With the first couple waves of free agency in the rearview mirror, the Chicago Bears’ roster needs are a little more clear heading into next month’s NFL Draft.
Two defensive starters departed in free agency as safety Adrian Amos signed with the Packers and slot cornerback Bryce Callahan followed Vic Fangio to Denver. General manager Ryan Pace was quick to replace them, however, signing feisty nickelback Buster Skrine and former Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Still, adding depth in the secondary via the draft would not be a bad idea.
Kicker remains the Bears’ biggest hole on the roster, but the running back room hardly seems solidified. Mike Davis was added in free agency, but he only figures to be in an expanded Taquan Mizzell role, and in case you forgot, Jordan Howard is still on the roster — for now.
At this point, it would be surprising if the Bears did not add a running back in the draft and they could even do it with their first pick if the right guy is still on the board. That’s the scenario we’ll start with in Bears Mock Draft 2.0.
3rd round, No. 87 — RB Miles Sanders, Penn State (5-11, 211)
This year’s running back class is very interesting. It’s a deep group and they all bring different styles to the table. Add into the mix that every team seemingly has its own running back tastes and it’s hard to get an idea of where these guys will ultimately get drafted. With Miles Sanders, I’d personally be willing to draft him in the second round, but the lack of explosiveness could end up leaving him on the table for the Bears in the third round.
Sanders was stuck behind Saquon Barkley at Penn State, but it didn’t take long to realize he was also an NFL running back once he got the starting job in 2018, running for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He’s an instinctive running back with good vision and patience to find the right holes. With only 276 carries in college, Sanders enters the NFL with low mileage. He doesn’t shy away from contact and usually falls forward when he’s tackled, picking up extra yards. Sanders doesn’t have elite home run speed, but he’s an elusive running back that can still do the things Jordan Howard does, while also being a threat to run routes. He’d be a great fit in Matt Nagy’s offense.
4th round, No. 126 — WR/TE Miles Boykin, Notre Dame (6-4, 220)
A local kid from Tinley Park (Providence Catholic), I could have sworn Boykin was a tight end when I saw him from the sidelines at Northwestern this past season. And that’s why I like him as a potential addition for the Bears.
Boykin is a huge receiver with big catch ability, but he never looked that fast on tape at Notre Dame, which is why he still projects as a mid-round pick. His NFL Combine performance was certainly noteworthy, if not surprising, because he ran a 4.42 and posted a vertical of 43.5 — pretty good for a prospect that came in with questions about his speed and athleticism. Those are numbers that make you go back to the tape, especially because he weighed in at 6’4, 220 in Indianapolis, but played closer to 230 at Notre Dame.
Either way, I like the traits. I’m just worried that his route tree is going to be limited at the NFL level and I’m not sure he can consistently win against quicker corners. That’s why I love the idea of bulking him up and using him as a tight end/wide receiver hybrid, creating better matchups and taking advantage of what appears to be good potential as a blocker. The Bears already have a good pass-catching tight end option with Trey Burton, but Adam Shaheen remains a question mark. Boykin could actually be a hybrid of those two players, giving Matt Nagy the versatility that Burton brings, but with the big-target radius that Shaheen possesses. Boykin checks the character boxes too and whether it’s at wide receiver or tight end, he’s going to help an NFL offense, providing good value in the fourth round.
5th round, No. 162 — CB Derrick Baity, Kentucky (6-1, 197)
Baity was a four-year starter in a good secondary at Kentucky and has great size at 6-2, 197. He’s fundamentally sound in his technique and teams really shied away from throwing his direction in 2018. On the downside, his arms are shorter than you’d like for being 6-2, but his ball skills are above-average. Baity has good quickness at the line of scrimmage and can win in man-coverage at the next level, but his speed is not going to be at an elite level, which is why he should still be around in the fifth round. I’m not sure why he didn’t run the 40-yard-dash at the Combine, but maybe he will at Kentucky’s Pro Day on Friday. I’m curious how he times. Baity is more Prince Amukamara than he is Kyle Fuller, but he could develop into a potential starting replacement for Amukamara down the road.
7th round, No. 222 (from Broncos through Eagles) — S D’Cota Dixon, Wisconsin (5-10, 204)
It will be interesting to see if DeAndre Houston-Carson is eventually re-signed after not being tendered by the Bears. In the meantime, they could use another backup safety who also projects as a core special teamer. Wisconsin’s D’Cota Dixon fits that role perfectly. He’s not going to be a rangy free safety in the NFL, but he’ll be very tough in the box and has experience playing all over the field. After a tough upbringing, Dixon is the definition of toughness, both on and off the field. He’s a high-character player and would bring a captain-like attitude to the locker room. With the Bears set to essentially deploy two free safeties in Clinton-Dix and Eddie Jackson this season, Dixon could immediately help in defensive packages that require a true strong safety.
7th round, No. 238 — K Matt Gay, Utah (6-0, 232)
I have very mixed opinions about spending a draft pick on a kicker, but since it could be in play for the Bears this year, we can use this opportunity to take a look at a draftable kicker.
Gay is a very interesting prospect because he’s already 25 years old (which doesn’t really matter for a kicker) and he didn’t actually kick in college until Utah offered him a walk-on opportunity in 2017. By the end of the year, he won the Lou Groza Award as the country’s best kicker. Gay has a big leg and made 8-of-11 kicks over 50 yards at Utah. He boasts 58 touchbacks on 83 kickoffs. Under 40 yards, he only has one career miss, so he should bring a reliability the Bears have been lacking on what should be routine extra points and short field goals. On the down side, Gay had three field goals blocked in 2018 and NFL personnel man said he needs to speed up his mechanics at the NFL level. Still, with that leg, it might be worth spending the last draft pick on Gay to add him to what will be a very important kicking competition in the preseason.