Complete Bears' 2017 seven round NFL Mock Draft

Complete Bears' 2017 seven round NFL Mock Draft

When NFL free agency kicks off on March 9, we'll finally have concrete answers as to which direction the Bears will go in bolstering key roster positions this offseason. 

As a precursor to free agency and the NFL Combine, we'll try to predict — looking at the current roster without any additions — what the Bears should do with all seven picks they hold in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

With that said, lets's look ahead to the Bears' full seven-round mock draft:

Round 1 (No. 3 overall) - Solomon Thomas (DE/EDGE), Stanford

As I did last week in version 1.0 of the CSN 2017 NFL Mock Draft, I'm sticking with the Bears using the third overall pick on Thomas. Is Thomas an EDGE rusher or is he a defensive end in a 3-4? It won't matter. The Bears will find room on the field for the best defensive player in this draft not named Myles Garrett. Thomas' athleticism is off the charts and he possesses the tools to become an elite player at the next level.

Round 2 (No. 36 overall) - Traded to New England Patriots along with a 2018 second-round pick for QB Jimmy Garoppolo

No decision looms larger for Bears GM Ryan Pace than finding the team's QB of the future this offseason. The Bears have/will continue to exhaust all resources until making that final decision. While the Patriots may want a first-round pick for Garoppolo, ultimately they'll likely settle for two second-round selections which is a modest return on investment for a player they would lose for nothing in free agency next offseason. Garoppolo has the potential to be an above-average starting quarterback, but he's far from proven and won't command the type of return the Eagles received last August when they traded Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings — a desperate team in dire need of a quarterback after losing Teddy Bridgewater to a season-ending injury. After holding the clipboard for future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, Garoppolo would finally get the chance to prove himself to the rest of the league and start for the Bears in Week 1.

Round 3 (No. 67 overall) - Obi Melifonwu (S), Connecticut

The Bears hoped that Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey would take the next step last season and become a tandem to build around in their defensive backfield, but the exact opposite happened as lackluster years from the two second-year players have the Bears searching for answers at both safety positions. Melifonwu is a player the Bears coaching staff got a firsthand look at when they coached the ascending prospect on the North squad at the Senior Bowl last month. At 6-foot-4, Melifonwu has elite size to match up with tight ends and bigger wideouts. While he currently lacks the coverage skills to play free safety, Melifonwu could wreck havoc as the last line of defense in the secondary.

Round 4 (No. 108 overall) - Taywan Taylor (WR), Western Kentucky

If Alshon Jeffery bolts Chicago on March 9, it's going to leave the Bears with a gaping hole at wide receiver. Cameron Meredith was a pleasant surprise and looks to be a solid No. 2 wide receiver, but other than him the cupboard is barren at the position. The jury is still out on Kevin White who has missed 28 out of 32 games with injuries after he was selected seventh-overall by the Bears in the 2015 NFL Draft. Besides the two aforementioned players, there isn't any wide receiver on the Bears that you could confidently say is a lock to make the 53-man roster in 2017. At some point this offseason, the Bears need to make it a priority to find some speed coming out of the slot. Taylor, who had 98 receptions for 1,730 yards and 17 touchdowns in his senior year at Western Kentucky, is an ideal slot candidate with elite speed and explosiveness to thrive when getting the ball in space. 

Round 4 (No. 114 overall) - Jake Butt (TE), Michigan

When he's on the field, Zach Miller is a highly productive player in the Bears offense. But for the 32-year-old Miller, staying off IR has been a problem throughout his career. The Bears need to find stability at the position and the 2017 NFL draft (extremely deep at tight end) presents an ideal opportunity. Before tearing his right ACL in the Citrus Bowl, Butt looked to be a Day 2 lock, but the injury has dropped his stock to a possible Day 3 pick. While Butt isn't a finished product as blocker, he should see the field early in his career as he's sure handed and knows how to find a seam in the defense as an intermediate target. If Butt still on the board in the fourth round, you'd be hard-pressed to find better value at the tight end position.

[RELATED: Complete 2017 NFL Draft coverage]

Round 5 (No. 148 overall) - Julie'n Davenport (OT), Bucknell

The Bears are set at both guard positions with Kyle Long and Josh Sitton and have their center of the future in Cody Whitehair. However, they could use depth on the offensive line at both tackle positions. After a rough start to the season, Bobby Massie emerged as dependable right tackle and should be the team's Week 1 starter on the right side, but the same can't be said for Charles Leno Jr. who has struggled in his two seasons at left tackle. Davenport, the cousin of NBA player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, has elite length and physical traits to be a capable tackle in the NFL. Davenport possesses the kind of high upside you look for in a Day 3 prospect.

Round 7 (No. 226 overall) - Ben Boulware (LB), Clemson

Finding an impact player in the seventh-round is never an easy task, but Boulware is somebody who could become a special teams' stalwart in the NFL. A team captain on Clemson, Boulware was the heartbeat of the Tigers' defense over the last two years. While he lacks the size and quickness to become an every down player, Boulware could carve out a niche on special teams — an area in which he flourished in his first two years at Clemson. 

Jay Cutler experience should push Bears far away from just measurables when choosing next QB

Jay Cutler experience should push Bears far away from just measurables when choosing next QB

Teams routinely evaluate draft candidates starting with measurable traits. Then, once the 40-times, height/weight results and such are tabulated, intangibles like leadership and “football character” enter in as tipping points.

For what the Bears need and want to do this offseason at their  most important position, the Bears need to reverse the process. Do it backwards.

The Bears’ first turn on the draft clock does not come around for upwards of two months, maybe effectively before that if trading draft choices for a Jimmy Garoppolo happens in the meantime. But with the start of the league year and its trading window approach, the talk around Jay Cutler is popping up more and more, whether he’ll command anything in a trade or whether to just cut ties and move on.

But the Cutler experience should be and quite possibly is figuring into what the Bears will do if a quarterback is what they target and select, presumably in the first round. And based on Cutler as a case study, subtle and not-so-subtle indications are that GM Ryan Pace is looking beyond the usual “measurables” in evaluating quarterback prospects, as he absolutely should be.

In this one position, it becomes imperative that the Bears go off-script, outside the box, and look first, hardest and longest at something that won’t show up on any stopwatch or tape measure.

“You want to look for a player who has lifted his program for the most part,” Pace said during his time at this year’s Senior Bowl last month. “That's something that's there. Quarterbacks we've been around, I think Drew Brees, for example, when he was at Purdue, he lifted that program. That's one of the things we look for. That's definitely a factor added into about 30 other things you factor into that position.”

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Why this resonance so loudly over the Bears is because for the last eight years they had a designer quarterback who unquestionably checked every measurable box: size (6-3, 225 pounds, mobility, footspeed, arm strength), yet failed to lift his team the way Pace was accustomed to from his time in New Orleans around Brees.

North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky is Cutler: 6-3, 209 pounds, big arm. Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer is Cutler: 6-4, 230 pounds, big arm, mobility.

Tellingly perhaps, Pace also cited another intangible in a way that suggests it will influence his and the Bears’ draft board: “It's your football intelligence, it's your accuracy, it's your ability to quickly process.”

But Trubisky was a starter just one year (2016). Kizer “led” the Irish to a 4-8 season and a 14-11 overall mark in his starts over two years.

Deshaun Watson, in the National Championship game the past two years, is similar in physical stature (6-3, 209) to Kizer and Trubisky, Garoppolo, too, for that matter. But “lifted his program” should be a monumental tipping point here.

And experience. Garoppolo had one spectacular year, his senior season, at Eastern Illinois. His first three years were nothing special, marked by heavy interception totals and barely 60 percent completions. Pace’s weighted criteria have experience high up.

“Yeah, [experience] carries a lot of weight,” Pace said. “I think there’s nothing that can really substitute [for] that. It’s already a big jump from college to the NFL as it is, so the more of that you have, the more beneficial it is.”

Measurables were why Russell Wilson (size) didn’t go until the third round, and why Tom Brady (foot speed) lasted until the sixth. For the Bears, the hard-to-gauge intangibles should be their first evaluation points, far ahead of the physical skills and talents that they have had here since 2009.

Rotoworld NFL mock draft 2.0: At No. 3, the Bears select...

Rotoworld NFL mock draft 2.0: At No. 3, the Bears select...

NBCSports' and Rotoworld's NFL Draft expert Josh Norris released his second 2017 NFL mock draft. Here are the Top 10 picks. Also, be sure to check out the entire mock draft here:

This mock draft will change. Frequently.

The process is still young. Free agency is weeks away. The Combine has not kicked off. So as of now, I’m focusing more on current team needs and possible changes in the coming months. Prospect positioning becomes more clear as the process moves along. Future iterations will be more fleshed out.

Picks 14 and 15 will be decided by a coin toss at the NFL Combine.

1. Cleveland Browns - EDGE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M - Likely viewed as the draft’s top prospect. Reportedly dealt with a high ankle injury this season. NFL teams have to rush the passer, and drafting players like Emmanuel Ogbahand Carl Nassib don’t prevent you from adding Garrett.

2. San Francisco 49ers - EDGE/DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford - Thomas is a really, really, really good football player. It is impossible to predict what the 49ers will do, since they will have a totally new group of decision makers and coaches. Thomas can rush from the edge or possible work inside. In this scenario the 49ers end up with Jimmy Garoppolo, perhaps for a 2018 first round pick.

3 .Chicago Bears - QB Mitch Trubisky, UNC - If you think previous years included conflicting quarterback opinions, just wait on this year. Trubisky was a starter for one season. It is vital to evaluate his play when pressured and forced outside of structure, since so much of UNC’s offense is about rhythm.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars - DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama - This would be a great selection, and many teams might view Allen as the No. 1 player in the draft. The Jaguars invested cash and picks into the defensive line, but a team can never have enough disruptors.

5. Tennessee Titans (via LA) - FS Malik Hooker, Ohio State - Some might render football down to turnovers and big plays. Hooker can create big plays and turnovers thanks to his extreme range from his safety spot.

[RELATED: Complete 2017 NFL Draft coverage]

6. New York Jets - LB Reuben Foster, Alabama - Yes, back to back linebackers in the first round for the Jets. But this allows the Jets to have both types of backers as Foster is an aggressive missile.

7. San Diego Chargers - S Jamal Adams, LSU - I could see the Chargers going with an offensive lineman, but instead I’ll choose a safety who many view as a top 10 talent in this class.

8. Carolina Panthers - EDGE Taco Charlton, Michigan - For better or worse, Dave Gettleman has a size fetish at multiple positions. Despite producing a high number of sacks the Panthers defense needs plenty of edge rushing help so they can get to the quarterback with four men on a consistent basis.

9. Cincinnati Bengals - WR Corey Davis, WMU - The Bengals have two pass catching threats that defenses must account for (A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert). We saw what happens when both go down.

10. Buffalo Bills - QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson - If Doug Whaley identifies a target, he goes out and gets them (see E.J. Manuel (assistant GM) and Sammy Watkins). All signs point to the Bills moving on from Tyrod, which I view as a mistake.

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