Schrock’s Bears Mock Draft 2.0: Caleb Williams, a move down, and new Justin Fields trade originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
With the confetti still being swept off the Allegiant Stadium grass following Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs’ 25-22 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII, the NFL world now shifts its attention to the offseason, the 2024 NFL Draft, and the franchise-altering decision that awaits the Bears.
With the No. 1 pick secured thanks to the Carolina Panthers, general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus will spend the next two months thoroughly evaluating the top quarterback prospects to determine if they plan to stick with Justin Fields or reset the quarterback clock.
While the quarterback question hangs over everything, the Bears have another top-10 pick to play with and several holes to fill on a roster that is ascending but still a level below the top two teams in the NFC North.
Will the Bears add an elite wide receiver opposite DJ Moore? What about a left tackle to upgrade from Braxton Jones or a top-tier edge rusher to pair with Montez Sweat?
How the Bears attack free agency will also play a pivotal role in how their draft plans shake out. With several star edge rushers potentially hitting the market, Poles might look to address the defensive line in free agency or via trade and go elsewhere in the draft.
The offseason has finally arrived for everyone, and with it, a revamped insider mock draft after a week spent in Las Vegas gathering information about how those around the league expect the Bears to handle the offseason (The Post-Combine Mock will have seven rounds, for now, we stick with three):
Round 1 (No. 1 overall via Carolina): Caleb Williams, QB, USC
There is no reason to believe the Bears won’t stick at No. 1, and Williams won’t be the pick.
Does he have to clean up some things? Absolutely. All young quarterbacks do. He has to learn when to put the hero cape on and when it’s OK to play for the next down. His on-script criticisms are mainly unfounded, and as long as he can reign in the hero ball a touch, he should be on the quick track to stardom.
“He’s a generational talent,” one NFC scout told NBC Sports Chicago. “They don’t make them like him. What Caleb Williams can do — that probably only comes around once every 20 or 30 years. If you’re lucky enough to be holding that lottery ticket, you don’t give it up.”
Williams can make all the throws from all the angles. Take the arm talent and accuracy and add in the otherworldly improvisational playmaking, and you get the recipe for a quarterback who could take the NFL by storm if all goes according to plan.
Will the Bears listen to offers for the No. 1 pick? Of course. But this almost certainly ends with them tabbing Williams as the future of the franchise come late April.
Bears receive: No. 15, No. 82
Colts receive: No. 9
In my first two mocks, I had the Bears selecting Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze at No. 9. He’d be a perfect compliment to DJ Moore and would give Williams another elite playmaking weapon.
But after speaking with Odunze at the Super Bowlands people around the NFL, I don’t get the sense he’ll last until No. 9. I think there’s a good chance that the first six picks in the draft are three quarterbacks and three receivers.
With Odunze, Malik Nabers, and Marvin Harrison Jr. off the board, the Bears trade down with the Colts and pick up an extra third-round pick. I don’t think the Bears will look to go left tackle in Round 1, and the rumors of their interest in big free-agent edge rushers make me think they might not be high on Dallas Turner or Laiatu Latu at the moment.
This leads us to…
Round 1 (No. 15 overall via Indianapolis): Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
New offensive coordinator Shane Waldron used two tight end sets a lot in Seattle. The Bears already have Cole Kmet, but Bowers is a different beast who can be utilized in a myriad of different ways.
The Georgia product is a unicorn prospect who reminds scouts of George Kittle. He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands and has elite ball skills. Physicality, body control, and play strength are all outstanding.
Bowers does need to work on being a better in-line blocker and will need to improve on his route tree and his release package against press-man coverage.
But he’s an explosive run-after-the-catch tight end who will enter the NFL with an All-Pro ceiling.
With all three top-tier receivers off the board, adding Bowers is the Bears’ best chance at adding an elite playmaker who can make an immediate impact on Day 1.
Bears receive: No. 34, 2025 fourth-round pick
Patriots receive: Justin Fields
With the Bears selecting Williams at No. 1, it’s time to move on from Fields.
The Patriots evaluate the top three quarterbacks and decide that the best use of the No. 3 overall pick is to draft Marvin Harrison Jr. and fix their quarterback issue a different way.
Fields is an easy solution to the problem, and the No. 34 overall pick is the best value the Bears will get for the 24-year-old quarterback.
Round 2 (No. 34 via New England): Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon
With the expectation that the Bears could take a big swing on an edge rusher in free agency or trade (Danielle Hunter, Haason Reddick), Poles can keep stacking the offense around Williams early in the draft.
At 6-foor-3, 187 pounds, Franklin has elite vertical speed that torments defensive backs. Franking is a good route runner with tremendous ball-tracking skills.
He has the versatility to play outside or in the slot. He needs to add some strength to his frame but would pair nicely with Moore, Kmet, and Bowers, giving Williams an array of versatile weapons to work with in Year 1.
Round 3 (No. 75): Javon Bullard, S, Georgia
It seems like the writing is on the wall for Eddie Jackson and the Bears.
The Bears can save $14 million in cap space if they move on from the veteran safety this offseason. While Jackson has been open about his desire to stay in Chicago and win with this group, it’s hard to see Poles not wanting to clear the cap space and get younger at safety opposite Jaquan Brisker.
Bullard is an instinctive coverage defender who reminds scouts of Budda Baker.
The Georgia product has a versatile skill set with a high motor and tremendous football IQ.
He and Brisker would be a tremendous young safety tandem to fill out Poles’ rebuilt secondary.
Bullard has high-level play-recognition ability and rarely lets anything behind him. He consistently gets his hand on passes and should create his fair share of turnovers in the NFL.
Smells like a H.I.T.S Bear.
Round 3 (No. 82 via Indianapolis): Sedrick Van Pran, IOL, Georgia
When in doubt, draft the Bulldogs.
The Bears must leave the draft with a long-term answer at center. I love Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson and West Virginia’s Zach Frazier, but both are currently projected to be top-40 picks. I’m not sure the Bears want to go center that early in the draft.
But Van Pran should be available in the mid-third round. His athleticism, lateral quickness, high football IQ, and strength will check all the boxes for Poles, Eberflus, and offensive line coach Chris Morgan.
Van Pran’s athleticism is notable in the run game. He has a quick first step that allows him to help on a double team or get to the second level.
In pass pro, Van Pran’s strength and IQ really shine. He does an excellent job of handling and passing off twists and stunts (something the Bears were horrible at this past season), and his strength allows him to stop penetration in the A gap.
An offensive line of Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins, Van Pran, Nate Davis, and Darnell Wright should give Caleb Williams enough protection to thrive in Year 1.