Mock drafts come a dime a dozen these days, and projections seem to change by the minute. Since the NFL Draft Combine started a few days ago, you can expect every draft expert to be shuffling prospect’s names all over their big boards as their stock rises or falls.
It’s still way too early to make a concrete prediction as to who the Bears will pick with the 20th overall pick on April 25th, but there are some definite trends starting to emerge in terms of names being linked to that pick.
It’s no secret that the main concerns for the Bears include the offensive line, linebackers, the offensive line, tight ends, and the offensive line. Did I mention the offensive line?
A quick trek through the internet will confirm this: almost every expert has an offensive lineman, linebacker, or tight end going to the Bears in the first round in their respective mock drafts.
To save you the arduous task of Google searching for multiple mock drafts, I’ve compiled a list of multiple projections from some of the most notable draft experts around. (View this site’s 1st round mock draft)
Granted, this list may change 10 seconds after this article gets published. But at the very least, we can see some of the early popular Bears mock draft picks for who may be heading to the Windy City.
As of 2/23/13
Paul M. Banks, The Sports Bank: Barrett Jones, G/C, Alabama
Mel Kiper, ESPN: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Walter Cherepinsky, Walter Football: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Josh Norris, NFL.com: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Rob Rang, CBS Sports: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Alex Kay, Bleacher Report: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Charles Davis, NFL.com: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Todd McShay, ESPN: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
Albert Breer, NFL.com: Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
Gil Brandt, NFL.com: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
That’s seven votes for an offensive lineman, and three each for a linebacker or tight end. Specifically, D.J. Fluker and Lane Johnson both got the most love from the experts, getting three selections each.
Today, we’ll take a quick look at Fluker, Te’o, and Ertz. Next time, we’ll finish up with Jones, Johnson, Eifert, and Minter. I stress the word “quick” because for all we know, none of these players may be linked to the Bears two months from now.
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
21 years old, 6’6”, 335 lbs
Fluker is a physical beast. He started 36 games over his final three seasons at right tackle for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. His height and arm length allow him to maul oncoming defenders and keep them at bay as they pass rush. His 335 lbs are solid, and even though he’s no Terron Armstead (a lineman who ran a 4.71 40-yard dash) when it comes to speed, he can still maneuver his size to create running lanes on the edge.
Fluker is no stranger to playing against top-flight talent having played in the SEC, and he plays with his heart on his sleeve. He wants to step into a leadership role on any team that drafts him, even at the young age of 21.
The biggest knock on Fluker is his lack of that top-tier athleticism. He gives up a few too many secondary rushes because he doesn’t have the best recovery speed, and quicker rushers can easily avoid him in space. Fluker has the base skill set to become a star offensive tackle in the NFL, but he has to become more athletic in order to do that.
Something that makes Fluker more attractive to the Bears is his experience at tackle. This would allow the Bears to move Gabe Carimi, the former starting right tackle, to the interior of the line. Historically, Carimi has faired better at the guard position. Drafting Fluker may end up improving two positions on the line, not just one.
But be warned: Fluker’s name is rising fast. Depending on how he performs at the combine, he may find himself inside the top 15. But as it stands right now, Fluker is just what the doctor ordered for the Bears at the 20th pick.
Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
22 years old, 6’2”, 255 lbs
Insert Lennay Kekua joke here. But there’s no denying that Te’o, despite his poor performance in the BCS Championship Game against Alabama, is still the best interior lineman in this year’s draft. This move would especially make sense if the Bears were to let Brian Urlacher walk as a free agent.
Over his four seasons at Notre Dame, Te’o’s production was off the charts. He’s an incredibly sound tackler who almost always wraps up on tackles, which is rare in this day and age. He has sideline-to-sideline range and excellent closing speed in pursuit.
Te’o displays very good awareness and play recognition ability, and his seven interceptions this season proved he can hold his own in pass coverage. He does a great job at disengaging and shedding blockers. Personal problems aside, Te’o is close to the complete package: speed, size, strength, smarts, and instincts. The only slight knock on Te’o as an athlete would be his injury history.
It’s a crapshoot as to where he will land, with mocks having him slated anywhere from the high teens to the 32nd pick. But if Te’o slides because of his off the field issues, the team who takes him will be getting a huge bang for their buck.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
21 years old, 6’5”, 249 lbs
Ertz battled a loaded depth chart in his first few years at Stanford, but he emerged as the team’s No. 1 option at tight end in 2012. He led the nation in receiving yards for a tight end with 898 and added six touchdowns to boot in his junior season.
The First Team All-Pac 12 and All American skipped his senior year to enter the draft. He’s a physical receiver who added 30 lbs while at Stanford. Despite his size, he has some sneaky speed to get behind defenders.
His bright spot it his route running and ability to make tough catches, which is what garners him comparisons to Jason Witten. He sells his patterns very well, makes clean breaks, and can even operate out of the slot at times. He is also able to make moves after the catch to tack on extra yards more often than not.
Another plus is his physical play as a blocker. He’s not afraid to dish out some heavy hits or lower his pads to make a block or finish off a run.
Ertz has been known to drop some easy ones over his career, and he gets a little timid over the middle at times. He also needs to continue to add some size and strength to his frame. But even though he doesn’t possess elite athletic ability in any one area, he finds a way to get open and get the job done.
Which of these three trendy picks do you like the most? Which one would you want the Bears to choose? Or do you want them to take a player that wasn’t mentioned in this list?
Don’t forget to check back in for Part 2, coming next week.