Mock drafts are fun exercises. I’ll probably read 100 mocks leading up to the draft — maybe more this year with the pushed-back date. Anyone that forgets that key point of a mock draft certainly won’t enjoy this.
Here’s the key disclaimer before you fill up the comments: the focus is on positions and skill sets that fit with the Bears, and players who could be available for those selections. It's easy to write 20 of these with different combinations, players and positions at every pick, and you could, too, so remember — this is fun, not a prediction, just one suggestion of how things could shake out in May.
Round 1, Pick 14: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
If you ask me tomorrow, I might say Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. I’ve gone back and forth here, but hopefully the Bears have a little more conviction in which player will fit best with the 2014 defense. As good as I think Aaron Donald and Justin Gilbert will be in the NFL and with the Bears, it’s time to make a splash at safety. I made the argument in a recent mailbag on why the Bears may wait to take a safety — it’s a franchise that hasn’t generally valued the position highly and added several players in free agency — but Pryor (or Clinton-Dix) could start right away next to Ryan Mundy or Chris Conte, immediately improving the worst position on the team last year.
Pryor gets (today’s) edge over Clinton-Dix because of his versatility to play in the box. The Saints got creative with Kenny Vaccaro last season, and a team could do the same with Pryor, who is an explosive hitter and he flies to the ball. Clinton-Dix will get the edge in coverage, but Pryor has solid enough ball skills. Simply put, right now, Pryor could be a better impact playmaker right away for a Bears team that needs it in the back end.
Round 2, Pick 51: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
For anyone that has followed my Twitter, you’d know my fascination with this freakish athlete who is coming off his second ACL tear in the past three years, and that’s why he should be available in the second round. The Bears have shown interest in him already, which could mean nothing, but they’re definitely doing their research. Easley explodes off the snap to get into the backfield, relentlessly pursues the ballcarrier and would project as the three-technique to help replace Henry Melton, assuming all the medicals check out. Selecting Easley 51st overall could be a reach or a steal, all depending on his durability. Plus, with Nate Collins, Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea all returning, and the versatility of Lamarr Houston and Israel Idonije to kick inside, Easley wouldn't be needed right away, but could be a situational player until the knee is at 100 percent.
Round 3, Pick 82: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
The Bears still don’t have an inside linebacker long-term, and finding one in the first 3-4 rounds of the draft would be a good idea. Skov has good size, instincts and lays the lumber when he hits the ballcarrier. There are questions about his speed and durability, but Skov could spend the 2014 season getting to 100 percent and playing special teams while learning from D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs.
Round 4, Pick 117: Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
With the way running backs are these days, this is the earliest I would take one. The Bears should use a pick on a back, unless they know something we don’t about Michael Ford’s ability to be a No. 2.
The nice thing about Sims is that he’s a dual-threat back — he had 45 catches last season, which led West Virginia. He had impressive scores at the Combine in the 40 (4.48) and jumps (37½ inch vertical, 126 inch broad). Sims has that quick first step, but will need to prove himself as a blocker, something the Bears value highly in their backs.
Round 5, Pick 156: Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky
Similar to Easley, this could be a reach depending on how Dowling’s April has gone, but at 6-3, his size intrigues me. Safety is one position I’d double-down on in this draft so the Bears can try to find the right combination there. Arguments can also be made for defensive tackle or corner, but it could depend on who they take at 14.
Dowling’s wingspan is also great and he was productive in college with a nose for the ball — he had three interceptions and six forced fumbles in 2013 and six picks in ‘12. In this mock, with Pryor going first, the Bears would want a center-field-type to factor in the safety competition, and that’s Dowling. There are going to be character questions — he was dismissed from Florida — but Phil Emery isn’t afraid to take these kinds of chances. Dowling is much better in coverage than in the box, a nice complement to Pryor.
Round 6, pick 183 (from Tampa Bay): Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona
It took a while to go corner, and I think any round is fair game for the Bears. When considering the future on the boundary, the Bears have to think about size to eventually replace Charles Tillman, not to mention the league-wide focus on bigger corners (see: Seattle).
Aside from a great first name, Richardson, at 6-0, 190, has that length as well as good speed. He was a Combine snub, but ran a 4.43 at his Pro Day and made some big plays on the ball in college. The nice thing about taking a developmental prospect like Richardson at this juncture is the Bears don’t have to rush anyone into the corner spot in 2014 with Tillman, Tim Jennings, Kelvin Hayden and Isaiah Frey already on the roster.
Round 6, pick 191: Erik Lora, WR, Eastern Illinois
I’m always a bit biased to players I’ve seen at some point, and I saw Lora at his Pro Day. He wanted to have done better catching the ball, but seemed to open eyes with his times — a reported 4.48 40 and 6.72 3-cone time. The Bears have added three wideouts this offseason, so the need is not that pressing, but Lora would factor in as a developmental slot performer. He would fit well in Marc Trestman’s system with timed routes and he enters the draft coming off incredible production at Eastern with Jimmy Garoppolo. This is probably a bit high to take Lora, so if it actually happened, the Bears may trade down to find him in the seventh.