The Bears made their first big move of a franchise-defining offseason on Tuesday when they officially announced Shane Waldron as their new offensive coordinator.
In Waldron, the Bears get a bright, creative player with deep roots in the Shanahan tree. Waldron has spent the last three seasons as the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive coordinator. He comes to Chicago with playmaking experience, a track record of maximizing his personnel and a proven ability to make explosive plays.
Waldron’s arrival doesn’t tell the Bears about their pending quarterback decision, but Waldron will play a big role in keeping Justin Fields or drafting Caleb Williams.
With a new OC implemented, here is our version 1.1 of the Insider Mock Draft. It’s still only going through the first three rounds, but it comes with some slight adjustments since version 1.0.
ROUND 1 (No. 1 overall): Caleb Williams, QB, USC
I could come up with some massive trade that would see the Bears get a loot and keep Fields, but that wouldn’t fit with how early the winds are blowing. It would be a waste of everyone’s time.
I find it hard to see any of my mock drafts not starting with Williams. Fields has improved as a passer, but not enough to justify moving on to a quarterback everyone in the NFL has been dreaming about since he burst onto the scene as a freshman at Oklahoma.
“He’s a generational talent,” an NFC scout told NBC Sports Chicago. “They don’t make them like him. What Caleb Williams can do probably only happens once every 20 or 30 years. If you’re lucky enough to have that lottery ticket in your hand, you don’t give it up.”
The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner accumulated 120 total touchdowns in three seasons. His off-schedule magic reminds some of Patrick Mahomes, including former Texas Tech head coach and current USC analyst Kliff Kingsbury. He has excellent field vision, accuracy and arm talent to throw dimes into tight windows.
He’s too good and his ceiling is too high to pass up.
Round 1 (No. 9 overall): Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
I had the Bears draft Odunze in my first mock, and signing Waldron makes me lean even more toward believing GM Ryan Poles will make his new OC (and likely new QB) an elite playmaker. at the beginning of the draft.
Odunze will likely rise as the pre-draft process continues. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Los Angeles Chargers or New York Giants acquire him at five or six years old.
But for now, I’ll stick with Odunze.
The Washington product is an elite route runner who dominates defensive backs at the catch point. He is a physical receiver who uses his frame well in 50-50 situations and has the speed and elusiveness to rack up yards after the catch.
“I know everyone is in love with (Marvin Harrison Jr.), but I think there’s a good case that Odunze is the best receiver in this class,” an AFC scout told NBC Sports Chicago. “I think with his size, speed, fluidity, explosiveness and physicality, he’s the complete package.”
Bears receive: 2024 second-round pick (No. 52), 2024 third-round pick (No. 84), 2025 fourth-round pick
Steelers receive: Justin Fields, 2024 fifth-round pick
After drafting Williams, the Bears find a suitor for Fields. The Steelers are coming off a season in which they made the playoffs despite a terrible offense with limited production from quarterbacks Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph.
The Steelers get a possible long-term answer to their quarterback problem, and the Bears get some much-needed capital for Day 2. (It would have been nice if the Steelers sent a first to apologize for the Chase Claypool holdup, but there are no dice there).
Round 2 (No. 52): Chris Braswell, EDGE, Alabama
Washington’s Bralen Trice would be the ideal prospect to fill in opposite Montez Sweat, but he and Chop Robinson are probably gone by now.
But it’s okay.
The Bears hire Braswell, who has less hype but could end up being a better pro than his teammate Dallas Turner.
Braswell is an explosive pass rusher with great power and physicality. The Alabama product has a motor that never stops, and his attack will be a weapon on Day 1 of the NFL.
Braswell lacks the ideal length of a dominant running back, but he should be quite productive opposite Sweat.
According to Pro Football Focus, Braswell had 33 hurries, 13 sacks, 10 hits and an 18.2 percent pass-rush win rate last season.
What will he do.
ROUND 3 (No. 75): Sedrick Van Pran, IOL, Georgia
It will be interesting to see how the top centers perform on Day 2 of the draft.
Van Pran tops the list, along with Oregon’s Jackson Powers Johnson, West Virginia’s Zach Frazier and Duke’s Graham Barton (a tackle who could move inside in the NFL).
I think Powers Johnson will move up as the draft gets closer and disappear early in the second round. Frazier and Van Pran should also go to Day 2, but the third round seems a more likely place for them to come off the board.
The Bears will love Van Pran’s athleticism, lateral quickness, high football IQ and strength.
Waldron’s wide-zone rushing attack fits perfectly with the offensive line the Bears began building for Luke Getsy, and Van Pran fits the mold of the type of lineman they need in the middle.
Van Pran’s athleticism is notable in the running game. He has a quick first step that allows him to help out on a double team or get to the second level.
In pass pro, Van Pran’s strength and IQ really shine. He does an excellent job handling and transmitting spins and stunts (something the Bears were horrible at last season), and his strength allows him to stop penetration in the A-gap.
Center was a big problem for the Bears in 2023. With right tackle, right guard and left guard taken care of, the Bears finish off the interior of their rebuilt offensive line with Van Pran, who shifts all eyes to left tackle and the future of Braxton Jones. .
Round 3 (No. 84): Johnny Wilson, WR, Florida State
The Bears finish their first two days by giving Waldron a big-bodied receiver to round out his arsenal.
Adding Wilson to Moore and Odunze gives the Bears a 6-foot-7 jump threat with lineup versatility and a big catch radius.
Wilson is excellent at using his size and frame to get up and attack the ball on vertical routes. He has good speed and can be difficult to tackle in open spaces due to his size.
The Florida State product has shown an inability to separate at times, which has left him reliant on the 50/50 ball. He has also had some problems with falls during his career.
The Bears traded for Chase Claypool because they wanted a big-bodied receiver whose size and physicality would be a weapon on third down and in the red zone. Claypool fizzled out, but the Bears can fill that void with Wilson and set Williams and Waldron up for success in 2024.