It wasn’t my first thought when the Bears traded for Khalil Mack in September, but at some point it hit me.
This is not good for my Bears mock drafts.
The Bears gave up their 2019 first round and sixth round picks in the Mack deal and were already without their 2019 second round pick after using it to move up to select wide receiver Anthony Miller in the second round last year. So, for the first time in nine years of writing these Bears mock drafts, we’re going to have to start the process late in the third round.
But, in many ways, this only increases the value of the exercise, since the whole point is to give fans an idea of prospects who could be good targets for the Bears throughout the entire draft and not just the first two rounds.
Barring any future trades, the Bears currently have five selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, adding on a conditional seventh round pick when general manager Ryan Pace traded defensive back Deiondre’ Hall to the Eagles at the end of the preseason. The Bears were awarded that conditional pick after the regular season, a league source confirmed to WGN Radio, so they are currently slated to have back-to-back picks in the seventh round.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the picks:
3rd Round, No. 24 — RB Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic (5-9, 200)
Between the early Kareem Hunt discussion and the insistence on using Taquan Mizzell in the offense, it sure seems like Matt Nagy thinks there is a missing piece in his backfield. Devin Singletary first came on my radar when he averaged 4.0 yards per carry against a good Wisconsin defense in 2017 and he hasn’t really slowed down since. I wish he were a little taller, but he packs a punch in his 5-9, 200-pound frame and he led the nation in most missed tackles forced in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus. He doesn’t have the breakaway speed that Tarik Cohen possesses, but he is more elusive than Jordan Howard, while still projecting as a between-the-tackles runner in the NFL. The big question is how the Bears view Singletary as a pass catcher. He wasn’t asked to catch the ball very often in Lane Kiffin’s offense, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it. If he can show upside as pass-catching back between now and the draft, Singletary could be a great fit in Nagy’s system.
4th Round, No. 24 — WR Terry McLaurin, Ohio State (6-1, 205)
Until a couple months ago, I hadn’t really viewed McLaurin as a big-time NFL prospect, but in my prep for December’s Big Ten Championship Game, I couldn’t take my eyes off No. 83. All he did was get open, especially in the red zone. He doesn’t have the largest catch radius, but he runs outstanding routes and has surprising catch-and-run ability. As a fifth-year senior, it’s hard to understand why McLaurin was so underutilized at Ohio State, but he put up an impressive final season with 35 catches, 701 yards and 11 touchdowns. He followed that up with a great week at the Senior Bowl, easing concerns that his game won’t translate to the next level.
I don’t think wide receiver is necessarily a huge need for the Bears, but McLaurin is officially my first mid-round “draft crush” of 2019 and they won’t be able to get him any later than this. Best player available.
5th Round, No. 24 — DE Anthony Nelson, Iowa (6-6, 272)
Nelson has outstanding size and length, but underwhelming burst and athleticism. Without knowing how he’ll test at this point, it’s hard to peg where the fourth-year junior will land, but he seems like a mid-round pick right now. Given his size, but limited ability to bend around the edge, I like how Nelson projects as a 3-4 defensive end. The Bears can bulk him up and use him as a run defender with upside as a pass rusher when guys like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman are getting all the attention from blockers. Depth isn’t an issue on the defensive line right now, but the Bears have been remarkably healthy on the line the last two seasons and you never know when you’ll need more bodies. This is good value for Nelson late in the fifth round.
7th Round, No. 24 — CB Montre Hartage, Northwestern (6-0, 195)
I had the privilege of watching every game of Hartage’s Northwestern career up close on the sideline, giving me a great vantage point of his lockdown technique and outstanding ball skills. His length and press-coverage ability will translate to the NFL, but there will be some concerns about his speed, which is why he currently projects as a late-round pick. Hartage is a smart player who was a captain at Northwestern. He would fit the Bears’ culture perfectly and what he might lack in “NFL speed,” he would make up in technique and instinct. I like him as a developmental prospect who could learn a lot from Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller.
7th Round, No. 25 (from Philadelphia) — LB/S Chase Hansen, Utah (6-2, 220)
Hansen was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, so I will undoubtedly get criticized for him falling to the seventh round here. It’s early February, so we’re all guessing at this point, but Hansen turns 26 in May, looks too small to play linebacker in the NFL and is somewhat limited athletically. That has all the makings of a player who will fall to the seventh round of the draft.
So why should the Bears still draft him? I think Hansen can make it as a good special teamer and fringe starting strong safety (where he played before moving to linebacker as a senior). He has impressive range and good downhill speed. Hansen is also a former quarterback and those around the Utah program believe that helped him understand passing concepts as a defender, improving his instincts on the field. This is good value for a player who should help out on special teams right away and would boost the depth at safety if the Bears lose Adrian Amos.