Bears Mock Draft 1.0: Chicago Lands Elite Playmaker Alongside Caleb Williams

Caleb Williams Rome Odunze Bears Mock Draft NFL

Getty Former USC quarterback and top NFL draft prospect Caleb Williams.

The Chicago Bears have made it through the first wave of 2024 NFL free agency and are now beginning to turn their full attention toward the 2024 NFL draft that begins next month on April 25. What better time for a mock draft?

The Bears are lighter on draft picks than they were in the first two years of Ryan Poles’ tenure as general manager. In the past two weeks, they have traded a fourth-round pick for wide receiver Keenan Allen and a fifth-rounder for interior lineman Ryan Bates. They also dealt their second-round pick in October for star edge rusher Montez Sweat.

Even still, the Bears can accomplish quite a bit with the four draft picks they own, two of which are in the top 10 of the first round. Here is my first attempt — version 1.0 — to predict what the Bears will do based on what we know after free agency’s first week:

Round 1, Pick 1: Caleb Williams, QB, USC

Caleb Williams Rome Odunze Bears Mock Draft NFL1

GettyFormer USC quarterback Caleb Williams.

There appears to be little doubt at this point that Williams — the top quarterback prospect on many draft boards — will be their choice as their new franchise starter. He has drawn lofty comparisons to Patrick Mahomes for the magician plays he has pulled off during his career for the Trojans, but his arm talent and pocket presence are bigger sellers for a Bears squad that has never had a 4,000-yard passer in franchise history.

The Bears still have to finalize their evaluations of Williams during March 20’s pro day and his subsequent top-3o visit to Chicago. But as long as he checks all the boxes, the Bears should have an easy decision to make and run this pick to the podium.

Round 1, Pick 9: Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

Caleb Williams Rome Odunze Bears Mock Draft NFL2

GettyFormer Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze.

I originally thought about taking an edge rusher or trading back, which I think is more likely now that the Bears have traded for a six-time Pro Bowler in Allen. With Odunze sitting there at No. 9, though, I couldn’t resist having the Bears go all-in on offensive weaponry for Williams’ first season and landing a long-term playmaker.

Odunze caught 92 passes and led the nation with 1,639 receiving yards for the Huskies in 2023, using both speed and elite route-running to carve up FBS defense and touting an impressive 75% contested-catch rate. Even with DJ Moore and Allen fixed at the top of Chicago’s depth chart, he has the NFL-ready skill set to be an impact rookie player.

Round 3, Pick 96 (via JAX): Gabriel Murphy, EDGE, UCLA

Caleb Williams Rome Odunze Bears Mock Draft NFL3

GettyFormer UCLA edge rusher Gabriel Murphy.

Trade: Jaguars receive 2024 third-round pick (No. 75); Bears receive 2024 third-round pick (No. 96) and 2024 fourth-round pick (No. 116)

Come on now, this is Ryan Poles we are talking about here. It would be profoundly shocking if he did not find at least one trade-back scenario to acquire more picks.

The Bears landed a top veteran edge rusher in Montez Sweat at last year’s trade deadline and have DeMarcus Walker and newly-signed Jacob Martin in place for 2024 to add depth to their trenches. After passing on an edge rusher at No. 9, though, the Bears take a swing on the well-rounded Murphy, who tallied eight sacks in 2023.

The 6-foot-2, 247-pound Murphy has speed — 4.68-second 40-yard dash time — and explosiveness that should pair nicely with Sweat. He also has shiftiness and good hands that allow him to make up for the fact that he has a limited wingspan (75 inches), which may have been why the Bears met with him individually at the 2024 NFL Combine.

Round 4, Pick 116 (via JAX): Jacob Cowing, WR, Arizona

Caleb Williams Rome Odunze Bears Mock Draft NFL4

GettyFormer Arizona wide receiver Jacob Cowing.

Unless the Bears add another free agent wide receiver before the draft, I suspect they could be willing to draft as many as two rookie pass-catchers, especially if they move back to acquire additional draft capital. Moore and Allen are a dynamic duo, but Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr. and Dante Pettis behind them do not inspire a ton of confidence.

Enter Cowing, who is a smaller (5-foot-8, 168 pounds) receiver than Odunze (6-foot-3, 212-pound) but demonstrates good awareness and athleticism on his lengthy tape. He has caught more than 300 passes in 58 total games over the past five years — first at UTEP and then at Arizona — and flies out of the slot with the 4.38-second 40 time he showed at the combine. According to Pro Football Focus, he also thrives in terms of creating separation with an 81.6% separation percentage against all coverages.

The Bears are likely hopeful that Scott can make a Year 2 jump for them after they used a fourth-round pick to get him in 2023, but Cowing would give him quality competition.

Round 4, Pick 122 (via PHI): Cooper Beebe, OG, Kansas State

Caleb Williams Rome Odunze Bears Mock Draft NFL5

GettyFormer Kansas State guard Cooper Beebe, right.

Yes, build-the-offensive-line crowd, you are getting a new man, too.

Beebe is a powerful interior blocker who both imposes his will and finishes the fight. He is particularly an asset in the run game, having been a key starter in the 2023 Wildcats offense that averaged 204.1 rushing yards per game. He also possesses a bit of left-side versatility after playing 774 snaps at left tackle and 1,738 snaps at left guard in college.

The Bears would likely not rush Beebe into a Day 1 starting role as they did with Braxton Jones (2022) and Darnell Wright (2023) in previous years, but their current starting left guard — Teven Jenkins — has missed nine games due to injuries over the past two seasons and is heading into the final year of his rookie contract. Even if Jenkins stays for the long term, Beebe is a quality investment who has time to learn.

Read More