Caleb Williams

Schrock's Bears NFL mock draft 4.0: New plan around Caleb Williams emerges after trades

The draft equation has changed for Ryan Poles and the Bears

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Last week was a cataclysmic one for the Bears franchise.

It opened with news that the Bears were pivoting their focus for a new stadium from Arlington Heights to the lakefront, although that situation remains fluid. That led to the start of free agency, which saw the Bears fill some holes before pulling off a massive trade for Los Angeles Chargers star wide receiver Keenan Allen. The week ended with the Bears closing the book on the Justin Fields era by trading the 25-year-old quarterback to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional 2025 sixth-round pick.

With Allen in the fold and Fields no longer part of general manager Ryan Poles' long-term vision, the Bears' path in the 2024 NFL Draft has crystalized at the top, but there are a number of ways they can go after their selection at No. 1 overall.

With the draft 37 days away, here's the latest Bears Insider mock draft:

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

With the Williams-Fields debate over, you can prepare to write this pick in ink on draft night.

The Bears love Wiliams' tape and had an excellent first meeting with him at the NFL Scouting Combine. They'll attend his pro day on Wednesday and then host him for a top-30 visit, which should cement the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner as the new face of the franchise.

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.

"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."

Trade x2

Trade No. 1:

Bears receive: No. 13, No. 77, 2024 fourth-round pick
Raiders receive: No. 9

The Allen trade allows the Bears not to focus solely on getting an elite wide receiver at No. 9, although I'd still prefer tripling down at the position if possible. I think Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze could all be gone by the time the Bears go on the clock at No. 9. A trade-up could be on the table, and there's a possibility that Odunze or Nabers slips to nine.

But for now, we will operate under the assumption that all three receivers are gone and Poles opts to move back and add capital.


Trade No. 2

Bears receive: No. 15, No. 82
Colts receive: No. 13, 2024 fourth-round pick via Las Vegas

With several intriguing prospects still available, the Bears slide down a touch more as the Colts jump up to snag Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy, which clears the way for the Bears to fill their edge need at No. 15.

Round 1 (No. 15 overall): Jared Verse, DE, Florida State

The Bears sniffed around a few of the top free-agent defensive ends but were never seriously involved. That leaves a hole opposite Montez Sweat that Verse can fill.

Verse is a powerful, three-down edge rusher with violent hands who fits what the Bears look for in a defensive end.

Last season, Verse recorded 62 pressures and 11 sacks for Florida State, per Pro Football Focus. The tandem of Sweat and Verse, with DeMarcus Walker rotating in, would give the Bears three productive edge rushers to torment opposing quarterbacks.

Third round (No. 75 overall): Austin Booker, DE, Kanas

You can never have too many pass rushers, and the Bears add another one in the third round in Booker, who reminds scouts of Raiders star Maxx Crosby.

Booker checks all the Relative Athletic Score boxes for the Bears. He's long and has explosive athleticism. Pair that with a nice toolbox full of pass-rush moves, and you have the ingredients for a player that many in the NFL are salivating to get their hands on.

Booker will likely continue to rise over the next month, but for now, he's projected to go somewhere in the 65-80 range. The Bears can't pass up a high-upside rusher even after adding Verse earlier.

Third round (No. 77 overall via Las Vegas): Ja'Lynn Polk, WR, Washington

The Bears still need to add receiver depth behind DJ Moore and Allen. Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., and Dante Pettis aren't going to cut it.

Polk is a physical, contested-catch receiver with strong hands and excellent body control. He doesn't have top-end speed, but his explosiveness should make him a valuable vertical threat in the NFL.

In a class stacked with receivers, Polk is flying under the radar and could be a steal if he remains on the board in the third round.

Third round (No. 82 overall via Indianapolis): Brenden Rice, WR, USC

Two edge rushers and two receivers give the Bears much-needed depth behind blue-chip players at quality spots.

In Rice, the Bears grab a big, physical receiver with good ball skills who already has a rapport with Williams. Rice is one of the best route-runners in the class and has an extremely high football IQ.

Rice caught 45 passes for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns while playing with Williams last season.

The Bears have a great supporting cast to put around the No. 1 overall pick, but adding a young receiver he already trusts and has chemistry with won't hurt.

Fourth round (No. 122 overall via Philadelphia): Cooper Beebe, IOL, Kansas State

Another player expected to rise over the next month is Beebe, a 6-foot-3, 322-pound bulldozer who is excellent at pass protection.

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 Ryan Bates and Coleman Shelton but neither factor into the 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.

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