Now that the 2021 NFL season is in the book, the Chicago Bears turn their attention to improving the roster. Here is our first mock draft of the offseason.
The Chicago Bears are a team in transition. After another disappointing season, the McCaskeys fired both general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy. They hired Ryan Poles to replace Pace and Matt Eberflus to replace Nagy. Additionally, the front office was reorganized and the coaching staff was replaced.
Furthermore, over 70 percent of the players become free agents. The team that steps onto the football field in 2022 will differ drastically from the team that did so in 2021.
Surely the Bears will make some noise in free agency. Poles has to decide which players he wants back and which players to replace the ones he allows to walk. He has a difficult job right out of the gate.
After free agency, Poles and the Bears have to turn their attention to the draft. The Bears only have five picks in this year’s draft. That could change since Poles said he wants to emphasize building the team through the draft. He could trade some players to pick up more draft picks. He could also trade down to amass more picks.
As it is, however, there are only five. There are no picks in the first, fourth, or seventh rounds. There are two picks in the fifth round.
Now that the Super Bowl is done, we hit the mock draft season. We will see many mocks until the real draft finally arrives. This is our first one for the Chicago Bears.
Second Round, #39 Overall — Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
With Poles taking over, we’ll see some big changes. This could be the biggest. Daniel Faalele is an imposing body at 6-foot-8, 387 pounds.
Getting around Faalele is difficult. He has great length, so he can take big strides and use his long arms (35 3/8 inches long with a wingspan of 86 inches) to push pass rushers away from the quarterback. Also, once he locks his arms there is almost no way the defender gets his hands onto Faalele’s chest. He’ll certainly have control.
With his immense size, Faalele has incredible strength. It helps him anchor in pass protection. The pass rusher has a difficult time trying to move him.
That strength also helps him in run blocking. He does a good job of just obliterating bodies and opening gaping holes. The Bears’ running backs will love that.
I expect the Bears to pick up a left tackle through free agency. Yes, they have Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom, but one of them likely ends up as a right tackle and the other moves over to guard. Faalele would start his career as a backup, giving the Bears good depth. He can pick up some pointers from the veterans and could eventually become a starter himself.
Third Round, #71 Overall — Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
The Chicago Bears have a desperate need at wide receiver. When the new league year begins, the Bears will have only one wide receiver under contract, Darnell Mooney.
As with offensive tackle, the Bears likely hit free agency to pick up a receiver or two. They’ll also have to get someone in the draft, however.
One of the things the Bears tried to do in 2021 was to add speed. They had some speedy receivers. Look for them to try the same thing in 2022.
Watson gives the Bears a big-bodied receiver with speed. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 211 pounds and has an official 4.44-40 speed in high school. That speed will be considerably faster when he hits the NFL Combine. He’ll be a problem for most cornerbacks. He can blow past the corner and can go up over him as well. In addition, he has the strength to outwork the corner.
One of the problems the receivers in Chicago had was the inability to create separation. Watson helps with that. If a defender presses him, he’ll outmuscle him and then leave him in his dust. He also runs good routes and makes moves to create space.
At North Dakota State, Watson played in a number of different places. He played on the outside and in the slot. Additionally, he played out of the backfield.
Watson can also help on special teams. He is a dangerous kick returner who can make big plays with open holes.
Poles and Eberflus want to establish toughness on the team. Watson certainly adds that from the wide receivers unit.
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Round 5, #148 Overall — Jaylen Watson, CB, Washington State
Another area the Bears need help is with the cornerbacks unit. They had Jaylon Johnson who is on his way to becoming a star but didn’t have much behind him.
Jaylen Watson is a big cornerback. How big is a question, though. He is listed at 6-foot-3, 208 pounds but some have him listed as 6-foot-1. He also has 32 1/4 inch arms, In any case, he is still a big cornerback who can keep up with most receivers and fight them for the ball.
In addition to his height and length, Watson has the speed to keep up with receivers. He has 4.46-40 speed so he won’t be intimidated by speedy receivers.
Watson is a physical corner. That is something Poles and Eberflus covet. Too many times we saw the Bears get pushed around. Watson helps change that. He is incredibly good at pressing the receiver at the line of scrimmage. Downfield, he lays out some bone-crunching hits. Even when a receiver makes the catch, Watson has the ability to rip or punch the ball out.
Watson has some experience playing at safety and that experience helps him against the run. He is a willing tackler and actively goes after the ball carrier. Once he gets in to make the tackle, he uses great technique to wrap up and finish the tackle well.
Watson also played receiver in high school and that helps him understand what the quarterback wants to do and how the receiver runs his route. He then jumps on the pass and either breaks the pass up or picks it.
Teaming Watson with Johnson will greatly improve the Chicago Bears’ secondary. They will give cornerbacks unit two young, tough players that bring back memories of the Monsters of the Midway.
Round 5, #150 Overall — Otito Ogbonnia, DL, UCLA
The Chicago Bears have been frustrated with the antics of Eddie Goldman. He opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID. Then, in 2021, he gave off mixed signals as to whether he’d come back to play.
When he finally did come back and play, he wasn’t the same player. He was an integral part of stopping the opponents’ running game but he wasn’t able to do it this season. In addition to subpar play, he also suffered injuries and went down twice due to COVID.
The Bears save nearly $8.9 million if they cut Goldman with a post-June 1st designation. That will go a long way to giving the team some flexibility to go after free agents.
If the Bears let Goldman go, they’ll need some depth at nose tackle. Otito Ogbonnia can provide that.
At 6-foot-4, 32 pounds, Ogbonnia certainly fills the role at the nose. He has a big body and could do a good job against the run. He is extremely strong in his lower body (he squats 685 pounds). That makes it difficult for offensive linemen to move him. He also has good explosiveness off the snap. That, together with his strength, allows him to get through gaps and make plays in the backfield.
Additionally, when he can lower his pads and shoot off his hands, he can bull rush linemen and get to the backfield that way.
I don’t see Ogbonnia as a starter but he could provide good depth. He’ll be able to give the starters good rest and keep them fresh.
Sixth Round, #185 Overall — Dohnovan West, C, Arizona State
Here is more help for the offensive line. Poles wants to strengthen the unit. One way to do that is to create competition.
In 2020, center Sam Mustipher prospered. He did a great job of keeping pressure off the middle. However, he struggled throughout the 2021 season. He had bad snaps and gave up too much pressure.
Mustipher already showed he could do a good job. He knows it didn’t happen in 2021. Poles wants to put some pressure on him to see how he reacts. Perhaps that’s why the first player he signed as Chicago Bears general manager was a center.
Drafting Dohnovan West puts even more pressure on Mustipher. The more competition there is the better the eventual winner becomes.
The advantage of having West, though, is that he gives the line added depth and flexibility. In addition to center, he spent a lot of time playing guard on both sides. We saw with the high number of injuries suffered along the line that having players play multiple positions really helps the unit.
West is a smart player. He takes good angles on his blocks and positions himself well once he is engaged. Also, he has great awareness and vision. He moves quickly out of his stance and that helps him do well on pulls, screens, and traps. Additionally, he understands how to widen his base to effectively block against bull rushes.
As a big man, West is a good athlete. He moves quickly to engage and has good foot movement.
West also has the attitude Poles and Eberflus want. He has a high motor and plays hard on every snap. He’ll be able to push Mustipher and with some experience under his belt he might become a starter.
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