The 2019 NFL Draft will be here on Thursday and while there is undoubtedly less buzz for the Bears this year, the event is just as important as ever, even if general manager Ryan Pace doesn’t hold a pick until late in the third round.
In fact, the Bears’ mid-round picks are even more important this year because if Pace wants to keep his team’s championship window open, he’s going to have to continue to add starting-caliber talent through the draft. It’s just not realistic for the Bears to keep every player in the future, and that reality already began this spring when they said goodbye to safety Adrian Amos and nickel corner Bryce Callahan, two productive players that were brought in and developed under Pace’s watch.
The good news is that the GM has added key starters in the middle rounds over the last four years, with Amos, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard becoming key contributors out of the fourth and fifth rounds.
With that in mind, let’s dive into Bears Mock Draft 3.0:
3rd round, No. 87 — CB Isaiah Johnson, Houston (6-2, 208)
The Bears still appear to be dangerously thin at cornerback and could be in the market for a new starter in the not-too-distant future. Johnson is an interesting prospect because he actually played wide receiver in his first two years at Houston before switching to the other side of the ball. He has great size and length that fit the Bears’ current scheme, but his technique is very raw because he’s still new at the position. Still, the traits and ball skills as a former receiver are intriguing and the 4.40 40-time at the Combine proved he has the speed to play corner at the next level.
4th round, No. 126 — RB Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska (5-11, 222)
Ozigbo was one of the biggest NFL Combine snubs this year, but he’s been overlooked in part because he didn’t do much in his first three seasons at Nebraska. I chalk that up to the former coaching staff not realizing what they had, as Scott Frost didn’t seem to have a problem using the speedy running back in 2018 when Ozigbo posted a 7.0 average and went over 1,000 yards. Ozigbo has good size and strength to run between the tackles, but shows better breakaway speed in the open field than Jordan Howard ever did. He is also a reliable receiver out of the backfield, giving Matt Nagy the route-running threat he covets in his offense. Ozigbo would be another great mid-round running back find for Pace if he ends up on the Bears.
5th round, No. 162 — S Mike Edwards, Kentucky (5-10, 205)
Edwards didn’t get to workout at the Combine because of a broken thumb, but he’s known for his durability, having played in every single game in four years at Kentucky. He’s a versatile defensive back who could play as a safety or a slot corner at the next level. With the Bears bringing in two veterans (Buster Skrine and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix) at those two positions, Edwards would provide depth with the opportunity to take over one of those starting jobs in the future. He’s very physical and I love his instincts. He might not have the height or ideal speed to be taken early in the draft, but he’ll provide great value if he’s still available in the fifth round.
7th round, No. 222 (from Broncos through Eagles) — EDGE Wyatt Ray, Boston College (6-3, 257)
We’re in the seventh round now, so you’re not going to find an explosive pass rusher this late, but Ray has a good chance to be a productive third option as an outside linebacker. He plays hard and shows good technique, which should allow him to flash as a rusher on sub packages. Think Sam Acho here — a good special teamer that provided good depth. Ray won’t make many mistakes and he’ll come up with big plays here or there off the bench.
7th round, No. 238 — WR Johnnie Dixon, Ohio State (5-10, 201)
It took Dixon a while to get on the field in Columbus, but once he did, he made the most of his limited opportunities, converting 17 of his 60 catches into touchdowns in his final two seasons. While hardly refined as a route runner, Dixon is a speed burner who posted at 4.41 40-time at the Combine, the eighth-best number among wideouts. If we’ve learned one thing about Nagy, we know he likes his speedy chess pieces. I don’t know that Dixon will ever be able to run a full route tree at the NFL level, but as a seventh round pick, he would give Nagy another weapon to unleash a few times per game. Plus, he has special teams value as a returner and gunner. I love Dixon as a seventh round pick, especially with this coaching staff.