Chicago Bears

Looks like Bears want quarterback in draft, but will they trade up to make sure they get their guy?

Looks like Bears want quarterback in draft, but will they trade up to make sure they get their guy?

All draft analyses are fluid, including the ones of NFL teams right up to the minute they are on the clock. But inside of two weeks until the 2017 selection derby, the conclusion here has become that the Bears will use their first pick — be it the No. 3 overall choice or another should they trade up — on a quarterback.

Earlier thought was that the Bears might be looking at a safety — LSU's Jamal Adams or Ohio State's Malik Hooker — but the Bears have conducted some of the most exhaustive research and evaluations in recent memory not of one quarterback but multiple quarterback prospects, in particular Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, Texas Tech's Pat Mahomes and Clemson's Deshaun Watson.

And the expectation here is that Watson will be the Bears' selection.

How that happens, though, could be more interesting than simply using the third pick on the Clemson product.

To this point, the predominance of thought has centered around whether the Bears would trade down from the No. 3 pick. But a confluence of circumstances might be positioning the Bears for a possible trade the opposite direction. A trade up could allow the Bears to pick Texas A&M's Myles Garrett, the most dominant pass rusher in this year's draft, or more likely Watson, who checks every box for what general manager Ryan Pace wants in a franchise quarterback.

What are those circumstances?

Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson said during the owners meetings last month that the Browns are not trading the No. 1 pick. Policy statements in the NFL can be fluid, but Jackson and the Browns are having internal debates on whether to settle their quarterback situation with North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky or to stay the presumed course with Garrett.

Meanwhile, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch made it clear that operators are standing by. "We're open for business," said Lynch, who shored up his quarterback situation with Brian Hoyer this offseason and has sparked whispers that he is keeping his powder dry for a run at Kirk Cousins next offseason. "We'll listen to anything."

Lynch confirmed last week that the 49ers had gotten calls for the No. 2 pick, and it would be a surprise if Pace and the Bears were not among those doing at least a little due diligence. Pace showed his willingness to be aggressive by trading up from No. 11 to No. 9 last year in order to grab rush-linebacker Leonard Floyd ahead of the New York Giants.

Does Pace make another call on draft day? For Watson?

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As comfortable as Pace appeared to be as recently as the owners meetings with Mike Glennon, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer is under contract at a very good price after this season, meaning he could settle in nicely as a backup if the Bears' quarterback addition this draft proves to be franchise-grade. And Pace has been very clear that improving and settling the quarterback position is Goal No. 1. So the thought that he is done at a position that important seems like a stretch, though impressions of him during the NFL meetings were pretty unanimous that he felt good if he had to go forward with Glennon. Remember he gave John Fox, Vic Fangio and the defense an edge rusher with the team's first pick last year with Floyd.

Would the Bears need to trade up, though? They would if they had decided their goal-pick was Watson (or Kizer or Mahomes, for that matter) and he was going to be stolen out from under them by the 49ers dealing the pick to someone else. The reason teams trade to get up that high is nearly always to snare a quarterback.

The team at No. 2 in the last draft, Cleveland, traded that pick and a fourth-rounder to the Philadelphia Eagles, who wanted Carson Wentz. The cost was steep: the Eagles' 2016 first-, third- and fourth-round picks as well as Philadelphia's first-round pick in 2017 and second-round pick in 2018.

But the Eagles needed to move all the way up from No. 15 and had to offer a very sweet pot. The Bears would be moving from No. 3 to No. 2, meaning the 49ers would still have a top-five pick, plus whatever else the package includes.

For loose comparison purposes, in order to move from No. 4 to No. 3 in the 2012 draft, the Browns needed to give the Minnesota Vikings that No. 4 choice along with picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds of that draft. That involved the Browns wanting a running back (Trent Richardson), but it serves as a one-slot trade-up template.

However it plays out, there is no shortage of scenarios for the Bears. But thinking strategically, the Bears have no intention of being anywhere near this draft position again anytime soon. So the thought that the Bears can wait for the 2018 quarterback class is a bad one. Even if the quarterbacks are significantly better, the Bears figure they'll be long gone by the time their turn comes up in 2018.

So the time for the Bears is now, and as the stocks of Watson, Mahomes and Kizer rise — all have been intensely scrutinized by the Bears — the need might be to move up a spot to be sure of landing their idea of a prize.

And the 2017 draft is becoming rife with possibilities for doing just that.

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Markus Wheaton was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and wasn’t on the Bears’ injury report Thursday, signaling that the 5-foot-11, 189 pound speedster will make his Bears debut Sunday against his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s not the solution for the Bears’ offense, but he could be part of it. 

For an offense that’s woefully lacked someone who can reliably stretch the field, Wheaton can at least provide the threat of going deep. Two years ago, while with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Wheaton averaged 17 yards per reception. Mike Glennon’s longest completion this year went for 22 yards. 

“It definitely adds another dimension,” Glennon said. “It’ll be great having Markus back.”

But Wheaton only played in three games last season (four catches, 51 yards) and, at his best, averaged 48 catches, 696 yards and four touchdowns a year from 2014-2015. Is it fair to expect Wheaton to be a big part of the Bears' offensive solution given he hasn't played much recently, and was limited to only a handful of reps in training camp and preseason practices due to a pair of freak ailments?

Maybe not, but with the Bears 0-2, he's the best hope they have at a skill position. 

Wheaton needed an emergency appendectomy the first weekend the Bears were in Bourbonnais — “I thought I had to poop,” Wheaton said, maybe providing too much information, before realizing the excruiating pain in which he was in was something worse. Shortly after returning to the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University, Wheaton fractured his pinkie finger in gruesome fashion (he said the bone was sticking out) when he was awkwardly grabbed while trying to catch a pass. 

That Wheaton broke a finger wasn’t only significant for his ability to catch passes. Consider what his former quarterback — Ben Roethlisberger — had to say about what makes Wheaton an effective deep threat:

“He’s got a very good ability of using his hands,” Roethlisberger said. “When you’re trying to stretch the field, you’ve gotta have some little techniques to help you get open because DBs can run as much as receivers can. So you gotta be able to use your hands to swim, kinda, get some swiping, get the hands off, I thought that he really had some good technique when it came to the deep ball and getting away from DBs.”

Roethlisberger and Wheaton shared a good rapport in Pittsburgh, with the quarterback clearly communicating to the receiver what he expected timing-wise in his routes. It’s been a challenge to develop something similar with Glennon given the lack of practice time, but Wheaton said putting in extra work after practice has helped. 

If Wheaton and Glennon can get on the same page, perhaps that can lead to at least some deep ball attempts. The Bears have to find a way to prevent opposing defenses from stacking the box and focusing on stopping Jordan Howard, who only has 59 yards on 22 carries this year. 

“We're going to face overpopulated boxes, we know that,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “There's going to be seven, eight guys in the box every time and we have to execute better and it comes down to that.”

According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, only three of Glennon’s 85 pass attempts have traveled 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The only completion of those was Sunday’s garbage-time touchdown to Deonte Thompson, which was caught near the back of the end zone. 

The threat of Wheaton going deep won’t be enough, though. Glennon still has prove he can complete those deep balls — the last time he completed a pass of 25 or more yards was on Nov. 2, 2014 (though he’s only attempted 96 passes since that date). 

But Wheaton feels ready to go and is confident he can do his job — which, in turn, could, in a best-case scenario, help his other 10 teammates on offense do their jobs, too. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” Wheaton said. “I’m excited and hopefully this is the week.”

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

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AP

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

Count Kris Bryant among the Chicagoans who are calling for Mitch Trubisky to start at quarterback for the Bears.

OK, that may be a bit extreme as Bryant simply said he would supporting giving Trubisky a "shot", but still:

After a rough game for incumbent starting QB Mike Glennon last week, most of Chicago has been clamoring for the No. 2 overall pick to get some snaps under center.

Why wouldn't the crown prince of Chicago baseball get in on the noise?