Bears mock draft: Ryan Poles takes a swipe at elite pass catchers

By | March 4, 2024

Bears mock draft: Ryan Poles hits on elite pass catchers originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

With the NFL Combine behind us and free agency approaching, most experts and insiders believe the Chicago Bears will trade Justin Fields and move on with a starting quarterback. The consensus says the quarterback will be Caleb Williams.

That decision will be the biggest for GM Ryan Poles this year — and possibly his entire tenure leading the Bears front office. But it’s just one of many he has to make in the draft, let alone the rest of the offseason.

Here’s my latest mock draft as we continue to prepare for the real thing at the end of April. As always, this mock draft is not an attempt to predict what the Bears will actually do when they are back in the War Room next season. That is impossible.

It’s also not meant to be a recommendation for what the Bears should do. This mock draft is intended as a fun way to discuss wild ideas, dig into some of the intriguing college prospects this season, and project how those players could fit in Chicago.

NO. 1: CALEB WILLIAMS – QUARTERLY – USC

We’ve known for a long time that Williams is as good a prospect as anyone in recent history. There are virtually no flaws in his game and he can make every throw on the field. But the Bears got to know Williams personally for the first time last week. Character is very important to them. If they like Williams as a person, they’ll pick him at the top of the draft. If they find red flags, there’s a chance they’ll trade the pick and select someone else. But that seems unlikely at the moment.

Click here for all our coverage of the QB phenomenon.

NO. 9: DALLAS TURNER – EDGE – ALABAMA

There’s a lot of talk about the Bears using their second top-10 pick to bring in a dynamic pass catcher to jump-start their offense with Williams. However, in this mock, Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, Rome Odunze and Brock Bowers all came off the board before the Bears were back on the clock. So the Bears are bringing Turner along to bolster their pass rush.

Draft experts call Turner explosive off the ball, and that was before he ran a blistering 4.47-second 40-yard dash at the Combine. That kind of speed versus Montez Sweat should make the Bears salivate. However, Turner is not a one-trick pony. Watch five minutes of highlights and you’ll see Turner win by running past or straight through blockers. His relentless pursuit of the ball also stands out, and the Bears will love that. Even though he’s listed as an outside linebacker, Turner has plenty of experience rushing with one hand in the dirt, which is important to play defense in Matt Eberflus’ scheme.

In 58 games with the Crimson Tide, Turner recorded 23.5 sacks, 33.5 TFLs and 117 total pressures. He was named a 2023 finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which recognizes the nation’s best defensive player.

TRADE! BEARS SEND JUSTIN FIELDS, 2025 FIFTH ROUND PICK TO FALCONS IN EXCHANGE FOR PICKS NO. 43 AND NO. 79

Last week, Adam Schefter said he believes Fields will go for a package somewhere between what the Jets received for Sam Darnold (second, fourth and sixth rounds) and what the 49ers received for Alex Smith (two second-round picks). So I’ll let the Bears recoup a second- and third-round pick in exchange for Fields and a future fifth (the fifth to make the mock draft simulator happy).

NO. 43: DARIUS ROBINSON – DEFENSIVE LINEMAN – MISSOURI

The last time I mocked Robinson with the Bears, I had him go in the fourth round. Since then, his draft stock has skyrocketed thanks to strong performances at the Senior Bowl and the Combine. There is even talk of his participation in the first round. Here we have the Bears using a top-50 pick to add him to their young defensive line.

Robinson prides himself on being able to play any position on the line, from nose tackle to defensive end, and the Bears love such versatile linemen. He had nine sacks and 42 total pressures to go with a 17% success rate in 2023.

NO. 75: JOHNNY WILSON – WIDE RECEIVER – STATE OF FLORIDA

Whether or not the Bears and Darnell Mooney come together for another contract, the team needs to add playmakers at wide receiver. If they could add a big target for their QB to complement DJ Moore, even better.

Wilson is a big guy who stands 6 feet tall and weighs 231 pounds. at the Combine. His 84.5-inch wingspan was by far the longest among wideouts. In fact, no other receiver reached 80”. Wilson played second fiddle to Keon Coleman at FSU last season, catching 41 passes for 617 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games. If there is a knock on his game, it is that he has had several drops.

The Bears haven’t gotten enough out of their centers this year, whether it was Cody Whitehair or Lucas Patrick, and protecting their new QB will be critical to the team’s success. Van Pran was a three-year starter at Georgia, and per PFF he gave up just one sack and one hit in 1,419 pass-blocking snaps. Van Pran was First-Team All-SEC and Second-Team All-American, and he was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, which recognizes the nation’s best center.

NO. 111: DADRION TAYLOR-DEMERSON – SECURITY – TEXAS TECH

The Bears need a big free safety with ballhawking ability to replace Eddie Jackson in the back of the defense, and complement Jaquan Brisker, who will be called upon to be a big hitter in the box. Taylor-Demerson fits that bill and also brings a touch of versatility. According to PFF, Taylor-Demerson played more than half of his snaps at free safety last season, and about 40% in the box or slot. His tackles improved from 18.7% missed tackles in 2021 to 17.2% in 2022 and finally 9.9% last year. Most importantly, he has a consistent track record in takeaways. Since 2021, Taylor-Demerson has intercepted ten passes for the Red Raiders, forced two fumbles and recovered two more.

NO. 123: COOPER BEEBE – WAIT – KANSAS STATE

Beebe could be another player climbing draft boards, as Robinson has done in recent months. He’s also a player who ticks all the boxes for the Bears. Beebe is an athletic lineman – an absolute must for Poland. His unofficial relative athletic score is 9.49 out of 10. That’s elite. Furthermore, Beebe has experience playing every position on the offensive line except center. For a team that needs more depth across the board, that versatility would be invaluable. In 49 games dating back to 2020, Beebe gave up just five sacks and 35 pressures per PFF. He won Big-12 Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2022 and 2023.

NO. 143: TAHJ WASHINGTON – WIDE RECEIVER – USC

The Bears have searched for an explosive wide receiver for several seasons without much luck. Tyler Scott could be that guy, but didn’t have the kind of rookie campaign to prevent the Bears from adding another candidate who can make it to the top of a defense. More of a speedster than Moore or Wilson, Washington was one of the nation’s top playmakers last season. His 86.7% catch rate on balls thrown 20 yards or further was the best mark in all of college football among players with at least 10 goals. So did his 39.7 yards per route, and his perfect QB rating of 158.3 when targeted on deep balls. Washington was able to win even if he didn’t burn his defender deeply. He caught a whopping 75% of his contested targets. In three seasons at USC and one at Memphis in 2020, Washington caught 206 passes for 3,192 yards and 21 touchdowns. His familiarity with Williams from their time together at SC is a bonus.

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