While the Bears’ season has been nothing short of a disappointment, the poor results are putting the organization in line for a top draft pick.
Going into Week 11, the Bears are currently slotted No. 3 overall behind the 0-10 Cleveland Browns and the 1-8 San Francisco 49ers. At 2-7, the Bears are tied with the 2-7 Jacksonville Jaguars, but hold the tiebreaker because of a weaker strength of schedule.
(Note: Other published draft orders only calculate strength of schedule through Week 10, which is why you might see the Bears slotted at No. 4 on other web sites. I prefer to calculate the entire schedule, because I think it gives a more accurate representation of what the strength of schedule will look like after Week 17. For example, the Bears’ and Jaguars’ schedules the rest of the season are relatively similar in terms of opponent wins and losses, but the Bears have the 1-8 49ers on the schedule while the Jaguars play the 7-3 Denver Broncos. Because of this, there’s a good chance the Bears will ultimately hold the tiebreaker.)
Technicalities aside, it’s looking very likely that Bears general manager Ryan Pace will have his third straight Top 10 draft pick, which is pretty much the only silver lining in this three-year run of futility. Now the question is: how high can the Bears climb in the draft order?
Given how bad the Browns look, it seems unlikely the Bears would be in play for the first overall pick, but it’s worth noting that they do currently hold the strength of schedule tiebreaker over the Browns if it came down to that. The No. 2 overall pick, however, could be in play. Not only do the Bears play the 49ers head-to-head on Dec. 7, they also currently hold the tiebreaker over San Francisco.
Getting a top four pick is significant. To me, there are four players as close to “sure things” as possible: Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers. A pick in the top four would guarantee you one of these players, while also giving you a bargaining chip to move back as there are always teams eager to jump into the top four for a quarterback.
Which brings us to the quarterbacks. At this point, there’s little doubt the Bears need to invest in a young quarterback prospect. They’re at least a year late in doing so, if not more. But that doesn’t mean they need to use their first pick on one. This quarterback class looks underwhelming so far, although I will admit that I won’t do a deep study of all the prospects until January and February. That said, I have seen plenty of Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Neither inspire enough confidence to take them over one of the four “sure things” I previously mentioned.
We have over five months to sort out who the Bears should select, but my early favorite is Peppers. If you’ve followed my draft coverage over the years, then you know I tend to lean towards guys who consistently perform on tape rather than those who ooze words like “measurables” and “ raw potential.” In this case, Peppers checks all of these boxes and would immediately give Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio a versatile playmaker who can be moved around the defense and take the ball away — in my opinion, the unit’s biggest weakness.
Peppers would also give the Bears a dynamic kick/punt returner, something they’ve shown no desire to find since Devin Hester left three years ago.
At this point, it’s not out of the question that Watson could slip to the second round, where Miami’s Brad Kaaya could also be available if he decides to enter the draft. Looking even later, Cal’s Davis Webb is a quarterback I’ve liked since he was a freshman at Texas Tech and he might be available in the third round.
Again, it’s too early for a Bears Mock Draft (plug: the first one will be published the Tuesday after the Super Bowl, as always) but it’s definitely not too early to be tracking where the Bears could be picking.
And with seven games it to go, it sure looks like they’ll be picking very, very early.