smudges on Watson's game at this point. The position is about leadership and winning, and Watson comes into the draft with zero concerns there.
 
Suggesting that the Bears send up their first card with Watson's name on it doesn't ignore the dubious wisdom in drafting a player significantly higher than his grade on a draft board. But intangibles factor heavily into the quarterback position, and those aren't generally factored heavily into the grading process. Too many draft mistakes (Favre second round, Joe Montana third, Russell Wilson third, Brady sixth) were made ignoring those elements.
 
Reasons abound for the Bears not reaching for Watson at No. 3 – Jonathan Allen. Adams. Malik Hooker. Marshon Lattimore. Solomon Thomas. (Insert your choice here.) And the overall of "he’s doesn't have a top-five grade."
 
But as laid out here previously during this draft season, the quarterback position is about more than height-weight-arm strength-40 time-and such. The Bears hope they won’t ever be at No. 3-overall again. Whether they see Watson as the best chance to keep that from happening will play out later this week.