Ryan Poles

Schrock's Bears Mock Draft 6.0: Top-30 visits show path after Caleb Williams

The Bears' list of top-30 visits has given us a road map for how the draft could play out

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In 10 days, the Bears will finally go on the clock and almost certainly select USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

General manager Ryan Poles will have a critical decision to make eight spots after he nabs his quarterback of the future when the Bears go back on the clock with the No. 9 overall pick. Poles can either stick at No. 9 and take a blue-chip player or trade down and replenish a draft pick stockpile that trades for Montez Sweat and Keenan Allen have thinned.

As of right now, the Bears have only four picks in the 2024 draft and zero between No. 9 and No. 75. A trade down from nine should allow the Bears to pick up an extra Day 2 selection and add depth at key positions.

But passing up on the chance to add a true "blue" player in Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze, LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers, or Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt might be too good to pass up. If one of Odunze, Nabers, or Alt is available at No. 9, the Bears should take the A-plus prospect and not settle for the chance to draft two B/B-minus players instead.

But if all three go in the first eight picks, the Bears should move out and add Day 2 capital.

Over the past three weeks, the Bears have been hosting prospects for 30 visits at Halas Hall. That list of prospects, which now includes Florida State defensive end Jared Verse, paints a picture of the different avenues the Bears are entertaining after they select Williams at No. 1.

It's a roadmap that informs mock draft 6.0:

Round 1 (No. 1 overall): Caleb Williams, QB, USC

Williams checked the final box for the Bears during his visit to Halas Hall. The Bears took Williams out to dinner with several members of the organization and veteran players.

Barring an unforeseen issue, Williams will be the pick at No. 1. He has been the desired choice all along and has done nothing to move the Bears off their belief that he's the quarterback they need to elevate the franchise to new heights.

The Bears love Wiliams' tape and have had productive meetings with the USC star at the NFL Scouting Combine, during a three-day excursion to Los Angeles for his pro day, and again at Williams' 30 visit.

During that trip to LA, the Bears got an even clearer picture of Williams, the person, and saw the ball come out of his hand live.

The tape and eye test matched. That was important, but the biggest boxes Williams' checked came during his dinner with the Bears' brass and his teammates two days before his pro day.

"When you talk to his teammates, they don't like him, they love him," Poles said of Williams at the league meetings. "His leadership, how he brings people together. He's intentional with his leadership. Same goes with the staff. I'm having a hard time finding a person that doesn't like him or even love him and thinks that he can reach the highest limits."

Accuracy, arm talent, vision, improvisational playmaking, touch, feel. You name it, Williams has it.

Over the past two seasons at USC, Williams has thrown 72 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions. The lack of talent on the 2023 Trojans forced Williams to try to play hero most of the time. The Bears have to be comfortable with Williams putting on the cape and making "no, no, no, yes" plays while also working to harness that unique playmaking ability.

Williams went 12-0 during his career when the Trojans allowed fewer than 34 points. He's very good within structure, but the lack of protection and poor defense forced him to play outside it for most of 2023. The 2022 film, when Williams had more talent around him, is a better indicator of what the Bears are getting at No. 1.

Even Williams' worst game as a college quarterback -- a three-interception affair in a loss to Notre Dame -- was viewed as a positive by those inside Halas Hall.

The Bears were at the game in South Bend and watched Notre Dame trot out a completely different defensive game plan than they had shown in any previous game that season. Even as Williams struggled against a new look, his body language remained good, and the Bears watched him carefully as he went to the sideline after each turnover and tried to rally his teammates.

Watching how Williams handled USC's 7-5 season was a vital touchpoint that showed the Bears how the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner handles the type of adversity that will surely come his way in the NFL.

“There have been quarterbacks in the past where they are undefeated for three years, they have a bunch of first round picks surrounding them at all times, so it’s a projection of how they handle discomfort, how they handle pressure," Poles told NBC Sports Chicago during a sit-down in Orlando. "So seeing some of these guys go through hard times is important because now you can actually talk about it and listen to them kind of go back and, ‘OK, what can I kind of do to get better? How could I handle certain situations better?’ There are so many learning lessons from that. It just makes you feel comfortable where, if you’re in a situation like that, the kid is going to come out on the other side because if not they can crumble easily.”

Williams will be the pick at No. 1 as long as his medicals check out during his visit to Halas Hall. There's no reason for him not to be.

"He's a franchise-changing prospect," one NFC scout told NBC Sports Chicago at the combine. "Guys like Caleb Williams don't often come around. They'd be foolish to pass on him. I don't know if he's generational, but he's definitely the best quarterback prospect to come out since [Andrew] Luck."


Bears receive: No. 22, No. 50, No.120, 2025 third-round pick
Eagles receive: No. 9

As of right now, I have the first eight picks in the draft as:
Caleb Williams
Jayden Daniels
Drake Maye
JJ McCarthy (trade)
Marvin Harrison Jr.
Malik Nabers
Joe Alt
Rome Odunze (trade)

If that's how the first eight plays out, the Bears should look to bail out of the No. 9 pick. None of the top three edge rushers -- Dallas Turner, Laiatu Latu, or Jared Verse -- are no-doubt top-10 prospects, and unless the Bears have fallen in love with Alabama tackle J.C. Latham as they did Darnell Wright last year, the prudent move is to trade back.

The Eagles are always aggressive and see an opportunity to move up and secure Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell. Philadelphia sends the Bears the No. 50 overall pick from the New Orleans Saints, their own fourth-round pick at No. 120, and a 2025 third-round pick to cement the deal.

Round 1 (No. 22 overall, via Philadelphia ): Jared Verse, DE, Florida State

Twitchy and explosive, Verse would give the Bears a talented pass rusher to put opposite Montez Sweat.

Verse has an electric first step, is excellent with his hands, and can translate speed to power quickly for an elite bull rush.

Verse notched 11 sacks and 62 pressures last season at Florida State, per Pro Football Focus.

He is athletic, powerful, twitchy, and has a motor that never stops running.

"He's an incredibly smart defensive player with the tools to match it," an NFC scout told NBC Sports Chicago of Verse. "I think he'll be one of, if not the best defensive player in this class."

Round 2 (No. 50, via New Orleans/Philadelphia): Zach Frazier, C, West Virginia

Frazier is the third player in this mock that the Bears have had in for a 30 visit.

Frazier is a scheme-versatile center with good size, strength, and athletic ability. A four-year starter at West Virginia, Frazier has strong hands and a wrestling background that allows him to create and manipulate leverage in different ways.

The Bears added Ryan Bates and Coleman Shelton this offseason, but they still need to find a long-term answer at center. Frazier projects to be a dependable NFL starter.

Round 3 (No. 75): Javon Baker, WR, UCF

The Bears still need reliable depth at wide receiver behind DJ Moore and Keenan Allen.

There's hope for 2023 fourth-round pick Tyler Scott to develop further in Year 2, but more is needed.

Baker is a 6-foot-1, 203-pound big-play receiver who can play in the slot or out wide. He is a clean route runner with good hands and excellent ball-tracking skills.

Last season at UCF, Baker posted 3.21 yards per route run, a stat used to measure how good a receiver is at turning his on-field opportunities into production. That number ranked eighth among receivers with at least 80 targets, per Pro Football Focus. Nabers, Harrison Jr., Troy Franklin, and Missouri sophomore star Luther Burden III were among the names Baker trailed.

Baker also posted a better than 50 percent contested catch rate in each of his collegiate seasons and posted 7.2 yards after the catch per reception last season.

He has the size, hands, body control, and big-play ability to help Williams make splash plays.

Fourth round (No. 120, via Philadelphia): Cooper Beebe, IOL, Kansas State

Beebe is a 6-foot-3, 322-pound bulldozer who is excellent at pass protection. He might rise out of the fourth round, but he is sitting solidly in the 80-120 range as the draft nears.

There were questions about Beebe's quickness entering the combine, but he recorded a 9.27 out of 10 on the RAS scale, thanks to a 5.03 40-yard dash and a 4.61 shuttle, to quite some of those doubts.

The Bears added interior depth this offseason with Bates and Shelton, but neither is part of the team's long-term plan. Nate Davis will be a free agent after 2025, and there are reasonable questions about Teven Jenkins' ability to stay healthy.

Beebe would be a good depth option in 2024 and could take over at either guard spot in the future.

"He's smart, tough, and strong," an AFC scout told NBC Sports Chicago of Beebe. " You add in the instincts and the violence and you've got a long-term starter at either guard spot."

Fourth round (No. 122): Ben Sinnott, TE, Kansas State

Back-to-back Wildcats come to Chicago in the fourth round.

Sinnott is a versatile tight end who is among the prospects the Bears have or will have into Halas Hall for a 30 visit.

Sinnott has the speed and agility to run crisp routes at all three levels. He has solid hands, is light on his feet, and was a yards after the catch weapon at Kansas State.

Sinnott lined up everywhere at Kansas State and should be able to contribute immediately in the NFL.

He has a rare combination of size -- 6-foot-3 7/8 inches, 250 pounds -- and explosiveness that teams look for in a modern tight end.

The Bears signed Gerald Everett to a two-year contract this offseason, but they can move on after this season for minimal financial penalty. Sinnott and Cole Kmet could form a dynamic tight-end duo that would perfectly complement a wide receiver trio of Moore, Allen, and Baker.

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