Bears select quarterback, but not Caleb Williams, in new mock draft

Bears select quarterback, but not Caleb Williams, in new mock draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

It’s the Wednesday of Senior Bowl week. Just as good a time as any for a midafternoon mock draft.

I’ve mocked Caleb Williams to the Bears with the No. 1 overall pick several times recently, so I’m going to mix it up this time around. Given the pre-draft discourse up to this point, it feels unlikely that anyone other than Williams will come off the board first this year, but things change every year. Remember, we were talking about Jalen Carter as a potential No. 1 overall pick to the Bears at this time last year.

The Bears still need to meet with players for their top-30 visits, and they’ve made it clear they want to get to know all the prospects on a personal level before making any draft decisions. There’s no reason to believe Williams won’t impress the Bears when they finally sit down together, but maybe someone else impresses them more? It’s pure speculation at this point, but these mock drafts are meant to be fun, not taken as gospel.

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 as an opportunity to dig into some of the intriguing college prospects this season, and how those players may fit in Chicago.

NO. 1: DRAKE MAYE – QUARTERBACK – NORTH CAROLINA

Partway through the college football season draft expert Dane Brugler made Maye the No. 1 prospect on his big board, over Williams, and it’s an understandable decision. Maye’s got a phenomenal deep ball and can hit streaking wide receivers in stride. He’s not afraid to throw contested balls to give his receivers a chance to make a 50-50 grab, which would pair well with DJ Moore’s skill set. He’s very accurate and throws with great timing, but he can improvise when plays break down too. Maye doesn’t have the same scrambling ability of Williams or Fields, but he’s athletic enough to be a threat with his legs. Pretty much the full package.

Over the past two seasons at North Carolina, Maye completed 64.9% of his passes for 7,929 yards for 62 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He added 296 carries for 1,147 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns.

NO. 9: ROME ODUNZE – WIDE RECEIVER – WASHINGTON

People don’t stay up late to watch the Pac-12, so Odunze flew under the radar for much of the year, but he’s a wide receiver who has a real shot to come off the board within the top 10 picks. He’s big, fast, reliable and one of the best deep threats in the nation. Few players can match his resume from 2023 among WRs with 100 targets: 1,639 yards (1st), 74 first downs (1st), 21 contested catches (1st), 75% contested catch rate (1st), 15.5 yard average depth of target (2nd), 13 TDs (t-4th), 3.2% drop rate (6th).

Odunze is listed at 6’3” and 215 lbs. so his frame would complement DJ Moore who’s listed at 5’11” and 210 lbs.

TRADE! BEARS SEND JUSTIN FIELDS, 2025 SIXTH-ROUND PICK TO FALCONS IN EXCHANGE FOR NO. 43 PICK, NO. 145 PICK AND 2025 FIFTH-ROUNDER

Fields heads home with a chance to become a superstar alongside a young core of player makers that includes Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts. Ryan Poles reloads in the second round after sending his own second-rounder to the Commanders to bring in Montez Sweat.

NO. 43: CHOP ROBINSON – DEFENSIVE END – PENN STATE

Preseason watchlists had Robinson as a potential first-round pick this year, but the buzz around his name has dimmed after a lackluster 2023 campaign. Robinson only notched three sacks and 26 pressures in 10 games for the Nittany Lions this year. But his 20.9% pass rush win rate still ranked 14th in the nation among all edge rushers with at least 100 pass rush snaps. His excellent get off at the line of scrimmage should translate at the NFL level, as should his speed and heavy striking.

NO. 75: JAVON BULLARD – SAFETY – GEORGIA

Whether or not the Bears decide to retain Eddie Jackson in 2024, Poles will probably want to start thinking of the future at the position. It’s one of the thinnest groups on the team already, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Poles adds a player or two in free agency and the draft. Bullard primarily played free safety for the Bulldogs last year, but mixed in some snaps in the slot and in the box. He was solid in coverage, allowing just a 53.8% completion rate and a 34.0 passer rating when targeted. Since 2022, he has four interceptions, one forced fumble and 10 PBUs.

NO. 110: DARIUS ROBINSON – DEFENSIVE LINEMAN – MISSOURI

The Senior Bowl plays a big role in the Bears pre-draft evaluation process, and Robinson has been one of the buzziest players early on in the week. Many videos have circulated of him blowing up blocks, in both run and pass situations. He had nine sacks and 42 total pressures in 2023 to go with a 17% pass rush win rate. Robinson is a big dude, at 6’5”, 296 lbs., but he still moves very quickly. He brings positional versatility to the table too, having played both on the edge and in the interior of the Tigers line.

NO. 122: TAHJ WASHINGTON – WIDE RECEIVER – USC

What’s better than one legit deep threat? Two! Washington is more of a speed demon than either Moore or Odunze, and was one of the premier playmakers in the nation last season. His 86.7% catch rate on balls thrown 20 yards or farther was the best mark in all of college football this year among players with at least 10 targets. So was his 39.7 yards per route run, and his perfect 158.3 QB rating when targeted on deep balls. Washington was able to win even if he didn’t burn his defender deep, too. He caught an impressive 75% of his contested targets. In three seasons at USC and one at Memphis in 2020, Washington caught 206 passes for 3,192 yards and 21 touchdowns.

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