Based on the fluid, and often unpredictable nature of the NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears could go in a variety of directions at No. 11 Thursday night, or perhaps, trade the pick to move down and stockpile additional choices.
I feel strongly, however, that Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson is on Chicago’s short list of players it would draft in Round 1, which is why I took Lawson in the 2016 NFL Nation mock draft unveiled Tuesday night on ESPN.
So why Lawson?
For starters, Ryan Pace and John Fox have talked openly about their disciplined and methodical approach to rebuilding the roster. Just look at free agency. The Bears were active the past two years, but none of the contracts -- Pernell McPhee, Eddie Royal, Danny Trevathan, Bobby Massie, Akiem Hicks, etc. -- broke the bank.
The same cautious approach extends to the draft. Unfortunately for the Bears, Pace’s top pick in 2015 -- receiver Kevin White -- missed the entire season beacuse of a stress fracture, but Chicago did not necessarily reach for him at No. 7. Coming off a monster season at West Virginia, White fell into the category of best available player. Plus, the Bears had a void at receiver after they sent Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets.
Furthermore, nose tackle Eddie Goldman (second round), running back Jeremy Langford (fourth round) and safety Adrian Amos (fifth round) were solid choices at their respective spots. The Bears did not roll the dice on a player simply based on combine scores or athleticism.
Translation: Pace wants to rebuild the right way. And that takes time, which the McCaskey family -- to their credit -- has afforded him.
This is why -- based on the NFL Nation mock draft -- Lawson made sense to the Bears at 11.
1. Lawson had a big-time year at Clemson -- 12.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss.
2. He played against some of the nation’s top competition -- Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, etc.
3. Lawson is a high-character guy on and off the field.
4. He can rush the passer from five-technique or standing up at outside linebacker. Lawson did both at Clemson with great success.
The Bears have clearly done the work on Lawson. Not only did he visit Chicago, the Bears have made numerous calls to Clemson in recent weeks for extra background checks on Lawson, who coaches believe will never embarrass the Bears in front of the media or in the locker room. But most importantly, Lawson can help Vic Fangio immediately in either a rotational or situational role, before he eventually ascends to the starting lineup.
The Bears could take a different player at No. 11, but Lawson is held in high regard by the organization.