Happy NFL Draft Week, everyone. Let’s get this finalized Bears mock draft out of the way. Every pick, both my main and backup, will differ from my pre-Combine mock, but I’d still be happy with any particular selections from that mock. For example, the Navy fan in me still wants to see Malcolm Perry in Chicago, but the Bears fan in me will not be listing him here.

This mock does not include trades, but if I were Ryan Pace, I’d absolutely be moving down to acquire more draft capital.

Round 2, Pick 43: Cesar Ruiz, C (Michigan)

  • College highlights: 2019 Second-Team All-Big Ten, 2018 Third-Team All-Big Team
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears (from Walter Football): Virtual

Like my pre-Combine mock, the first pick will be used to bolster the struggling offensive line (whose struggles are already documented in said post). Unlike my pre-Combine mock, I’m using it on Cesar Ruiz.

Personally, I don’t see Ruiz falling to #43 as mock drafts have him going as high as a late first- or early second-round pick. But then again, with skill positions like WR and QB being such a hot commodity in this year’s draft, there’s a chance he could fall right into Chicago’s lap. If this happens, Pace should absolutely pull the trigger.

In his Combine scouting report on Ruiz, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had an interesting pro comparison: Bears guard James Daniels. Like Daniels, Ruiz is a Big 10 center who enters the NFL at the ripe age of 20 (Ruiz is also almost exactly one month older than me) with a bright future ahead of him. Also like Daniels, he can play guard, which will give Matt Nagy flexibility on the offensive line and Cody Whitehair a pair of young guys on each side. Of course, he will have competition for the starting role against the likes of Germain Ifedi, Rashaad Coward, and my 2019 mock seventh rounder Alex Bars, so may the best man win.

Furthermore, new Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo was an offensive analyst at Michigan in 2019.

Backup pick: K.J. Hamler, WR (Penn State)

  • College highlights: 2019 Second-Team All-Big Ten, 2018 Paul Hornung Award finalist
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: None

Let’s say my worries hold true and Ruiz is taken before #43. Now what?

My backup pick for an interior offensive lineman will have to wait a few more picks before I address that position. In the meantime, I’d focus on bolstering the WR corps with someone who I’m sure Allen Robinson would be thrilled to play alongside. Although WR isn’t a major need, this draft’s position class is way too stacked for the Bears to not take advantage of.

With Taylor Gabriel gone, K.J. Hamler would be perfect slot guy. He adds much-needed speed to the position and can easily stretch the field, allowing him to complete an already pretty solid WR corps. However, he’s also only 5’9″ (which in turn is taller than Gabriel) and it’s hard to see him playing outside if needed. It might seem risky to pick a WR with the very first selection, but Hamler’s pros have a chance to outweigh the cons and he can definitely make an impact if things pan out.

Like the Castillo/Ruiz connection, new Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was a consultant at Penn State in 2019.

Round 2, Pick 50: Jeremy Chinn, S (Southern Illinois)

  • College highlights: 2019 Consensus All-American, 2018 and 2019 First-Team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: Virtual

With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix heading to Dallas, the Bears are looking for Eddie Jackson’s newest partner in the defensive backfield. Deon Bush and newly-acquired Jordan Lucas have their own perks, but finding a strong safety via the draft should still be an option.

You might notice both of my mocks have the Bears taking a safety with pick #50 to replace Clinton-Dix, with Kyle Dugger in the first and Jeremy Chinn in this. I would be stoked if Chicago drafted either of them, but since I already had Dugger in the pre-Combine one, I’ll stick with Chinn here. Unlike Dugger, Chinn has met with the Bears via FaceTime.

At 6’3″ and 221 pounds, Chinn is a large and physical—but also fast and athletic—safety. Zierlein even noted Chinn might find a future role as a big nickel or a cover linebacker who can drag tight ends around the field in sub-packages”, which is worth keeping an eye on as Chuck Pagano tends to play his defenses in the nickel formation. He might not start from Day 1 (in which case Bush might be the opening week starter), but he will eventually make his way to first string. Heck, Pagano could even have some fun from time to time by having Jackson and Bush at safety and Chinn at a nickel LB role.

Chinn also had this remark in his /r/NFL_Draft AMA last month:

I would love to play for the Bears and the city of Chicago, next to E. Jack, behind Khalil Mack and Akeem Hicks and the rest of the Dline. But whatever team takes me will get someone who’s ready to work & make someone’s team better!

Backup pick: Matt Hennessy, C (Temple)

  • College highlights: 2019 Remington Trophy finalist, 2019 First-Team All-AAC, 2018 Second-Team All-AAC
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: Combine

I could obviously just put Dugger here, but I’d rather not repeat the same thing. Instead, as said above, I’d go back and take another swing for the offensive line if Ruiz is unavailable. In this case, I’m going with center Matt Hennessy.

Like Ruiz, Hennessy is a center who could bump out a bit to play guard. Although his rather small frame has raised some eyebrows from scouts, he plays smart and knows how to use his hands and feet when blocking. He also might not start immediately, but can adapt to the guard role.

Round 5, Pick 163: Dalton Keene, TE (Virginia Tech)

  • College highlights: 2018 Honorable Mention All-ACC
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: Combine

Hey, I’m not neglecting the tight end! With Trey Burton’s release and there being about ten other guys on the roster who don’t inspire confidence (although very durable, Jimmy Graham can only do so much), new TE coach Clancy Barone has his work cut out for him.

Even with the TE carousel that gives Bears fans unpleasant flashbacks to the kicker circus last year, it’s about finding the best prospect, even if it means having quite literally an entire offense’s worth of players. While this TE class is underwhelming, said prospect might be Dalton Keene by #163.

At Virginia Tech, Keene saw usage in a variety of roles including H-back, fullback, and even time in the slot. Although he did not have many looks in the passing game and can be inconsistent in his blocks, he has solid hands and can block in space. He will definitely have to show his stuff first on special teams, but he has the tools to be a versatile and effective weapon in Nagy’s TE-reliant offense.

Backup pick: Van Jefferson, WR (Florida)

  • College highlights: Led 2019 Gators in all receiving categories
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: Combine

As noted above, WR isn’t really a need in comparison to the more glaring situation at tight end, but the WR class is just too good to not do anything. If Hamler (or any other WR) wasn’t taken at #43 or #50, now would be the time to do so.

While Van Jefferson isn’t the speedster like Hamler, he has experience in every receiver responsibility like slot and outside. He excels in route running and separation, and he possesses a big frame that he knows how to use to his advantage. However, his foot injury, which forced him to sit out the Combine, and age (24 by Week 1) could be red flags.

Although the Bears already have their fair share of big receivers like Robinson, Javon Wims, and Riley Ridley, I wouldn’t rule Jefferson out if the Bears expressed interest in him at the Combine. Robinson and Jefferson are also acquainted and the former even hyped him up back in February. If Jefferson (or another similar possession WR) is selected, it’ll likely be Anthony Miller (and occasionally Tarik Cohen) in the slot.

Round 6, Pick 196: A.J. Green, CB (Oklahoma State)

  • College highlights: 2019 Honorable Mention All-Big 12
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: Senior Bowl

Even before the Chinn selection, the Bears have a pretty solid secondary and cornerback group. Kyle Fuller is the leader of said unit, while Buster Skrine has been a decent nickelback and Kevin Toliver is fine depth with a chance to be Fuller’s partner on the outside. His competition? CFL star Tre Roberson and former first-round disappointment Artie Burns, among others. Although any of them could very well win the job and ball out, it’s not exactly the most inspiring list of options for a #2 CB as of right now. Heck, according to Brad Biggs, Pace even said he “views cornerbacks like pass rushers in that you can never have enough of them.”

With this in mind, I’d take a flyer to throw another name into that mix. A.J. Green (no, not that A.J. Green) is the perfect fit as an outside CB size-wise. He is able to cover on shorter passes with ease but could be beat in battles with faster receivers. A poor Combine did not help matters either.

Still, he is a physical player who might catch Pagano’s eye.

Backup pick: Lamar Jackson, CB (Nebraska)

  • College highlights: 2019 Second-Team All-Big Ten
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: None

No, not that Lamar Jackson. Yes, he’s also a cornerback.

Like Green, Jackson is an athletic outside corner who can tackle and break up passes well. However, he struggles with awareness and does not offer much in run support. Still, if he can polish the mental side of his game, he could become a good press and zone CB.

Round 6, Pick 200: Evan Weaver, LB (California)

  • College highlights: 2019 First-Team All-American, 2019 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: Virtual

The Bears’ front seven might be one of the best in the NFL, but there’s nothing wrong with giving some much-appreciated support to it, especially in the linebacker corps with Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis gone. Danny Trevathan continues to be the leader of the defense and Roquan Smith has a bright future, but both suffered injuries last season, so it’s prudent to add some depth.

Fittingly, Evan Weaver of California plays like another Kwiatkoski. Described by The Draft Network’s Joe Marino as a “throwback linebacker” and Zierlein as a “rambunctious tackle sponge and perennial grudge holder who lives to prove people wrong”, Weaver is a hard hitter who thrives in stopping the run. However, the same can’t be said for him in the passing game as his pass rush and coverage skills leave much to be desired (also fitting as Kwiatkoski struggled in coverage before his breakout in 2019). Although he won’t be a three-down linebacker (at least not early on), he can be a nice rotational piece and solid special teamer.

And hey, wouldn’t it be neat for a Cal Bear to become a Chicago Bear?

Backup pick: Carter Coughlin, EDGE (Minnesota)

  • College highlights: 2018 and 2019 Second-Team All-Big Ten
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: None

While the Weaver pick above is meant to address the inside, the alternative is on the outside. Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn are penciled in as the starters on the edge, but once again, getting them some help would be nice.

Carter Coughlin is on the smaller side, but loves to get into the backfield; after all, there’s a reason he recorded 22.5 sacks at Minnesota. He has a high motor that made him a force in blitzing situations with the Gophers, but he is also fluid enough to drop back into coverage if needed. However, his size and insufficient play strength will likely work against him at the pro level. In the meantime and on the plus side, he carries the perfect components for a quality special teamer and rotational pass rusher.

Round 7, Pick 226: Charlie Heck, OT (North Carolina)

  • College highlights: 2019 Second-Team All-ACC
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: Combine

Never hurts to double down in the trenches, right?

Son of former Bear Andy Heck, Charlie started three years at North Carolina and is perfectly built for the tackle role. He excels in run blocking (a key struggling point for the Bears in 2019), though you can’t really say the same in pass protection. Nevertheless, he has impressive mobility for his size and possesses great footwork (to be expected with his pedigree).

Tackle isn’t necessarily as pressing of a concern as the interior, but Charles Leno Jr. is coming off a down year and Bobby Massie struggled with injuries, making the outside a position that should have an eye kept on it. Heck wouldn’t start immediately, but would make for a reliable swing tackle early on.

Heck (pun intended), he even blocked for Mitch Trubisky at UNC in 2016.

Backup pick: Jon Runyan Jr., OL (Michigan)

  • College highlights: 2018 and 2019 First-Team All-Big Ten
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: None

Alternatively, what about another offensive lineman with an NFL father?

Like his Michigan teammate Ruiz, Jon Runyan Jr. worked with Castillo in 2019. Unlike Ruiz, Runyan has a variety of red flags regarding his play, including poor hand work and consistency. That being said, he is incredibly smart (which probably isn’t a surprise considering his father) and is a solid run blocker.

To reduce his weaknesses, he’d likely have to move to guard. This will come with growing pains as Runyan exclusively played tackle in college, but his football IQ and upside should help make the transition a little smoother.

Round 7, Pick 233: Ben DiNucci, QB (James Madison)

  • College highlights: 2019 FCS National Championship appearance, various 2019 All-American honors
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: Virtual

While the headlines in Chicago will primarily focus on the battle for the starting QB role between Trubisky and Nick Foles, I still think the Bears should find a way to throw another name into the mix. While he would be expected to hang around as the third-stringer for his rookie year (apologies to Tyler Bray), getting a developmental prospect for Nagy to work with would be beneficial, especially with Trubisky set to become a free agent at year’s end and Foles having exit options in his contract.

DiNucci experienced a tumultuous path through college football before settling at JMU, where he has enjoyed much success. Although he struggled with interceptions in 2018, he halved them in 2019 as he dealt damage with both his arm (29 passing TDs after just 16 in 2018) and legs (seven rushing touchdowns) en route to an FCS National Championship Game appearance.

According to reports, a bunch of teams including the Bears and Patriots really like DiNucci and have been meeting with him a lot lately. Bears fans might balk at drafting another small-school player, let alone a QB, but for a developmental guy while those in front duke it out with each other, it might be a good move in the end.

Backup pick: Josh Love, QB (San Jose State)

  • College highlights: 2019 Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, 2019 First-Team All-Mountain West
  • Pre-draft meetings with Bears: None

See above for why the Bears should draft a QB. See below for a homer pick.

Being a San Jose native who was recently accepted to San Jose State, it’s probably not a surprise that I kept a close eye on the Spartans this past year. At times, it felt like Josh Love was carrying the Spartan offense on his own, including solid performances against the likes of Boise State, Arkansas, and Army. There’s a reason he was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, after all.

Although Love’s completion percentage and arm strength are suspect, hie excels under pressure and has excellent pocket presence, though he can also throw on the run. His release is strong and he knows how to perform/process his reads.

While the last San Jose State QB to be drafted by Chicago never really did anything beyond becoming Adam Gase’s best friend (David Fales), Love can be a nice player to grow over time. He might not be a QB of the future, but I think (and hope) he can at least stick around in the NFL.