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Bears mock draft: GM Ryan Poles trades back, loads up on DL

Bears mock draft: GM Ryan Poles trades back, loads up on DL originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The 2024 NFL draft is finally less than one month away. By now the Bears evaluations are nearly done. They will meet their top prospects at Halas Hall for private visits, they will debate which players will help them the most in the long term and the short term, and they will finalize their draft board.

The team’s decision with the No. 1 overall pick is essentially a foregone conclusion at this point. Everything points at the team selecting Caleb Williams to take over at quarterback. They have several paths they can travel with the No. 9 overall pick, however. Do they take one of the highly-touted wide receivers to give Williams one of the best pass catching corps in the NFL? Or do they bolster his protection with a new tackle? If the widely-expected run on offensive players precedes their pick, the Bears could have the opportunity to take the first defensive player of the class. Can they pass up that opportunity? Or will they trade back to add more draft capital since they only have four selections as things stand.

Many options remain on the table.

As always, this mock draft is not an attempt to predict what the Bears will actually do when they’re back in the War Room next offseason. That’s impossible. Nor is it meant as a recommendation of what the Bears should do. This mock draft is meant to be a fun way to discuss wild ideas, dig into some of the intriguing college prospects this season, and project how those players may fit in Chicago.

NO. 1: CALEB WILLIAMS – QUARTERBACK – USC

When the Bears traded Justin Fields to the Steelers it ensured that they will draft a rookie QB next month. Barring any crazy surprises, Williams will be the pick. His college tape is as good as it gets.

For all our coverage on the QB phenom, click here.

TRADE! BEARS SEND NO. 9 PICK, 2025 FIFTH-ROUND PICK TO SAINTS FOR NOS. 14, 45 PICKS

In this mock, four quarterbacks, three WRs and highly-touted LT Joe Alt all go before the Bears are back on the clock, so they have the chance to pick whatever defensive player they like. However, GM Ryan Poles instead uses the opportunity to recoup a second-round pick since he traded the Bears’ second-rounder to the Commanders for Montez Sweat at last year’s trade deadline.

NO. 14: JOHNNY NEWTON – DEFENSIVE TACKLE – ILLINOIS

Two big time edge rushers came off the board in the five picks after the Bears trade, Dallas Turner and Jared Verse. So Poles picks his No. 1 defensive tackle in Newton. He’s a dynamic three-tech who can help plug up holes in the run game and creates pressure in the pass game. His eight sacks were tied for first among interior defensive linemen this season. His 43 pressures were tied for second, per PFF. His 15.4% pass rush win rate was tied for eighth among interior linemen with at least 100 pass rush snaps. For his efforts, Newton won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

The Bears need to find a replacement for Justin Jones who signed with the Cardinals this offseason. Even if they believe second-year tackle Gervon Dexter is ready to take over as the starter between Andrew Billings and Montez Sweat, they’ll have to backfill the position. As things stand, the Bears only have four DTs on their active roster: Dexter, Billings, Zacch Pickens and newcomer Byron Cowart. Billings primarily plays nose tackle and Cowart didn’t play at all last year, so it wouldn’t be entirely surprising for the team to draft another defensive tackle this year, even after picking Dexter and Pickens last year, especially considering the solid edge rushing talent that’s slated for Day Two.

NO. 45: ADISA ISAAC – DEFENSIVE END – PENN STATE

Great wide receivers like Keon Coleman, Roman Wilson and Ricky Pearsall are all available, but a run on pass rushers convinces Poles to double dip on the defensive line. Isaac is known as a great run defender who sets the edge. Last season his 0.7-yard average depth of tackle was tied for 12th-best in the nation among edge players with at least 10 run defense tackles. His 10.7% stop rate in the run game was 19th-best among players with at least 100 run defense snaps. Isaac can pressure the QB too. Since 2022 he has 11.5 sacks and 27 TFL.

With Newton and Isaac both in the mix now, the Bears have a full two waves of linemen to deploy. That’s what they want to do to ensure their players stay fresh from the opening snap to the end of the fourth quarter.

NO. 75: RICKY PEARSALL – WIDE RECEIVER – FLORIDA

After considering Pearsall in the second round, the Bears get a chance to add him again in the third round. They don’t pass again.

Scouts love Pearsall’s advanced route running skills, and it’s easy to see how he uses sudden breaks and double moves to put defenders in a bind and get open. Pearsall split his time nearly evenly between playing out wide and in the slot per PFF, so he’s a versatile option. Over the past two seasons at Florida, he caught 98 passes for 1,626 yards and nine touchdowns. He also ran the ball 11 times for 175 yards and three more scores. Pearsall was also one of the standout performers at the Senior Bowl, and we know the Bears front office values how guys play and practice over the course of that week.

NO. 122: MOHAMED KAMARA – EDGE – COLORADO STATE

Kamara gives the Bears another extremely productive edge rusher to try to develop opposite Sweat. Dating back to 2021, Kamara had 29 sacks, 42.5 TFL, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. According to PFF, he was a pressure machine, too, ranking sixth in 2022 with 53 pressures and second last season with 64 pressures. Kamara won the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year award last year.

Kamara was told that most teams view him as a fit in a 3-4 defense, so he tailored parts of his Pro Day to show teams he can play well in a 4-3 system. The Bears are a 4-3 team, and they were reportedly in attendance for that Pro Day. We’ll see if they were impressed with Kamara’s display.

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